A lot has been said in the media about the #MeToo movement. I have been a big supporter of it, because being a female in our country’s “rape culture,” can be a very scary thing. But it’s brought up ancient memories of mine, ones that I thought I had long buried. When I first started hearing about the #MeToo movement, I remembered the day I was assaulted, but I brushed it aside, and thanked God that it hadn’t been worse. I recognized that I am okay, that I am lucky that it wasn’t worse, that maybe it wasn’t that bad. And so I decided to write this post. To share my story.
I grossly underestimated how hard it would be to tell my story here. Grossly. I have never told this story, with this level of detail, before, to anyone ever. This post has taken countless hours, and I have shed countless tears. Each time I sat down to write, I felt shame and guilt and sorrow, but I was confused as to why I would feel ashamed and guilty. I wasn’t the one who attacked someone. I never preyed on anyone. I was the one who was assaulted. But my mind wandered and wondered if I was somehow to blame.
The longer I have sat writing this, the more memories of the night have come back. The mind is an amazing thing. It buries bad experiences in order to protect us. It’s a proven fact that our brains lessen bad memories over time – meaning, if something traumatic happens, years later, we remember it as not being as bad as we thought when it initially happened. But we also remember bad memories with much more accuracy than good ones.
My mind has been flooded with memories of that night. Once I opened Pandora’s Box, it all started coming back. The smell of cologne and beer. The clinking of a belt buckle being undone. The feeling of my tight jeans being slid down my thighs. Skin on skin. The dim light coming from the bathroom in the dorm room. The pit in my stomach and fear when I broke free and escaped, running down the hallway.
This is my #MeToo story…
I found myself at a huge state university for my sophomore year of college. It was nothing like the small college I had attended the previous year. While I was at the smaller college, I found myself yearning for the wild experiences that my best friend and then (now ex) high school boyfriend were having at their respective state universities. I was looking for more of the “Animal House” experience.
And that is precisely what I got.
My 19-year-old self spent quite a bit of time partying that year. I was having the time of my life, and getting everything I had hoped for. In hindsight, I realize it sounds absurd to say that I transferred schools to party, but hey, teenagers aren’t necessarily known for their sound life decisions. And it was a life experience that I still don’t regret. I firmly believe the universe doesn’t make mistakes. Every experience is to teach us a lesson of some sort.
It wasn’t long before I met G. He lived in my building, not too far from my room. One day early in the fall semester, my friends and I ended up hanging out with G and his roommate, and he asked for my number later that night. I have never been one that attracts a load of male attention in terms of relationships, so I was pretty enamored that someone would actually want my number. I gave it to him, and we soon started a little thing.
We quickly fell into a routine of hooking up when we returned back to our dorm after hitting the bars or parties. He initially seemed to be interested in more than just a hookup. He was kind, and gentle, and genuinely seemed to care about me. He was a really nice guy, which was so different from what I had grown used to at this school.
It was refreshing compared to the guys I had met at this university before him, who would chew you up, spit you out, and move on to the next girl, all in one night. None of them wanted girlfriends, or to go on dates, and G was different. We would talk and laugh, but I made it clear that I was not interested in anything more than this “friends with benefits” arrangement. At the time, I thought I was a badass who could have hookups with no emotional involvement. Hashtag wrong.
The relationship never involved actual intercourse. There was kind of an unspoken boundary there, and we both knew we weren’t ready to cross it. It was never discussed, but we just knew. At some point, feelings turned. I started to want more than just a hookup from him. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed spending time with him, and how I felt when we were together. By the time I caught feelings, he had dropped his. We had each done a 180. He initially seemed interested in a relationship while I didn’t, and when I started to want a relationship, he just wanted a hookup.
In any case, regardless of feelings, our relationship continued as it had been. Without fail, late at night, there would be a text message or instant message (raise your hand if you’re old enough to remember AIM), and we would connect yet again. But one night, it was different. To this day, I’m still not sure why it was different. Everything about that night was the same as all the previous nights, but the outcome was vastly different. It went too far.
I wandered down to G’s room after we decided to “hang out” (the then version of “Netflix and chill”). Things progressed per usual, but it became clear that he wanted something more that night. He wanted sex. I gently said no, and brushed off those advances. He became more firm and forceful, so I matched his force with many stronger, “No’s.” Two things were apparent: 1) he wanted sex and was getting visibly agitated and angry, and 2) I didn’t want sex, and was getting more and more scared.
