“According to Meagen Hildebrand and Cynthia Najdowski’s article, “The Potential Impact of Rape Culture On Juror Decision Making: Implications For Wrongful Acquittals In Sexual Assault Trials,” rape culture is, “a complex of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women” (1062). Due to rape culture, sexual violence can be normalized in society by the media and popular opinion, possibly making it even more difficult for victims of sexual assault to report their experience to law enforcements than it would be if there wasn’t the prevalent rape culture. Due to victim blaming and low conviction rates, under the general concept of rape culture, the two play a role in why victims of sexual assault are hesitant to report their assault to the police.”
That was the opening paragraph to a report I wrote when I was 18 in my first college English class. When my professor said our all of our essays were going to be a topic of our choice, I was pretty excited. I have never been a huge fan of writing and struggled with it most of my life, but after taking her class, I realized how much I enjoyed it and how I could get my thoughts, which I often describe as ‘alphabet soup,’ out and organized. I have always been heavily opinionated about rape culture, as well as very out spoken, so loved writing my report on it. I had all these opinions that I was able to find research to back up my statements, as well as find so many scholars who were making the same claims as me. During the time of my life when I wrote that paper, a close friend of mine was going through the beginning recovery process of being sexually assaulted. I shared a room with her and would wake up to her crying because she had a nightmare about the boy who hurt her, or she would cry, seemingly out of nowhere, in the middle of the day and could barely say his name when I asked her why she was crying. Seeing how much that sexual assault had affected her and the questions she was bombarded with (“I thought you liked him?” “Why didn’t you leave?” “You didn’t fight back the entire time?” and my personal favorite “could he have taken you ‘no’ as a playful no?”) was one of the reasons I chose to write a paper about rape culture. So, I knew all the research behind why someone might not report a rape/sexual assault to the police. I knew of the low conviction rates and rape culture manifesting in victim blaming. I knew of the fear from seeing my roommate go through her recovery. I knew all of it. What I didn’t know was I was going to be in that situation 6 months after writing that paper. What I didn’t know was I was going to be raped by someone I thought was my friend.
I was 19 when I was raped. It was August 31, 2016. The night before I had gotten in a fight with my parents and stormed off; I was texting my friend about it and she said she’d send a couple of our friends to come get me. They picked me up and we went to our friend’s house, to where this boy lived. Now let me say that it’s hard for me to say I was raped because it wasn’t like the rape we are all familiar with. It wasn’t some creepy guy in an alley who held me at gunpoint, or a crazy stalker who broke into my room while I was sleeping. It was a friend. A boy I’ve had meaningful conversations with, a boy I partied with quite often and never saw him as a threat, a boy I’ve had a one night stand with. I consented to the one night stand in June, I did not consent in August; he raped me.
When I got to his place the night it was already 1am. Most everyone was drunk at that point and everyone asked me if I was okay and if I wanted to talk about what had happened. I didn’t want to talk about it, I just wanted to be around people. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to drink because I had always made it a point to not drink when I was upset; that was when this boy came over to me. There was already a batch of some mixed drink and he asked if I wanted some. I declined. This is when I started to feel something was off. He was usually really good about if someone didn’t want to drink and letting it go, but this time he kept asking if I wanted to drink and would tease me when I declined again. After him asking a few more times, and the girls saying it was really good, I agreed to drink some, and by some I mean a lot.
I drank way too much and was plastered in less than 30 minutes.
When I retell what happened that night, I can’t tell all of it. Not because I don’t want to, but because I literally can’t. I can’t remember a lot of what happened. What I remember next is being with him in the kitchen. We were the only ones and we were just talking. I asked how he’s doing and he made a joke. He got closer to me and started talking in a quieter voice. He said he felt like we don’t party together anymore, but I told him I didn’t think so because I was over at his place all the time. Then he explained he meant as in being with each other, like when we had a one night stand. He said he kind of wanted it to happen again. I was incredibly confused because he has a girlfriend, I told him we couldn’t because he was in a relationship. He said, “yeah… but if she was involved, it would be okay, right?” I was still confused with what was going on, but agreed with his logic. “So, if she was there, it would be okay, so we should get her to drink some more.” I told him I wasn’t sure that was okay to get her to drink more and that’s when he kissed me. I was so drunk and almost fell over but he caught me and said “I just really want this to happen, and I know you can make this happen. I believe in you.”
At this point our friends had come back into the kitchen and one brought a slab of glass with several white lines on it. The friend with the lines said “who wants to play line roulette?” I didn’t understand what “line roulette” was so I asked.
“It’s simple. You pick a line and do it.”
Note to self and anyone reading this: do NOT play line roulette. I still don’t know what was in my line. With that being said I did a line.
The way my memory is patchy makes me think of a movie. For example, a girl gets in her car and the scene ends, and the next scene is her getting out of her car at school. You didn’t see the drive but obviously time had passed. So the next thing I remember is being in this boy’s room with our friend, a girl. We were passing around a bottle of champagne and laughing and having a good time. We all started to talk about our lives and what we want to do in life and how we are anxious about the future, but that we had so much time to figure it out because we were only 18, 19, and 20. I remember feeling happy in this moment, and I also had to pee really bad. I did this thing called “bathroom buddies” where I would always have someone go to the bathroom with me. I’m not sure how or why it started, but I needed one to go pee. I asked the girl to be my bathroom buddy but she didn’t want to. I kept asking her because I didn’t want to go alone, but she kept saying she didn’t want to. That’s when this boy said he would. Not thinking much of it, I went to the bathroom with him as my bathroom buddy.
