How does someone know if they’ve been raped? It seems like a simple enough thing to answer. Most people would say that you’d know if you’ve been the victim of rape, that it is just one of those things that is unquestionable.
Yet, for me, the summer before my second year of university, a close friend of mine left my home in the early hours of the morning and I was left in my bed asking myself if I wanted it. If what had just happened had been consensual.
I didn’t remember any of it, and the broken glass in the bathroom sink and the bruises on my hips led me to question a friendship spanning years.
He told me I came onto him, that it was my idea. The pink Nyquil stains I found on the sheets led me to doubt him. I went the next day to talk to my psychiatrist, and upon telling her what happened, she insisted that I report what had happened to the police.
Her words were slowly drowned out, until she just sounded like one of the adults in Charlie Brown movies. All I could hear was my breathing, and the whirling thoughts asking, “Who would believe me?”
I had been drunk and I had no recollection of what happened. How could I prove anything? After years of watching Law and Order, I was overly aware of how difficult rape cases were.
But more than anything else, the thing that swayed me most not to press charges were the years of friendship I had had with this guy. Memories of long conversations and shared secrets consumed me, and I couldn’t come to terms with the fact that someone I had known so long, and cared so much about, could possibly violate me in such a way.
Even still, the memories of that night, or the lack thereof, haunt me. After that night, I went on a meaningless sex spree, spanning months. My kill-count jumped into the double digits. Nameless partners came in and out of my tiny apartment in the wee hours of the morning, only remembered by the empty condom wrappers found on my floor.
I kept assuring myself that I was doing this for myself, that I was a sexually empowered young woman free to do with her body what she pleased. The stories I’d tell my friends would warrant me high-fives and applause, but even still, guilt would drizzle down my back like a bead of sweat.
As time passed, and the tally went up, it became harder to convince myself that I was who I said I was. The person people thought I was, a character of my own creation, was strong and witty, unashamed of her sexual encounters and confident in her reality.
The real me had become so good at playing this role that I easily forgot that she was nothing more than a fictional being, like Harry Potter or Winnie the Pooh. The real me was fragile, afraid, plagued by my own thoughts and memories.
When I’d lay in bed at night, without the warmth of another person beside me, those memories crept in between my sheets. Those bruises, though long since healed, pained me like they had that morning in July.
Looking at myself in the mirror, the scars were real. It seemed like the more time that had passed, the more I could recall the reality of that night.
I remember him being sober enough to drive, while I was wavering in and out of a drunken daze. I remember him pulling up to the liquor store. I remember the sound of the wine bottle shattering.
I hope I’ll never remember what happened in my bed, because if I ever did, I’d have to burn the mattress and shred the sheets. Even still, despite this newly discovered knowledge, I don’t know if I was the victim of rape. It still seems like such a far-fetched reality.
The only people that know what happened that night are him, myself, and my psychiatrist. He, I am most certain, does not believe that he raped me. My psychiatrist is certain that I was raped. I am the only one left to make up my mind.
If I do name it rape, I don’t think if I’d ever be the same — if I would be able to continue to the be the lovable character my friends and family know me as. I could deny it, and continue to live, hoping that maybe, one day, I will be who I say I am.
But for now, I will keep bouncing back and forth, between the nightmares and wonderland.