At one point, I was on my back on the bed. He was on top of me, and held me down. He pinned my wrists above my head with his hands, and used the weight of his body to hold me there, and I couldn’t move. I wiggled and pushed and used all my might, but he was so much bigger and stronger, and I was no match. I thought to myself, “This is it. This is when it’s going to happen. I’m going to be raped.”
I had always imagined that if I found myself in this situation, I surely would be able to push someone off of me. But I couldn’t. With all my strength and all my willpower, I couldn’t budge him. The fear was unlike anything I had ever felt before, and unlike anything I have felt since. It is indescribable to feel the feelings, right in the middle of an assault, knowing there’s nothing you can do about it. Knowing that someone is using their sheer size and strength to overpower you.
Somehow, I broke free. I couldn’t tell you how. But I remember there was a lot of yelling on my part, in the form of, “Get the *#&$ off of me, what the @*#& is wrong with you, you #*$&*@# piece of *@&#.” I ran for the door, but he beat me there. He stood in front of the door, blocking me from leaving. I couldn’t leave. He wouldn’t move. I was dumbfounded as to what was happening. I had just broken free, narrowly escaping rape, and I was met with another obstacle. Leaving the actual room.
More expletives. More yelling. Lots and lots of loud, loud yelling. I pushed and shoved and tried to get through him, to open the door, and escape. It wasn’t happening. Once again, I don’t know how, but I was able to get through and out the door. I ran down the hallway, continuing to yell, until I was safely in my room.
It was a twilight zone experience. How could someone who seemed so nice, so caring, suddenly turn so angry and forceful. How did a “regular nice guy,” turn into an almost-rapist? There had been zero signs of aggression before that night. Nothing about that night was different than all the other times before. He just had different expectations than I did.
We never spoke again. It was a large campus, but we lived in the same building, and crossed paths from time to time. I would try to walk the other way, or avoid eye contact, and he did the same. It was incredibly hurtful, to have feelings for someone, a relationship over several months, and then experience a betrayal like this. I remember wishing for an apology. Some type of grand, movie-like gesture. It never happened.
As I prepared to write this piece, I wondered what he was doing now. I’m going to date myself a bit when I say that Facebook didn’t exist when I knew him. I remember looking him up on Facebook a few times over the years, but never was able to find anything. And of course, the day I sat down to write this, I found him.
At first, I wasn’t sure if it was him. It took some digging, but eventually I realized it was him. He has a wife now, who looks darling, and two young children – a boy and a girl. This Facebook experience was bizarre and eerie – to be writing a piece about my attacker, having the memories rush through my mind, causing a visceral reaction, and then seeing him as a normal person – a husband and father – after the fact. If I just saw the photos without knowing my personal backstory, I’d think he looked like a pretty nice guy. All-American, maybe a bit dorky, likely a solid husband and great father.
As I looked at the photos of his wife, I wondered if she knows her husband has tried to rape someone before. I wondered if he will teach his son boundaries, consent, and respect. I wondered what he would think if his daughter found herself in the same situation I was in with him, many years ago. I wondered if he even remembers that night. I doubt he does. I wondered a lot of things.
I carry a lot of guilt and shame about that night. Was it somehow my fault? (Spoiler alert: it’s never the victim’s fault.) Shouldn’t I consider myself lucky that I wasn’t actually raped? (I am lucky, yes, it could have been much worse. But no one should ever be in that situation, terrified of what’s going to happen to them, knowing there’s nothing they can do to stop it.) This should not happen to anyone, ever.
I never reported the incident. To this day, when I see reports of sexual assault on college campuses, I internally wonder how many attacks weren’t included in the numbers, simply because the survivor didn’t report it.
I thought long and hard about this article, and whether or not I wanted it published anonymously, or with my name attached to it. Logically, I know I shouldn’t be ashamed that this happened to me. It wasn’t my fault. I did nothing wrong. So why is it so hard to share this publicly, as the author? That, I cannot explain. My hope is that someday, survivor stories help other women speak out about their assaults, and shed light on this epidemic.
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