While the victims of sexual assault are most often women, both perpetrators and victims can be of any gender or sexual orientation. This post is about my experience as a heterosexual, cisgender woman.


“In the ill-judged execution of the well-judged plan of things the call seldom produces the comer, the man to love rarely coincides with the hour of loving.”
–Thomas Hardy, 
Tess of the d’Urbervilles


We dated for two months. The break-up was mutual. He told me he felt like the relationship wasn’t progressing, wasn’t turning into anything serious. I told him that part of me knew it wasn’t going to since the first time we had sex.


I remember closing the bathroom door and sitting down on the toilet. Naked.

Pee. You have to pee. After you have sex. You always have to pee. Right after. Or else you’ll get a UTI.

Women’s lore passed down by a friend, a book, a movie, a TV show. I’m not sure which.

I remember sitting there with my face in my hands, one thought running over and over in my mind.

How did that just happen…to me?

I remember looking back at myself in the mirror with hurt in my eyes.

I can’t remember if I cried then.


“I wish you would have asked…Right before. I wasn’t ready.” I lay there. Curled inward. Defensive. Raw.

“You seemed like you wanted to…You could have told me to stop.”

But I shouldn’t have needed to. Because it shouldn’t have happened. Not like that.

Part of me feels like I failed myself. Like I wasn’t communicative enough, or strong enough, or a good enough feminist to prevent it from happening. Like somehow I am at fault.

“Pirates of the Caribbean” was playing in the background. It was the first movie I ever owned on DVD. Now it will always be the soundtrack to my first time. And to my rape.


Should I even be calling it rape?

It’s a question I repeatedly asked myself in the minutes and days and weeks and months that followed. Even now. Even though the word was in my head the instant he pushed his penis inside my tight, unsuspecting, unconsenting cunt.


My rape wasn’t like the ones that make headlines. It wasn’t exceptional. It wasn’t a violent attack in a dark alleyway. I wasn’t drunk or roofied.

My rape was ordinary, commonplace, mundane. It was the kind of rape that happens far too often to countless women consensually hooking up with men who take things one step too far, too quickly—and without asking. The kind of rape that’s hard to prove with physical evidence even if you wanted to because maybe you were wet or he used lube or a condom.

I was naked in his bed. I’d known him for less than a week. And I really liked him. He knew that I was a virgin. And I had just explicitly told him that I wanted to wait a little longer to have sex. He was disappointed, but he agreed: “I can tell you’ll be worth the wait.”

Thirty minutes later the wait was over and I was in the bathroom willing myself to pee.


I couldn’t call it rape. Not out loud. Not at first. I felt too powerless, subhuman, objectified.

I was ashamed. Ashamed that it had happened, despite my best attempts to always remain in control. And ashamed that I wanted to keep seeing him. You’re not supposed to want to date your rapist, especially not if you’re a feminist.

But it was rape. Because he felt entitled to make the decision for me, unwillingly stripping me of control and agency after I’d willingly stripped off my clothes.


Someday, maybe, I’ll have a daughter. And if I do, one day she’ll ask me about the first time I had sex. How will I tell her?

I wish I could promise her without a doubt that my experience couldn’t someday also be hers.


While I was still figuring out if I could trust him, he made it impossible for me to ever fully trust him.



  1. Cara, I’m sorry. You’re so brave to speak out. Breaking the silence is the first step towards reshaping our culture and reality. Miss you girl.

    1. Thank you, Caitlin. Miss you, too.

  2. Jamie · · Reply

    I’m so sorry about what happened to you and that your first time had to be so wrong. Good for you for analyzing it and dealing with it as you have.

    1. Thanks, mom.

  3. You are beautiful, in the fullest and most holistic sense of the word, inside and out. This resonates with me so much. Love you.

    1. Thanks for all your support, Anne. Love you too!

  4. Jennifer · · Reply

    It feels weird to “like” this post, since the subject matter is horrible and awful and far too real. It was heartbreaking and unforgettable. I want to thank you for this, because it took a lot of strength to write.

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      Thank you so much for your comment and support.

  5. […] remember you this way. I feel guilty—like I’m betraying the still-fragile part of me you violated all those months ago, like I’m telling her that her pain isn’t valid. Just like you […]

  6. […] My rape unhinged me. I felt like I wasn’t in control of me anymore. I felt like I wasn’t me anymore. I didn’t know how to deal with this new piece of my personal narrative because I didn’t want to deal with it. Instead I tried to hide it and hide from it. I felt inauthentic. And deep down, even though I know I’m not supposed to, I feel like part of it was my fault. […]

  7. […] This year, January 27 marked the end of my first month as an au pair in France. It also marked the one-year anniversary of my rape. […]

  8. […] hasn’t been tangible. It’s been me. My identity. My self. Post-grad angst in general and my rape in particular have made me homesick for the person I used to […]

  9. Reblogged this on Year One and commented:
    Powerful. Read it. Then read it again.

    1. Thank you for the reblog!

  10. Wow. This touched me to my core. I am proud of you for writing this and I don’t even know you. I am proud of you for writing this, owning this truth for so many women. For me.

    1. Thank you for your comment and your support. And above all thank you for reading.

  11. Harris Sockel · · Reply

    Hi Cara — I loved this piece. I help curate a collection on called Human Parts ( and I’d love to share it with our readers. Would you be interested in that? If so, email me ( and let me know. I’d just need a short bio and I’d link back to the original here.


    1. Hi Harris — Thanks for your comment and interest. I’ve sent you a follow-up email with some questions.

  12. Wandering_eye · · Reply

    I have absolutely no idea how you must be coping with this episode.. You are a brave girl to come to terms with yourself about your deepest feelings about this. Carry on strong!

    1. Thank you for your supportive and encouraging comment!

  13. […] Metaphorically, it’s all I’d been doing for years — ever since I graduated from Whitman, and especially since my rape. […]

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