A Reminder That You Are In No Way Responsible For Your Sexual Assault

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Before:

You remember what jeans you were wearing. How perfectly they hugged your teenage curves. You remember what top you were wearing. It was so pretty. You remember feeling a little bit like a fairy princess in it. Cream lace, the perfect amount of tiny subtle sequins across the chest, so delicate that they were only a hint, an opal iridescence every time you moved, a glimmer of hope – like the one you radiated starting your freshman year. You remember it being the first top you owned with the perfect cleavage. Accentuating, showing just a little, not too revealing.

You had never felt that kind of excitement. Delight for the present and for the future. Being a whole two hours away from strict and overbearing parents tasted a lot like freedom to you back then.

And so had his mouth.

No one had ever kissed you like that. Really kissed you.

So after an evening of underage drinking with your new sorority sisters, after a couple of hours of dancing, that warm feeling making its home in your stomach and chest, that happy buzz swirling around your veins, you couldn’t resist an invitation to his place. After all, you had gotten ready and dolled yourself up in hopes of seeing him again.

You remember walking in and being greeted by the people there. His friend you knew as well, your friend too, was there, you remember blushing because you’ve kissed him too. But if there’s a decision to make you remember knowing who it would be, you knew who you came to see.

Everyone was drinking. He offered you a drink. You remember taking it. You remember being offered a shot. And then another one. And then another. And then another one again. Or was this one a beer to chug? The memory gets blacked out before whatever drink you were holding in your hand even met your lips.

Your memory picks up with you stumbling, tripping over your own foot, someone helping you down the hallway. Someone holding you up and almost carrying you. Then black. Blank again.

After:

You wake up. No shirt. No bra. But your jeans are still on. Maybe you passed out before getting anywhere. Maybe you tried to make yourself comfortable before getting in bed. You feel momentary relief until you walk into the bathroom and notice that the tampon you had in the night before is missing. It’s okay, maybe you took it out, maybe you don’t remember, maybe you forgot to put one in, maybe you didn’t put one in because you were barely spotting and didn’t really need it.

But then it hits you.

You woke up wearing jeans, but there’s no underwear where there should be, where there was the night before. They are long gone from your body and suddenly it feels like there isn’t a limb where there should be.

There’s a vacancy. A void. A cavity. A hole. And not just from those hours you lost from your life – blacked out. No, you feel something, you know something is not right, and there’s a familiar hollowing taking place in your heart.

This guy you like so much, this person you trust, this person that has been your friend tells you good morning and suddenly there’s a war ensuing inside your brain. You see his smile, his eyes light up, you hear his voice and want to believe nothing has happened. Maybe all you did last night was make out. Maybe what happened wasn’t what you think or how you think.

You make it back to your apartment style dorm, still too drunk to even stand, you almost feel high. You lay in your bed because it’s all you can manage to do.

Later, the brutal hangover that threatened to squeeze the life out of you this morning begins to dissipate and with it comes the pain you couldn’t differentiate from it. Rolling in like fog, slowly, until it’s all there, present and lingering and taking a hold of your limbs, moving all around you and through you, making it hard for you to breathe. And like fog, you can’t see through it, you can’t remember what put it there, and you try to tell yourself there’s nothing to be afraid of beyond what you can’t see, that soon it will disappear.

You tell yourself you were just too drunk last night. Too clumsy. But it hurts. But there’s a familiar soreness between your legs. It feels like something was just there. You feel a pain on your backside you’ve never felt before. It hurts to sit down. Why does it hurt? But it can’t be.

Drawing yourself a hot bath to alleviate the ache you feel everywhere, you tell yourself nothing happened, and whatever you did with him is nothing new, and it couldn’t have gone far, not if you were in such a state to warrant amnesia the next day. No. You were clumsy, sloppy even, somehow you fell or ran into something and now all your limbs hurt. Those marks you see – you’ve just always bruised so easily. Maybe it hurts because you no longer needed a tampon and wearing one dry made you feel this sore, this chaffed.

You always did believe the best in people.

But something felt wrong. Your body felt wrong. You try to ignore the feeling that you had been touched wrong.

You look at that top you were so obsessed with just the day before and you bury it in a drawer of clothes you never wear, and subconsciously you know you will never wear it again.

A Little Bit Of Time After:

Someone tells you they heard something about you. They casually mention something about pictures. They tell you that you did things you know you’d never do. They tell you a story about you that you didn’t even know yourself, a story that sounds so foreign, so strange. You think with absolute certainty that it is not true. You would never do these things, you would never let these things happen, you wouldn’t agree to any of it.

