When I was 18 years old I was like a lot of young women-dating, trying out relationships, making mistakes. My biggest mistake was to trust a “friend.”.
We had a passionate relationship at the start. We were both college freshman, I had a long-distance boyfriend that wasn’t working out-and we became intimate though never officially boyfriend & girlfriend. He was inexperienced, and fell in love with me very quickly. Looking back, I should have seen many aspects of his behavior for the red flags that they were: he often persisted in pressing me on things when I’d already said no many times.
After our first semester, when I went home for Christmas break, and spent time away from him, I had the time to reflect on our relationship. I was no longer comfortable with it. He was in love with me, but I was not in love with him. I had not yet totally broken things off with my long-distance boyfriend. The winter break allowed me to see my relationship with him clearly for the first time: we were both using each other in a way that was not healthy for either of us.
I called him over break and told him in no uncertain terms that I cared for him deeply, and knew this would be hard-but we needed to stop being intimate with each other. I was being dishonest to him, myself and my boyfriend. I apologized to him for hurting him, and told him that he meant a lot to me and I hope he realized that-but we were not being healthy. He pressed me on this, he argued, but I remained firm. Our relationship was over, and while I would understand if he didn’t want to, I hoped we could be friends at some point.
When I returned from Winter break I met up with him-I felt guilty that I had hurt him badly. He made several passes at me and I pushed him away: I told him I did not want to do this anymore. Then I made a grave error: I opened a bottle of cognac a friend had given me and poured out small shots for us and a few other friends in my dorm room. I myself kept the bottle and ended up drinking all the rest of it over the next few hours. My friends eventually left my dorm room-and I became so drunk I could not stand up. I actually crawled down the dorm hallway after a trip to the bathroom because the floor was moving underneath me, it felt like a boat swaying. I was laughing, and crawled into my dorm room.
The next thing I remember clearly was waking up the following morning alone. I felt strange. When I reached down and felt between my legs I realized that while I was drunk and blacking out-he had made more passes at me and had sex with me. I was immediately horrified. I had made it very clear before I began drinking that I did not want to be intimate with him anymore. When all my friends had left and I was so drunk that I couldn’t stand up, he decided to pressure me into sex when I was no longer capable of consent.
I had brief flashes of the night before, of myself drunkenly slurring that he needed a condom-of passing out and waking up to him having sex with me.
When I called him and asked in a very serious voice: “What happened last night?” he broke down crying and said he was a rapist. He said those words. He knew what he had done was wrong. I tried to excuse it because he was “so in love with me” and I felt guilty for not loving him back. I made excuse after excuse for him, and he was ashen faced walking around campus for the week after the incident.
At some point, he told a few of his dorm friends some version of what happened. They were all men, and they all told him he had not raped me. We had had sex before, and I did not fight back so it was not rape. I looked up the legal definition of what he had done to me in the New York State penal code: it was sexual assault. Because I was intoxicated and he was not (one small shot of liquor was all he had, and the assault took place 4-5 hours after he had drank it, if he had been breathalyzed by a police officer-he would have been classified as sober) and I had clearly told him “no” before getting drunk, so drunk I could not stand-talk properly-or remain conscious-it was clearly sexual assault.
I did not go to my campus rape center, or press charges because I knew how hard it was for the victim in even clear cut cases of violent rape. I did not want this incident to define my entire college experience. I did not want to be branded as a “slut who deserved it” as I surely would have been.
I ended up failing out of college the semester after the assault. The few friends I told at first did not want to believe that it had happened-they were in shock and I think felt guilty they had not intercepted me when I was very publicly drunk and then alone with him. They quickly ended up taking my side, as did another friend of mine who talked to me for hours about the situation and even came with me to confront him about his actions. I had my say-he was in full denial at that point-but it didn’t matter, I had stood up to him and that meant something to me. I told him he was lucky I did not want to press charges on him-that what he did was wrong even if he didn’t think it was & he would come to see that later in life.
I ended up getting back into college and spent 5 semesters on the dean’s list and was top of my class in my major department. I sometimes saw him on campus and it often made me sick to see him. My friends would laugh at him to make me feel better, to cheer me up & it helped but I still was angry that he suffered no consequences for his behavior. I saw him with other girls and I would think: what did he tell them? Did he tell them I had made it all up and that he was the victim? Did he say nothing at all?
I wish I had never trusted him, but what happened was not my fault. He made bad decisions because he wanted to have power over me. I had broken his heart and he could not handle the fact that I did not want to be intimate with him anymore-I believe it made him feel small so he decided to try and make me feel small by taking what he wanted when I wasn’t conscious enough to say no anymore.
But I do not feel small. I still stand tall-I took control of my life. He will have to live the rest of his life, deep down, knowing he assaulted me. He used the word rapist first-he knew what he did was wrong and all the lies he has told himself about that night can’t cover up the truth.
I wanted to tell my story here because it is in the “grey area” of rape. It was not violent rape, he did not get me drunk or drug me. But he did sexually assault me. I want other people to know that it isn’t just a scary stranger you have to protect yourself from: it’s also friends and people who claim to love you or care for you. Do not get intoxicated alone with someone you do not completely trust. Have a platonic friend check up on you periodically when you are very drunk. There is no fool proof system for protecting yourself from acquaintance rape, but thinking about these things can help.
It is not your fault.