France, before 1990

I thought we loved one another.

He put the ring on my finger.

I felt secure and sheltered.

We had created our home.

One day, I bought the wrong kind of charcuterie.

He became furious.

Called me names.

Screaming that I didn’t care, that I never listen, that I’m hopeless.

Then, I saw a light in his eyes.

He unbuckled his pants.

My body landed on the kitchen table.

And he eviscerated everything.

My face shoved into the greasy charcuterie.

My rape was legal.

Germany, before 1997

I always dreamed of having children.

I believed in innocence, in happiness.

I loved our walks together.

We talked about everything.

I trusted my husband.

We would walk until the sun set.

He had an idea.

A sexual impulse.

He felt adventurous, he said.

I wanted to go home and finish my book.

I laughed it off.

His face turned into a grimace.

I had never seen him like that before.

Then he told me that I was a prude that others would throw themselves at the occasion.

That’s when my body was smashed against a tree.

And I wished so hard for the sun not to set.

And I looked at my ring, at the symbol of our love.

And it lost all its value in one single moment.

My rape was legal.

Luxembourg, before 1994

I was sleeping.

I had accomplished everything that day.

I felt blessed.

I knew that we hadn’t seen each other for a while.

My husband had been stressed at work.

He worked so hard.

I took care of our three children.

I did my best.

Sometimes he would come home late.

Sometimes I would already be asleep.

This time he felt dangerous to me.

There was an energy in the room.

I was still sleeping, but my body was alert.

He entered our bed.

And I thought, everything is all right.

I sensed his unusual nudity.

Then his intent, his movement of undressing my pants.

I went mute, he thought I was sleeping.

Who could sleep through this?

He knew of course, but took advantage of the silence.

Then I felt it, his violence.

I stirred and hissed, no, no, no.

His muscles held me tightly.

He said he needed this, work had been too tense, he needed to release his frustrations.

And he hurt me, hurt me, hurt me, everything fell apart in five minutes.

He fell asleep and I woke up to a nightmare.

My rape was legal.

Scotland, before 1989

We wanted to have a threesome.

He had always been honest with me about his desires.

I felt that we were so close.

I said yes.

He looked so happy, like a little boy.

I thought, it’s better to lay everything out in the open.

Maybe I would be surprised about what it would do for me.

We met, the three of us.

I got a sense that they had already been very familiar with each other.

Something within me, call it jealousy, suspicion, shut down.

And even though my body screamed no, I tried.

And when I kissed her without intent, he told me he’d show me how it’s done.

He threw himself on her.

And I knew, it wasn’t the first time.

He looked me in the eye and I cried as she moaned.

He went berserk and came at me.

Every tear inspired more rage.

I wanted out, out, out.

I thought, how could this escalate like this?

Whilst he forced himself on me, I looked at her in desperation.

But she didn’t realise, she thought we were married, that this is our thing.

He whispered in my ear that I would not embarrass him like this.

And she just sat there and observed.

My rape was legal.

Italy, before 1976

We were at our friends’ party.

It was a warm and cosy evening.

We all told stories of our youth.

When we were still single.

We laughed a lot.

I thought this was a glorious evening.

I looked at my husband and we smiled at each other.

When the wives went to get more wine or freshen up,

I stood on the terrace to look at the night sky.

I felt their eyes on me.

The husbands. My friends. My own.

And I heard them say what a good piece of merchandise I was.

And tapping my husband on the shoulder.

For his accomplishment of bagging me.

The festive spirit of the evening deserted me.

I felt besieged from afar.

My body told me that we needed to flee.

But I dismissed my intuition.

I turned around to see my husband’s face to be reassured.

His smile contained unwholesomeness.

He waved me over, and as the wives came back, he held my hand,

Winked at his male companions and told me he needed to show me

Something.

I went with my husband and ended up in a closed bedroom.

I told him that I did not want to be referred to as merchandise.

He laughed and stuck his tongue down my throat.

I’m serious, how can you let them speak about me like that?

Oh come on, it’s a compliment, have you seen the other wives?

He grabbed my behind and I headed towards the door.

That’s when my body landed face down on the bed.

I didn’t know what hurt more, the suffocation or the thrusts.

When I came up for air, I saw we had a shortlived observer.

My husband felt encouraged, I mouthed the words, help me.

And he dismissed it with a thumbs up for my husband,

And closed the door again, excusing himself.

My rape was legal.

Greece, before 2006

I always thought feminism didn’t concern me.

I thought I had nothing to be enraged about.

I came from a good family.

I always had everything I thought I needed.

Oh, did I overlook the dark corners.

It was my wedding day.

I had this wonderful white dress.

Everybody sang and wished me well.

I felt that everything aligned itself.

I felt blessed.

Until my wedding night came.

I had my period.

I thought, I would tell him in that moment not to spoil the whole celebration.

I thought he wouldn’t be offended, because we had slept together

Numerous times before.

And in a few days we could manifest our love again.

He undressed silently, moping.

He ignored me as I sat there in my white dress.

I thought, this can’t be real.

Not today.

Not because of this.

Then he said, I don’t care, let’s do it anyhow.

No. It shot out of my mouth. I didn’t even think. No.

We’ll wait. There are other things we could do.

It’s not going to be like this, he hissed.

I realised his sudden fury and felt cornered.

I am your bride.

He walked towards me, his hands wandering down my dress.

What are you doing?

I think you’re lying, he said.

Is it already starting now, us not having sex?

I couldn’t believe his words.

How could he feel so right and entitled?

As he tried to penetrate me with his hands, I slapped them away.

He grabbed my neck and shoved my face against the mirror.

You’re right, there are other things I could do, he said.

It was a pain I had never felt before.

I looked at myself in the mirror, in my white dress.

And he moaned, that’s a good bride.

And I screeched, I am your wife, I am your wife.

Until I collapsed in my red dress.

My rape was legal.

Perdita_Anthony_Frederick_Augustus_Sandys

“Perdita” by Frederick Sandys (1829-1904)

 

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