1. He grabbed me by the neck to make me kiss him.
“It was Halloween and my friends and I were out celebrating at a really popular (and packed) bar. I was dressed as an owl in a full, fleece onesie with a hood. Somehow I got separated from the group and ended up at the back of the bar by myself. With no warning, no introduction, and absolutely no permission, a guy grabbed me by the back of my neck and started making out with me. I was sober and completely taken aback. I didn’t know what to do so I just stood there and pretended it was fine, so he would eventually go away. He ended up also taking my phone from my pocket and putting his number into it and texted me all night about how he wanted to meet up and ‘see what was under that onesie.’ I didn’t respond. I don’t even know his name.”
— Kendra, 28
2. He kept pushing after I said, “I’m uncomfortable.”
“I was a freshman in college visiting my best friend. We met up with two of her guy friends. We went back to the guys’ dorm room and one of them started making moves on me and my friend and her guy left. I kept telling him I wasn’t into it and literally said the words, ‘I’m uncomfortable’ but he kept pushing things, coercing me to take my shirt off and all this stuff. Finally, to get him to stop, I kept pulling away and pretending to laugh and he finally goes, ‘What’s your problem?’ and I said, ‘My mom and I are very close, and she wouldn’t approve of this behavior.’ It was strange enough for him to stop for a second and for me to throw my shirt back on and run out to call my friend. I made it into a joke, saying how funny it was that I would talk about my mom mid-hookup but in actuality I was a scared 19-year-old who felt like I had to because I was in his dorm room, right?”
— Olivia, 25
3. He pretended to be my friend to get what he really wanted.
“He was my friend at college for over a year. Very likeable, hilarious, and overall had been a good friend to me. He had a long-distance girlfriend, who I’d met at least once, and they seemed crazy about each other. One day while we were Snapchatting, he began to get flirtatious, and when I called him out, he said ‘what his girl didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her.’ He proposed a friends-with-benefits situation, which I told him I couldn’t do. He apologized, claimed to understand, and we dropped it. However, every day for the next two weeks, he would bring it up, imply something sexual, or attempt to flirt with me, and after each and every time I told him no, he would apologize, promise to stop, that he couldn’t help himself etc. I believed him. Or told myself I did. I eventually caved into what he asked, hoping if he got what he wanted, he would stop. He didn’t. This continued until I moved back home after leaving college, and only stopped after I finally broke down and told someone, as well as blocked him on all social media. I kept telling myself if I told anyone, I could ruin his life, or that it was my fault for not speaking up sooner. This should’ve stopped the first time I said no, and it didn’t. He wasn’t a friend—anyone who is a friend will listen, not manipulate and push past your boundaries.”
— Lacey, 24
4. When he realized I wouldn’t give in, he took to insulting my body.
“This is the first story that comes to mind. I was sexually harassed by a ‘friend’ that I used to work with. Never flirted with him, never gave him any signs of interest, but we were hanging out in a group one day and he kept hitting on me. It made me and my friends (all girls) uncomfortable, but no one said anything. When he realized he wasn’t getting anywhere with me, he changed from being flirtatious to angry and threatened to throw me off of the hill we were all hanging out on. Then he started making comments about my weight and how I was ‘too skinny’ for anyone to like me. Even though there were THREE girls there, no one felt comfortable telling him how out of place he was.”
— Holly, 24
5. I was too scared to go home, and even though he could tell, he didn’t care.
“In college there was this said guy who every girl thought was extremely attractive, and he knew it too. Athletic, on a sports team, smart, charming he was also older than me which was naively appealing as a freshman. I was at a party and we started dancing together. We kissed, and the physical attraction was there. He asked me if I wanted to go back to his place. I said sure. On the walk there I realized I didn’t want to have sex with him, and that I really just wanted to go home. I was too scared to tell him that so I continued to walk to his apartment. We get there and one of his roommates was out in the living room. We didn’t know each other but he looked at me with this weird smile like ‘I know what you came here to do.’ We go to his room, start to kiss, and I’m hesitant. He touches me and he can tell. I kept thinking ‘I want to go home. I want to go home. I want to go home. Just tell him you want to go home.’ I didn’t. I stopped him from kissing me and he asked what was wrong. I told him I didn’t want to have sex, the truth was I didn’t want to be there at all. He said well let’s just do this instead and started masturbating in front of me, he took my hand and directed me to start masturbating in front of him too. I continued until he was finished. I think tears were in my eyes the entire time. I didn’t even really see it as wrong back then, but I know it didn’t feel right. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone because I thought they’d say it was normal and think I was a prude for feeling weird about it. I was quiet because I was scared, scared while it was happening, and scared after. I shouldn’t have had to feel scared to say ‘I want to go home,’ but I was.”
