I said no.

Was I raped? He was my boyfriend; that gives him some rights... right? We were in love; we might have even gotten married some day. It probably would have happened sometime. But I said no at that time. However, I think I knew exactly what he wanted that night. I knew what was going to happen. I could have stopped him sooner. Right? But come on, we were in love. Does love mean anything to anyone anymore? Maybe it wasn't love. I could be wrong. But the way he looked in my eyes. The way he held me. The way he loved me. There I go again. Was it love? Yes, no, maybe. But even if it was love, I had still said no. But still, he was my boyfriend. How can that be rape? We were together; an exclusive couple. He was my everything; I his baby girl. We were in love. And yet, I said NO.

It was my fault. It was not my fault. Was it his fault? How could it be? How couldn't it be? I am told that "textbook" rape and abuse victims blame themselves. I am included in that respect. Perhaps we have reason to. Perhaps we are right. Who says that we aren't guilty as charged? And how would anyone else know. They weren't the one being raped. They weren't the victim. But there... even there in the word "victim" lies blame. Victim implies innocence. Am I innocent? Or was I an accomplice? Assisted rape...? I could have done more to stop him. I could have helped myself. I think. Perhaps. Maybe. It is and it is not my fault. That is my final answer, and unfortunately the best I can give to both the world and myself.

I am left with the questions, the confusion, and... myself. The half- virginal rape victim. Am I still a virgin? The question has never stopped asking itself to me. I had never made the choice to have sex. I never had consensual sex before I was raped. I still have not. Technically, medically, I am not a virgin. But morally? Does that even count? Perhaps it really is in the eye of the beholder.

Rape. That evil word. So harsh on the tongue... cruel as it sticks in my throat... threatening to bring tears to my eyes. But the tears will not come. Not on my watch. Rape. I still have not come to grips with it. Not in reference to myself. It takes a while. A long while. Still, I wander around the word; always wary. I avoid its piercing eyes. A single word that can reach into the depths of my soul and rake out all of the happiness that I have ever felt. Rape. My demon. It will never leave me unscathed. It has broken my spirit. Perhaps one day, a long while from now, I will be able to say it freely, think it clearly, without the excruciating pain. Until then... Rape. My refuge, story, and life.

The memories revisit me in my sleep. I try to stay awake, knowing full well what lies in wait for me behind closed eyelids. I fear the darkness of the night; it brings the terror ever closer to me. Once was bad enough. Why must I relive the pain, the fear, the confusion, and the cruelty of a lost love? God is cruel and unfair; that is why. To sleep or not to sleep. There is no question.

I cannot live it down. It happened. I was raped. I have barely learned to accept it. Now I must find a way to move on. I will have to learn to trust men again. I will have to get over my fears. I will have to learn to love again. To care about someone is hard once you have been hurt so badly. I claim that I cannot love. For now, this is true. But I can, and I must, find that ability. I lost it that night. I must find love for myself. I will learn to be loved, and to love in return. But it will take time, and love is impatient. I will have to find a caring, compassionate, understanding man who will help me learn. Let me love slowly and not too deeply at first, for fear of being hurt once again. I will stay close by his side, but out of hitting range, until I manage to trust his intentions. I will let myself learn to love him, but I will not let myself go entirely. I will most likely avoid him at night until I am ready to lie by his side without fear. It will take time, but I have plenty. I will slowly learn to trust his strong embrace, to gaze into his eyes and not look down or away in fear, and to let his lips caress mine in a passionate, meaningful kiss. I can move on. I can find love. There is life after rape, and I intend to live mine to the fullest. And that means love.