And then that night that’s left a splinter between your teeth as dark as the void of your memory comes back whispering into your ear, “Remember me?”

You don’t want to believe it. You don’t believe it. Not from you, not from him.

You go to him. He tells you that you were extremely intoxicated that night. That you continued to drink. That you should learn how to handle your alcohol. As if the price to pay for being too trusting, for being careless, and doing everything your average college co-ed does is having been violated. He has the audacity to tell you it was your fault. He has the audacity to tell you to learn to be more careful. He tells you that you were a mess that night, that it was embarrassing. He says you were sloppy and that you were slurring your words. But if you were such an intoxicated “mess” why did they find it acceptable to do with you what they did – do to you what they did? He then twists the knife deeper, he tells you that you wanted it, that you liked it, that the people outside the door could hear.

He tells you that you never said no. How can you know that for certain? And if you didn’t say no, what does that mean, yes? Was it just alcohol-fused muddled communication?

What happened? Had you said no? Had you said “stop”? Had you said anything? Had you actively participated? Had you just been thrown around like a lifeless ragdoll, your body limp, your eyes struggling to stay open? Were you conscious? No matter what, you knew, you knew, that no matter how many questions haunted you, you might never know the answers to them.

Memories resurface. Flashes of a past you wished you could forget, a past you had long since buried, a past repressed. You’re that child again. Learning how to keep quiet. How to keep secrets. How to carry misplaced shame.

You feel violated. You feel like something isn’t right. You feel like your body has gone from you. Again. Again.

You’re that little girl wanting to forget again. And you’re also that adolescent whose boyfriend took something she didn’t want to give to him. You’ve been them before. You don’t want to be them again. You forgot. You don’t want to remember.

You start to think it could have been worse. It has been worse. If it had to happen at least it wasn’t with two strangers. At least you know them. You could have been killed. You could have been raped, but if you could have been, why did it feel like you were?

Maybe you didn’t say no. But did you want it? How can you prove you didn’t when you don’t remember? How can you be so angry for this when you don’t know what you did, when you don’t know what you said, when you don’t even know what happened? How can you feel this violated when you don’t remember how or where you were touched, when you don’t remember what you did with your own body and your own hands?

And if there’s pictures of you, of any of your body parts, of anything happening, well then, he’s right, it’s your fault again. It’s your fault for not noticing. It’s your fault for not knowing what was going on, for being so out of your mind you weren’t even there, for not even registering what was happening.

You let the harsh words he said to you get to you. You believe him. It was your fault. You shouldn’t have been that drunk. You shouldn’t have put yourself in that situation. You have a problem with alcohol. You should learn how to count your drinks. You should learn how to handle them.

They’re right. You are a slut. After all, hadn’t you come to see him, hadn’t you hoped to see him? Weren’t you prepared to have sex with him anyway?

Today:

You know better now. It doesn’t matter that you had already been with him. It doesn’t matter that you had already kissed them both before. It didn’t mean they had a right to touch you again. It didn’t mean that it was okay to do what they did while your mind wasn’t even inside your body.

Why did you blackout? Had you said no? You’ll never know. But you know one thing for certain, not saying no doesn’t mean yes, not having the capacity to walk, to form coherent words, translates into not having the capacity to full-mindedly give consent.

And you know, as much as you hate yourself for it, you had only wanted him, you’d never agree to let them both have their way with you how you heard they had. Just because you liked it before with him, just because they both had touched you separately before, doesn’t mean you were asking for it, doesn’t mean you wanted it.

Today you hear stories similar to yours and you understand that what happened to you was not okay, it was not your fault, it wasn’t just drunk muddled miscommunication, or something that happened when you were too drunk, it wasn’t regrettable behavior from a blacked out night. It was a violation of your body and your person. Today you can take courage from the women who have used their voice to share their stories and you can call it what it was – sexual assault.

Today you know just because it has been worse, just because it could have been worse, doesn’t mean it had to be at all, it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t wrong. Just because you don’t remember, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t matter.

Just because you don’t remember your assault doesn’t mean you weren’t assaulted.

Just because you were too fucked up to say no, doesn’t mean you wanted it. Inebriation doesn’t mean you played a role in your own sexual assault. Irresponsibility does not warrant rape.

Just because you have been free in your sexual expression doesn’t mean you are a plaything with no self or spirit. It also doesn’t mean you confuse healthy sexual expression and sexual openness with rape.

You did not want this. The burden shouldn’t have to be on you to prove this. Your brain was separate from your body in those moments. This should not have been done to you. TC mark

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