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Because this blog features stories of interpersonal and sexual violence, we offer this *content warning* as a way of caution. We also ask that you do not reproduce any of the content below, as the authors of these personal stories are anonymous, and cannot give consent for their stories to appear anywhere other than this blog or at a Project Dinah-led SpeakOut event.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"We'll look back on this one day and laugh."

That's what he said to me the morning after it happened. A group of us had gone camping for the weekend. It was supposed to be relaxing, a break from the stress of our first year at college.

He was my best friend, more like my brother, really. He was always there for me, and I trusted him with everything. I knew he needed this camping trip... his girlfriend had just ended their two year relationship, and he was heartbroken. Even though I was unsure about the booze he managed to bring with him (I didn't drink at the time, and had never seen him drink either), I didn't begrudge him it.

Later on that night, he stumbled away from the campfire where everyone was gathered, and plopped down in the grass. I left the party to go join him, thinking he may need to talk. As we were looking at the sky, we saw a shooting star. He said, "That's our star." I remember thinking that it would've been romantic if anyone else beside him had said it. As I closed my eyes to make a wish, I felt something on my face. I think he was trying to kiss me. I laughed him off and pushed him away. I knew he couldn't be serious, but somewhere else in my mind I knew I didn't want to be there anymore. I told him I was cold, and I dragged him back to the campfire. I don't think I believe in wishing on shooting stars anymore.

The five of us slept in a medium size tent that night. Entering the tent was like entering some mystic portal. Time became an unmeasured entity; I knew it was passing, it had to be, but I had no way of knowing its real pace. We were barely settled in when he started touching me. First it was a hug, which was fine. Then he pulled me tightly into him and started kissing me. I told him no and tried to pull away. I whispered, just loud enough for him to hear. I didn't want to wake the others up and embarrass him. I don't know how many times I said no. They eventually became like breaths. No. Inhale. Stop. Exhale. I would try to roll over, but he would pull be back. He told me it was what I wanted, that he had liked me for a while. He told me I was drunk, that I knew I liked it, that I should just let it happen. I finally forced myself away from him and turned over, pulling my sleeping bag over me like a blanket. I laid there, still, listening to his breathing, waiting for him to fall asleep. I must have drifted off, because when I woke up, his hands were running up and down my body. It was still pitch black and everyone was still asleep. I threw his hands off me and told him again to please stop. He's just drunk, I rationalized. He's a good guy and he would never hurt me. Again, I waited for him to fall asleep, and then against my will, I fell asleep too.

I woke up in a nightmare. The night was too dark for me to see anything immediately, but I could feel him. I could feel his fingers, exploring and exploiting me. This isn't real this isn't real this isn't real. Denial. Fear. Hurt. Anger. I don't understand how, but in what must have been seconds I felt and thought a thousand different things. I yanked his hand out of my pants. I shouted at him sternly and kind of loudly. He backed away, like a beaten puppy, and moved to the far end of the tent. Two of my friends had woken up, but now I didn't care. I laid back down on my sleeping bag and silently sobbed until I fell back asleep.

I was the last to wake up the next morning. I laid in the tent, not wanting to get up. I wanted to pretend I dreamed the whole thing up. I wanted to rewind the night. I felt stupid. So many things I could have done differently, and it wouldn't have happened. I decided I needed to talk to him. Maybe if we talked about, if he felt bad about it and apologized, it wouldn't be so bad.

I stepped out of the tent to see everyone gathered around the small fire, making breakfast. I looked at one of my guy friends who I had accidentally woken up the night before with my final order. He knew there was something wrong, but he didn't ask questions. We all sat around and ate, as if nothing had happened. I'm not sure how I did it (I managed to continuing doing so for almost a year). While everyone was cleaning up, I pulled my newly sober friend aside to talk. When I started talking about what happened the night before, he first said he didn't remember. He told me he was drunk. Then he told me he thought I wanted it. He told me it wasn't a big deal... nobody would think it was a big deal. He even talked about it later in front of the rest of our friends. That's when he said those infamous words that began this recollection.

He never apologized. My friends never said anything. Even after they knew, they were silent. They didn't know how to talk to me, and they never thought to try to talk to him. It eventually became an unfortunate memory locked in the past; we distantly acknowledged its existence, but we never talked about it again. We all stayed friends over the summer, and they would still hang out with him frequently. Even after I finally told my roommate, a guy I had known for five years, about it in tears months later, there was no support. No hugs, no outrage, no reassurance. Just silence. I began to believe what he told me. It wasn't a big deal... nobody would care.

This was my life for almost a year. He ended up transferring to UNC, so our facade of a friendship was continued into the fall. I didn't like who I was around him, I didn't like who I was period. I was difficult to be friends with. I spent more and more time alone. But then something wonderful changed everything. I started taking this Women's Studies class, and I am grateful every single day that I did. The people I have met and the stories they've shared and the things I've learned have given me back so much. I'm starting to be myself again, and I've since ended my friendship with that guy. I know that if I ever need to be heard, they will listen. That's all I ever really needed.

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