That’s when it happened. He raped me.
Again, my memory of this is patchy and can’t remember all of what happened. I remember being in the bathroom with him, me peeing and him just standing there. Then I remember him standing there, him talking to me and he gently grabbed my face and kissed me. I asked “what about your girlfriend? Is this okay?” He said, “It’ll be our little secret,” he put his index finger to his lips, then to mine, “don’t tell anyone.”
Next thing I remember is being on the cold tile floor, naked, vulnerable, scared, and confused. I felt like I was in a completely different world, a world I had never known. I didn’t understand what was going on. I kept asking, “What’s going on? Is this okay? What about your girlfriend?” and he kept saying, “It’ll be okay, I promise it’ll be okay.” But things weren’t okay. He was naked too and pushed my head down onto him. I was so intoxicated with drugs and alcohol it was like I was a ragdoll puppet, easily manipulated to do anything. It was hard to do it because I had a terrible case of cotton mouth from the line I did earlier, so he spit on his hand and put it in my mouth so it wasn’t so dry. When I would stop because I couldn’t breathe, he would push my head back down. I remember I was on my side, facing the blank wall, so confused and wanting leave but didn’t know how. It was like I had forgotten how to walk and control my body, it was like a dream I was so sure I would wake up from any second. While on my side and facing that blank wall, he put his hand all over and in my body. He moved me so my back was on the cold tile. I was slipping in and out of consciousness.
He raped me.
What I remember next is being in the shower with him and the water was too cold. He was kissing me and moving my wet hair out of my face. He told me to pull my hair up and I did what he said. Again, he pushed my head down on him and I’m on my knees, cold, wet, and scared. He pushed me up against the shower wall and when I asked, “What’s going on?” again, he said, “It’ll be okay.” When he was done he said he’ll leave the bathroom first and I should wait a little before leaving. It didn’t make sense to me but he left. I was tired and almost fell asleep in the shower, the water was still running.
I woke up to his girlfriend coming in and yelling at me saying, “How could you? Get out, leave, I don’t want to see you.” I put on my clothes and ran out to the top of the hill (his place was at the base of a small hill). Im sitting on the sidewalk, still wet. I’m so confused and am trying to make sense of what happened, and then I get a text from her, “where are you” She comes out and finds me and yells at me more. “I thought we were friends. What about the times we went out for coffee and you told me you cared about me? Did you or did you not have sex with him?” I said, “I did but-” she cut me off and said “I can’t believe you,” and went back to the house.
I texted my friend who was in the house and told him to come out and talk to me, that I didn’t know what was going on and couldn’t be alone. He said to come back so I did. He, two girls, and the owner of the place were all in the master bedroom. They asked what happened and I told them, “I had sex with him and his girlfriend came in and got so mad.” (The reason I didn’t call it rape right then is because I didn’t realize what had happened until quite a bit later). Everyone reassured me it was just him being a dumb ass and it wasn’t my problem he cheated. I was shaking and incredibly anxious so I was given ketamine to “help me relax.” I stayed for a couple more hours and then was driven home.
As I said, I didn’t realize what had happened was rape until quite a bit later. I told my mom about what happened and she told me that was the epitome of date rape. I told her it wasn’t. I was in denial. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to believe what had happened, but that I literally didn’t and couldn’t comprehend what had happened. I could acknowledge that if what had happened had happened to someone else it was rape, but I couldn’t understand what had happened to me was rape until much later.
So I was raped. What’s the point? To be another one of those “I was raped but it doesn’t define me” stories? Yes and no. It is something that happened to me that has changed me, but doesn’t necessarily define me. What defines me is what I learned from it. I’m not going to say what I learned is to not drink/ do drugs/ get intoxicated around guys because that is self-victim blaming and that is bullshit. I’m not going to say what I learned is to walk away from guys who have girlfriends who kiss you in the kitchen, or to take a self-defense class, or to scream “no” and push a guy off of you, because that is all bullshit too.
What I learned is this. Being raped does not lessen my worth or ability to give and receive love. It does not make me “damaged goods” or make me less “worthy” than those who have not been raped. I learned that I am much stronger than I thought I was, that I am much kinder than I thought I was. I learned that I am an amazingly good person who doesn’t hate anyone, not even the boy who raped her. I wrote a letter to this boy that I never sent and in part of it I said:
You know, I used to hate you. Well, that’s not true. I used to want to hate you. But the thing is, I don’t. I don’t hate anyone and I love that about myself. And no one, not even you, can take that away from me.
Of course, there are days where I cry because of him and want to disappear, but the good days happen more than the bad ones. When I have my bad days because I think of him or see a boy who looks like him, I’ll surround myself with people I love and who love me. Or I will create something, or go hiking and appreciate the beauty of the Earth, or I’ll journal or read a book. He took a lot from me that night and I felt like part of me was lost, but because of it I found a stronger me I didn’t know existed. I found a me that can love deeper and have empathy for those who have also gone through this.
Maybe I won’t show this to anyone and it will just stay in my computer. Or maybe I’ll share this with those who already know about it, or maybe one day I’ll feel strong enough to open up to everyone and share this publically. I don’t know, but what I do know is this.
I’ll never be the same girl I was before all of this, but that’s okay.
I was raped and I’m okay.