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HER STORY: The Truth Behind that Familiar Face

Now I know nobody is going to have any life changing revelations after reading this, but I do hope some of you take away something from reading my story.

That cute guy you have class with? Get to know him a little better before you go let him walk you home alone.

Some random person handing you a red solo cup at a party? Have them get you an unopened drink instead.

My whole schpeal is really just learning to trust your gut and surround yourself with people you trust. This culture we live in, the college party lifestyle, blurs the lines, especially for consent.

Now, let me back up to tell a story about a naïve girl entering her freshman year of college in South Carolina.

The idea of leaving my hometown, high school friends and my family was the most daunting yet exhilarating feeling I have ever experienced. Born and raised in a small town in the suburbs of Maryland, moving down south was the biggest decision I have ever made on my own. The choice to remove myself from my bubble of comfort to explore a world of Saturday tailgates, bourbon gingers and southern hospitality left me aching with both nerves and joy for the entire summer preceding my departure.

Fast-forward to August, the first day of move in, I greeted my freshman roommate with arms wide open. Let’s call her Sarah. Sarah was about half a foot taller than me, brimming with joy with her long blonde hair and beautiful blue eyes. She was exactly the opposite of my brown-eyed, brunette, petite frame. Sarah drove down from Ohio, a 10-hour drive, just to get her southern fix. Now, neither of us knew many other people, so we mainly relied on each other until we started to make our own circles of friends. Moving forward with our college lives, Sarah decided to join a sorority, while I decided to wait it out, you know find myself.

She loved every second of the oversized t-shirts and “throwing what you know” at parties around campus. However, she would sometimes sense my feeling of exclusion from her social life style, so she invited me to join her and her sorority sisters one Friday night. They were all so beautiful, so tall, and so very blonde; I felt even more out of place. As the night went on, I drank to excess to remove the underlying emotions of nerves and anxiety building up because I felt so out of place.

By around 12:30 a.m., Sarah began to feel sick just as I started feeling comfortable and recognizing familiar faces. She left. I stayed. That is when I saw Nicole. Nicole was a year or two older than me and pretty drunk herself. She immediately attacked me with a warm hug and grabbed my arm, telling me we were going to go to another party. This is so great, I thought, this is what college is supposed to be like. But that college experience got all too real all too fast.  Nicole’s friend, lets call him Jack, invited us to hangout at his place. What I thought was going to be another filled house, an elbow-to-elbow party, was actually just a few of his fraternity brothers playing beer pong, while girls stood around watching. Okay, I thought to myself, just mingle and talk to Nicole, but when I turned around I realized she was gone. I was alone in a house filled with drunken frat boys and the girls they wanted to take home. At that moment, when I felt most alone, most out of place, is when Jack invited me to come have a drink with him.

Now let me explain who Jack is. Jack is the guy everyone wanted to be friends with, the tall and beautiful senior who dated the most perfect girls; he even dated a model once. Jack, with his long-flowing, hazelnut colored hair, slightly parted on the side, his rosy red cheeks, and smile that went up slightly more on the right side. This was that Jack, talking to me, little freshman me, how could I not go and have a drink with him?

The next moments happened all too fast. One second we were sitting on his bed, laughing and drinking, the next I start to get a little dizzy. Already feeling the effects of alcohol slowly taking over my body, I told Jack I needed to lie down for a little and sleep off the spins. He warmly responded with a “no problem,” and goes to what I think is to leave the room and shut the door. Unfortunately, this was not southern hospitality and this was not what happened at all. After closing my eyes and drifting off in a room where I thought to be alone, a pressure started to build on top of my body. Fluttering my eyes open steadily, I came to the conclusion that I was no longer alone. Still slightly drunk and too tired to realize what was happening, I drifted back into my sleep. Then it was there again; that heavy feeling of building pressure. That feeling moved from on top of me, to a sudden jolt reaching inside. After hesitating a moment to take in my surroundings and understand what was happening, I screamed. Staring in shock and disbelief, Jack, who I trusted to be my friend, was holding my legs over my body, pushing them forcefully down with his hands, to have his hold while penetrating my person.

