It feels surreal to write those words out. Me. I was raped.
It doesn’t feel real to me. By every definition of the word based on NYS laws, based on university policies and code of conduct, I was raped. If this had happened to one of my friends, I would call it rape. And I know very deep down, that it was rape. But my mind refuses to accept the gravity of the trauma I have experienced. It wasn’t violent. I didn’t say “no.” I didn’t scream, I didn’t struggle and I wasn’t held down. He was a trusted friend. We used to work together in tutoring while we were in high school. I even helped him plan his prom-posal last year. I thought we were friends. Maybe he made a mistake. It was dark so maybe he couldn’t see. Because he couldn’t have knowingly hurt me in such a brutal way.
So why do I feel like throwing up every time I think of a man touching me? Why do I have so much hatred and anger when I think of what happened for too long?
I was supposed to go to the A-Team’s party a couple of days before it happened but I chose to not go. I had asked my rapist, *Ryan, to hang out the night before but he said that he was too busy planning the party. And that was supposed to have been that. But after the party ended, he texted me on Snapchat asking why I hadn’t come. Totally excited and giddy with the feeling of having caught the attention of a frat guy, I eagerly showed my roommate the text. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was receiving my first booty call. I was flattered sure, but it was extremely late at night and I didn’t want to go. And for almost an entire two hours, he kept asking me to “pull up” to his dorm, while I kept telling him that I didn’t want to. His persistence and inability to understand that I did NOT want to go should’ve been a red flag to me.
But he was my friend, so I thought he’d never hurt me.
I asked him if I could come over a few nights later and he was more than delighted to say yes. I carefully did my makeup, put on my cutest underwear and clothes and started walking the mile to Cardozo College. When I finally got there, he came out and greeted me with a warm hug and a smile. We walked up to his room where he informed me that we would have to stay in the living room since all of his suitemates were sleeping. Family Guy was playing on the TV in the background, as Ryan and I got settled in the couch, and after a few minutes, he wrapped his arm around my waist and pulled me close to him. As I rested my head on his chest and heard the steadiness of his heartbeat, a false sense of security rushed over me. I climbed onto his lap and started kissing him soon after. While I kissed his neck and ran my hands all over his chest, all I could think about was how he was more than content to take and take and give nothing in return.
It didn’t take him long to yank my pants down and I don’t remember exactly when he shut off the lights but the room went dark, and within a few moments he had somehow managed to put on a condom and was shoving me over the couch and was inside me and jackhammering away-like they do in those awful pornos. I vaguely remember it hurting so I switched positions so that I was on top instead.
That didn’t last very long.
He shoved me back into doggy style within seconds. He did not ask me if I was okay or if I even liked that position. He did not once speak to me. I can recall him pounding away at me and my body shaking with every thrust-to the point where I thought I might actually fall off the couch. I was staring blankly into the darkness, waiting for him to finish. I was in pain and a little scared, yes, but I didn’t tell him to stop. Up until the very next moment, everything that was happening was consensual. It was incredibly shitty sex, but it was consensual.
And then suddenly it wasn’t.
I had consented to vaginal sex. But when he pulled out and more or less slammed himself back inside me, that’s not what happened. I remember the sex sucking at one second, and in the next, it went from painful to completely excruciating. He was thrusting so fast and so incredibly hard, that he managed to get in several complete thrusts in my anus before my muddled brain got over the initial pain and shock and I shoved him off of me. All I can think of now, as I write this, is how he didn’t touch me. He did not kiss my neck. He did not touch my breasts. His lips touched me nowhere except my own lips. Like my body wasn’t meant to be touched-only to be used for his pleasure, whether it was with my consent or without.
After I shoved him off of me, I told him that he had put it in the wrong goddamn hole, that he did not ask if I was okay. And desperate to write it off as just a mistake, I asked him if he had another condom. Since he didn’t, I offered going down on him in lieu of sex. One of the things that haunts me from that night is the way his hands pushed my head down, and the way he groaned “f*ck” as I stayed there on my knees, feeling utterly dead and emotionless inside.
I remember how quickly I put my clothes back on. I remember crying inside his bathroom. I remember the way he wouldn’t look at me as he told me to get home safe in a bored tone— a far cry from the way he had greeted me. I cried all the way home.
Over the next three days, I talked to four different counselors. I told my friends what had happened. Over and over again, the only question I could bear to ask was, “Was it a mistake?” I even asked him that over text. I didn’t get a full response from him until I said I was going to report him. “Yes, anal nasty.” That was his response. In the very few texts that followed, I had to demand an apology from him because he didn’t apologize on his own. I told him he was messed up.
“Idk what u talkin bout but then again I was not sober at all so idk.” That was his golden excuse.
As I read that sentence again, I can’t help but laugh— especially because I believed him at first. In an attempt to protect itself, my mind desperately tried to play off the situation as though it wasn’t a big deal and was a simple mistake made in the dark. I kept making excuses for him. Over and over again. I wasn’t the only one trying to protect him though. Some told me I was overreacting. Others tried to normalize it.
When I casually mentioned what had happened to me to my older sister, she had stared at me in disbelief and shock. I told her that it was okay, that it was only a mistake.
