It happened somewhere between my final college exam and waiting for graduation to kick off. I had way too much time on my hands and had begun to spend it wrapped up in the company of a guy I had gone to school with as a kid.
It was a stupid thing to do.
We had grown up in the same neighborhood and he had been a perfect a$$ to me in elementary school. But he seemed to have grown up, matured, and turned over a new leaf. More specifically, he had found Jesus. I wasn’t a believer myself, but I respected his devout Faith and was amused by how seriously he took his religion.
Most importantly, I had really begun to miss home, and he was a solid reminder of where I had come from and what I planned to return to as soon as this whole college mess was over. So, we began to spend more time together and talked every so often over the course of a couple of months. I really started to like him then – led on by his unmatched wit, and incredible intelligence. It didn’t help that he wasn’t too bad looking, either.
So when a mutual friend offered to invite him over to her apartment for a small gathering, I was ecstatic. Being the amazing friend she was, she then emptied the apartment for an hour or two (to grab some stuff, she said) which left me alone with the guy. It was exactly what I had wanted. It was my first time alone with him. I remember thinking:
Wow – maybe I’ll even get a kiss before I go home.
The TV hummed quietly in the background – now meaningless announcements of who was winning and losing a soccer match back in Europe. We started to talk and I began to show him some of the art I had worked on in school. He was impressed and admitted he dabbled a bit in the arts himself, but was more of a hands-on techie kind of guy than an artist.
“So are you going to show me your boobs?” he said unexpectedly.
I blinked at him for a moment. “What?” I was completely caught off-guard by the request.
He then sank his finger into the neckline of my tank top and popped one out himself. Like an idiot, I let him. I liked him, didn’t I? We’d been chatting online and hanging out with mutual friends for three months now. Isn’t this the point we should be at?
Yet, when he lowered me to the bed and proceeded to make a meal of my skin I just wasn’t into it. While I tried to decide on the best way to say “Get the hell off me” without causing offense, I felt his hand snaking down between my legs.
I grabbed it.
“What are you doing?” I asked him. “I don’t want that. Let’s just stop before this gets out of hand. Anna* will be back any second now and this is their room.”
He didn’t listen. Instead, he pinned one arm above my head and ignored the one struggling to keep him from venturing where he wasn’t welcome. He was too strong for me, but still I held on to his hand, fighting to keep it away. Looking back, I think maybe I should have used it to gouge his eyes out instead. Or maybe I should have punched him. But at that moment, all I could think was:
If I let go of this hand, I admit my defeat.
So instead, I kicked and squirmed and fought, and learned quickly that he was an expert at this kind of thing. He knew exactly where to set a shoulder, inch a leg, or turn his torso to keep me pinned.
“Get off!” I yelled at him, but that didn’t stop him, either.
“You know you love it,” he insisted.
I remembered then a controversial statement one of my teachers in high school had made during sex ed. “Rapists aren’t in it for the sex,” she had said. “What they love is the fight and the opportunity to dominate a woman. If you don’t put up a fight a real rapist will stop.”
I had always thought her perfectly mad for saying that – we all had. But somehow, years later that advice came back to me, and remembering it, I stopped fighting. I finally let go of his hand, went perfectly still, calmed down, and waited. My heart thumped in my chest like a caged bird desperate for an exit.
Almost immediately, he withdrew from me and moved away. Just as she’d said – he lost complete interest. I scrambled away from him and then locked myself in the bathroom. I didn’t come out until I heard our friends return. When they asked for me, his flippant reply was, “I don’t know. She’s in the bathroom, I think.” I could almost hear him shrug.
He left shortly afterwards without another word to me. I waited until the gathering emptied again to tell our mutual friend what had happened. She was as shocked as I was. I was still in shock when I returned home.
I wasn’t sure what to make of the situation. Did that count as rape? Or was just a finger not “rapey” enough? Maybe digital rape – as it’s legally termed – doesn’t truly count?
And of course, I would be blamed. It would be my fault that I stayed behind alone with him in my friend’s apartment, and my fault that I didn’t stop him when he bared my breasts without my permission. You see it on the news and see feminists protest about “victim blaming” but you never really understand it until you are the victim, blaming yourself.
For a week, he said nothing to me, so finally I reached out to him. I needed closure, maybe even an apology. Something.
“I should never have done that,” he said, “and I have prayed about it and asked for God’s forgiveness. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.” And that was the end of the conversation.
I was dumbstruck. Was Jesus’ forgiveness more important than making amends with the woman he had just violated? Oh wait, I forgot. That was my fault. So sorry.
I sank into such a deep depression after that, that my friends went into panic mode. I became unreachable, never left the house, and barely ate. Who needed food? I had a belly full of thoughts and regrets and hurt and anger and guilt – guilt for being the victim in an “unfortunate” situation.
When they kept trying to call me, I turned the phone off and signed out from all messengers and social media profiles on my computer. I cried myself to sleep, woke up and cried some more until I went to sleep again. It became my daily routine.
Gradually, I found myself able to work on my art, to respond to the stack of messages in my phone, and finally to leave the house. It was some time before I ever dated again and I still have an absolute aversion to being touched in any way without my expressed permission, but I’ve managed.
Now, when someone touches me and I don’t like it, I don’t care for their feelings. I make my own known:
I do not consent!
And I keep repeating it until they stop.
Most men aren’t like my attacker. In fact, every last one either bursts into anxious apologies once I start or they run for the hills – including the doctor who cut my examination short after I started to chant “I do not consent” when he tried to check my breasts for any irregularities. Forget that!
I never saw my attacker again and I hope I never do. I’m terrified that I might strangle him, or start screaming, “You rapist!” in the streets. But even more terrifying is the fear that he might turn around and say, “It was your fault for wearing a tank top. You were asking for it. You should have said no sooner.”
And I’ll start crying on the sidewalk and sink back into the depths of depression, from which I had come…
The contributor has opted to remain anonymous. As a result, no queries regarding her identity will be honored. To further protect her identity, she has transferred all rights for ownership and redistribution to College Mate.
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