It was the night before Halloween. This would be my very first Halloween as a college student and I was beyond excited. I spent three days planning my costume, watching YouTube make-up and hair tutorials to perfect my costume: 1980’s Madonna on a college student’s budget. I spent hours teasing my long, thick, blonde hair and meticulously putting on my makeup. I then put on ripped black tights, black spandex, deteriorating brown combat boots, my favorite black lace bra, an open maroon and purple flannel, hoop earrings as big as a softball, a big, blinged-out crucifix necklace, and about twenty silver bangles. This was going to be the best night ever, or so I thought.
Of course, there was one small problem, among the people I would be partying with was AJ, who I wasn’t currently really on speaking terms with.
I liked AJ the moment I met him, and I was beyond excited the first time we hung out. We spent majority of the time cuddling on his beanbag chair watching funny YouTube videos, and talking about everything from him being on the wrestling team to how funny he thought it was that I was still a virgin, all while his roommate awkwardly laid in his bed listening to music, pretending to ignore us. That was when AJ decided it would be a good idea to unwarrantedly put my hand down his pants. I was all of a sudden overcome by an uncomfortable and disgusted feeling and said that I had to leave.
Just as I was pulling away he put a tight grip on my arm and said, “You don’t really want to leave, do you?”
Then he did something I had been dreaming of from the moment I met him, he pulled me in, and he kissed me. This was only the second kiss I had ever received, but it was drastically different from the innocence of my first kiss. This kiss was hard, and without feeling. This was a kiss a calculated manipulation tactic to establish his control in our relationship. This left me confused, caught between my feelings for him and the disgust I felt in how he had treated me, and so I ran from that room as fast as I could.
The next day he texted me talking about how fun the previous night was, and how next time we should do more and how he could “make me feel good too”. I could not believe he was talking about the night before, a night that left me feeling sleazy and confused. The problem was, I still really liked him and was desperate for him to like me too, but I also knew I had to respect myself. I responded by telling him that I was sorry, but I wanted to take things a little slower than he did. He never responded.
About a week before Halloween, after an awkward encounter in the dining hall and weeks of toiling over how I had messed things up with him, he texted me saying, “So we’re chill, right?”
I responded with an apprehensive, “yeah, we’re chill.”
By the time Halloween rolled around, I still wasn’t comfortable with what had happened with him.
“Make sure nothing happens with me and AJ,” I said to my best friend, Jacquie, who was staying sober that night.
When we met up with the rest of our friends in a dorm room, AJ was already pretty drunk. He was dressed as white trash, wearing a food stained wife-beater, a camo hat, cut off shorts, a belt with a big belt buckle, and work boots. The first thing he did when he saw me was make a comment about how little amount of clothing I was wearing and then proceeded to grab my chest.
I was offended by the mild sexual harassment, but brushed it off as him being drunk and chose not to say anything to avoid making a scene. I was going to have a good time, and he was not going to ruin it for me
We all ended up deciding to party in our friends’ sweet downstairs, and I was having a great time, was feeling pretty buzzed, and was talking to a really cute guy, Connor. He had his ear pierced and so we switched earrings for a little while, him putting my over-sized hoop earring in his ear, and me putting in his diamond stud. The only picture I have from that night is of Connor with my earring in his ear, that’s the last good thing I remember before everything started going downhill.
AJ would not leave me alone. He interrupted mine and Connor’s conversation and kept grabbing my chest and butt. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to cause a scene, but also didn’t like what was happening, but I also still had some remnants of feelings for him and didn’t want to completely blow him off. I decided that if I just paid more attention to him that maybe he would stop being so crude with the way he was touching me.
I then sat with him and started talking to him, and he kept handing me this cheap plastic bottle of vodka he had brought for himself. I decided that if I was going to have to deal with him, I might as well get drunk while doing it, so I kept drinking. After a certain point I was pretty drunk.
