It was the last night of Fall Break. We were at a party in my friend’s room, and he was a friend of a friend. He doesn’t even go here – he was just visiting for the weekend. But that didn’t matter.
He seemed nice upstairs. We talked about his hometown since I had been there before and we bonded over a restaurant we had both been to. We both liked the chicken pesto panini they serve there.
I invited him down to my room to hang out and just talk. When we walked in, I told him up front that I wasn’t expecting anything to happen. Then I closed the door. I’ll always regret this.
The rest of the night was the worst night of my life. My parents had to pick me up from school and drive me to the emergency room because of what he had done to me physically. In the weeks after I was sexually assaulted, I could not be around men I didn’t know without my heart racing and my body tensing in fear. I was terrified to walk around my college campus alone and I could not think about anything else but the assault itself. I couldn’t sleep because I kept reliving my assault in my head. I was exhausted during the day because I wasn’t getting any rest. I was getting severe migraines from the combination of my lack of sleep and my pre-existing medical conditions. I fell behind on my assignments in the midst of midterms. I had to seek counseling and therapy for what happened to me, in addition to filing several legal reports with my school about the assault, which proved to be extremely tolling.
What happened to me left an impact on me that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. I think about what happened to me that night at least once every day.
But the physical side effects of my assault were nowhere near as bad as the emotional side effects of my assault. The guilt I carried after I was sexually assaulted is a pain I would never wish upon anyone else. I felt so responsible for inviting him down to my room – like I had been asking for it. I felt like I had done everything wrong – like I had been too flirty at the party upstairs, like I hadn’t been in the right headspace to invite him to my room, like I had given him mixed signals once I closed the door. I regretted every revealing outfit I had ever worn and every guy I had ever dated because I thought these contributed to my assault. I thought every past bad decision of mine resulted in my parents sobbing on the phone when I called them telling them what happened, listening to them ask what their little girl did to deserve this. In my head, it was so clear – it was my fault.
But I was so wrong. It is never your fault.
You have a right to feel safe when going out with your friends. You have a right to feel comfortable at a party. You have a right to feel like you won’t be groped if you wear an outfit you look hot as hell in. You have a right to be one-on-one with someone and feel like they will not assault you in any way. And it is not your fault for seeing the best in people and assuming they won’t hurt you. Giving someone an invitation back to your place does not mean that they have the green light to do whatever they want to you; consent can be taken away at any point, and being the one to invite someone back should not be a reason to feel like you cannot take back your consent.
It’s been two months since I’ve been sexually assaulted. There have been so many days since then where it feels like it won’t get better. Like there’s no point. Like there’s no hope.
But on these days, when the guilt finds its way back in, I find the time and space to breathe, to be present, and to tell myself it wasn’t your fault and on these days, everything feels like it might be okay.
And I know that in the end, it will be.