(This photo was taken during my senior year of college at The University of Texas at Austin)
This blog, oh boy where do I start? I should first state TRIGGER WARNING for discussions of rape, sexual assault, and shitty humans. The following peice was written in 2014 and edited (only slightly) for a national magazine and online website earlier in 2016. After finally finding the strength to not only write but approve publication of this article, I received word from my editors that while they wanted to go through with officially putting the peice into print they could not. Unless I was to write under a pseudonym or find a way to make my ex boyfriend not as recognizable in my description of him, they would not be allowed to run the article because the person I spoke about has never been charged or found guilty in a court of law in the United States. It could be slander. And he could press charges on me for my claim of rape. I was upset, sad, and perplexed. It’s taken me years to feel like this secret is not my fault. And I don’t care. If I never pressed charges on him, then he can’t on me. More importantly, I hope this can help someone.
I had heard it more than enough times. 1 in 3 women will get sexually assaulted.
I knew the statistics – what to look out for, how alcohol contributes to men taking advantage of women, that assaults often happen at the hands of someone the woman might know, and that being in college I was prone to more violence.
So I took protecting myself into my own hands. I put my keys through my fingers when I found myself walking alone late at night. I tried to lessen the times I would go over to a random guy’s apartment. I never picked up a drink I didn’t make myself. I did this all to prevent myself from being the victim of my own personal crime show.
But I was never concerned about my boyfriend.
Not him. Oh no. He was wonderful. He was the one who I went to when I was having a bad day. He was the one who kissed me, listened to me, and took me on spontaneous trips for the weekend. Sure, he had his problems, probably more than I would care to admit, but he was never going to do anything to me. And if he was it was going to be breaking my heart, not sexually assaulting me.
My boyfriend (we will call him Shawn), during my junior year of college, knew I was still a virgin at twenty-one. Despite a previous relationship and random night hook-ups there was always a part of me that held onto the idea of waiting until marriage to have sex. Sure it was old-school, but I liked the idea of it. It wasn’t about religion. To me it was about having the comfort and acceptance of one person that I could grow sexually with indefinitely. But like many people, I let that decision go. I was in love and one thing led to another and somehow I found myself lying underneath him one night after he made me dinner having sex.
It’s not that I didn’t want to do it, it’s just that I didn’t want to do it right then and there. Still, I really didn’t go out of my way to stop it before it happened. Don’t ask me why I didn’t because I ask myself that all the time. And really there aren’t many concrete answers. None the less, around ten seconds into the act, when I felt him push further, I did tell him to stop. He could sense my uncomfortableness, and mistaking it for me being hurt immediately got off me and asked if I was ok. After a beat I said “I’m fine, I just don’t trust you.”
Call it women’s intuition, call it whatever you like, but it was the truth. I didn’t trust him and as a result something was telling me to stop having sex with him. If you think that he tried to force himself back on me you are wrong. He was actually as a nice as anyone can be in a moment like that. He said I did not have to do anything I did not want to. He went and grabbed me a glass of water and then we watched sports in bed together. And over some awkwardness, a lot of it, I told him that I did not want to have sex again until it was the right time for him and I, and that I would tell him when that would be. I told him that despite me being on the pill he would need to wear a condom next time. I told him that while he was very experienced and used to this, I was not. I also told him I wanted to feel like we had more of a connection despite how in love we were with each other. He said he completely understood. He would wait for me.
Two days later he assaulted me.
I had gone out downtown with my friends that weekend and was at least six to seven drinks in. He had gone out on a “guy’s night” and said that he would pick me up from the bar and take us back to my apartment. By the time I got into his car sometime around 2:30 in the morning I was pretty wasted.
I remember bits and pieces of the rest of that night. I remember him parking, me stumbling as he caught me, slapping my butt playfully as we snacked on whatever leftovers I had in my fridge. I remember me making out with him. And then suddenly I remember me staring down at him, me muttering “what are you doing? Stop real quick.” and him just repeating “God this feels so good. This feels good.” I remember moving up and down and feeling a little dizzy. And yes it felt good but also wrong at the same time. Scary. He was controlling everything – and not in a hot exciting way. When I got off of him, after he got off, I went to my living room and cried openly on the couch.
