One man shares his painful story in hopes of helping others learn to heal, forgive and never give up hope.
The traumatizing effect that rape has on people who are subjected to such a horrific experience is often indescribable and can leave lifelong scars. In addition to the irreparable emotional, physical and psychological damage done to the person assaulted by a rapist, the pain felt by the people closest to a survivor is something we don’t often consider. Following a renewed conversation about rape and consent online --sparked by a number of high-profile sexual assault cases--this husband shared his story with ESSENCE in hopes of helping others who can relate to his painful journey.
The Worst Night Of My Life
My wife and I had known each other for about three years and had been married for about two weeks when one terrible evening changed both of our lives forever.
One night, I went out to a baseball game with my friends and was on my way back to my new place when I decided to stop by the apartment my wife and I had just moved out of to grab a few things that were still there. On my way back to my car, I ran into a friend and ended up hanging there with him to catch up. After about an hour, I left the old apartment and headed home. When I pulled up to the complex where our new condo was located, I noticed a bunch of officers and police cars in the parking lot. I was a little nervous so, I started looking for somewhere to pull off or somewhere to park because I didn’t want to get out of the car. There were police, I knew I’d been drinking and smoking, and I just really didn’t want to go towards them. I had no idea that they were at my condo, due to the set-up of the condominium complex.. So, I figured I’d wait it out in my car. Hopefully it was something simple that they were there to handle and it would be over soon.
I ended up parking in an area where I could still see the police cars so I’d know when they left. By now, it’s probably about 1 or 2 in the morning. I sat in the car for a while and I ended up falling asleep. What woke me up was my phone vibrating and by about the third time it vibrated, without looking to see who it was, I started thinking it was my wife calling to fuss at me and ask where I was and why I wasn’t home from the game yet since it was late. When I finally flipped the phone over, I saw it was my wife’s sister calling so, of course, I answered. When I picked up, she was just screaming, “Where are you? Are you home?” I didn’t know what was going on and I was just like, “I’m right here!”
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At this point, there were still maybe one or two police cars present. After I hung up with her sister, I ran to the house. Our condo was in the building towards the back, and the back of the building was facing the woods. I go in and the first thing that struck me, which was very scary, was a piece of a dress. I’d bought this dress for my wife on our honeymoon just two weeks before so, I recognized it. I saw a little of that fabric in between the first stair and the landing. As I’m walking up, I’m continuing to see smaller remnants of the dress and finally when I get to the top floor where we lived, I look up and I see the detective wiping the door with dust.
To be honest, my first thought was, “Oh my God, she’s dead.” Once I get to the top, the detectives stop me and I start to pull out my wallet to prove that I live there. The door was cracked open because they were dusting it so, I could see my wife’s sister coming towards the door. I get in and see what’s left of the dress balled up in the trash can. Then, I see my wife on the floor, curled up. At that point, I’m just thankful that she’s alive.
I run over to where she is and start asking, “What’s wrong? What happened?” And she starts crying, hard, and just shaking. The more I try to hug her, she jerks away and cries more. Eventually, her sister pulls me away and says “Come here, I need to talk to you.” Her sister’s face is just blank; I’d never seen her look like that. She takes me in the bedroom and closes the door. I asked her to tell me what happened and she says: “When you went to the game, she went to her best friend’s house to start decorating for a surprise party for you for tomorrow. So, because of that, she got home late.” I’d honestly assumed that when I left for the game, she would just go straight home after work but, because it was a surprise, she didn’t tell me that she wasn’t doing that that day. Her sister continues: “She got home, parked and walked the path to the building. As she began to put the key in the door, she heard what sounded like footsteps running up the stairs. Before she could react, someone grabbed her and told her to open the door. She refused and at that point there was some sort of struggle and he basically dragged her down two flights of stairs to the main area.”
At this point, I’m thinking to myself, “no one heard anything?” Her sister continues the story and says the man dragged her down the stairs and outside of the building to the back where the woods were, which wasn’t far. At this point I’m, just listening and my skin is crawling.