— Lily, 25
6. He forced me to kiss him while taking a selfie.
“I was outside a bar with a few of my friends when it happened. It was the end of the night and I was already sober, but we were stuck because someone had parked behind our car. A few guys standing outside started talking to us, and they seemed pretty nice. That is, except the one who kept putting his arms around my waist and grabbing my ass.
I felt uncomfortable and kept moving away, but he didn’t stop; I felt like fighting about it would have been dramatic. When someone suggested we all take a selfie together, the man stood beside me. When his friend said, ‘Cheese!’ the guy suddenly shoved his tongue down my throat; when I tried to push him away, he grabbed me hard so I couldn’t move. When he finally let me go, he laughed; I shook. I didn’t know what to do. My friends acted like they didn’t notice.
Later, he stole my phone and called his own number — he told me he didn’t trust me to give him my real number. The next day he messaged me about all the sexual things he wanted to do to me. I never responded.”
— Callie, 23
7. It made me feel like I have to watch my back no matter where I go.
“It was fourth of July weekend and every year dressing up and going to beach bars is pretty normal in my circle of friends. As one of my favorite holidays, I always like to go all out. So when a group of older guys invited me to the bar across the street, I naively thought it was because they liked my outfit. But they weren’t looking at my outfit as much as my boobs in a bikini top I haven’t worn to this day. I didn’t think much of going alone with them. It was daylight and I was a local in a place where I knew everyone. I felt safe. They bought me a beer, asked what I do. Next thing I know one of the guys makes a pass at me touching me, putting his face in my boobs, and trying to feel me up. I pushed him away standing there frozen and stepped back. Only then to have his friend come up to me and start slut-shaming me for what I’m wearing, saying I was ‘asking for it’ and ‘how rude it was of me because his wife was right there.’ A woman told me not to think much of it because ‘he was drunk.’ I put my beer down and left only to completely break down in my Uber. I didn’t date for the next year. I stopped drinking for months. It was just a moment. A moment he probably doesn’t remember or think much of. But for me, it was a moment that made suddenly watch my back in every place I walk into.”
— Shelby, 25
8. I was told nobody would ever take my side.
“It was sophomore year in college at a surprise party for one of my good friends. I had just recently gone through a bad breakup and was feeling pretty down and vulnerable, but I was excited to celebrate with people instead of just hiding away in my dorm room. As it so happens, it turned out to be one of the most traumatic nights of my life. It didn’t happen in a dark alley way or in a forest far away from civilization. It happened in my friend’s bedroom, a place that was supposed to be safe. A place I never would have expected sexual assault to happen to ANYBODY. But it happened even when I tried to push him off and it happened with two other people in the room. I think the worst part about the whole ordeal was the stigma that surrounded the subject of sexual assault and harassment. Even the detectives, the people who were supposed to be on MY side hissed judgment at me. They told me that because I had drank too much, I was at fault. But it wasn’t my fault. When I begged them to please believe me and help me, they told me that I would never win the case in court. It was difficult to come to terms with the fact that these men who didn’t know me automatically assumed that I was the one to blame. So I never went to court. That guy never got punishment for what he did to me. It made me realize why so many women don’t speak up. It’s not that they don’t want to, and it doesn’t make them any less brave. It’s just that they are afraid of being judged and blamed by society. They don’t want to be judged by men with badges to their names. Just like I was. And when we have police officers and professional people who don’t even believe you, than who the hell will?”
— Lauren, 24
9. When I told him to stop, he just did it again.
“I was on public transportation. I felt my ass being grabbed but assumed it was just accidental contact on a packed train. When it didn’t stop, I turned and realized it was a man freely grabbing me. I yelled at him to stop and he point and laughed at me and grabbed me again.”
