Relationships are hard. Promiscuity is easy, no pun intended. After being in a long and (what felt like a) seemingly endless relationship for all of high school, and most of my first year of college, it was surprising how easily I slipped into casual sexual relations. All my sexual experience had come from one person and had always been monogamous.
After the break up, I didn’t have sex with every boy I pursued, but sex did happen quite a few times but only once with each boy. I never went back for seconds; it was just easier that way. I know starting off by saying all of this will leave me open to criticism, but I am going to suck it up in the hopes that this reaches people who have something to gain from reading my story. My attitude towards casual sex did play a part in the journey that I ended up taking.
I spent the summer after my first year in college alone. I saw my old high school boyfriend a number of times, which was always nothing short of uncomfortable considering how messy our break up had been. After an exciting end to my freshman year, I left school feeling like I had lost my way. I needed a summer away from boys and away from all things sexual. I couldn’t connect the old me to the new me, and it left me feeling distant from everyone, including myself.
I wound up starting my sophomore year as lonely and as lost as I had started my summer, but still hopeful that this was my year. I’d cemented an excellent new group of friends from my end-of-year crazy exploits, but was still close with the girls I’d made friends with while I was still cool, calm, and committed to my boyfriend. I was no longer awkwardly getting adjusted to college life. I’d also discovered that I had a very strong and passionate love-hate relationship with tequila.
But on the night that I met the boy whose carelessness and insensitivity would go on to destroy me.
I was completely sober. I was at a party with some girlfriends. He was visiting some acquaintances of mine. He was very cute and very charming and it had been months since I’d experienced the type of excitement that only comes from spending an entire night flirting with somebody new. I longed for the excitement that had been last semester.
At this point, it had been five months since I’d last had sex. By the time we started kissing at this party, I had no idea whether or not I’d want to have sex with him. My roommate was home; he didn’t even go to my school so he was surely crashing on the couch at his friend’s apartment that weekend. I left the party with him, at his suggestion. We went for a walk to an old field not far from campus, at my suggestion. It was a serene spot. I went there often on walks. It is no longer serene because that night he had sex with me without my permission.
You see, at the point where he laid me down and blatantly declared that he was going to have sex with me I decided that I did not want to.
I decided that I did not want to have sex outside, in the dirt, with this virtual stranger who was grabbing me a little too roughly and telling me to shut up a little too often, let alone for someone who’d only known me for two hours. The first red flag went up when my friend was calling me and he pushed my phone out of reach so I could not answer.
I can’t possibly count how many times I said I wanted to go home.
But I can count how many times I screamed or tried to fight him off: zero.
He had a way with words where he made it sound as if he had to have sex with me because I seemed like such a great girl and I didn’t deserve to not have sex that night. He was having a difficult time staying erect for longer than a few minutes at a time and I kept using it as an excuse to go home, but that only frustrated him. It became a matter of proving that he could have sex with me, even though I voiced my discomfort quite a few times.
I didn’t try to hurt him.
I tried to leave a few times, but he’d grab me and pull me right on top of him.
The bruises that formed the next day were awful, and a painful reminder that I did not want. He said he didn’t want me to go home disappointed after spending the whole night talking to him. He said not having sex was a wasted opportunity.
He made it seem like he was doing me a favor. He didn’t once listen to anything I said.
It flooded me with this irrational sense of obligation.
Eventually he was so frustrated and rough with me that every inch of me hurt and I just wanted him to finish so I could go home. All I wanted was to be in my own bed, alone and away from him. I stopped talking. I let him have his way, I let him force my mouth where he wanted, put my hands and his hands wherever he wanted. I let him have all the power because I didn’t believe he would ever listen, because he hadn’t listened to me once, and thought resisting would only prolong the time I was around him.
I pointed out earlier that I had been sober for this experience. In the weeks following this night, I hated myself for being sober.
Girls who get raped while drunk, in my head, cannot be blamed for being raped.
I had been sober. I had absolute clarity of thought and didn’t fight back.
I just quietly asked to go home a few times and gave up once he started to hurt me. I let him do what he wanted. Surely that could be construed as some form of passive permission. Or at least that’s what I thought after it happened.
It has been almost seven months, and I am still confused by my rape.
I have had countless therapy sessions, gone to group therapy, and confided in a few trusted girlfriends about what happened to me. Every time I told the story for the first time to someone I would make sure to mention I took him to the secluded spot, that I was sober, and that I didn’t physically fight him off. I wanted to see if anyone would still call what he did to me rape after I mentioned all these things. Everyone always did.
I have had periods of hating him with energy so intense that I feel like I will explode. I have had periods where I feel sorry for him because he was oblivious to the effect he’d had on me. I spiraled for a while. I didn’t get out of bed for days at a time. I downed almost an entire bottle of tequila on an empty stomach in the hopes that I wouldn’t wake up the next morning, and I almost didn’t.
I have panic attacks which lead to asthma attacks. I have nightmares, I see his face in the dark and I hear his voice in my head. All tall, dark-haired men look like him from the side and from behind, especially if I am out alone. I have done dangerous, reckless things. I acted out because I was confused.
It took this downward, dangerous spiral for me to see that that night could be called a lot of things; a mistake, a lapse in judgment, dangerous, and most certainly the worst night of my life. But it could not be called consensual. Consensual sex does not have this effect on people. A lot of people say that girls (and even boys!) make bad decisions and have sex consensually that they regret the next morning and they confuse this regret for them not wanting the sex and claim rape. This sounds like a bad generalization and an insensitive one at that. Be that as it may, the things I was experiencing did not come from regret. They came from being violated.
But I am still confused. I am still confused as to why I hate him on some days and feel like I have forgiven him on others. I am confused because at times I hate myself and put all the responsibility on my shoulders. Other times I don’t see how I can be held responsible at all because I said that I did not want to have sex. I am confused as to why some days I am excited about life and other days my body aches and I cannot leave my bed because my head hurts and feels too heavy from thinking about that night. I was practically the walking dead for months, going through the motions of life without properly living, hence the reckless things I did to try feel something, anything at all besides confusion and numbness.
Victims of sexual assault, especially of rape, will come to a point where they decide that they need to suck it up and get over it. They decide to never speak of it, to let it go.
For some, it takes years to get to this point. For others, it happens faster. I wanted to be over it after the first time I cried about it (about three days after it happened). That didn’t work out. I decided when I came back for the spring semester of my sophomore year that I was over it. I would never allow the word victim to be my label ever again. I was over it.
I am not over it. There is no such thing as “over it”.
This will always be a part of me, something that I will carry with me until I die. With it, I will carry confusion and doubt for who knows how long. But the difference is now I don’t let the confusion frustrate me or upset me. I understand that people heal at different paces. I understand that I am allowed to hate him and also allowed to forgive him.
There aren’t rules for what happens after rape. I wrote him a letter in the hopes that he will read it and understand what he did and never do it to anyone else. I never signed it nor did I leave a return address. What he has to say doesn’t matter. I hope to let go of all the anger buried deep inside that boils to the surface whenever something remotely related to rape triggers it. But I will no longer force emotions that are not there, or bottle up the ones that are there. I can take all the time that I need. I can do this my own way; deal with it how I wish.
Right now, I am still confused about my rape, and that is okay.