It wasn’t until she was sitting down with the domestic violence advocate, filing for the restraining order, that she paused and considered what really happened to her.
Have you ever been forced to have sex by your boyfriend, the form asked.
Yes, she wrote.
That answer led to rape charges and a nearly two-year prosecution that ended this week with at least four years in prison for Jeffrey G. Lewis.
Four times, Lewis raped his girlfriend, according to prosecutors, while others — including her two young daughters — were in the Haverhill apartment they shared. Lewis, 30, was found guilty by a Lawrence Superior Court jury of four counts of rape and one count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
That outcome is rare, but the abuse is not, domestic violence advocates say.
“Domestic violence is seen as only, ‘The person punched me in the face, the person grabbed my hair,’ but there’s all different types of abuse, and one of them is sexual assault,’’ said Diana Mancera, program director at YWCA North Shore Rape Crisis Center.
The majority of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. A quarter of survivors are married to or dating their rapist.
Most will never report what happened.
The woman Lewis was convicted of raping could have been one of them. Over four days in July 2013, according to a Haverhill police report, Lewis went on a bender of going out all night, getting drunk and coming home in a rage. He pushed her around, called her a slut and forced her to have sex with him.
“This is mine, I’ll do what I want with it,’’ he told her at one point, according to the report.
He was the one who called the police. Lewis told her he was going to get her arrested after she fought back. But police instead arrested him, and that’s how she ended up at Haverhill District Court filling out the restraining order.
Only then, “did it occur to her that what had happened to her was rape,’’ said Carrie Kimball Monahan, a spokeswoman for the Essex County District Attorney’s office.
Domestic abuse and rape go hand-in-hand, Mancera said, with about 80 percent of domestic violence victims also reporting some sexual abuse. It’s just another form of power for the abusers.
The survivors, though, don’t always see sex as abusive in the same way a punch or a kick would be, she said. Physical abuse isn’t part of a relationship. Sex usually is.
“It seems to be something that becomes a duty and responsibility as an intimate partner,’’ Mancera said. “They initially do not recognize it as sexual abuse or rape.’’
Even more confusing can be consensual sex that turns non-consensual, Mancera said, like oral sex that turns into penetrative sex that the victim doesn’t want.
Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett in a statement said that he commended the woman’s courage. He hoped the conviction would help her move on, and give help to other victims.
“This verdict sends a message to every person who has been victimized by a dating partner or a spouse,’’ he said. “Just because you are married or dating does not mean you cannot be raped.’’
Timeline of Haverhill domestic violence rape case