— Katie, 29
10. He made me live in fear for my life for over a year.
“When I moved to a new city, a man was working at the gym where I became a member. At first he was kind, offering to take me out, help me meet people, make friends etc. Soon it progressed to complimenting my physique, coming up to me and touching my arms and legs to ‘correct’ my form at the gym. Then it was talking to me, following me around the bar, following me home to ‘make sure I was safe,’ showing up unannounced, making moves on me, saying ‘I’m being a gentleman’ while trying to force himself on me. Eventually things got so bad that I had to get a restraining order, as I wasn’t interested in dating /being with him and he wasn’t listening or respecting me. After months of mistreatment / harassment /stalking and issues in obtaining a restraining order, I had one granted. Within six months of having a year-long, court ordered restraining order, he violated it 139 times through emails, calls, blocked calls, voicemails, showing up in places where he knew I’d be, creating new social media accounts, messaging me, messaging friends, messaging family members.
A warrant was issued for his arrest – stalking and criminal violations to a restraining order – just last month. I have been in constant fear for my safety. I have not felt comfortable being alone. I am always looking for him when I’m out in public. He is currently in jail, pending a trial where I may have to testify. No, I haven’t been ‘assaulted’ but I’ve lived in fear of that for the past year. Me too.”
— Jessica, 24
11. I was 16, and he was my boyfriend’s dad.
“I was in high school, dating my first long term boyfriend. He was emotionally and physically abusive, but it was his father who sexually assaulted me on multiple occasions. Whenever his son (my boyfriend) turned away he would grope me, grab my ass as I walked by, anything to show he could touch me. I was 16 and didn’t know how to handle it. Still hurts now.”
— Lauren, 25
12. A stranger assaulted me when I was only 14.
“When I was 14 I was on vacation with my parents in Las Vegas. We were at the front of a crowd watching an outdoor show and I felt someone behind me pushing up against me. I thought he must have been pushed by people behind him so I moved forward. But he pressed back up against me with his hands just touching my middle and stayed there for a couple minutes, basically humping me hard from behind. I was confused and shocked and really naïve for 14 being raised with abstinence-focused sex education, but a few years later I realized that I had been feeling his erection against me and just how wrong what he did was. I never told anyone.”
— Lexi, 30
13. Even just taking public transportation is a nightmare.
“I live in a big city, so I use public transportation constantly. And every single time I use it, whether it’s 10 at night or 11 in the morning, I am on high alert. There have just been too many times where I’ve had to deal with some sort of harassment, and I’m left still feeling sick to my stomach when I think about it weeks, months, or even years later. I once had to scream at a man to get away from me on the train after he leaned right over me, put his hands on either side of the corner I was standing in, got in my face, and then began making disgusting, sexual gestures with his mouth (this happened while an ENTIRE train of people watched and said nothing). Another time, I was sitting on the bus and a man stood over me, put his pelvis in my face, and started unbuckling his pants; I responded by screaming ‘Stop! Put your pants on!; while, once again, the rest of the passengers watched and said nothing (I had to get off the bus in the middle of the trip). And although I was spared the sight of that particular guy’s genitals, I witnessed it a different time with a different man who pretended to ‘drop’ an item of his, which I picked up for him, only to stand up and find that he had fully removed his pants and his underwear and was standing in front of me naked from the waist down. These things happen all the time, and people just WATCH. I know a lot of it is panic – from feeling unsure of what to do or from worrying that the woman (or man) being harassed will tell you they can take care of themselves. But trust me, a person who is being harassed will probably NEVER be angry at you for stepping in to help – even if your particular words aren’t the final thing that stops the harasser, the person being harassed will feel safer and comforted just from knowing there was someone out there who cared enough to step in. Say something, do something, please.”
