I’m the one it wasn’t “supposed to happen to.”
After all — I rarely drink, and I’ve never blacked out. I’ve been in a stable, monogamous relationship for the past two and a half years. I spent 10 years training in various martial arts and have taught self-defense classes. I don’t let my friends walk anywhere alone. Especially at night. Especially if they’ve been drinking. I’m educated. I know the stats, know the danger signs, know what to do.
It “doesn’t happen” to people like me.
But my best friend chose to make me a victim.
My best friend chose.
My best friend chose to rape me.
My best friend chose to rape me in my own bed.
What choices do I have?
I talked to the police. I talked to a therapist. I talked to our Title IX office. I talked to the rape crisis center. I talked to the Dean of Students. I talked to my boyfriend. I talked to my friends. I talked to a lawyer.
The lawyer told me that it happened to her too — in almost the exact same way. She told me that my case was “tough,” told me that I was going to be broken if I took the stand. She told me that my private life would be ripped wide open, turned into another wound for a jury of my “peers” (who are all 10-20 years older than me, she says, and who think of rape in different terms) to gaze into, probe with their eyes and sharp words and cold judgment. She told me that I would be called a liar, disingenuous, a slut. She told me that they would believe I’d been held accountable for my choices.
“Something isn’t right here.” That’s all his roommate had to say about it, in between defending my friend’s care for me, his dedication to the feminist cause, the incredible guilt and heartache he was now dealing with.
“Something isn’t right here.” That’s exactly it. That’s entirely it.
I have to tell my boyfriend what it was like to feel my best friend force his fingers inside of me. I have to vomit at 4 in the morning after I tell him, feeling him shake with rage as I try to calm down every feeling of his that I can’t quiet in myself. I have to live with that moment of waking up to the turned down waistband of my shorts, the one I’d left untouched so that I could prove to myself that I hadn’t imagined it all— grey and white neatly bent back against the increasingly-bony arch of my hip, creating curved perpendicular delineation between what I can talk about and what I can’t, just can’t, please don’t ask. I have to decide between turning my blind report into an investigation, knowing that I won’t win, knowing that it will just be a painful caricature of justice, and staying silent to try to move on and away from all of this, knowing that I will be judged for that choice, too— by a jury of my actual peers, no less.
While I’m making all of these not-choices, while I’m not-deciding, he gets to forget. He gets to run off to Baltimore with his friends. He gets to continue to avoid sobriety, drinking and doing drugs for all but the most recent 40-odd hours— a stint of clarity that will undeniably be short-lived because, as usual, he’s too good for help. He’s smarter than any therapist, he says, he has his ‘problem’ (not a problem, not a problem at all though) under control, and he’s getting better, haven’t you noticed how he’s getting better?
His mom told me, when I went to her, how he didn’t deserve this, how I had to help her get him home. She’s right, too. He doesn’t deserve this, the way things are playing out now.
He deserves much worse. He deserves to be locked away and forced to face his demons and the ones he’s now given me custody of. He deserves to wake up every day like I do, from fitful sleep and bad dreams and know that he has to face the world feeling violated and broken and cheated and betrayed. He deserves to know what it’s like to feel like the one person you trust most in the world can’t touch you, because you don’t want anyone to touch you, not like that, please, no, I can’t, not like that. He deserves to live with this blinding, shaking, sickening, all-encompassing rage that now bursts out of me when I least expect it.
I don’t want revenge — I want justice. But that isn’t the choice I get to make. In fact, I can’t even name him. My rapist could more successfully sue me for saying his name, now, than I could for his decision to rape me.
I can choose to be a part of the solution, though.
I can choose to go to law school and work to put those who think they’re above the system face-to-face with the consequences of their actions.
I can choose to serve the students in my classroom next year, coming from broken homes where violence like this, much worse than this, is a simple reality.
I can choose to love my incredible boyfriend with all I have as a ‘thank you’ to the universe for proving, giving me my own living breathing example, that no, all men aren’t like this.
I can’t name my rapist but I can choose to name his crime. I can choose to bear witness.
My best friend raped me and I will not be quiet.
My best friend raped me and I will find my own justice in a system that has failed me.
My best friend raped me and I will do everything in my power to keep it from happening to anyone, anywhere, again.