Rape is an ugly word. Short, finite, guttural. The word reflects its own nature, the lasting impact a few moments can have on your life.
And yet often so many of us refuse to use it. For so many years I did. Because I thought of rape as an extreme word to use for extreme circumstances.
But often the circumstances aren’t extreme. Mine was a cliché.
14 years old, dressed in what I’d now consider a top, tight black and showing off legs which haven’t yet found their curves. I went to my first proper high school house party; no parents, buckets of booze. Summer encourage us to take risks, bare our skin and relax. My cousin who I tagged along with had a fight with her boyfriend and left me. I sat flirting with boys whose names I’ve long forgotten. Showing off how quickly I could finish beers and Bacardi breezers. Then I began to get nervous, the one boy years older had become to leachers. Warning lights pinged off in my head. Another boy chivalrously offered to help me go find my cousin ( a pretense to escape the predatory teenager I had been talking to). I smiled and got up with him, grateful for this small act of kindness. We walked around the unnecessary large gardens, up to the tennis court in search of her. We stopped on swing set at the top of the hill, over looking our cohort of gangly teenagers drunkenly acting beyond their years. He kissed me, and I enjoyed kissing him. Slowly he pushed me down on to the hill. I wasn’t a virgin, but the sex I knew was with my boyfriend who I loved. There was nothing after the kissing, no intimacy, no mouths tracing over body parts. He got out a condom. I was 14 I admitted, this would be counted as statutory rape. The excuse fell on deaf ears. As he pushed my thighs apart the world spinned. I didn’t want this. Maybe this isn’t a good idea I said. I should go find my cousin. I didn’t scream no in his face. My mouth wasn’t covered with a rough hand. I pushed him off me and stood up, the tears which had been welling in my eyes rolled down my cheeks. I pulled my dress back down, and moved my underwear which had been simply pushed aside. I ran.
He came to find me. He apologized, he asked to wait with me for my cousin. I didn’t want him anywhere near me. I recoiled at his touch. I told him to leave. He didn’t, he waited for Lindsey to come back. I explained to her I had too much to drink and we went home. He asked for my number, I refused. The next day he texted me, getting my number off my cousin. He was intelligent, and sweet and charming. I didn’t want to be the cliché, getting too drunk, getting taken advantage of. It was my fault for wearing that dress, going to that party, going off with him, not being able to handle my alcohol. I re-wrote the memory in my head. He wasn’t a bad guy, he couldn’t be a rapist. That’s not what it was. I lied to everyone about this, including myself. I told my boyfriend at the time that I had cheated on him. I let my boyfriend fill in the details for himself, that it was in a bedroom for hours. Not for a few moments on a hill top. For years my boyfriend emotionally punished me, shamed me for my indiscretion. I took all this because this was the better way to think of it.
As I got older I began to understand it differently. I was a child. Of course I couldn’t handle my alcohol. I shouldn’t have to make excuses to try and convince someone it isn’t a good idea. I should know how to say no, and he should be waiting for me to say yes. He was a nice boy. But he grew up in a society which didn’t teach him what consent was. In a society where I blamed myself for what happened, and that I got what I deserved. I never reported it. I didn’t want to ruin someones life. I didn’t want to hear what I already knew, that I shouldn’t have dressed like that, spoke like that, drank like that, gone off like that. I hadn’t kicked and screamed in an extreme way. Maybe it wasn’t clear cut rape, but it wasn’t consensual sex either. It was that hazy grey area which so many of us push to the back of our minds and qualify however we know best.
I don’t want sympathy or attention. I’ve made peace with the situation the best I can. But I want it to mean something. I want it to add to the dialog. For people to understand what consent is, so drunk 17 year olds on hillsides don’t get it so badly wrong.
— Survivor, age 21