*indicates name has been changed
TRIGGER WARNING: THIS CONTAINS DETAILS ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT, EMOTIONAL ABUSE, MISOGYNY, HOMOPHOBIA, POLICE, AND TITLE IX.
It happened during my freshman year of college. I was home on winter break and so was *Aidan, an older guy I had previously matched with on Tinder. We’d had a sort of “friendship with benefits” before, so it’s not as if he were a complete stranger. He was a computer science major who stood extremely tall and had an athletic but skinny build. One night, when we were both home on winter break, we had made plans to sneak out at 4 A.M.
Although we’d had consensual relations before, and we’d wanted to again, I tried to back out. I verbally withdrew my consent not once, but twice, and then was forced to do something I did not want to do — something I had explicitly verbalized I was uncomfortable with doing. *Aidan did not listen to me, and he completely ignored and disregarded my consent, both by coercion and physical force.
This had been one of my first experiences with a man, so at first, I didn’t know this was not a normal experience. I didn’t realize that what he did, under federal law was considered sexual assault and under Maine state law was considered rape. I had assumed that men were supposed to be naturally aggressive and forceful — this is not true. Thus, I stayed friends with him for months after. *Aidan and I ate in dining halls together, talked to each other, and spent time together even after what happened. I wish I hadn’t stayed friends with him and I wish I had seen the red flags and realized what had happened sooner.
And as far as red flags go, there were so many others. For one, the way *Aidan talked about women was disgusting and degrading. One night, *Aidan had snapchatted me going on a rant about how “women only offered him bikini pics,” and asking, “what’s in it for me?” He talked about women as if they were nothing more than sex objects as if they all owed him their time and affection. I don’t know why he felt so comfortable talking to me in such a manner, as I had identified as a woman at the time.
Another red flag I failed to notice was how defensive he got when he was accused of being “aggressive” with his ex-girlfriend. At one point, my R.A. had told me that *Aidan went to high school with him and that he was “aggressive” with his ex-girlfriend. My R.A. also sternly told me to “stay the f**k away from *Aidan.” Out of confusion and concern, I confronted *Aidan about the allegation while I was in his car. Immediately, *Aidan became overly defensive. He bit his lip, and immediately called my R. A. anti-gay slurs that I’m not comfortable repeating. From what I can remember, he also hit part of his car while he ranted to me about how wrong my R.A. had been, how I couldn’t believe everything I hear, how “everyone thinks I’m a woman-beater now.”
Once COVID hit the United States and we were sent home from school, *Aidan and I stopped being friends for an unrelated reason. And with all that time to think, I realized that what he did to me wasn’t normal — it was wrong, it was by law sexual assault.
Initially, I didn’t report. The assault wasn’t “conventional,” because I had withdrawn consent, so I was scared police would say I was, “asking for it.” I also tried to rationalize it and tell myself it wasn’t as bad as I thought — sometimes I still do that. I became more anxious and fearful around men, but after the lockdown ended and I moved back to Orono, I started to hook up with men and masculine people once again. However, I wasn’t doing it for the right reasons. I was trying to kill the memory I had of what *Aidan had done to me by sleeping around and sometimes smoking and drinking in excess. It took me a while to realize these were unhealthy coping mechanisms and that I had to stop.
I’m still wary around men, especially men who look like *Aidan. Almost every time I see a tall, skinny white boy with curly brown hair walking around campus, I become physically sick and anxious. I’ve also had vivid flashbacks of what happened.
A few weeks ago, I reported the assault — not just for me and my healing, but because I didn’t want him to hurt anyone else. I don’t have faith that the police or the Title IX office will do anything about it. I just hope he never hurts anyone again.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, rape, or other forms of sexual violence, here are some safe reporters you can go to:
SARSSM– Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine
If you are living on campus, your Resident Assistants are mandatory reporters as well as professors.
The editorial board at Her Campus UMaine thanks Evangelia for sharing their story. We support you always.