My Ex Raped Me — & It Took Me Years To Call It That

Photographed By Brayden Olson.
I’m a comedian who’s used to talking about anything on stage — breakups, hookups, death, you name it. But there is one topic I couldn’t talk about for years: rape. Particularly, my rape at the hands of my ex-boyfriend.

I didn’t call it “rape” for so long. I expected an onslaught of confused questions if I used that word: "Are you sure it was rape? And it was really unwanted?" The answer to each one of these is “yes.” It took me a long time to see that, though.

My ex-boyfriend and I were barely over 20 when we shared a one-bedroom apartment in Chicago as we launched our comedy careers. I loved him, but after eight months of living together, his jealousy reached fever pitch, and his verbal abuse overpowered my desire to “make it work.” We broke up one cold night in his car, only to exit and walk into our shared apartment together. I didn’t have a new place lined up right away, so I took the bed and he took the couch. Surely we could endure a month of coexisting while I found a new place, right?

I loved him, but his jealousy reached fever pitch and his verbal abuse overpowered my desire to 'make it work'

Except he asked me to reconsider our breakup. Every day. One morning during this daily breakup talk, I thought we had reached an amicable understanding when he admitted he hadn’t been happy in our relationship either. We hugged — and then he tightened his grip on me. I wriggled free, but he picked me up like I was a doll and carried me into the bedroom. Then, he tossed me onto the bed and took off my pants. “No, don’t,” I said. But he pressed on.

He slid his hands between my thighs. I felt my whole body tense up. I didn’t want this. As he unzipped his pants, I realized exactly what was about to happen. While he was inside me, I lay there feeling trapped, like a caged animal, and when he finally got off of me, I curled up in a ball to protect my body from him as I cried. I sobbed until he left the apartment altogether.

I didn’t know what to think. Did I somehow ask for that? Was it okay? Was that just rough sex with my recent ex that ended with sobbing? I never slept there again.

For the following year, I was a mess. The mention of my ex’s name would fill me with rage and anxiety. I had panic attacks, crying fits, and suicidal thoughts. Meanwhile, he was going about his business as if he had never hurt anyone. Our breakup even seemed to make him funnier — who doesn’t love a guy who uses jokes to cope with his apparent heartbreak?

Our breakup even seemed to make him funnier — who doesn’t love a guy who uses jokes to cope with his apparent heartbreak?

I never said a word about what happened, worried that coming forward would damage my career before it even began. I was a comedian, not a victim! I feared that if I spoke out, the comedy community I loved would side with my ex and turn against me; I worried about this so much that I became deeply paranoid, convincing myself that anytime I didn’t make an audition, it was because the casting agents knew what had happened and were on my ex’s side. It wasn't until later that I learned paranoia is a common symptom of sexual-abuse-related PTSD.

Finally, I confessed what had happened to a concerned friend, who encouraged me to find a therapist. The first thing I learned in therapy was that the rape was not my fault. It didn’t matter that I had wanted to move out or that we used to be in love or that my ex was heartbroken. I didn’t want to have sex, and he should have respected that.

Still, I kept quiet until the Bill Cosby scandal erupted. My social media feeds were full of comedians’ rightful outrage at a man who had used his fame to intimidate young women who were just starting out in their entertainment careers. People wondered: How could the comedy community let this happen?

I couldn’t help but understand exactly how. Rape happens to people we know. It is committed by people we know — yes, even the ones who make us laugh. It happened to me, and I didn’t say anything for fear of being treated like those dozens of women who came forward against a powerful man who abused them. I feared being seen as a liar, as an attention-seeker, as anything less than a full human being with a truth to tell.

I feared being seen as a liar, as an attention-seeker, as anything less than a full human being with a truth to tell

And it can be especially difficult to come forward against someone who is or was close to you. According to statistics from RAINN, an abuse advocacy group, 80% of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim, 47% by a friend or acquaintance, and 25% by an intimate partner. Loving someone does not give that person control over your body. I know this now.

Though it’s been years since I was raped, I’m only just talking about it now, and little by little, the openness liberates me. I no longer feel shame or like I have heavy baggage to unload, and while I don’t make jokes about rape, I know that my newfound honesty is making me a better, more fearless comedian. And when I do talk about my rape, I tell my story in as straightforward a way as possible, to reach whomever I can — especially those who need to hear that they are not alone.

My ex and I have not spoken since I moved out, and I have no desire for that to change. While I am not seeking legal action, showing other survivors that they are not alone is more gratifying to me than any apology or arrest could be. Community and support are what I was searching for when this happened to me. If I couldn’t have those things then, hopefully telling my story will help someone else find them now.

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