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Stronger Every Day

I was 18 years old when it happened. I am now 34. It’s crazy to me to realize that it was almost half of my lifetime ago and yet something reminds me of it so often, even now. And then I see this documentary, and the tears surface without my control. I feel compelled to write my story here, even though I’ve told so few people in my life about it.

Sadly I think my story happens to so many women in similar situations. I was a freshman in college, and it was the last day of final exams before everyone goes home for the summer. My friends and I all went out drinking, which was not uncommon and it was a large group of friends at our usual bar. Since it was a special occasion (we had survived our freshman year of college) there was a celebratory atmosphere and everyone drank more than usual, myself included. On the walk home, one of my male friends was especially friendly. We laughed as I stumbled and he held me up so that I didn’t fall. When we arrived back at the dorm, we were ahead of the group so we waited out front for the rest to get back. In retrospect, I think he wanted everyone to see me there with him so that no one would come looking for me later. He kissed me in front of everyone and I was surprised, but flattered. He’d never paid attention to me before in that way.

We kissed for awhile on the front porch of the dorm. Then I told him it was time for me to call it a night, and I was going to go back to my room. He walked me to my room, and when we got there he asked if he could come in. I said no. He suggested that we check our friends’ rooms to find out if anyone was still hanging out. I told him I wasn’t interested, but he persisted until eventually it sounded like a fun idea so I agreed. My vision was starting to get blurry from the alcohol setting in, and I was tired so he had to essentially drag me along with him as we went from room to room looking for our friends (or so I thought). After circling the dorm a few times, he suggested going up to the fourth floor to try one more room – and he knew a short cut. There was an elevator at the end of the hall that was off-limits to students. I’d never used it before. We got onto the elevator and the doors shut. He kissed me. I was okay with the kissing, and I was okay with his hand under my shirt. But I kept stopping him to talk, or to make a joke. I joke when I’m uncomfortable. I realized then, that he’d never pressed the button for the fourth floor. I thought that was odd, but I still didn’t understand what was going on. I remember exactly when it became clear and I stopped being okay with it – it was the moment he started to unbutton my pants. But instead of saying “no, stop, I don’t want to do this” I kept mumbling something about how we should stop and go see what our friends are doing. I pushed him away and went for the elevator button. He held me back. In my head, I was screaming “NO!”, but out loud I was saying, “Hey, let’s go see what so-and-so is doing right now.” Even when he was raping me, I kept thinking to myself, you have to say no out loud so that he can hear you. Then he will stop. But I couldn’t. At that point I was frozen and mute.

For years, I didn’t want to tell anyone what happened. I knew that I had not given consent. I knew that it was rape. But I also knew that I didn’t scream, or kick, or even say clearly “No” out loud. So while I knew that every fiber of my being felt defiled and ugly and wretched, I also knew that most people would not call this rape, because I hadn’t done what you’re supposed to do when someone rapes you. You’re supposed to yell. You’re supposed to have the clarity of mind to say ‘No’ distinctly and clearly over and over again until they stop. But guess what? In the moment, there is another instinct that can take over. My instinct was not to physically fight this man who is twice my size and has me pinned on the floor with both my wrists held in one of his hands over my head. My instinct was to stay still, and keep quiet, and wait. Wait until I could make my escape. So that’s what I did. Not yelling doesn’t make it no t rape. It might make it impossible to prosecute, but it is still rape. To anyone out there who thinks it is their fault or that they caused it to happen, it is not your fault. Just like it wasn’t mine. Did I make bad choices that night? Yes. Did I willingly drink too much alcohol? Yes. Did I kiss him? Yes. Did I ask him to take me to an isolated space, prevent my means of exit, take off my clothes, and physically hold me down while he rapes me? No. Absolutely not.

It has taken me a long time to get to a place where I can come to terms with the events of my life on that day and every day since. I have gone through every stage of processing, from guilt, to regret, to despair, to self-destruction and loss of self. It has been 16 years, and I still have trouble with trust in relationships, but it has gotten easier with time. Today I am the strongest and happiest that I have ever been, and I believe that tomorrow I’ll be stronger and happier than I was today. Even so, I can’t bring myself to talk about what happened with even my closest family or friends. Having this outlet to express my thoughts and feelings is so incredibly freeing. Thank you for making this documentary, and for creating this community of support and love.

2 comments

  • Eileen
  • Alexis

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