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'I had fears about marrying my husband. Six months later, he raped me.'

Content warning: This story contains descriptions of sexual assault, and may be distressing for some readers. If you need support, please call the sexual assault helpline on 1800 010 120.

The man I chose to marry was wrong for me in almost every way. I knew that walking down the aisle.

Ever since that first volatile argument we had when we were newly dating, I knew he struggled with controlling his anger. He lacked the ability to let it out in a healthy way, and I constantly found myself wondering when — not if — I would set him off next.

Reese Witherspoon talks to Oprah Winfrey about emotional abuse within relationships. Post continues below.

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What kept me there was the pure power and intensity of our initial connection. I fell in love — hard and fast — before I ever saw his dark side.

And his ugly side brought out the ugly in me. I’d yell back. I’d try to convince him he was wrong when we disagreed (which was often). I’d cry for hours when he alternated between verbal insults, convincing me my feelings were unfounded, and ignoring me completely.

The last big fight we had before our wedding night was about the fact that I wasn’t ready for marriage. I was 19. He was 20. During the blowout that lasted for hours, I presented a list of reasons why we needed to wait.

That list was long enough to fill a novel. It was a solid argument, and I was sure he’d agree.

He gave me an ultimatum instead. Marry now, or marry never. It had a lot to do with his religious background and my wanting to wait until marriage for sexual intercourse.

Don’t ask me why I went and married the man who constantly abused me emotionally and manipulated me to the point where I always questioned whether my feelings made sense. All I can do now is look back and wonder. Being young, inexperienced and naive had a lot to do with it. I was also mostly blind to his imperfections.

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That can happen when you find yourself in a relationship full of highs. You ignore the lows. And even though you’d tell your girlfriend to get the hell out of there and run for the hills if she were in a relationship like that, you stay.

You think it will be different for you. You think it will be worth it. Maybe you think you deserve the bad times or that they are your fault. Maybe you think it’s your only chance at a great and powerful love.

I thought all these things. He was like a drug. The drug started affecting my health early on, but I couldn’t give it up. I was hooked. I was going to walk down that aisle and make everything work between us — or else. In my stubborn, determined mind, there was no other option.

When my husband raped me, we’d been married for six months.

I had refused sex for a couple of months after having a silent miscarriage. I was in college, not yet 20, and pregnant. I wasn’t at all ready for baby.

So when I went for the first ultrasound and they told me the baby was there but the heartbeat wasn’t, I felt like I’d somehow caused it to happen.

Soon after healing from the surgical procedure where they scraped the dead baby from my womb, my husband starting approaching me for sex.

I couldn’t stomach the thought of it, and I refused all of my, according to him, wifely duties.

Around this time, he’d taken on a part-time job at a bar on weekends along with his regular full-time job. He’d often stay late at the bar and drink with his buddies.

One Saturday night, he came home drunk and out of patience. We’d been arguing about the lack of sex for some time, and he was ready to break the dry spell.

Whether I agreed to it or not.

I did not agree. When he woke me up that night, some time past 3am, I told him no and turned away, hoping to get back to sleep. I was exhausted. He was drunk. I wasn’t on the pill. No. No. No.

He argued with my answer and kept pushing me verbally. He said I owed him sex. He said refusing for so long was making this a bullshit marriage. He slurred his words, but he could still put together plenty of sharp jabs that made me feel like a horrible wife for not pleasing him.

Not surprisingly, this all did very little to set the mood and turn me on, and so I dug my heels in and kept refusing. I begged him to leave me alone and let me sleep. We probably argued for 20 minutes before he started getting physical.

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It wasn’t physical in a painful way, but he grabbed my shoulders and rolled me over so that I faced him in bed. He tried to kiss me. He groped my breasts and my ass. He shoved his hand down my underwear and prodded at my vagina, doing what he could to get me to give in.

I pushed his hands away and rolled back over. That’s when he stood up from the bed and started yelling as he tore the blankets from me. Then he grabbed my ankle and dragged me across the mattress.

I was startled by the strength and speed of his movements. I stiffened, not quite sure how far he was willing to go. Not quite sure I wanted to push him by fighting back.

He pulled my hips toward him until my feet were on the bedroom floor. Then he yanked my underwear down. I lay there on my stomach, bent over the bed, nothing but a T-shirt on and my bare ass in the air.

I found my voice and kept verbally refusing, telling him clearly that I didn’t want to.

I was also crying by that point. Crying because I hated sex, because I was in a marriage with someone who often made me feel miserable, because I felt trapped with nowhere to go. No money. No education. Nowhere else to live and no way to support myself.

There was also our religion. At the time, I believed whole-heartedly that leaving my marriage meant eternal damnation. It’s a long story.

That night, I was sure my life was ruined and that I’d be trapped in a loveless marriage forever. I was also afraid I’d get pregnant again.

He ignored my words and my tears and used his foot to spread my ankles apart. At this point, I quit using my voice. I quit struggling — physically, anyway. My internal struggle was a raging ocean of emotional turmoil.

But, physically, I gave in and decided to let it happen.

He was already hard, and I cried the entire time.

First, he spread my ass cheeks and made an attempt at anal sex. It was something he’d always wanted to do with me, something I’d always refused. When I cried out from pain and he realised that using my body that way was going to be physically impossible, he entered me vaginally and fucked me until he finished inside me, unbothered by my sobs.

After it happened, I was mostly confused. I was drowning in a manipulative relationship. I was also deeply invested in a religion that told me nothing was wrong with what had just occurred.

On top of all that, I was unsure of my rights as a married woman. I hadn’t experienced violence that left bruising or markings of any kind. His attempt at anal sex hurt at first, but he had quickly changed course when he realised that.

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Are you unsure whether to stay in your marriage? Listen to Mamamia’s separation podcast, The Split. Post continues below.

Looking back on it more than ten years later, I can see I was groomed by a man who had a knack for getting me to doubt both the validity of my feelings as well as the reality of any given argument. He was super intelligent, always quick with his words. He was a silver-tongued emotional con artist.

It took me a long time to see my experience as a crime of violence. No, I didn’t bleed. I wasn’t sore the next day. I had no outer scars or bruises.

But the simple act of my husband taking sex from me after I said, “No” was inherently violent.

There is no reason we should even use the term “marital rape.” Marital rape is simply rape. A stranger can rape you. Your husband can rape you. Your roommate can rape you. There is no need to label it otherwise.

One of the scariest things about this experience was that I didn’t leave afterwards. We chalked it up as one of the “bad times” in our marriage and eventually moved on from it. I thought that I could never leave, and I thought that making things bearable was my best course of action.

I was never sure how much he remembered of that night. I never even discussed it with him until three and a half years later, when he found a Word doc on my laptop where I’d journaled about it.

That was when I mustered up the courage to leave: three and a half years after that night. And writing helped me find that courage.

If you’re in the unfortunate position of trying to find the courage to leave a broken, abusive relationship — especially one in which your partner is making you doubt the abuse — I hope that my story can encourage you.

Leaving that marriage was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. In some ways, I’m still trying to recover from it. But I’m stronger for it, and I can tell you that rebuilding your life is worth it. There is a light at the end of that dark tunnel.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

This post originally appeared on Medium and has been republished here with full permission. 

You can read more from Holly Bradshaw on Medium, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook

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