“It wasn’t a mistake, he f*cking raped you,” she’d said. I refused to believe her. Anyone could have made a mistake like that. Besides, I had already convinced myself that if it was just bad sex, then I could move on and put it behind me. Probably repress it and pretend it never happened. But if it was rape, then I knew that I was not capable of coping with such massive psychological trauma. It couldn’t have been rape. Despite this, I already knew that what happened wasn’t consensual. I KNEW that. Yet I wasn’t willing to call it what it was.
Sexually experienced men don’t make mistakes like that. And those who do, don’t f*cking keep thrusting away. There is a huge difference between what the inside of a vagina versus the inside of an anus feel like. Had it been a mistake, he would’ve been able to tell and would’ve stopped immediately as it wasn’t something I had consented to. He would’ve been groveling at my feet and begging for forgiveness for hurting me. He wouldn’t have shown such blatant disregard and indifference to my pain and humiliation right after it happened and over text, as well. He wouldn’t have blamed it on being high when he wasn’t high enough to be that dexterous and aggressive with my body. He wouldn’t have kept shoving me into a position that gave him the easiest access for anal. It was as though he was testing the waters to see what he could get away with. You see, anal isn’t usually the first thing that anyone jumps to while having sex with someone for the very first time. There are a hundred steps between vaginal and anal sex. He knew that the chances of convincing any girl to have anal sex with him were low. He had full intent to have anal sex that night but knew that I wouldn’t consent to it. So he decided that the next best thing to do would be to see if he could get away with it.
He should’ve known that he’s playing with fire.
Everyone knows the statistics for sexual assault. 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. 1 in 6. In spite of this fact, no one ever expects it to be them until it actually happens.
I keep replaying everything that happened over and over again. And every time I do, there’s a tiny part of me that tells me to let it go and pretend it never happened. That maybe I’m making a big deal out of nothing and blowing things out of proportion. And denial feels incredible in the few seconds that it lasts. It feels like everything is normal, like I’m still me. But it’s a short-lived feeling because I’ll never forget those minutes I spent in that suite, with darkness engulfing me, with him using my body as an object to aid his masturbation, to his pleasure. As though I wasn’t a person with emotions and feelings. As though my body was simply made to be used and torn apart and discarded away. Like trash. Those are feelings that I’ll carry around with me for the rest of my life. His heavy breathing and the way he moaned “f*ck” with his fingers knotted in my hair will be memories that I will never forget.
Dylan Thomas once wrote: “do not go gentle into that good night…rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Yes, saying such optimistic crap is making me nauseous too but I don’t really have much of a choice. It would be too easy to pretend I wasn’t raped— that my body and trust weren’t violated in the most intimate way possible. But if I did that, then I would be invalidating not only my experience but also the experiences of other survivors.
Some days I don’t fall asleep until 5 A.M. because I’m up wondering if I’m to blame-after all, none of this would’ve happened if I hadn’t hit him up. Some nights I just don’t want to sleep because there is too much on my mind that I haven’t figured out yet. I fill every day with distractions and try to not dwell on what ifs. I try to not think about it at all, when possible. I don’t sob hysterically, but I’ll tear up randomly if I think too hard about that night. And when I talk to a guy I’ve never met before, I get paranoid and wonder if he has ulterior motives. I wonder about whether my rapist has been spreading rumors about me on campus. I get a little anxious when my guy friends come too close to me- I haven’t let anyone hug me since then. I get uncomfortable during the sex scenes on TV; something even as simple as making-out puts me on edge. I know that I’m not who I was. I feel different from my friends. I can’t explain why or how, but it’s a nagging feeling that’s just there. It hasn’t been long since I got raped and most days if I don’t think too hard, I’m okay. Other days I feel ashamed and worthless and empty. Like he took everything that made me good and kind and left me tainted with badness.
The worst part is that I don’t know who I’ll turn out to be as a result of this. Maybe I’ll be bitter and angry for the rest of my life. Maybe I’ll never fully trust anyone again. I have no idea what the future holds.
Nevertheless, I do know that there’s a future for me. I’ll end up okay. I won’t be okay for a very long time but I’m not a stranger to trauma. I’ll get through this too. Recovery isn’t always a straight line and there will be ups and downs and there will be days where I’m hateful and vengeful but those days will pass. Beyond anything else though, I’ll remain strong. I won’t be silenced about what happened because I know there are many survivors out there who are afraid to speak out-whether it’s because they’re scared of their assailant or about people not believing them or about being revictimized. I’ll be your voice if I have to be. If you’re afraid, I’ll be your voice. Because none of us are ever deserving of something so terrible. NEVER. There aren’t any excuses for our assailants and we mustn’t blame ourselves. And I’ll be damned if I don’t do everything in my power to protect other girls and women and boys and men and everyone in between from becoming a victim.
In Looking for Alaska, Miles Pudge says, “We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are.” I wholeheartedly believe that. Things aren’t okay now. But I’m strong. I’ll teach myself to be soft and kind and compassionate again. And I’ll teach myself to be capable of love and trust again.
We’ll all be more than okay someday, I promise.
*Ryan: Name was changed to protect his identity.