At the very end of my relationship, a friend of ours tried to talk to him about what he was doing to me. He tried to gaslight me right in front of her, and she called him on it. She said “That’s an example of gendered violence that just happened right in front of me, and it’s really really harmful. It’s as bad as rape.” I winced internally, because I knew she’d lost him then, and also I wasn’t sure I agreed with her. At the time, I was so traumatized that I was having trouble speaking (which was why she was trying to talk to him), so I couldn’t speak up or intervene, even though I knew things were going downhill. He ended up walking out after a few more minutes. Afterward, he asked me if I agreed with her that what he’d done was “as bad as rape,” and I said I didn’t know.
After the relationship finally ended, though, I started thinking I wish he had raped me. Like, then the trauma I was experiencing would make sense, would have an obvious cause – then I would be able to easily explain to other people what he’d done to me.
I’ve heard Mo Daviau call this kind of experience “soul rape” (she says she didn’t coin the term, but I don’t know where it came from), and it’s accurate. I think a lot of us would have preferred physical abuse.