It all happened too fast, my dress and underwear lazily dangling around my ankles, just there. I reached to grab them with all my force and pull them up, wanting to escape this nightmare. Grabbing my bag next, I made a run for it leaving behind other possessions, including my shoes. Scrambling to figure out my location, putting together what just happened, I broke down in the middle of the road trying to ask myself how I could put myself in that situation. I blamed myself.

I blamed myself all the way back to my dorm, walking a mile barefoot in the darkness of the night. On my way back, I started to receive texts from an unknown number. Then I realized it was him; it was Jack. But how he got my number, this I will never know.  The texts started to flow in, one after another and they would not stop. I turned my phone off and tried to wipe away my tears before I made it back to my dorm. The only person I told was a friend I thought I could trust. Sadly she was not one to be trusted and his whole circle of friends found out what happened.

2:53 AM: “Hey I’m sorry if I was creepy tonight. I just think ur so cute and can’t resist”

                    “We should hang out later plz I’m kinda obsessed with you”

9:33 AM: “Sorry for being super fucked up last night. I feel really bad..”

                   “I think ur shoes are here too”

2:47 PM: “Day keg at 105 —– St at 330”

5:19 PM: “What did I do last night? Do I need to be punched in the face haha”

6:45 PM: “Thanks for telling someone I raped you last night… I didn’t do anything but stick      my dick in you and u told me to take it out. Thanks for slandering my name. Appreciate it”

“Thanks for slandering my name. Appreciate it.”

Thanks for ruining my life you mean? Thanks for giving me countless nightmares. Thanks for enabling me to trust others. Thanks for making me realize the kindness of strangers is not a reality in this world anymore.

After that night, I did not leave my room for weeks, except for going to class. I stopped wearing makeup, I stopped wearing revealing clothing, I stopped trying to be noticed by anyone in this unfamiliar place. The only feeling I wanted to possess was invisibility. My roommate seemed concerned, but it did not stop her from going out with her friends, living her life, normal as ever.

Several weeks later, I called my parents. I told them I needed to leave that place filled with selfish people and their personal agendas. I told them the other kids at this school were not good people and that I was homesick. I even told them I wanted to drop out for the semester without further explanation. Eventually, I began to push what happened out of my mind. I began to feel like it was a bad nightmare and I was eventually going to wake up, back at home, surrounded by the kind people who I loved.

Those texts he sent would forever haunt me. He told me he did not rape me, but then why do I still feel so exposed, so violated? Drifting away into a drunken sleep should not have been reason to undress me, and penetrate my body without consent. Maybe he mistook the sound of a light snore or a small puddle of resting drool beside my head as a sign that I wanted him to have sex with me, who knows.

The next time I saw Jack; we were standing on opposite sides of Main Street, the heart of campus. His hands grossly lying on top of some freshman girl’s ass, laughing like she just told the funniest thing ever. Catching the corner of his eye, all I could do was stare. How could he be so carefree and happy, knowing he ruined me, he took something that was never his and acted as if he was still the prince of the south.

At that exact moment, all I could feel was anger, yet an overwhelming desire to be strong. I would not show him how miserable his actions had made me those past few weeks, so much so that my parents agreed to let me transfer schools, still not knowing the pain I had endured as a naïve college freshman. I would be strong for myself and never let blind trust lead the way ever again.

Now I have a few reasons for writing this. Maybe it is more of a selfish reason, a therapeutic idea, but also hopefully helps someone else from being in the same position. For the longest time carrying this secret was like a weight on my shoulders. The weight started to lift once I opened up to a select handful of friends because keeping this to myself was eating me alive, especially at night and in public areas. I could no longer live in a world where I was scared to close my eyes for a full nights sleep, knowing the moment one world would turn off, a nightmare would turn back on, playing on repeat until that saving alarm clock would go off.

Months later, I finally transferred out of South Carolina to Maryland and joined a sorority. I also I finally did what I never thought I could. I ended up telling my whole sorority pledge class at my new school what happened that night. Scared of their reactions, fearing they would believe I was in the wrong, I turned my head downwards, ashamed that I could let something like that happen to myself. Shockingly, this was not their reaction. The girls were kind, caring and understanding; they were my sisters and they had my back. I will never be more grateful to have those girls because the burden I had carried with me for so long subsided, allowing me to live my life somewhat normal to what it had been before.

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