I was a freshman in my second term of college, 18 years young and loving life. I was soaking up everything college had to offer, and enjoying every minute of it. Going to classes and making Dean’s List my first term…check. Walking on to my university’s basketball team…check. Going to a real Thanksgiving dinner in the continental U.S….check. Getting attention from guys who I thought were extremely attractive…check.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a boyfriend throughout most of high school, but I have never considered myself one of the hot girls. I’ve always felt a little insecure and awkward growing up. I’m a bigger girl…not necessarily “fat” per se, but I am 5’9 with a solid, athletic build. Most of my friends in high school were tiny little Asian girls, so I never really got much attention from guys growing up. When I went away to college though, things changed. I guess I had something of an exotic look, being half-Japanese, half-Caucasian, compared to my blonde-haired, blue-eyed classmates. I was getting attention from some of the more attractive guys on campus.
I went home for Christmas break for a week, and then came back to college to start a new year. I was feeling on top of the world. I had started dating an older guy – he was 24 – and I loved it. I didn’t have to sleep in the dorms anymore, I could use his car, I could cook my own meals, and I could smoke weed whenever I wanted without worrying about getting caught by an RA. It seemed like the perfect deal. I even got along really well with his roommates, also older guys. When he wasn’t home, I would kick it with the boys, play some video games, smoke, or just hang out and chill.
(Now remember, as an insecure 18 year old girl, I thought I had it made. I had an older boyfriend, the guys I kicked it with were a lot cooler than the other freshman guys, and I never had to worry about trying to find anyone to buy me alcohol.)
Then, one night during a party, my world changed forever.
“I’m going to tell him that you slept with me anyways.”
That simple sentence would change my life.
While everyone was out in the garage and living room partying, my boyfriend had gone on an alcohol run and I went into his room to re-apply my makeup and take a break from the noise of the party. I was in his bathroom when I heard the bedroom door open, close, then lock. Expecting to see my boyfriend, I looked up into the mirror and instead saw one of his roommates.
“Hey, what’s up. [Boyfriend] come back yet?” I asked, while applying a fresh coat of mascara.
“No,” he replied. “But I got something for you.”
Paying no mind to what he was doing, I continued doing my makeup. When I turned around, he had his pants around his ankles and his shirt on the ground. I immediately whipped around and asked what the hell he was doing.
“You know I’ve wanted you from the day I met you,” he said, stepping closer to me. “And I know you want me to.”
He grabbed my hand and tried to pull me closer. His breath smelled like vodka and weed. I tried to pull my hand away, but he had a tight grip on my wrist. He put his other hand on my waist and pulled me into him.
“C’mon, I know you want this,” he whispered in my ear. I started to cry.
“Stop it,” I pleaded. “[Boyfriend] will be back any minute, and he’s going to kick your fucking ass!”
“Oh yeah,” he laughed. “Well if he finds out, I’m gonna tell him that you started it. I’m gonna tell him that you came onto me. I’m gonna tell him that you wanted it.
“And besides,” he continued, unbuttoning my jeans as the tears ran down my face. “Who do you think he’s going to believe? He’s been my boy for the last three years. You’ve been his chick for two weeks. Get real. And if you don’t do this with me right now, I’m going to tell him that you slept with me anyways.”
There it was.
I had no idea what to do. I couldn’t lose my boyfriend, I just couldn’t. Not after I had bragged to the girls in my dorms how I wouldn’t have to do laundry or eat shitty cafeteria food with them anymore. Not after I had called my best friend from home and gushed to her about this amazing new boyfriend I had. Not after I had told my parents that I wouldn’t be coming home for Spring Break so that I could spend it with him.
I could not lose my boyfriend.
So I let him push me down onto the bed and took it. I cried the whole time. I cried the next time he came into the bedroom when my boyfriend was out. I cried when he came to see me in my dorm room because I didn’t want to stay at the house when my boyfriend was out. I cried when he caught me alone behind the music hall. I cried in the bathroom at the bar. I cried over a dozen times over the course of the next three months.
Each time I cried, it was like opening a wound, like ripping off a scab that was just beginning to heal.
Sex with my boyfriend soon became awful. How could I possibly enjoy something that caused so much pain and frustration? It became difficult for me to achieve orgasm. Things I had previously enjoyed became unbearable torture for me, and I had no way of communicating this to my boyfriend. He was sympathetic, and asked what was wrong, but how could I tell him? I only said “no” or “stop” that first time. In my mind, I was a consenting partner for each and every encounter after the first one. I was trapped.
Long story short, my boyfriend and I eventually broke up over another reason. That was also when the tears ended. He no longer had any hold over me. There was no way for him to blackmail me, nothing he could use as leverage. He came by my dorm once after my boyfriend and I broke up. I slammed my door and told him that I had already told my boyfriend about him raping me. Of course I was bluffing, but he bought it, and never spoke to me again. I saw him around a few times after that, but he always avoided eye contact and turned in a different direction.
I don’t know why I didn’t say something. Obviously, he did not use protection, and I thank God every day that I did not contract any diseases from him. Although he did not give me any physical illness, he did inflict severe emotional trauma on me.
After that experience, I became very promiscuous. I slept with eight partners over the course of a year, wanting to prove to myself and others that I was in control of myself – in control of myself as a sexual being. I didn’t tell a single soul about any of this until over a year later, and most of my friends still don’t even know that this happened to me.
About a year later I had started talking to a guy, and I’m not sure what it was about him, but I opened up. I told him everything, from the rape to the sexual promiscuity. And rather than turn and sprint far, far away from me – as most people including myself would have done – he began to help me through the healing process. It wasn’t until I met this man and discussed my experience with him, that I finally realized that I couldn’t continue to operate like that. I couldn’t continue to sleep around just to prove a point. This man reminded me that I am a beautiful woman who had an ugly experience, but that experience didn’t have to define me.
I’m 25 now. I still sometimes pull away when I am touched a certain way. I still have difficulty achieving orgasm. The smell of vodka still makes me sick to my stomach. The emotional and mental scars are still there. But I have also matured since then. I have been in a few stable relationships – emotionally and sexually – and while I haven’t shared the story of my rape with every boyfriend I’ve had since, the ones who I have shared it with have been completely understanding and supportive.
There are so many things I learned from this experience.
I learned that just because you don’t say “no” or “stop,” it doesn’t make sex consensual. Just because I did not verbally say no, he saw my tears. He heard my whimpers. Regardless of whether he was drunk or sober, during each encounter, he knew that it was not something I wanted. He knew what he had blackmailed me into, and that I had no idea how to get out of it. And I suppose that was part of the thrill for him.
I learned that a man could help me to heal. While it was a male who caused this pain, I have had a few very positive and supportive male figures in my life who reassured me and helped me to cope with this experience. I thought I would never trust men again, but I have found that some of my greatest allies throughout everything have been men.
I learned that I do not need someone else’s validation to feel valuable. I don’t need to be with an older guy to feel like I am worthy of being loved. I don’t need to sleep with a bunch of guys to feel beautiful.
But the most important thing I learned is that you have to speak up. Whether an injustice is being done to you or someone else, you have to speak up for what is right. If I had just said something to my boyfriend at the time, then the rape could have ended. He would have broken up with me or beat his roommate’s ass. Either way, I would never have had to cry more than once.