Her sister says--and I don’t remember what her exact words were--but she said, “and then he took her back there and hurt her.” I remember asking, “What do you mean he hurt her?” And she said, “He assaulted her.” And I said, “What do you mean he assaulted her?” And then, she either said, “he sexually assaulted her” or “he raped her.” I literally remember feeling like my body just went numb. I don’t remember my reaction other than feeling numb and cold. Her sister kept going and told me that he took her car and her purse and whatever she had on her. By now, I’m just kind of at a loss. Honestly, I don’t recall the next half hour or so. Obviously, a lot of numbness; a lot of crying. I would peek out to the family room area and my wife was just sitting. She hadn’t moved. Just sitting and crying and shaking. Of course, now I’m wanting to embrace her even more. Regardless of what happened, that was my wife and I wanted to hold her.
But I couldn’t.
She wouldn’t let me anywhere near her, at all. She would shake uncontrollably and go into a cry that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Eventually, two male officers, one female officer and her sister got her up. I just remember following behind while her sister drove to the hospital. I sat in the waiting area while they examined her. After that, they came out and we went home.
It’s daylight. Her mother and one of her other sisters were there at the condo. When we got back, she just got in the bed, balled up and faced the wall. She hadn’t said anything to me at this point. The unnerving part was, she would be as calm as can be expected, although still in shock, but every time I got close to her, she would cry and she would shake. It was very difficult for me because I felt like I couldn’t be around her without ruining whatever calmness she had. I remember going around and pacing outside, looking at everything. Everything on the stairs…I was just walking around eyeing everything. I knew I had to make some quick decisions so, I talked to her sisters and her best friend and we basically agreed that she didn’t need to be there (at the condo.) Everyday was pretty much the same for me in the days and weeks that followed. I didn’t go to work for a few days. I tried to resolve the issues with the landlord ahead of the move. I let my boss know that there had been an incident and that I’d need a couple of days. I also called the police department to verify whether or not they had located the vehicle. For about a week after, I stayed at the condo by myself and she stayed at her mother’s house. I got my family together and told them that she and I would have to move and also let the mortgage company know. Her girlfriend had recently purchased a townhouse and agreed to let us use her basement until we figured out where we’d be moving. Maybe two to three weeks afterwards, I was notified that the car was found and went to the insurance company to sort everything out. As we were finalizing the paperwork, the insurance rep started being very condescending. He was like, “you know, it’s very coincidental that this vehicle was found 4 or 5 miles away from your house in one piece in the parking lot of a restaurant.” I don’t know if they knew the backstory or not at that point, but they should have. I reported it to them pretty much the same way as I did to the police. I also can’t say for sure that he was talking to me directly, he may have been talking to another agent out loud but, I remember him just going on and on about how it was “real convenient” that we would now be able to cash in on the insurance money. At that point…I just lost it. I was drained, spent and angry. Every emotion that had been in me for the last 2 to 3 weeks came out. So, I basically leaped over the counter and grabbed him and the 7 or so other agents that were there jumped up. I held him and I looked him square in his eyes and I said, “You just don’t understand. You don’t know what I’ve been through. This is not a joke. This is not a game.” After that, I let go and walked back around to where I’d been and decided to deal with the car situation later. I didn’t want to get arrested and they had already threatened to call the police so, I just got in my car and left. I can’t remember at what point, but I eventually went back and got the car later.
This Is Rough
Over the next 6 weeks, the detective would call and say they had someone who matched the description and that they wanted us to come to the station. I would let my wife know each time and each time, she didn’t want to go. From my side, I wanted to both be there for her and get justice for what this person had done to her. Keep in mind that there still was not much communication between us outside of the basics at this point. Making sure bills were paid, making sure we had something to eat. I was also taking her to work and picking her up because she didn’t want to drive yet. Our interaction had increased about a good 5 percent so, not very much, and it was very gradual. It basically went from her not jumping when I got too close, to me being able to just kind of hug her for 5 seconds before she would have some kind of epiphany and want to push me off. We went to the police station about two or three times after the assault. That was rough because they didn’t allow me to go back to the area where she had to look at the guys who matched the description she’d provided. So, once she came back out into the waiting area after each time, she was crying. The detective let me know each time that they weren’t able to successfully ID anyone. At one point, I spoke to the detective and told him, “I know you guys are doing your best but, this is rough on her.”
