Does my rapist know he raped me?

Donderlyn Cherelle
5 min readJan 3, 2019
Photo by Caique Silva on Unsplash

Power, sexuality, fear, religion, and rape culture

When Harvey whoever and the prison booty formerly known as Bill Cosby first began their most recent (and perhaps steepest) rise to fame, and everyone was bravely(?) claiming, “me, too,” a friend and I were deliberating the rampant rape/ molestation/ sexual harassment charges in provocative and surely uncommon terms and phrases.

A bit later I was showing a home to a couple of strangers and somehow ended up on the same topic. Although, admittedly with them, I was more careful and conservative with my expressions. As part of an ongoing self-care practice, I don’t watch or read the news and frankly, I was sick of the discussion- all sides of it. On one hand, I hated the way the ‘me too’ movement felt like group-think and a warlock hunt, and the guilty until proven guilty thing that follows these types of accusations. On the other, I intimately knew the distinct and lasting combination of powerlessness, fear, guilt and humiliation produced only by rape. And where was the judgement coming from? Why was I participating in a reckoning of who spoke up when, and why?

I thought of how frustrating (and sometimes exhausting) it is to have to constantly think of how you’re being and what you’re wearing and how it will be perceived. Is it too sexy? Is it safe? They say you should wear pants to slow down a rapist. And by the way, it’s creepy to ask your Realtor at first sight if she’s ever felt unsafe.

Thing is, I frequently err on the side of modesty. If it’s little, it’s probably larger than what I really wanted to wear. And if it’s flashy, I probably already toned it down a bit. If it’s entirely drab or mannish, I was definitely tired. Because there’s always been a glittery, fun, and sexy side to me. But, aside from the very rare occasion I’ve been completely in tune with a sexual partner, I’ve never felt comfortable with acknowledgment of my womanness, my essence, my sensuality, let alone with celebration of it. That came before the rape, but after the religion.

You see, I’m a reformed church girl. And I’m not talking church-lite. Not just because you’re black or southern kinda church going. I’m talking Pentecostal, tarrying for the Holy Ghost, long dress and hat wearing, in church 4 long days a week, 40 day fasting, stay in a woman’s place, no Christmas because it’s a pagan holiday, in fact all holidays are pagan holidays, you’re going to hell because you woke up human, unless you repent type of church, girl.

That kind of religion stays in you like the relentless pigment of spaghetti in Tupperware. It takes a special kind of God to scrub that out of you. Some layers have to be removed. You come out okay but only if you’re durable, worthy of sticking around. It might take you twenty years or longer to unblock all the chakras caked with fire and brimstone-charred bullshit. You might always feel guilty for being born human, thinking of sex, wanting to be important or famous or rich. Baby girl, after that kind of religion, you might always wonder if it was your fault. Maybe you shouldn’t have been so sexy. You shouldn’t have tempted him. After all, you were taught the temptress spirit of Eve is in every woman and it’s your lifelong duty to suppress it.

After I was raped, I was never the same. But after some time and some intentional healing, after I began purposely celebrating my sacredness and my sexiness (in order to heal, enjoy sex for the divine gift it is, and remembered that there is no separation between any of it,) it could be said, with tongue in cheek, that I was actually better. For one, I was able to separate my consensual desires from what he did to me. Also, I could no longer believe that there was anything I could do or not do, wear or not wear to avoid or invite hell.

In order to truly and fully love and accept myself, I had to find a God where it was safe to be glittery, fun, and sexy me. I had to start believing in a God who wanted for me what I want for me, who was excited at the thought of my happiness and loved me dearly, as I am, not for who I might be were I miserable. The church would admonish me to like it, the rules and rejection of truth displayed in desire, to rejoice in this horrifying, punitive God. The church would have me believe if I shined my light too brightly, and surely if I even unknowingly tempted a weak man with my evil womanly ways, I’d be punished and I’d deserve it.

My rapist had been a friend. I trusted him; confided at times. We’d even had consensual FWB sex a time or two before. I‘d gone to his place to drink and hang out, talk and laugh about mutual friends, and tell him how excited I was about the new dude I was dating. He didn’t seem excited. He was just getting used to our friends with benefits situation, he said. I hadn’t asked him to but he’d cut his other girls off. And then he was raping me, after I’d told him, “No, I really like this new guy. I don’t want to have sex with anyone else while I get to know him.” And, “No!” And, “Please not there, LJ.”

And every woman’s story is different. Every woman’s span of time between rape’s inexplicable shock, guilt and self-forgiveness differs as well. The formula of what made up her most unforgettable bad memory varies indefinitely. He was her boss, her husband, a stranger, or a friend.

Yet, as I passed judgement of who just wants attention, who did it for the role then felt regret, and why now?, as I still thought after all this time, “I wonder if he knows he raped me? Men aren’t taught these things. We were college kids. Maybe he was drunk. Maybe I was dressed too provocatively. Maybe having sex with him previously made him think he could always have me.”, I had a revelation.

Making excuses for him, blaming myself (and other women), and convincing myself that he didn’t know better, had been the only way I could possibly forgive him. And the notion of forgiving him, my aggressor, allowed me to see that the person deserving of my forgiveness was me. For all the years I spent subjecting myself to religion’s rape culture, blaming the victim, and wondering if it was my fault, I forgive me.



Donderlyn Cherelle

Practicing (Screen)Writer. Self-proclaimed self-esteem & self-care Guru. Gemini. Mom. Divine Feminine. Follow my self-care and rescue mission: