After My Husband Died Of Covid-19, I Realized He Was A Rapist

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sad woman
Heartbreak

My husband, Andrew, died from COVID-19.  He was fine one day, sick the next, and thirty-two days later, he was dead. He suffered. He could not breathe. He could not see anyone who loved him. The only people he saw were nurses and doctors in gowns, gloves, masks, and face shields.

On a clear day, he wrote me and said, "I've lost all sense of modesty. I'm laying here naked with nothing but covers. Nurses come and help me pee." He was moved to three different hospitals, sedated, paralyzed, and put on a ventilator, and he died.

"I'm sorry that you're sad," my mother said, "but I'm glad he's gone."

Andrew was difficult sometimes.

He had always had different ideas about what our marriage should be. I wanted a partnership with equal decisions and rights. He wanted a marriage based on a patriarchal family. He didn't want me to go anywhere or do anything without asking permission.

As a highly independent woman, our marriage was a struggle for me. We struggled for several years. At the time, we lived with my parents, and my parents saw the struggle firsthand. They knew he was difficult. Even so, I was surprised to hear her say that.

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My sister turned to me when I brought what my mom said up to her: "When you came back from your trip, Daddy told Mom that you told him Andrew raped you."

I felt like I got punched in the stomach. I could not breathe. I went on a trip to have surgery and up until this point, I thought I had made it through without saying anything out of character. "He said you said  Andrew had trouble understanding consent."

"Well, he did, "I replied.

She looked at my face. "That is rape. Did your husband rape you?"

Rape. That word made my heart stop. I consider myself to be an advocate of women's rights. I taught a teen class for a couple of years. We talked about consent. We talked about women's freedoms constantly.

I have four younger sisters. I advocate for them. I take them to get birth control and walk them through all of their options. We talk about safe sex and what is right and wrong. I push consent and the importance of consent. Would I totally abandon my core beliefs when it came to me personally? Would I throw everything that I believe away when it comes to myself?

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When we first got married,  Andrew thought that we would have sex every single day. At first, I tried to humor him, but I was also sick a lot through my pregnancy. So, I said no. If I said no, he would continue to use my body. No matter how I explained it, he could not understand why I was upset. So, I just gave up trying.

Later in the pregnancy, we were having consensual sex. We turned to a new position, and without asking, he took the initiative and penetrated me anally. I was surprised, but after he finished he said it was an accident and it was okay.

I decided when the baby was almost three that we should get divorced. I had a funny feeling. So, I bought a pregnancy test just to make sure. It was positive. I was pregnant. I threw the leaving notion to the side. Now, wasn't the time to think about divorce.

One day, I was napping and Andrew came in. I said no to his sexual advances, but he said he didn't hear me.

I was so upset. I felt disgusting. I ran to the bathtub to wash all of my impurities. And I said the word rape to him.  He was shocked. That wasn't rape, he said. You are overreacting. And what could I do? We were closing on a new house together.

When we moved into our new house, our relationship got so much better. A few weeks later, I delivered our baby early. Everything was about her and her health.  Andrew fell head-over-heels in love with her, and everything changed. He became a better parent and spouse. He became closer to his family.

Then, he got sick and died from Covid-19.

I found myself explaining to a friend that Andrew didn't understand consent very well. Andrew was a good brother, son, father. He wasn't a bad man. And by saying those words, I was protecting him and I've been protecting myself. Saying that he had trouble with consent may be true — but it's an evasion tactic. Saying he "had trouble with consent" really means that Andrew raped me.

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He raped me.

He raped me more than once.

No matter how good he could be in other ways, my husband was a rapist.

I find myself wondering how I failed myself over and over again. The words "He raped me" keep playing in my head on repeat.

I never let myself realize my reality until Andrew died. In any other scenario, if I look at it from the perspective of another person, of course, what was happening to me was rape. 

Now, how do I heal wounds that were ripped open with this revelation? 

I move forward. I validate my feelings. I relearn how to think about sex, how to think about my marriage, and how to reconcile the two sides. I learn how to advocate for myself — and not just everyone else.

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T.L. Still is a mother, a passionate advocate for equal rights, and a writer on the side. She lives in the swamp and is learning to navigate a new world.