I’m Not a Slut Because I Was Sexually Assaulted

Trigger Warning: Sexual assault

Most college students have their wild venture into booze and boys and fun as soon as they get to campus their freshman year. I—quiet, wanting to do well in my classes, and afraid of getting in trouble—decided that I would be better off drinking hot chocolate and reading a Harlan Coben mystery novel on Saturday nights instead. 

Then I got my first B, my friends stopped asking me to hang out because I always said no, my mom got sick, and my world of perfection didn’t seem so perfect anymore. I went to my first college party, made out with a cute guy I didn’t know and woke up with a blaring headache of a hangover the next morning and had the time of my life. Needless to say, freshman year ended with a bang and sophomore year was looking up.

Life when I got back to school sophomore year revolved around cheap tequila, a long list of boys texting me and a start on my double major of bullshitting. My grades were still good, and I was involved on campus--I seemed to have found the perfect balance. But something wasn’t right.

I had never been popular in high school—and I was okay with that. But suddenly I had all these friends, guys that wanted to get to know me, and leadership roles on campus. I was having a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong. The problem was that I seemed like I had confidence, I seemed happy, and I seemed to always have a smile on my face. And it was all fake.

I was petrified of screwing up. I needed to do well in school, excel in my extracurriculars, and account for a good time on the weekends. I was constantly looking for someone else’s approval. 

And where did I find that approval? Usually with some cute guy who was older, well-liked, played a sport, whatever his allure was, who would make me feel like I was pretty and smart and nice and fun until they dumped me when something better came along.

Feeling like I was never good enough didn’t exactly help my problem.

I got into this cycle. I’d go out on the weekends, have a drunk guy come up behind me, start dancing with me, and asking me to go back to his room with him. I didn’t know how to say no.  I’d make out with him, have him walk me home, and he’d text me for a while until he got bored with waiting around to jump into bed. Then a new guy would come along. I’d swear up and down to my friends he was nice and different, and he’d do the same thing.

So I started giving in. I started giving what they wanted. I got my approval. And guys started to expect it from me.

The first time I heard someone call me a slut, I got angry.

The second time I heard someone call me a slut, I cried.

The third time I heard someone call me a slut, I felt numb.

I knew deep down I wasn’t whatever slur I was being called, but when you hear something enough, it starts to resonate. 

The worst part was when I did say no to a guy, they still called me those names.  And they still expected me to do what they wanted. And when I didn’t? More rumors and more words were slurred at me.

I began to think it was normal.

And then one Saturday night came along. I was sober, the guy I was seeing had just dumped me and I was taking care of some kid who was throwing up from 10 shots too many. A friend of mine offered to drive me back to my dorm. I told him no thanks, the walk was short and I needed some air. He insisted. I shrugged my shoulders and said okay. And less than 30 seconds into the ride, he pulled over off to a wooded area and tried to kiss me.

I kissed back. 

He was my friend. I trusted him. I was sad.

And then his hands went lower and I pushed back. I gave him apologetic eyes and told him that sorry, but I didn’t want that. He responded with another kiss. I pushed back. He pushed me down.

I said no 17 times before he was satisfied and told me I could get out of his car.

I walked back to my room crying.

I never told a soul.

Had I reported it, the rumors would have swirled—I saw it happen to other girls. I kept thinking about what would be said: I was a slut, I had asked for it, and I had kissed him back. He was an athlete, a good student, a nice guy. I was a psycho bitch wanting to get him in trouble because he didn’t like me.

I started to believe it. Maybe I did ask for it. Maybe I was a slut.

Fast forward to this very moment. I am writing this. I am telling my story. And I am still trying to convince myself that it wasn’t my fault.

Junior year, I got involved with learning about sexual assault, going to trainings, asking questions, and joining organizations that had the mission of raising awareness. I heard stories of women who had gone through the same thing. I was told over and over that there were no excuses for a man not to listen to the word no. 

I am now a senior who wants to make a career helping those that have been impacted by sexual assault and violence, and I realize that I can’t do that effectively if I still believe that what happened that one night was my fault.

It wasn’t. 

But I still don’t know how to convince myself of that.

The guy is still around, still walks around with his head held high acting like big man on campus, and still has the gall to say hi to me when I see him and ask me how I am.

I ignore him. But I can’t ignore how he makes me feel,

I should have reported what happened.

I should have told a friend what happened.

I shouldn’t have felt afraid to tell someone about it. I shouldn’t have to deal with this.

I am not the only woman this has happened to.

I am not the only woman that has been raped by someone they know.

The problem is simple. I said no and I was assaulted, but to other people that means that I was a slut who was asking for it. 

I think about every detail of that night. Was I wearing provocative clothing? Was I flirting? Did I lead him on?

The answer should be apparent: It doesn’t matter. But I haven’t convinced myself of that yet.

No means no.

No means stop.

No does not mean yes. Under any circumstance.

Start talking. Start standing up for yourself. For your friends. For those you’ve never met. 

I guarantee it will change someone’s life.