Unpacking a Rapist’s Rationalizations

Will has admitted what he did to me. He’s admitted to blackmailing me. He’s admitted to raping me on two separate occasions. He’s even attempted to make it look like he was making amends for what he had done. But after I finally snapped at him once and for all when I had full blown-not leaving my dorm room-crying every day-could not sleep-could not eat-could not function-debilitating PTSD in college he’s become a brick wall of excuses and faux ignorance.

Rapists make excuses. This should not surprise people because even bystanders make excuses for rapists. But we need to unpack some of these excuses. I have had extensive conversations with Will as I tried desperately to understand what happened. I have heard all of his excuses. I have read numerous serial rapists excuses. There’s the traditional “she was drunk, she was asking for it, she was wearing basically nothing…” etc. I might go into these in my less personal posts but its been said so many times I might just give you a thousand links that have already covered the absurdity of these statements.

Right now, I am rather selfishly focused on me. On my experience. Because I need to explore these rationalizations. I need to see on the black and white written page that he is full of crap. And because I know I am not alone in these experiences, so some kernel of what I say might help someone understand their own experience, I am sharing it with the unforgiving internet.

Like I said. I am not being brave. I am doing what feels necessary.

But first I am going to talk about my experience when he did admit it. Because he did admit it twice only to turn around and give me a waterfall of excuses. See, even then his admittance was a ploy.

I was 16 and sitting on that green couch at Honora’s house, phone in hand, Will’s voice echoed from the phone my fingers were curled tightly around. “If you think it was rape then it was rape.” The look on my mothers’ faces as they realized they had just been arguing with me that something never happened that had just been admitted. I felt free for a split second. We hung up. Then, my mom took my phone. She did not say when she would give it back. I felt like I was in trouble, like was grounded for getting my rapist to admit: it was rape. It dawned on me it was because she did not want me to text him, she was aiming to take him to trial.

I was heartbroken and furious simultaneously. That night as I laid in bed I felt my heart slip into my feet and my stomach did somersaults in my throat. Those thoughts of shame and guilt were winning again. It was the way Will had phrased his confession. He declared it was rape, but only because I thought it was. He had couched it in terms that still put the burden on me. It was rape only because I thought it was. For whatever reason I thought it was. Then I started down that sink hole of thoughts, I was spiraling through the suffocating silt filled waters. I actually found myself asking yet again, was I wrong? Was I just crazy? If I was wrong why did I feel this way? Why did he admit it at all?

I felt such crushing guilt that night that I had to fight the impulse to steal my phone back and apologize to him. The guilt had overwhelmed me to the point that I was terrified of my mom punishing him because what if I was wrong? What if I was delusional?

But then within the same week I was sure again and sitting in the car with my Aunt as she quoted rape culture back to me. I stifled the tears of my frustration and anger. “Sometimes we say no but we mean yes.” I could not shake the fact that I had not meant yes. I had meant “no.” That is why I said NO. And regardless when he asked me he should have waited for a response, when he asked me and I said no, he should have stopped because “no,” in all its various forms, is all it should ever take.

Will and I did not talk for a while. It was a relief. But when we did, we pretended it had never happened. Same old silence.

Then I was 18 and in college. Two boys had assaulted me that month. It had triggered the onset of the most debilitating PTSD flare I’ve experienced until… recently.

I started talking to Will again before I was diagnosed and started getting treatment. I was so frustrated with this nagging feeling that I had been right all along about Will. My reaction to Nick and Javier’s comparatively toothless assaults did not begin to make sense to me unless it tied back to Will and Trey. He tried wooing me. I played my part, desperate for answers. But as the PTSD got increasingly worse I had to have the truth.

He admitted it again. This time he admitted he’d heard me say no, he admitted to manipulation, coercion, rape. He admitted he had hurt me. More than that he refused to give up on “us.”

I remember sitting in the doctor’s office with my phone buzzing over and over. I’d confronted him days ago and now I was barely responding to his messages.

Please just meet me Meghan… Please listen I am going to make up for what I did… I talked to a traffic cop I know… she works near me… I see her a lot… I told her what happened between us. I told her I needed to do something to make it better for you. To prove I am sorry… she said she wasn’t sure about the legality but I could start with community involvement, charity… Meghan I will do anything… please just meet me I have some food here waiting for you… please don’t give up on us

I was so confused. I thought immediately that he was lying. But I asked clarifying questions regardless, trying to trap him in his lie. He took this as encouragement. I told him I could not meet with him. I could not even see his face right now. I had to think about it all.

And then I started wondering. Wondering, what if. What if he really was repenting. What if he really did care. What if this was a turning point for him. A turning point for Will as a human being. A turning point that could make him a better person. What if me forgiving him was what he needed to be a better man? What if he needed that and I was just going to shut up this one chance at a break through because I could not handle his presence in my life?

I talked myself in circles yet again. I fell victim to his ploys again. I actually felt bad for not immediately forgiving a rapist who was so manipulative and such a liar I had never been able to trust a single word he’d said.

I called him and screamed and shouted and poured out the pain and then blocked him on everything. I was done.

