Guest Post: I Dated a Sexual Predator
Guest Post by Sabra. Sabra is an avid English and Spanish speaking, world traveling, Netflix watching, body liberationist, yogi who loves haggling, listening to podcasts and contributing to news literacy.
Once upon a time, I dated a sexual predator.
Unfortunately, I was ripe for the picking. I was in between apartments and living with my parents, who were still moderately abusive towards me in my twenties. As a result of many factors, I started developing co-dependent caretaker behaviors as a young child. I routinely sought people to fix, help, and love. Looking back through my life I can easily see that each of my closest relationships featured me as the caretaking, do-it-all, put-up-with-it-all, long-suffering friend or girlfriend. My counterparts in these relationships were emotionally unavailable, manipulative, inconsistent, and immature. I chose needy, demanding, and punishing people because I was trying to retroactively heal my relationships with my earliest caregivers who displayed the same behaviors.
Consequently, I ended up in more abusive, and profoundly harmful relationships. The sexual predator I dated was an investigator who got baptized into my YSA ward. He possessed only some of what I wanted in a romantic partner but pressure from the culture at large, my Black American culture specifically, Mormon culture, many isms, and my sister acting under the influence of her own distortions, led me to believe that he was worth pursuing and holding onto. He wasn’t. I was pressured to adhere to a culturally specific form of sexism that says my primary purpose is to save, heal and rescue Black American men from a cruel world that oppresses and devalues them. The idea is that my Black American female life is easier, therefore my social and familial role is protector, long sufferer, and political mobilizer for my brothers, father, and male partners over anyone else including myself and other women.
I am required to see my value and worth as secondary to his. If I have to put up with a volatile and emotionally unresolved partner, that’s the price for healing my people. My sister said, “You have to accept that Black men are going to have severe issues and problems. If you want one, you have to put up with a lot of awful things. They need and deserve our patience and love, more than we (Black American women) deserve loving, stable, and kind romantic partnerships.” The cultural script demanded it.
My relationship with the man who eventually raped me started fairly simply. We met at my YSA ward and became friends on social media. Later, we hung out with other members of our ward. Then, we started dating after I returned to my home city because I could no longer afford my college apartment. From the beginning, I knew that many things about him weren’t right, cue my oppressive multi-cultural script. So, I kept going. Also, I had little idea of what an abusive relationship looked like in the early stages, especially abuse that wasn’t physical.
It didn’t take long before he started to show his true colors. He complained that I wouldn’t engage in enough public displays of affection which was proof that my sex drive wasn’t high enough. Therefore, he may never be sexually happy with me and he needed some space to think. He complained that I wasn’t appreciative or submissive enough to my parents and implied that only he knew the value of having a father (because his biological father was absent). He wouldn’t accept that his perspective was limited, that he had unresolved relationships of his own with his stepfather and biological mother, even when yelling at his mother on the phone. He told me, “I only choose relationships where I’m the one in control” and when describing me to other people said, “she knows her place.” I was only 21.
I knew these were red flags. He himself was nothing if not a big red flag. However, the polite, long-suffering, co-dependent part of me thought I could change him. The part of me pressured by my emotionally immature older sister to stand by my manipulative, coercive, emotionally volatile man held strong. Moreover, the part of me that believed so strongly in the patriarchal blessing and the patriarch who told me that I’d get married at a young age led me to believe that this was what God had meant for me.
A relationship with this man was destabilizing, to say the least. He routinely ghosted, withdrew emotionally, and then intensely, made passionate declarations, only to tell me days later that he was again unsure of our future. When I suggested taking a relationship break, he said, “I’m afraid I might hurt myself. I can’t be without you. I don’t want to see you with anyone else.” I suggested therapy and relationship education. He responded, “I don’t want to work on the relationship. Can’t we just have a relationship?” The only thing he was consistent about was willfully misunderstanding me, interacting with his ex-girlfriend on social media, and grooming me for what was to come later.
I was working to get out of this relationship because my fix, heal, and repair strategies were dismissed or invalidated by him. I was drowning. Meanwhile, he was actively pushing, demanding, sulking, and controlling. He pushed me into getting engaged, notifying everyone in my family (in front of him), and giving in to sexual activities that I didn’t want. Interestingly enough, I lived with my parents at the time, and they said very little. However, my dad did display anger and controlling behaviors at the two of us after staying out all night. In contrast, I have never witnessed my dad act angrily at either of my brothers for staying out all night in their
It is clear to me now that my parents, even as self-proclaimed experienced 60-somethings had no idea that I was in an abusive relationship. My parents didn’t know that I was trying so hard to get away from the man I was engaged to or that most of our relationship was non-consensual, coerced, manipulated, and fast-tracked by him. In some ways, my family was even complicit. My father and brother had a conversation with this abusive man and told him to make sure that I didn’t end up running the relationship. After this conversation, the dynamics in this relationship got worse for me and the man who had been grooming me for months raped me in my apartment. After a tumultuous relationship filled with coercion, shaming, blaming, and contempt, the man who raped me let me go. It was incredibly messy and fraught.
However, after months of verbal, emotional, and sexual violence, he broke up with me through a text message. “I can’t do this anymore,” he said. I wish I could say that was the end, but it wasn’t. I insisted on seeing him face to face and having it out. So, we did, and he said, “It’s not like I raped you. It takes two to tango.”
Years later I wondered what would have happened if only my family, community, church, schools, etc. knew what abusive relationships looked like in the early stages. If only these lessons were taught in place of modesty or typing. This is what happens when a church, education system, and family hold such rigid gender views and fail to teach consent, sexual citizenship, or respect for women. This rape culture is what allowed this man and people like him to thrive in our global society. Developing the ability to discern between harmful behavior patterns and healthier behaviors could have prevented me from entering an abusive relationship with a man who abused me for months and raped me several times. He, like most men who rape women received zero consequences legally or socially. All of our mutual social media friends continued to be his friend, even though at least one of them knew that he raped me.
When I told her that he raped me, she answered, “Are you sure you’re not just saying that because you’re mad that he broke up with you?” They are still friends (maybe more) on social media to this day. Back when this all happened, I went to my college bishop and to the bishop of the man who abused and raped me. However, neither bishop showed an understanding of abusive relationships or relationship rape. Therefore, they issued out church consequences and I went without temple trips and the sacrament for the next several months convinced that I had engaged in the almost unforgivable. It took months before I realized what he did, and who sat by and