After about 4 months of living in her girlfriend’s basement, we got an apartment and started trying to put things together. But the distance just never went away. For me, I was just constantly feeling like somebody needs to pay for what they did to her. Insurance was pretty much handled; they cut a check for the belongings that were stolen. We ended up trading the car so she wouldn’t have to get back in it. I took about a $4,000 - $5,000 loss on the car but, at that point, it didn’t even matter. I just wanted to do whatever it took to try to make her feel safe and comfortable. Throughout the course of this ordeal, I remember asking her, “Can you talk to someone?” And I mean, my mom would talk to her and her sisters would talk to her but, when I said ‘talk to someone,’ I meant therapy. I did all I could to find resources or people who were willing to talk to her, but she refused to talk to anybody. When my mom or her sisters would come over, I would basically just disappear because she just didn’t want to talk around me. I never knew the full depth of what happened because I never asked her. I know what the police report said but, far as the full story, I didn’t know how to talk to her about it. What was I supposed to say? “What did he do to you?” “Did he penetrate you?” I mean, there was no easy way for either of us to try to have that conversation, so it wasn’t a conversation that we ever had. To be very honest, not only did I not know what to say but also, the depth of it wasn’t important to me. I felt l was better off not knowing the full details, even though the police report clearly said ‘sexual penetration.’ It still hurts to even say it because it’s like something was stripped from me. It happened to my WIFE; not just someone I knew or not even a girlfriend. She was really a part of me. We became so distant, but I didn’t want to push intimacy because I didn’t want to feel like the bad guy. I felt like when I did push for even just cuddling, that was too much for her. So I just held it in because I didn’t want to be the bad person. Who am I to, as a husband, try to have sex with his wife after she’s been raped? And at what point would this go away, if ever? I didn’t know. So I was just being patient. But I was also wasn’t the same person either. Because of her fears, I became more fearful of how to address her.
Not long after we moved into the new apartment, basic communication and other things between us seemed like they had started to resume. My wife seemed to start coming back to her happy-go-lucky self, somewhat. This is about a year to 18 months after the assault.
I soon found out that her getting back to herself had nothing to do with me.
Because she no longer looked at me as her protector and comforter, she found it somewhere else. I wasn’t exactly blindsided by it. Clearly I knew we weren’t communicating but, I still started to see the life come back into her so, I knew it was coming from somewhere. I became the private investigator at that point. I started looking through stuff and checking stuff. Finding greeting cards and little small cards from flowers sent. It just broke me even more. Before I found out officially, I asked her if there was somebody else and she said “no.” I also recall saying to her (which I felt guilt about immediately afterward), that if there was someone else and she was lying to me that our marriage was over. She still said there was no one else but, things weren’t adding up and I just had bad vibes. She would do things like tell me she was going over her sister’s house and I would go by her sister’s house and her sister would tell me she wasn’t there. I was paranoid at that point. But, I was still very protective of her after what happened. So I was protecting her, but at the same time feeling like, “why are you gonna do this to me, the one who has been protecting you the longest, throughout this whole thing? Why am I hurting twice?” That was rough.
The Breaking Point
One day, she left out and the phone rang. When I answered, it was a guy and he just asked to speak to her directly. And I was like, “Oh, she stepped out.” And he was just like, “Oh, alright.” And that was it. So, I was like, “Hold up, who is THIS dude?” Mind you, this was after I questioned her and she told me there was no one else. So, I put a caller ID box in the house and for about a week, I would check the box. I would compare the calls on the Caller ID box to the calls that were on the phone and it became clear that she was deleting this one number each time it was called. So, that was my “a-ha moment.” I mean, I’m working late and this dude is calling the house; that was crazy to me! So, on the final day that really put the nail in the coffin, I got suspicious after she told me she was going bowling with friends. I had a friend get me the guy’s address and I drove to the address.
Her car was sitting there.
