I keep thinking I'll find some way to describe it. I hunt through a mental repository of images, analogies, and metaphors, searching for a suitable vehicle for faithfully telling it. I arrive at nothing. For how does one say, plainly, all that it is to be raped?
Only Ezekiel 16:5–6, the graphic description of an exposed infant, approaches anywhere near it: "No eye looked on you with pity ... you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised ... then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood."
Defiled. Polluted. Castoff. Exposed. Abhorred. And, most dreadful of all: defenseless.
This is what it feels like to be raped.
I was 21-years old, barely five months after returning to the Christian faith. My rapist lived in the parsonage. He was young, serving as a youth pastor while attending a nearby seminary. I'd come roaring back to the faith after a brief dalliance with atheism and agnosticism. My enthusiasm quickly secured me a position on the leadership team for the youth group, within close working conditions of the youth pastor.
Before long, I began to notice strange, questionable behaviors. Phone calls, flirtations, casual references to meeting with married women in the middle of the night. At first, I thought my perception unreliable—after all, he was the youth pastor, the seminarian. And I? A heathen whose discernment could hardly be trusted. But as the weeks wore on, I grew more confident in my assessment.
So one evening as we carpooled to a youth leadership meeting, I confronted him about his relationships with two married women in our church—mothers of children in the youth group. I mentioned all I had witnessed and brought up his own confessions of regular midnight meetings with one of the women whenever her husband was away on business. His protestations of innocence were no match for the firmness of my judgment, and he finally admitted that both women "were in love" with him. He promised to break off the relationships, if I would keep quiet.
A week later, the pastor showed up at my doorstep in the middle of the night, ostensibly to escape the incessant phone calls of one of the women. Before I knew it, he was in my apartment, behind me, on top of me. Immobilized, I wept.
Why did I let him in? Why did I not fight harder? Why did I just lay there, crying like that? Guilt fell on me like a bucket of hot ash. I wouldn't know until years later the neurobiology of the assault response or tonic immobility. Look at what you've done now. This is your fault, you know. He said as much himself, a week later, when he called to "apologize" and to say, "You were just too much of a temptation for me." He had argued that sexual sins were not as significant as other sins, since sexual temptation came "from outside of him" and not from within his character.
The most difficult part was not the rape, that act of unspeakable violation. It was, and always has been, the horror of living in a body that has been raped. However much I believed in my mind that I was responsible for what had happened, my body knew better. In the months (and years) following the attack, I cringed in fear in the presence of any man—even my own father. One night, when he picked me up from work to take me to dinner, I skulked as far as I could from him against the car door. I hoped he wouldn't notice me white-knuckling the door handle.