I moved on but it started nagging at me again. Healing is not a linear process and grieving is anything but a process with a start and a finish. You never know when your brain will resurrect old issues. You never know what can spark those unrelenting flashbacks and night terrors again.

I was in college, married, happy, successful, but I still wanted proof, it was never enough, I need proof again for my own sanity. He played so many mind games with me. I always doubted myself, sometimes I despair and I think I always will. I try to remain hopeful that I will overcome this one day. That the same things that bothered me when I was 14 will eventually stop bothering me. That I can process it and be done. Leave it in the past where I want it to stay instead of the constant reliving that PTSD insists upon.

But I could not give it up. I was like a dog with a bone. I could not let it go and I felt more than an urge, a need to talk to him again, to confirm for myself again, who he was, what he was, and what he did.

Here’s where things got even weirder than they already were but in my head it all made sense. See, I knew he’d never admit some things to “Meghan” ever again. I had scared him last time. I had been unraveling so much I think he was actually scared, for the first time, that I might go to the police.

So I hid my name. I got a new phone number on an app or google voice. A new email. I photo shopped the pictures, or rather predator bait, I’d send him so it wouldn’t look like me and boy did he talk. He talked to this girl “Emily” a lot.

He loved virgins. He loved horror movies, the bloodier the better. He didn’t believe in safe words, he needed no boundaries, his ultimate fantasy was a woman who could not say no to him, a world where no didn’t exist and Will could do whatever he wanted.

I freaked out at that last one. I could barely maintain my persona at that point. Will that is rape. Your ultimate fantasy is rape.

He had already told me about this “cr*zy girl” Meghan who kept insisting he raped her even though he hadn’t. At that point I lost it and I needed to find a way to say how angry I was. I needed him to know it was wrong. Maybe that girl was right Will. If you think that no boundaries or consent is real sex maybe you are a rapist. Maybe you don’t even know where the line is so how can you say she was wrong.

He covered his tracks after that, changed his rhetoric a bit, even said I know I hurt her but it wasn’t rape, anything to keep “Emily” from thinking he was a rapist… but that’s when I knew “Emily’s” cover of protection was going to fail.

He would eventually figure out it was me. I stopped consistently talking to him as Emliy after that. He found out a bit later from an error when my email address, Meghan’s email address, popped up. But then he dismissed it. He outright ignored it because he wanted to keep talking to me, even if to do so he had to call me Emily. That creeped me out again.

After that, it was sporadic and then I never messaged him as “Emily” but I had confirmed that he thought like a rapist. I had it in black and white. I don’t encourage this. It was sick and unhealthy and stupid and wrong and… god… honestly… it helped. God do I need therapy…

I share this because it all undermines his rationalizations. His justifications are just that and I know it because he even thinks like a predator. I also share this for other survivors. For their families. For their friends. I share a deep shame of mine, something I still feel dirty about because I know other survivors feel dirty for similar reasons.

I know that people continue to talk to their rapists and cannot understand why. I know that people struggle with guilt. I know that people need to know why or need the same confirmation I did. I was not the first survivor in history to feel what I felt, to experience those overwhelming urges. I will not be the last. I want you to know we do not have to feel shame for the effects of our trauma. We do not have to feel shame for the seemingly “cr*zy” way our brains respond to trauma.

I’ve learned something from trying to figure this out in therapy, with my mother, with my husband, and alone for the past nine years. Sometimes you just do what you have to do to survive, you just do what you have to do to feel better, and it often makes no rational sense. It may not be the best thing to do to heal. But you’re surviving. You’re making it day by day and that makes you strong, brave, and worthy no matter how insane you may feel.

Now I know who Will is and I pray that I will still know who he is tomorrow, a week from now, months from now, years from now. I pray that writing this, that setting it out will serve as a blatant reminder so I never forget that it is not my fault.

It happened. It was not my fault. I did not cause it. I did not encourage it. I did not deserve it. Neither did you. Neither did your friend. Neither did your family member. Neither does anyone.

So let’s examine some actually pretty laughable excuses and justifications:

  • “We both did something you weren’t ready for.”

A classic. You feel awful about this because you were not ready for it. Not because it was rape but because you were just ill prepared.

It works because a lot of times you honestly were not ready for it. In fact, that was exactly why I had said no. That is exactly why people often say no. And the fact that I said no, I have never doubted that. I felt the word come out of me. I know I said it and I said it because Will was right. I was not ready.

But that is not why I felt like I had been raped. It was not why that feeling persists nine years later. It is not why I have night mares about him. I feel this way because it was rape.

He tells a half truth. HE did something I was not ready for. He and he alone.

  • “You just regret it.”

Initially I was grappling with this one too. I mean, I did regret a lot about that day. I regretted lying to my mom to meet him. I regretted meeting him. I regretted going to his house. I had a lot of regret, maybe that was it.

But years later I know what it feels like, what it is like to actually just regret sex. I regret having sex with multiple people. I regret that I ever let some guys touch me. But when I regret having sex with someone it isn’t traumatic. I do not have nightmares. I am not swallowed by it. I just roll my eyes, wish it hadn’t happened, and move on.

  • “You let me do it again.”