That was it for me. I wanted to believe that she wouldn’t do it. Yeah, she might be talking to somebody else but, she wouldn’t do this. She wouldn’t tell me she’s going bowling and then be at this dude’s house after everything I’d been through with her. I sat there for probably two hours. I had a 9mm handgun loaded. I felt like my life, at that point, was pretty much over. I felt that everything that I had was taken from me by the assault and then she took what was left of me by cheating. I called both of my parents and told them what was going on. I remember telling my mom, “I’m not gonna make it.” She was screaming and when I told my dad next, he was just speechless. And then I just hung up. I didn’t care at that point. I had put so much into trying to save everything and then I felt like she just--for someone who had done everything that I had done…I lost so much. I just wanted my wife back and I was willing to do everything in the world to get her through this. But the fact that she would do this to me?
I was done.
Eventually, I just started the car and went home. She came home probably an hour later. I asked her if they won at bowling; asked what bowling alley they went to. At that point, I was really just seeing how much she would lie to me. And she had it down. Then, I tried to suggest intimacy, just to see how she would respond. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the normal coldness. She just said, “I’m just tired.” And so to me it was like, clearly there was some intimacy going on somewhere, given that she wasn’t as shaken by being in the comforts of a man now. And that hurt me because I knew what that meant. So, I slept on it and when she went to work the next day, I called her and just told her I knew. I called her from my mother’s house because if I had been anywhere else, I’d have probably cursed and hollered and screamed. One thing that stuck out to me that she said after I told her, was, “You weren’t there to protect me.” At that point, I was just done with life. That hurt too much. I clearly wasn’t there when it happened. I couldn’t have stopped it. Even if she’d have gotten there at midnight and then I got home at 12:15 or whatever; there was nothing I would have been able to do because it had already happened. I held her words for so long.
‘You weren’t there. You didn’t protect me.’
Over the next couple of days, her family came to get her stuff and she went back to her mother’s house. The phone call I made to her that day to tell her I was done was the last conversation we had. She and I divorced over 10 years ago and I have not talked to her since. We had pre-trial mediation for the divorce and all that but, I didn’t care. I literally walked away from the marriage with what I had at that point, which was my peace of mind. I ended up filing for bankruptcy shortly after because the brunt of all the expenses with bills and credit cards and all of that were just too much.
A New Beginning
I’ve been able to sort of block it all out, but that didn’t happen until 3 or 4 years later. When people would ask, “What happened with your marriage?” I didn’t really know what to say. Both the sexual assault and the infidelity just drove me to a place of darkness.
One day, when I was at my lowest after the divorce, I opened up the yellow pages. I found a place, walked in and told the rep, “I’d like to enroll in anger management classes.” I remember she was so surprised because she said most people are enrolled in the classes involuntarily as part of court mandates. It was very therapeutic for me, very good. I went once a week for about an hour and a half. On the first day, I had to tell my story and then listen to the other guys share their stories. For the next few months after that, the group was all about communicating. Talking about your triggers; your life and how bad things are and how you are coping. Hugging the other guys there and giving each other dap and forming friendships and all that.
I went to the sessions for 6 months and it changed my life.
It got me back on track. It helped me focus and realize that there were a lot of men who had been victimized by different things; things men don’t really talk about. About 2 years after that, I ended up meeting a young lady. After a few months of dating, she invited me to attend church with her. It had been a while since I set foot into a church and at one point, I blamed God for all the traumatic experiences I’d gone through in my life . By the time we started dating exclusively, I was going to church with her regularly and really enjoying the sermons, fellowships and worship experiences. Within six months of dating, I proposed to her and we eventually married 2 years later.
Today, I’ve come full circle from one of the most painful moments of life. There were many days where I just wanted to give up; days where I had no hope or belief that things could get better. I credit the love, support and prayers of my mother, who has always been there for me, with helping me get through my lowest points. I’m also thankful for the various support groups and Bible study groups at the church I attend. There are some good men in the church who are true brothers. My ex-wife and I have been divorced for over 10 years now and while I am not in contact with her, I do pray that she is well and has found healing and peace in her life--which she very much deserves after the hell she went through.
All in all, I’ve found happiness that I’d never thought was possible. My wife and I have been married almost 10 years now with 3 beautiful children and it is truly a blessing. I feel like I have a gift to help people and my wife feels the same. Hopefully sharing this story will do just that.
If you would like to contact the brave author of this story to share your experience in confidence or find out steps to take to get help, click here.