This story is not about the man who raped me.
This story is not about the imprints of his hands on my body the next day in places where he grabbed me a little too hard. It isn’t about the abusive texts I received from him nearly two months after that night– that night he told me that I wasn’t free to leave until he decided so. It isn’t about his huge biceps, or his loud voice, or his impressively strong grip. It isn’t about the taxi driver who should have known better than to drop me off with him, or his bartender-buddy who so kindly supplied me with endless Tequila shots without my asking for them. This story is not about the man who raped me.
Last year I went home with a twenty-eight year old man I met in a bar earlier that night. I was twenty-two. I didn’t have the intention of going home with him when I first met him, of course. As a matter of fact, that was the first (and only) time I’ve gone home with a stranger. He didn’t force me to come home with him. I think that’s why the lines are a little blurry. If I didn’t give my consent, but I was too afraid to directly not give my consent. Is that rape?
Ask the anonymous voices who bombarded my Yik Yak post the next day explaining what had happened, and they’ll say no. Ask a woman who remembers what it was like to feel her throat close up when she tried to scream, and she’ll say yes. My friends went home, and I consumed enough alcohol to intoxicate four girls my size. He asked me to come back to his place and I said no. He asked again and I said no. When he asked a third time, I said yes. I don’t know why. I didn’t know why at the time either. But I knew that my feet hurt and my vision was fuzzy and the cushioned back seats of the cab looked like heaven. By the time we reached his apartment, I was hardly coherent. The alcohol reached its peak, and I felt myself falling asleep. The only thing keeping me awake was the large unfamiliar hand I felt on the small of my back. As he pulled me out of the cab, I lost my balance and fell onto the sidewalk. He yanked me onto my feet and I yelped. The cab driver chuckled. I don’t remember the walk from the car to the apartment. I only remember feeling afraid, but I didn’t turn around. I just followed where his arm led me.
I was laying on his bed, and my clothes were on the floor. His were too. At one point there was a bright light shining in my eyes– an iPhone. He was filming. With each attempt to push him off of me or tell him “No,” I was silenced by that large hand I now recognized from the cab ride. “Shhhh,” he would say. “I know you’re enjoying this,” he would say. “I’m not finished with you yet,” he would say. With each hour, I felt like a day’s time had passed. I felt like it was never going to end. At 4:00 AM he got up to use the bathroom. I found (most) of my clothes, bolted for the front door, and called a cab. That ride home cost me $80.00.
I didn’t tell anyone, for a while. But it started killing me. I was angry. I was disappointed in myself for allowing something like this to happen to me. I was frustrated with myself for not having the courage to say “stop,” until it was too late. I blamed myself for his actions. I told myself that maybe if I had acted differently, spoken differently, dressed differently, that this wouldn’t have happened. I began to punish myself for what I thought I did wrong. I fell into a deep depression, my anger taking over more and more of me every day. I hadn’t seen my friends or family in weeks. Only one of my roommates at the time was aware of the situation, and she became my entire support system. She convinced me to go to therapy to talk it out with someone. My therapist told me that I needed to let people in. She said that avoiding the issue wasn’t going to make it go away. I didn’t believe her. I continued to keep my secret, only discussing it on Wednesday afternoons with the woman being paid to listen to me.
I shared with her all of the things that I thought were wrong with me. I asked her why he chose me. I knew how I had dressed that night, and I knew I had flirted with him at the bar. I thought that it was my fault. Can you believe that? I thought that it was my own fault that this man had sex with me even while I begged him to stop. Then I realized something. I was still angry, but not at myself. I was angry at him, the man who took everything from me, the stranger who deemed it his right to treat me like an object instead of a human being.
Because whether or not I valued myself as a “catch,” I knew that I had to value myself as a human being. I told myself, “I am a person. I have feelings and memories and hopes and dreams and I am not here for your pleasure. I am not here for you. I am here for me, and I won’t allow the memory of you to inflict any more pain. I am a survivor. I am survivor.”
I told myself over and over again until, eventually, I started to believe it.
This story is not about the man who raped me. This story is about everything I lost and everything I gained. It’s about how it feels to have the one thing that really belongs to you taken from you. It’s about what is beyond your control. It’s about the pieces of you that no longer feel the same, because he felt it was acceptable to alter them with pieces of him. It’s as if he attached bits of himself to me so that I could never escape him. It’s as if he wanted me to know who he was. And I do. I remember him every day for what he did to me. I remember him when I look at my friend, my teacher, my neighbor, my boss. I remember him when I look in the mirror.
This story is about me. As I write, I have to remind myself of that. I have to remind myself that my story is not about the twenty-eight year old boy who took advantage of me. It’s about the twenty-two year old woman that stands here now. It’s about me, and every other survivor who feels like they lost everything. We didn’t. We are here, we are healing, and we are living. My story is not over. His chapter sure is, but my story will continue. I am a fighter; I am a survivor. I am a person, and this is my story.