While in high school and college I remember sitting through lectures and PowerPoints about sexual assault and rape. The main take-aways being “it’ll happen to a lot more people than you think, and it is important to tell the victim that it isn’t their fault.”
Flash forward to my senior year of college waking up in the back seat of my car in the hot morning sun in the commuter parking lot on campus. The night before I had been raped. And let me tell you, the lines were blurred. I used to always think “of course it isn’t the victims’ fault. How could someone ever blame themself for something so horrible?”
But there I was staring at the inside roof of my car thinking “You put yourself in that situation. Of course you’re to blame. And on top of that, you cheated on your boyfriend.”
I was raped while I was in a committed relationship with someone else. And the added guilt of feeling I had been unfaithful fueled my self-blame spiral.
I knew the guy who raped me for years. We had even been involved sexually years prior to the incident. He was older, and wrong for me in every way. He was addicted to drugs, a liar, and a sweet talker. But I fell for that darkness hook line and sinker because I am a classic empath who never wants anyone to feel alone, no matter how alone they may make me feel at times.
In short, I was already in a committed relationship for a year and this former friend-with- benefits owed me some money. One night I had gotten stoned at a friends house and received a message at around 1 am saying “Hey I know I’m behind on this but I have your money if you want to come pick it up.”
I drove to his house and realized I was way higher than I thought I was. I kept forgetting where I was going. Familiar roads became unfamiliar. When I finally arrived he got into my car and asked if I could take him to the gas station up the road so he could get something for his mom. (He had a suspended license at the time). I agreed and before I knew it we were back at his house in his room. He had no furniture save for a mattress on the floor.
“Is it weird that I missed seeing you in my bed?” he asked.
I shrugged my shoulders and took a sip of the beer he bought at the gas station. Now I was high and buzzed and on his bed.
We caught up about work and family. I mentioned my boyfriend and that things were going well. He said he was happy for me and that I always was deserving of a good man.
Then he left the room and came back high on something way stronger than weed.
His face was purple. His eyes were glazed over and predatory. His pupils were black holes sucking in any and all matter around him.
I had never seen him like this before.
He lay next to me on the bed and starting kissing my neck.
“Come on. You can’t do that. I can’t do this,” I said shying away.
“Oh you don’t have to do anything,” he whispered into my ear as he lowered me down.
I couldn’t look at him. I stared at the wall. I wanted to yell, but his mother and brothers were home and I felt embarrassed. I had always thought of myself as a strong woman. I was trained to fight, I was an athlete my whole life, I had a type A personality. However, there was a monster on top of me with muscles and unknown hard drugs in his system. What if I fought back and lost? What if I left here with a black eye or bruises on my neck from sparking a drug fueled rage in this man by denying him or hitting him?
So I made my decision in the name of leaving there with no visible evidence of my poor choices. No road map to my questionable judgment calls. I lay there and waited for it to end.
He entered me unexpectedly and I tried not to gasp. I was dry as a bone. He lubricated me with his own spit and I bit my tongue silently until he finished.
I got up quickly and collected myself while he put his boxers back on.
“I love my boyfriend,” I said looking him up and down.
“Oh,” he replied looking confused.
He then handed me ten of the 90 dollars he owed me and said he would give me more money the next time he saw me. I took the ten, ran to my car, and spent the rest of my night in the commuter lot. I couldn’t go home. I felt I couldn’t go anywhere. I wasn’t really me in that moment. I didn’t feel like a person. I felt used.
It took me years to even recognize that what happened that night was a type of rape. It’s hard for me, even now, to admit that. My boyfriend and I are still together, but I suffered with intimacy issues after the incident. I could never get out of my head during sex. I never initiated it on my own.
One night when I was feeling especially guilty for my lack of libido I sat him down and explained to him that I had been raped previously. I never told him it happened when we were together. I don’t think I could ever tell him that. It still feels like I cheated and betrayed him.
He held me and told me it wasn’t my fault. We worked out ways to make sex feel safer for me. We’d play certain music, we’d only have sex if I initiated or said so, and I would control his hands in the beginning so I wouldn’t shy away from being touched by someone else (which had become an unfortunate reflex).
It has taken forgiveness and self-acceptance to get to the point I am at now. I still have doubts about whether or not I’m a faithful partner. I still have doubts about whether or not what I experienced was my fault.
I do know, however, that no one should ever feel they are alone. Rape and sexual assault can be a very isolating thing to go through. Shame plays a big part in keeping us from reaching out to others and sharing our story. I believe giving you all this part of myself will hopefully make you feel less alone, and better understood.
You are not what has happened to you in this life. You are the resilience and love that comes after.