He then proceeded to walk up to me, boxers back on, and say “I am not going to keep having sex with you if you keep crying when I have sex with you Alyssa. It’s not fair to me.”
Looking back on this I cringe thinking about his words. But at the state I was in that night I wasn’t ready to put up a verbal fight. I was a vulnerable mess. I caught myself saying sorry to him and we went to bed. Just like that, I let it all go.
I’ve been able to think a good amount about that night in the roughly three and a half years since it has happened because I come back often to that week. Three days after he took advantage of me while I was drunk I found out that he had been cheating on me for months with a secret girlfriend from his hometown and various other girls for one-night-stands in between the two of us.
There aren’t good words for what happens when you find out something like that. I was pissed. I was heartbroken. I was even unnaturally apathetic. And the rest of the story goes like this: I broke up with him and told him to never speak to me again. I called him a sociopath, a cheater, and a “virginity stealer.”
His response? “Don’t act like I raped you,” he said with that ridiculous half smirk, half fleeting anger on his annoyingly attractive face.
I wasn’t worried about another insensitive comment from him. I was too busy taking care of my other problems. I was too busy scheduling STD tests, going to summer school, and distracting myself from keying his Jeep.
It was not until a year later that I realized I should have said to him in that moment “but you did rape me.”
He did technically rape me.
I know that people will think that I am trying to pawn something on someone who did me wrong. That is not how it is at all. I am in no way seeking revenge on him because of him cheating on me. That is in the past and something else entirely to get over.
This declaration of his sexual assault is to remind people, maybe even to remind myself, that the line between consent is often unnecessarily blurry. Sometimes that just happens with two equally drunk people. But most of the times, someone, even someone in a relationship, finds themselves getting assaulted.
Shawn knew I didn’t want to have sex that night. Shawn knew I didn’t want to have sex again without a condom. He did it with me anyway unprotected. He knew I was drunk. And even though, looking back, I am sure he was driving buzzed, he was nowhere near as drunk as I was. Nowhere. He used me as a convenience. And he didn’t care.
But the thing is that even though he has been the worst person ever to me he might not have known that he was assaulting me. To him it was not a big deal. I was, at least, one of his girlfriends. He didn’t look at it maliciously. He just looked at is as something normal to him. He could have sex with me half-conscious because in the morning he would cuddle with me and have sober sex.
This is a huge problem because whichever way you look at it, it is still rape. It is just disguised rape. And it has happened to countless of people I know.
I am lucky enough that while I endured a pretty traumatizing mental experience I was not taken forcefully and left with internal bruises, scars, or an ER room. As horrible as it sounds I find some solace in that and I find solace in what I have learned.
I do not ever owe someone sex no matter how many months or years I have been with that person. It is not my responsibly to worry about how much he wants it or how drunk he is or how flirtatious I am. And I will not defend or excuse people who act in this way even if they are my boyfriend. Rapists, assaulters, even those who just take advantage do not wear signs saying they do this. But sometimes they still do it and it is assault
I never talked much about my assault because I did not want to admit that I was one of those girls that had found herself in that situation. I always thought I was smart and confident with the ability to firmly say “no” when I did not want to do something. There was shame, guilt, and a heavy dose of discomfort knowing I was a statistic. Knowing that as much as I spoke about rape prevention, helping survivors of assault as well as leading The Vagina Monologues…I could not recognize what happened to me.
But all of it is not my fault, it was always his. And I am not overplaying or downplaying the situation recounting it, I am calling it exactly as is. Because the truth is he left me with the pain of feeling like he took me without my consent. He left me thinking that people do this to other people all the time. He left me scared and nervous about sex, unable to have it, and wondering about what that might mean for my romantic future.
I ran into him, Shawn, about a year or so ago. He was holding the hand of his new fiancé – now his wife. I was a lot of different feelings again. Angry. Fearful. Sad. Jealous even that he looked like he was having a great time while I still occasionally got emotional about us. I didn’t know what to do. I finally decided to keep on standing at the bar trying to make eye contact with him. Ten feet away, I kept my intense stare, thinking he would look back. I told people later I just wanted to see if he had the balls to glance in my direction but really I wanted to ask him something through that look. Do you feel bad for taking advantage of me? For any of it? But we never did make eye contact.