— Kim, 27
14. It even happens with people who supposedly love you.
“I’ve had a hard time in the recent days of survivors speaking out. I think particularly because I am triggered by what’s going on in the media right now. I would rather keep what happened to me to myself. I don’t want to talk about it probably because not many people discuss partner sexual assault. I feel uncomfortable talking about it because I wanted what happened to me to not be something big. Not something that even happened. I wanted to keep it to myself because I stayed with him. I chose to stay with him because he ‘probably didn’t know what he did,’ he ‘probably didn’t mean it.’ I made excuses for him, blamed myself. I blame myself for staying with him. I blame myself for not making it bigger. I couldn’t make it bigger because it was a family vacation. Looking back I think he probably chose when family was around to act this way because it was the only time I said no to him. He knew it wouldn’t be something big if so many people were around. He continued even though I said no. I didn’t fight back. I blame myself for not trying harder to make it stop. This was my partner of several years. I constantly question what happened that day. I repeat it over and over. I remember telling him after in a calm way “that was not okay. I said no”. He apologized and we continued on with our life together as if it never happened. I still don’t know if it was sexual assault or not. I just know what happened to me was wrong and that if someone says no, it should be a ‘no.’ Even if they are your partner, they can still refuse sex. You are allowed to say no even to your boyfriend, even to your fiancé, even to your husband.”
— Becca, 28
15. I pushed him away, he heard me say no, and he still didn’t listen.
“I started dating this guy when I was a freshman and he was a junior. We hung out at least a few times a week for the remainder of the semester doing what every college couple does — go out, have sleepovers, pick a Netflix show to watch together, etc. When summer came around, he left our college town for an internship and I left to spend the summer back home. We talked and texted as often as we could, and when his internship brought him to my hometown on a night when my parents were conveniently out of town, he came to stay with me. He had to leave early the next day, but he wanted to spend what little time he had with me, so I felt special.
The next morning, I awoke to the sensation of his fingers inside of me. I had slept over a million times and we had done the deed for a solid semester, averaging 3-4 hookups a week. I pushed his hands away and told him no, I was tired. I turned away from him, thinking that maybe my backside would be enough of an indication that I really didn’t want to have sex right now, and that maybe he could just big spoon me instead. He didn’t take it that way.
He climbed on top of me, whispering in my ear, ‘Come on, babe, I’m leaving soon. Please.’ He shoved his fingers in me again, and I tried again to push him away. This time, I told him no, I didn’t want to. He started kissing my neck, opened my legs with his, pinning my hands above my head, which I’m sure he thought would get me in the mood but, in reality, it just made the whole thing worse. I made a choice. Instead of fighting him, or causing a scene, or getting up and sleeping on the couch, I let him have sex with me.
‘Let’ is a generous word — I mostly just laid there and he took this opportunity to shove into me. My legs were already open, thanks to the sly move he had put on me before. We stayed in missionary the entire time and he didn’t kiss me once.
After it was over, he got up, cleaned himself off, packed up his bag and left. Our first kiss that morning was the one I initiated as he was walking out to the door. I remember that specifically because I remember thinking how strange it was that this man was just inside of me but this was the first time I was feeling his lips that morning.”
— Riley, 24
16. He didn’t care about consent, only what he wanted.
“I fell in love with someone over the span of two years online. We spoke every single night. We skyped, talked on the phone, wrote each other emails when we were away. Our families knew about one another. We spoke at length about the day we would meet. There was so much feeling there, and I felt like I had found someone who would finally give me the kind of love I had been searching for. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. When I finally traveled to see him, it was beautiful. I felt like I was dreaming. Things started to become physical, and that is where they quickly changed. I had consented to being with him, but before we finally went through with it, I made it very clear that I wasn’t going to do anything without him using protection. He didn’t have any, and I told him that we needed to wait, and that it was important to me because I wasn’t on any form of birth control. He completely changed his demeanour, from someone who was soft and kind, to someone who was angry and volatile. He told me that I was being crazy, and he yelled, ‘I’m not fucking you for the first time with a condom.’ He then proceeded to have sex with me. I don’t really remember anything about it other than feeling hopeless. I remember the ceiling, the rocking of the bed. I was fixated on just waiting for it to be over. I remember it as if it weren’t me, if that makes sense. I felt like I had no voice, I felt like I had no way of saying no, or stopping what was happening.
I didn’t realize what had really happened until I started learning about what sexual assault was. That you can say yes, and then say no, and that prior consent does not mean that you were asking to be uncomfortable or touched against your will. That someone you felt very deeply for could be an abuser. I think that was the toughest thing to come to terms with.”
— Quinn, 26