I had been home for only two weeks and went to a party at my best friend’s house. He was an acquaintance from high school. I don’t remember interacting with him besides a brief “hey how are you” very early on in the night. I had had way too much to drink and hardcore blacked out. The last faint memory I have of that night is laying on the couch catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen since high school. All I can tell you from there is that at, I woke up on a love sack in the basement in unfamiliar clothes, feeling strangely sore. Then I go to the bathroom, and see my underwear is on backwards with blood in it. While leaving, two of my friends stop me and ask if I remember anything about last night. When I say no, one of them hesitantly says, “We need to talk about it. You hooked up with ‘acquaintance’ and…”
At that moment I knew I wasn’t a virgin anymore, that my rights over my body had been taken away from me. But that was all too scary to admit. Instead, I sat in silence and nodded as my friends chronicled the night. They saw me making out with him and interrupted to ask me the year and who the president was. When I couldn’t correctly answer either or stand up on my own, they pulled me away from him. Thinking that was the end of it, he and I ended up alone in that basement.
They came back down with two other people from the party after a while to find the door locked. After knocking and yelling for ten minutes, he opened the door and immediately yelled, “I swear she said yes!” I was sprawled out on the love sack, basically unconscious, with my pants unbuttoned. Then they noticed the pool of blood between my legs, the trail of it into the bathroom and even some on the toilet and the wall. They decided not to call the police because, “we couldn’t risk everyone else getting in trouble for drinking.” Instead two of them cleaned up my blood, while the other two undressed and showered me, because there was blood on my clothes and body, and I was still too drunk to stand on my own.
Factually, I knew that it was rape. I knew that it wasn’t my fault. But that wasn’t enough to make me feel ok. Because there were two possible alternatives here that were equally terrifying to accept. One being that I was at fault, I asked for it, and I’m responsible for my decisions under the influence, and I have to live with my guilt for as long as it takes to get over it. The other alternative was that it wasn’t my fault, I have no control over what happens, and that there are people evil enough to take a person’s bodily rights away.
Since both of those were too scary to accept, I coped that summer by pretending to be ok, hoping that would translate into me actually being ok. Instead I just spent countless nights crying myself to sleep and internalizing my freak outs at things as innocuous as my co-worker putting his hand on my shoulder.
Once I started talking more about what happened, I received countless words of support from friends and family. However, what people need to know is that the few insulting words pulled my recovery back so much more than the supportive ones moved me forward. A couple examples include,
“OMG things like this are exactly why I don’t drink.”
“I mean it’s not his fault he didn’t know that you were a virgin.”
“What were you wearing? How much did you drink? Were you flirting with him?”
“I guess that’s what happens when you drink too much.”
“Why don’t you just talk to him? Straighten things out and get a timeline of everything?”
I thought coming back for my second year of college would halt the crippling seesaw between numbness and pain that became my life this past summer. It didn’t, it only brought back my on-and-off depression and anxiety that I’d had for years. It’s been almost a year now. I tried counseling, I tried medicine but I’ve never been good at sticking with things that I know are good for me.
I’ve spoken up to my immediate family and close friends. It’s been the best thing I’ve done for myself in terms of healing. But my courage falters. I go through periods of time when I can’t acknowledge or talk about it, even with people I’ve confided in before. It’s so hard to find consistency in anything being a survivor. I hope one day I will get to a point where I can find consistency in being able to speak up.