I know you. You feign confidence in almost everything you do and most of the time, it works. But your self-esteem isn’t exactly top-notch, and you make that apparent by engaging in multiple risky behaviors. You drink way too much and far too often, which always leaves you vulnerable and loose. I understand the occasional good time, but you take things too far. You can never control yourself after drinking, and you always end up going home with someone you barely know.
You get around a lot. And I mean a lot. You’re not even 25 yet and the number of guys you’ve slept with is well into the 30s. But you never really saw your sexuality as an issue. You’re always generally pretty safe about things anyway. You just enjoy sex. You’re an empowered 21st-century woman. Why should men have all the fun? Sure, you get labeled—slut, whore, easy, loose. You get called names that no one would dare call a man in your shoes (or pants, rather). But you usually let those things roll off your back because you feel strong for the most part and don’t let other people’s opinions weigh in on your opinion of yourself.
There were small things that started to creep in on that empowerment, though. Simple things. Wearing any clothing that didn’t show off your cleavage started to make you feel uncomfortable because somehow, cleavage seemed to make people like you better. It also got you free stuff. It was a win/win situation in your mind. What’s the harm? No one was getting hurt. It seemed all right to you.
But with habits and clothes like that, what did you expect would happen? People kept telling you that something bad was bound to happen. There’s a reason that women’s sexuality isn’t up for discussion; there’s a reason that it’s put on society’s backburner and repressed. You finally had the chance to figure it out. You were running as fast as you could toward what you thought was female empowerment and sexual positivity, but you had the wind knocked out of you.
All you wanted was attention. Well, guess what? You got it. You got exactly what was coming to you. It might not have been the exact attention you wanted, but you got it all the same. He was cute, too. Charming. You met him on one of those dating apps that makes hooking up so easy. You didn’t even have to go to a bar and get all sweaty by dancing with some guy first. What a nice deal! So all you knew was his name, age, a short bio, and a few pictures. Or at least what he claimed those things to be. You’d gone through this before and had good experiences, so you figured that it would be fine like it was all the other times. But it wasn’t fine this time, was it?
It started how these things always start. Light conversation, some laughter. You both knew what you were there for. But suddenly he grabbed you and the entire feeling in the air changed to something violent. His eyes flashed to something entirely different. You’d laid out ground rules previously, listing things you absolutely would not do. You’d both agreed. It was supposed to be fun and harmless.
He went on to do all of those things anyway. What did you expect, though? You were wearing that low-cut dress and an extra splash of perfume. You’re the one who basically invited over a stranger. You shouldn’t have even tried to struggle and scream like you did. You considered just sitting back and taking it because it was you who got you into this mess in the first place. It hurt. There was blood. You had never tried anal sex and never expected to until he forced you. Vaginal sex and a blowjob would follow, all reluctantly and all with as much fight as you could muster. You were more exhausted afterward than you ever remember being, and it was all for nothing. You lost the battle.
Sometimes you even go back and question whether or not it was rape. Maybe you’re just being a prude and it was just some type of rough sex that you didn’t quite understand or appreciate at the time. After all, some of your sexual preferences involve less-than-gentle sex. But you laid out ground rules. There shouldn’t have been blood. You shouldn’t have been fighting and screaming “NO!” At the end of the day and in the back of your mind, you know exactly what it was.
You looked in the mirror afterward and didn’t recognize a single thing about yourself. Matted, messed-up hair, makeup all over your face, red blotches from smacking. A small part of you considered that you were lucky a guy even wanted to be with someone as ugly as you. Maybe it wasn’t rape. Maybe he was being nice, because who else would want you? He read your mind because it was the last thing he said before he left and you’ll never forget it. An ugly victim of an ugly crime.
And you know your reputation with guys. You know your habits. So you didn’t follow protocol because you felt like you deserved it. You used the bathroom as soon as you were allowed to afterward, and you tried to have sex with a different guy as soon as possible, too, basically messing up any evidence that would’ve been needed had you gone in to report the rape. You knew exactly what you were doing (or rather, undoing), but you did it anyway. Sleeping around the way you do, you were just asking for it to happen sooner or later, so you figured it didn’t matter and that no one would believe you or care anyway.
But guess what?
It does matter. And people would’ve cared.
It doesn’t matter what your habits are or what you wear. No one deserves what happened to you. There is no difference between what you deserve and what a virgin deserves as far as rape goes. No one is ever “asking for it.” But what you are allowed to ask for is forgiveness from yourself instead of continually blaming yourself for what happened.
You’ve told some of your closest friends. Most of them didn’t quite know how to respond. All you really wanted was a hug. One of your friends flat-out ignored you and continued playing his computer game and barely acknowledged you were speaking. Please try to cut those people some slack. It’s a difficult situation from any side you approach it, and nobody has a handbook on how to respond. All you really needed was a hug and for people to tell you that you’re still worth something.
Because you are worth something. This in no way detracts from your value. But high-risk behaviors are labeled that way for a reason. Rethink your decisions and make better choices. It’s not your fault, but you did leave yourself exposed and vulnerable. This is what the hook-up culture has come to, though—apps that let you connect with people with the swipe of a finger and a few quick chats. People do it all the time. You have plenty of friends who randomly hook up with people this way, and nothing like this ever happens to them. Maybe it’s time you rethink adding to the hook-up culture and start trying to denounce it.
Let your friends and family help you if they can. They want what’s best for you, I’m sure. Find ways to get your feelings out. Seek professional help if you think that would be beneficial. (It couldn’t hurt to try.) Just know that you’re not alone and that no one deserves this—not now, not ever, not you.
You carry a different kind of guilt around with you now. You didn’t report what happened and you let him out of your sight and set him free. He could be doing this to someone else and you have no way of contacting him because he blocked you on the app. (Who’s to say his information on there was legitimate anyway?)
But there IS one thing you can definitely do: Share your story. Maybe it will help others to come forward and share theirs. You have nothing to be embarrassed about, so stop being ashamed. I know it’s scary. There are multiple things to be afraid of. You don’t want to be THAT girl—the girl who everyone looks at as the girl who was raped. But it’s not all you are, and people will realize that soon. You’re also afraid that your words won’t do the situation justice and you’ll undermine it and misrepresent/offend other people who have gone through similar situations. It’s OK; if they want to share their stories, trust that they will. And what if no one reads it? What if no one cares? It doesn’t matter. Just put it out there. Something good will come of it.
Stand tall and look the future in the eyes—it’s waiting for you.