Editor’s Note: The following contains graphic descriptions of sexual assault.
Growing up, my parents were open about sex and sexuality.
They never danced around the proverbial bullet of ‘where do babies come from’ by making up stories, but rather showed the video footage of my birth. Even during school, they addressed issues about ‘unwanted touching’, your right to your own body and, in the general sense, defined rape or molestation. Later on, in high school health class, they had ‘experts’ come in and discuss to each gender specifically about rape. What it is, what it isn’t, and most importantly that speaking up about possible incidents of rape was important. Consent: it was all about permission regarding your body.
While it was a well-known fact that most rapes occur by individuals the victim knows, I was still left with movie-style rape scenes in my head, a clear cut depiction of rape.
It was the junior year in high school; I was considered a smart nerd. Not one that was into ‘weird stuff,’ just either tolerated or respected because I was ‘smart’ (although, honestly, I just read the textbooks and did my homework).
Yet, as ACTs were over and my senior year approaching fast, I felt I was missing out on that television illusion of what high school was supposed to be like. Parties, sleepovers, and having the time of your life – that’s what TV shows portrayed and that what I wanted.
One night, my friends were having a small get together at her house while her parents were away.
No big deal, mostly girls and a few guy friends (most of whom were dating those girls anyways), just a way to relax and have some fun. Of course, like most parties, more people came that were invited, but hey, the more the merrier right? I mean, I’m from a small town, almost everyone at my school knew each other since elementary school, if not beforehand. So, the night wears on and most people are blissfully partying the night away.
At some point in time, the party was winding down, couples were snuggling together, and people were starting to go to sleep or leave.
There was one guy who was interested in me, but beyond some horrible kissing, I wasn’t interested and moved away from him, opting to go to a room with multiple people sleeping in it.
At this point, I am way past any of my limits and while I can remember certain things here and there, I was blackout wasted, falling asleep on the floor with a blanket.
Then, it happens. The pain. There was indescribable pain by my crotch. I remember somewhat using my legs to push back, but he was strong and had me pinned down.
Oh, and did I mention I was now in the backseat of a moving car?
My first thoughts went to the pain.
Before this, I had barely kissed or held hands with someone, let alone done anything remotely sexual. My second thought was “what the fuck”, how was I in this situation, what the fuck was I doing with my life? This wasn’t how my first sexual experience was supposed to go, this pain wasn’t supposed to be here. After he was done, I was sobered up. I put my pants back on and asked to be dropped off at the house, and had even asked if he had worn a condom.
Back at the house a few of my friends were waiting for me, concerned and worried.
They told me to pee so I don’t get an infection (what? I had never heard of this before) and said I would be bleeding a little bit. Well, this was an understatement. I was bleeding profusely, like the heaviest day of a period. They told me it wasn’t that unusual but it should stop within 20 or 30 minutes. It didn’t. It lasted for about three days. It hurt to walk, it hurt to sit, and it was weird thinking about it.
I mean, I asked if he had worn a condom, I was kissing him earlier, and who knows what I had been doing during the memories I couldn’t remember?
I probably had asked for it, or rather, I hadn’t said ‘no’ had I? It technically wasn’t rape, I hadn’t verbally declined. Even through the pain, there was some pleasure.
Yet I wasn’t happy, I was guilty, ashamed, and embarrassed. Later on, after napping when I was back home, I showered. The scene was literally out of a movie; I couldn’t scrub enough anywhere to get him off me. His cheap Axe spray was stuck to my body and to the inside of my nose. To top it off, I couldn’t stop crying. So many thoughts swirled into my brain about the night. Of course, the next day at school was also weighed on my conscious. The only thing worse than going was not going. I knew I had to go and I did.
Walking into school was fine; luckily I always arrive early because my mom would drop me off before heading to her job.
First hour? Fine, nothing amiss. Okay, I could do this.
But by the end of the day, the stares, quiet talking, and the blatant discussions about what had (or hadn’t) happened was too much. It sucked so hard. I can’t even put into words the emotions that ran through me. Some of my closest friends shamed me for the even basic rumors, not only blaming me but going as far as severing all ties within the next few weeks.
For a long while, until I took an elective law class, I didn’t consider it rape, just stupidity and shame. I avoided the word and cringed if one of my close friends used it. I couldn’t have been raped, it’s such an ugly, heavy word that I never wanted to be associated with.
Fast forward to University, the usual expectations of how social life is like and the new freedoms that it allows. My freshman year, I got a boyfriend. Eventually, sex came up in conversation, it’s a natural and healthy progression of any intimate relationship.
When I told him I was raped, he was shocked, and asked what exactly had happened; no big deal, it was asked in a casual, respectful manner. After relaying the story, he responded with “are you sure it was rape?”
I was a little taken aback but explained how (legally speaking) it was very much rape.
He kept asking me why I didn’t press charges or didn’t do this or that.
Only years later, did I begin to understand how horrible that question was, not just for my vulnerable self, but also for any sexual assault victims.
Yes, some people fabricate rape stories, people fabricate stories about literally everything all of the time. But why must this be the expectation for someone who cries rape? Why are rapists allowed to have the benefit of the doubt, but the victim assumed guilty of negligence by default? Our system and social norms want to ‘other’ victims, they are the exception, it’s their fault for being there or not fighting back hard enough.
Obviously, one has to be aware of their surroundings and take precautions for their safety because this is a reality, but the extent to which girls (and now with awareness men) take to guard against possible attacks are so ingrained in many of us, that we don’t even realize we are doing it.
One does not know what they will do in a hypothetic situation unless it becomes an event. What makes me angry are the ‘experts’ that are put on television and media that tell people what to do if they are in a hypothetical situation, especially since many of them will never be in one. Something they don’t have to bear on a daily basis.
Or worse yet, their dialogue on how victims should feel.
I want society and culture to change, not just because of pity towards victims, but because rape and sexual assault harms everyone. It is not about the honor of the victims, but the humanity everyone deserves.