TW: Rape/sexual assault.
I’ve debated long and hard with myself whether or not I was going to write and publish this, and as my fingers drift across the keyboard, I find myself still debating. I probably won’t share this on social media like I have other posts, but if you know me, and you happen to come across this blog, please do not feel like you have to look away, but also know, this is a very, very personal post. That being said, I leave it up to you whether or not you dear reader would like to continue, as it matters not to me.
In the wake of the “Me Too” hashtag on twitter, I have found some courage and strength to tell my story. It happened when I was 18, my 18th birthday to be exact (birthday’s haven’t always been great, but they’re getting better). I hadn’t been drinking. I was wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt. I was with my best friend at the time. I was also, very emotionally vulnerable that night.
To lay out some background, that very night a dear friend of mine was throwing a birthday party for me and a mutual friend who shared the same birthday. In that neighborhood lived my best friend at the time. We’ll call him Adam. I had spent most of the day with Adam, and told him about the party, and implored him to go with me. He agreed, and the night was a pretty average night for what I was used to back then with my friends. At one point, I decided to step out to the driveway in the front to get some fresh air. After a couple of minutes, two guys from school that I knew strolled up. One we’ll call David and the other we’ll call James. Well James, there’s a bit of a history with him.
James and I met my sophomore year where he was a senior. Tall, dark, and handsome, he was also the sweetest guy I had met. When he graduated, he enlisted in the army. Several months in, I get a phone call from him, panicked, scared, hurt. I tried to calm him, but to no avail. He rambled on about the things he was doing, seeing, feeling, how it was all too much and that “no one would miss him anyways”. Key words people usually say when they’re about to kill themselves. I was utterly devastated that he was feeling these things, and I was also desperately helpless in this situation. Nothing I said mattered to him, and eventually, he hung up. I called and texted back a million times with no answer. I had no idea what to do, so here’s 16 year old me thinking that this man I deeply cared for had just went off to kill himself. I scoured the news for weeks upon weeks to see if there was any news, but nothing. I didn’t know what to think, but eventually, I had to put it past me. Flash forward back to the driveway on May 31st 2013, and there he was. Strolling up to the house like everything was cool. He was laughing with David. I was stunned. I blurted his name out, shocked and confused. He just half smiled at me and kept walking. My eyes stung with tears, wondering how we could have shared everything we did, to have never responded to a single text message or phone call to let me know that he was okay. I had never felt more betrayed.
I raced back inside to grab my purse, then flew out of the house. I began walking down the street to reach Adam’s house where my car was. Eyes completely welled, I let out a few deep sobs. Moments after I had left, Adam chased after me, asking over and over again what was wrong. When we reached his house, he asked me to come inside before driving off in such an emotional state. I agreed, even though it was late, as his parents weren’t home and I didn’t want to disturb anyone.
We sat on his couch while he held me, and I just wailed. For over a year, I really thought that James was dead. Seeing him like that, I couldn’t bear it. All those months of worrying and wondering. At some point, I was done crying, and I looked up at Adam and thanked him for his fierce friendship. Adam took this as a sign, I suppose, and moved in to kiss me. It happened so fast that I didn’t realize it at first. I moved away, proclaiming that I didn’t feel that way about him. He moved in even closer and whispered to me that he knew that wasn’t true. He went on to say things like “I know you like me”, “I know you fantasize about me as much as I do you”, and my personal favorite, “C’mon, you don’t want to be a virgin at 18 do you? No one will have sex with you in college”.
The words stung, and I told him that I just wasn’t ready, but they did make me stop and think, “should I just do it?”. While he spent countless minutes trying to coerce me, I kept saying “no”, “I don’t know”, “I just don’t think that I’m ready”, and “I really don’t think this is what I want”. All the while, he was kissing my neck, my face, and trying to take my clothes off. At first, I let it start to happen a bit, but once it was about to go down, I professed as strongly as I could, “this is not what I want to do right now, please let’s stop”. He held my hands and body down hard; he was much stronger than me. He kept saying that it would be over soon and that it wouldn’t be that bad. I would just have to see when it was over. But despite saying no over and over and him silencing me with his hand, it happened anyways. I blame myself sometimes for not fighting harder, but when I did he just resisted stronger. I feared that something violent was to break out, and I feared I would just make the whole thing worse. So I just laid there, and sort of couldn’t move. I think my mind and body were in shock. When it was over, I cried and I cried. Unsure of what really just happened to me. Was I raped? Did I not fight back hard enough for society to constitute it as a rape? For months, I struggled with those thoughts, until I found out that rape isn’t always a violent fight. Sometimes, it’s the sinister “friend” trying to convince you, sweet talk you, hold you down, and make you frightened to do anything.
I remember the first guy who tried to sleep with me after this happened. I couldn’t bear to tell him why I was turning him down, and it ruined our friendship forever. I remember the second guy who tried to sleep with me after this happened. I couldn’t bear to tell him either, and he thought I was just being a tease. When I worked up the angry courage to tell him what an ass he was, and why I was saying no, he never spoke to me again. Eventually, I began to heal.
Eventually, I began to look at my body and love it. Eventually, I began to look at my soul and love it. Eventually, I began to look at myself and not blame me. I truly believe that from the type of man Adam turned out to be, my experience could have been so much more violent and unpleasant in an unsuccessful attempt to fight back.
I will carry this trauma with me wherever I go. Some days are dark, and most days are good. I am not broken, I am not fragile, and I am not weak. My trauma does not define me, even if it will always be a part of who I am. I have been on a journey to learn how to live with this without it defining me. I like to think I’ve been fairly successful so far. Some days it sweeps into my brain, unsuspecting, and I cannot help but feel helpless once more. Other days, I find great strength in it, and I want other people to feel the same kind of empowerment and courage.
The biggest insecurity this event has given me is distrust. He was supposed to be my friend, protector, confidant. And he broke all of those things when he violated my body and my soul. From then on, to trust anyone was a big deal. I was starting college with this burden, this graveyard in my heart. I am wary of every man whose eyes I meet walking down the street, even in broad daylight. Imagine my horror and anxiety when I have to walk somewhere alone at night. I am wary of every new friendship, always suspecting an ulterior motive. I am always feeling guilty, because I know that everyone is not out to get me. How do you change your mind, when it has been rewired to feel that way? I’m still trying to figure that one out.
I don’t write this for me. I don’t write this for pity. I don’t even write this for love, support, and encouragement, even though that is typically the response I get, and it is much, much appreciated. I write this for you. For you who feels scared to share their story. For you who falls under the same “me too” category. Fortunately, but also unfortunately, you are not alone in this. Solidarity to you, my beautiful brothers and sisters who have endured this pain and suffering.