When I was 23 years old I joined the US Corps. Very early in my career I met a remarkable young woman. She was 19, and had already been in the military for a few months. We got to know each other, and eventually began dating.
Her childhood was a very difficult one. Her parents were separated and abusive. She joined the military to get away from home and to be a part of a real family. She keeps her hair as short as allowed in the US Corps, and has a very boyish face and body type. She is quite naive about the world and people, eager to make friends and be close with others.
Before we met I had some relationships and sexual experience. Before me, she had one very casual boyfriend with no sex, and one serious girlfriend with some sex.
When we began dating, we quickly escalated in intimacy. We had sex once which was her first heterosexual intimacy. She changed duty stations to a different time zone shortly afterwards. We stayed in contact while we were apart and a few months later I moved to the same city as her.
We continued dating, and got married two and a half years after we began dating. Over the next four years our relationship matured further. She left the military to get her degree, and we had a child. Our relationship is strong, and we typically have sex two or three times a week.
This week she told me that she was raped six and a half years ago, while we were dating, and during the few months we lived apart. I was in shock. I never knew or suspected. We had only had sex once before her rape. I'm hurt that she didn't tell me for over six years, but I also know that it must have been hard for her.
The day after she told me it had happened, she described the assault to me. That was the hardest thing I've ever had to listen to. I've not been able to get those images out of my head since. She knew her attacker, but they weren't close friends. He invited her out to watch fireworks. Her assault slowly escalated over the course of an evening in several locations, starting with groping and ending in his bedroom.
I don't know what to think or how to feel. In her description, she never said that she said no, or resisted, or gave any other indication of lack of consent. It almost sounds like a nice date, except that she called it assault. I haven't asked her if anything was consensual. You can't just tell a rape victim that you doubt or blame them.
Since she told me, we have had sex every day for six days. I don't know why we are having so much more sex than before. I feel like our relationship has changed, and neither of us knows how to handle it.
I feel like I'm dying on the inside. For her, the assault happened many years ago and she has had time to heal. For me, it happened a few days ago, and I'm completely lost. What should I do?
Mary replies: One of the joys of the internet is that I get queries from all over the world. Thank you for choosing to write to me.
I wonder what happened that caused your wife after over six years to tell you about the rape. It may be something like the Harvey Weinstein trial has stirred up memories for her, or perhaps watching your child grow and worrying about the life ahead of them. An unfounded sense of shame may also play its part, because victims of rape sometimes blame themselves for putting themselves at risk. It is well documented that a very large number of women are raped by men they already know, and this can contribute to their subsequent mental anguish.
You speak about your doubts regarding her encounter being consensual and not wanting to question her. I'm glad that you didn't query her because if she said she was raped then you have to believe her. You have to bear in mind that most likely there was consensual kissing and petting, otherwise things would not have progressed to the bedroom. But at some point she must have wanted the encounter to stop and he didn't, so anything after that was non-consensual and the rape occurred. Your wife at that time was very inexperienced, you had been her only male lover, and had sex together only once, so she was quite ill-equipped to deal with an aggressive man.
What you are left with now is what to do with this information and how to go forward in your marriage. Try to bear in mind that she is still the same person that you met, fell in love with, married and is the mother of your child. She hasn't changed.
As you point out she has had some time to heal regarding what happened, and she may have had some professional help in doing this. You on the other hand are still trying to come to terms with this assault. I think it is lovely that you are having more frequent sex right now as though you are both seeking comfort and reaffirming your love for each other.
However, if you feel the need to talk about it some more you should meet with a qualified counsellor. You are probably aware of the free counselling service that is available for Service members and their families, but if not check out www.militaryonesource.mil or telephone (800) 342 9647.
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