As I’ve mentioned this was the major fact that always threw me. I could not comprehend it. Because even now it seems to me like I did in fact let him do it again. I obeyed his commands. I did not resist. I did not speak. I just did it. I just did what he told me to. It just happened.

But I started to heal from this when I read Artemesia Gentelleshi’s rape account in the historical fiction/novel about her. The scene and Artemesia’s reactions concerning it were part of court record, a case which she had fought when few women fought rape and had won, in part because she had been a virgin at the time. Gentelleshi went back to him. He continued to work with her father for months after. Gentelleshi even went along with a potential marriage, initially, because if she did not she was a slut, a whore, she had been “deflowered” and therefore “devalued” unless she got him to marry her.

That’s how I had felt. That was exactly how I felt. That’s why I called him my boyfriend. Because the only way what had happened made sense was if we were together because I knew who I was and I was not the whispered rumors. I had wanted to wait.

At that moment I was in such shock and disbelief I didn’t feel alive. After someone rapes you, takes away your power, it can feel like you have no power with them. You are entirely at the mercy of their whims. That’s what it felt like. It felt like my mind wasn’t there, I was not Meghan, I was automaton, I was frozen, I was zombie. I wasn’t there, I could not let him do anything.

  • “I didn’t show you the bloody condom. I don’t like blood. Blood freaks me out.”

Refer back to avid horror film fanatic. Refer back to I saw you stare at the blood on the condom and smile. Smile. Refer back to him claiming he was a “vampire” in high school, not a twilight sparkle vampire, he claimed he was the Anne Rice drinks blood to stay alive and is a demon of the darkness vampire.

This is one of the most pathetic of his dismissals. I mean… really? Really Will? Can you even keep your own lies straight in your head anymore?

  • “I don’t even like blow jobs why would I ever force you to do that.”

Same vein as the last dismissal. Pretending not to like something, contrary to extensive experience, is not a defense. He did not prove that he did not rape me. He just made a ridiculous claim to dismiss the entire premise.

Like when all a guy has to say was “it was consensual, she wanted it” Will just smugly and proudly trotted that out as if to say “case closed.”

  • “I blackmailed you to protect you.”

This is an excuse I recently heard from two ex-best friends who, while I was very triggered, decided that with their limited expertise on psychology they had to protect me. How they protected me was locking me in a room. How they protected me was when they finally let me out my “friend” grabbed me around the neck and forced me to the ground and would not let me go. How they “protected” me was assault and the furthest thing from what real trauma experts say you should do and the furthest thing from actually protecting me (I’ll go into this more when I discuss how we react to mental health and other assaults and the like…).

The saddest thing is they really believed it. Hell I imagine in his own way even Will really believed that he was my protector. Because I have come to realize that those who hurt you most, those who abuse you, almost always insist it is because they love you so much and are trying to protect you.

But protection it is not if it is control. What all three of these people were really doing was trying to control me. Will said he was trying to control me to keep me away from drugs and alcohol. Kelly and Joe claim they were trying to control me to keep “everyone safe.”

But control is abuse. Controlling someone is abusive. And coercing a fourteen year old to take naked pictures for you and then black mailing her with them whenever she steps out of line by say not being with you, that is a crime.

There is no excuse for it.

  • I hate rapists… I would never do that to a girl…”

Oldest line in the book. It brings to mind this scene in the newest season of the Walking Dead, my all time favorite drama.

Neegan has sex slaves. It is made pretty clear their only options are to be Neegan’s “wives” or their families will die and they probably will too. It is made pretty clear there is no option to “opt out” once you’re Neegan’s wife. It is beyond clear that Neegan is a murderous, evil prick.

But it is not an anything goes buffet under Neegan. Neegan will not allow anyone in the his community to rape someone if he knows about it. He kills David when he tries to sexually assault Sasha. He says something along the lines of “Rape is not allowed here. I would not want to be some place where it was allowed.”

Some believe this is because Neegan does not understand rape he does not believe what he has with his wives is sexual slavery and he truly is against rape as he understands it, which is in its overt forms. But the way Neegan talks to his “wives.” The punishments he gives them. The clear, intentional psychological torture, manipulation, and coercion. Neegan knows those women are his slaves. He simply will not allow other people to rape whoever because that diminishes HIS power. His centralized, monopoly on violence.

Neegan has final say. Neegan is the only man allowed to have that power. Other men in the group may only rape women when Neegan says so – such as when Neegan offers Dwight “free pussy.” Neegan condemns other rapists because it gives him not only a moralizing stance, a position to act like he really does have best interests in mind, but all the power.

I have never met a rapist who does not feign intense hatred of rapists and pedophiles and sexual abuse. It is all a part of the ornate mask they wear to cover up stains they can never wash out.

Finally, lastly, please don’t be like me. Don’t listen when your attacker tries to obfuscate and vindicate themselves. But if you do, if you can’t stop your mind from going down those routes. Please, please don’t hate yourself for falling for their lies and mitigation either. We all fall for one lie or another. Just please for your own sake find a way out of that mire. Survive and find a way out of the echoing tunnel that seems to have no end.


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