It was my sophomore year of college in Baltimore. I had recently gone through a terrible break up, and wanted to get out there, to shake off the grief, to relax and finally have some fun for a change. I was twenty years old.
A lot of times, sexual assault is painted in a certain way. As if it always happens in the dark, or in a dangerous city. You always see a girl, alone in a dark alley-way. A girl with her dress hiked up, and with no friends around her to help her.
For me, I was with my good girl friends. I was with people I trusted. I didn’t feel uneasy. I didn’t feel threatened or like someone was creepily staring at me the entire party. It was a normal night. It was a normal Saturday.
Except it wasn’t.
I remember I wore a grey tank top and a shiny mini skirt to the party. I was excited. I told myself that this was a new beginning. That there were more fish in the sea. I told myself a boy shouldn’t have this much power on me. That an ex shouldn’t be a reason to be miserable. I smiled to myself as I walked to my friend’s apartment, hopeful and happy.
And then I remember drinking, telling a whole fraternity about my ex. I remember saying too much, and watching them nod their heads telling me he was an idiot for breaking up with me. I smiled.
I remember my sister and friend leaving. They asked me to go with them. I decided to stay.
I remember it being close to midnight. I stepped out of my clothes into my friend’s comfy pajamas, comforted by the fact that I could sleep in her room for the night. I slept on a blow up mattress on the floor. I remember being alone.
And then I remember not being alone.
I was wearing pink pajamas that night. And I got sexually assaulted. I was falling asleep, dozing off into dream land, and I got sexually assaulted. I shoved his hands off of me and still got sexually assaulted.
It doesn’t matter if I were wearing nothing or if I were wearing a full length ball gown. It doesn’t matter how much I drank or didn’t drink. And it doesn’t matter what I did or didn’t do.
It matters what he did, and what he stole from me. Which was my consent.
That night, my best friend and I called the police. Detectives got involved and I finally started to feel at ease…until they opened their mouths. They told me I was too drunk to know what was happening to me. They told me that his story didn’t match up with mine. They told me I was at fault. They told me I had no case.
I’d like to say that this ordeal didn’t change me. That it didn’t cause me to rethink fate or destiny, and that it didn’t cause me to grow more bitter or more skeptical of people. And that it didn’t cause me to be less trusting of men.
But I don’t think something like that can’t not change you. Something that traumatic, has to change you in some way. It has to change you, in a way that you never wanted anything to change you.
It doesn’t matter how many shots I took. How many bottles I downed. It doesn’t matter because it does not mean I ever, ever asked for this.
Please know, it’s not your fault. No matter what you were wearing or what you weren’t wearing. And no matter what people say, or how many people point their tiny fingers at you, don’t ever think that it was your fault. Don’t ever, ever blame yourself.
Sometimes I think back to that night and imagine a different scenario that doesn’t hurt so much. I like to imagine a world where officers and detectives didn’t blame the victims. I like to imagine a world where consent isn’t a gray area. Where a woman’s voice rings louder than a man’s characters. I like to imagine a world where I didn’t have to walk faster in alleyways now, or look over my shoulder twelve times a day. A world where we didn’t feel the need to buy pepper spray on amazon, or extra sharp keys.
I like to imagine a world where my ‘no’ actually meant something.