That’s when the RA’s knocked on the door. Everyone was in a panic, half the people at the party ran out on to the patio and jumped over the brick wall to the outside of the dorms. Jacquie, a couple other people, and I ran into the bathroom and hid in the showers. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. Jacquie and I hid in the shower for what felt like hours, and when the RAs stepped into the bathroom to try to get anyone who might be hiding to come out, I held my breath until they left. Finally, we felt safe enough to leave the bathroom, and ended up climbing over the brick wall on the patio to leave.
After that fiasco, Jacquie and I went back to the friend’s dorm room that we had started the night in only to run into AJ, and our other best friend Jill with her quasi boyfriend, Alex, in the hallway. Jill and Alex were clearly wasted and about to go back to Alex’s room to have sex. We all stood outside Alex’s room talking for a little about how crazy what had just happened was, and as AJ, Jacquie, and I said our goodnights to Jill and Alex, AJ reached over and subtly grabbed my chest so that no one but I would notice. At this point I was too drunk to even care anymore.
Jacquie then turned to me and said, “Alright, Mary, why don’t we go hang out in the other lounge with our other friends?”
I drunkenly nodded and started walking away with her when AJ grabbed and said, “No, she’s gonna stay and hang out with me.”
I was too out of it to even respond, so, luckily, Jacquie did that for me. “No offense, but I don’t trust you with her. She’s coming back with me.”
That’s when he started yelling. I was so drunk I couldn’t even process what he was saying, but all I knew was that he was yelling and that it needed to stop, so agreed to hang out with him, under the condition that it was in the open lounge. I reassured Jacquie that I would be alright and she, with great apprehension, left me in the lounge with him.
We spent a few minutes awkwardly talking in the lounge before he said, “Hey I have to get something from my room really quick, come with me.”
Without thinking, I followed him to his room.
When we got there he shut the door behind me and locked it. He then proceeded to talk off his shorts and put on a red muscle shirt (at some point at the party he had ripped off his shirt in an attempt to be funny). He then turned on the TV and lay down on his bed in nothing but his white boxers and his red muscle shirt. I stood there, already slightly uncomfortable, and took off my boots, and all of my heavy jewelry, as it had really started to bother me by the end of the night. I then sat down at the desk chair in the middle of his room.
“Come up here and lay on the bed with me.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Because if I do I know something is gonna happen that I promised Jacquie I wouldn’t and I don’t want to. How drunk are you?”
“I’m not really drunk anymore, why?”
“Because I’m really drunk, and you’re not and if anything happens that’s rape, and I don’t think I’m okay with that.”
Even though I was drunk beyond belief, I was bold enough to say that. I had heard the stories, of girls who got too drunk at parties and got raped, and I always thought I was too smart to let that happen to me. I thought wrong.
“Come on, we’ll just cuddle, I promise.”
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea…”
I was trying my hardest to not let this happen, I knew that if I got on that bed everything would go downhill from there. I was trying, but he was insistent and really wearing me down.
“If you don’t come up on this bed right now, I will pick you up and put you on here myself.”
I laughed, “Oh, yeah, right. Okay.”
I looked at his dead stare and I knew that he was.
“If you don’t get up here right now, I will throw you on here.”
I could tell he was getting frustrated, so I, reluctantly, got up on the bed.
“Okay but we’re just cuddling, okay?”
That’s when he started kissing me. At first I was resistant, but it was just kissing, and he wasn’t stopping.
Then he tried taking my top off and I stopped him. I told him I wasn’t comfortable with that, and with a frustrated groan he stopped trying. Then he started sliding my hand down his boxers and I kept sliding it back up, and that went on for a little while until I realized he wasn’t going to stop, and so I gave in.
Then he started trying to force my head down and that was the first time I uttered the words, “No.”
Rather than stop he just held my head with the same force and looked me dead in the eyes and said, “There’s the door if you want to go.”
I felt completely frozen and helpless as he forced my head down.
It’s weird, the things I remember from the rest of the night, I remember looking at my chipped black nail polish and thinking, I can’t believe I forgot to paint them. I remember looking up at his wall and seeing the canvas board inspirational quotes that looked straight out of a Pottery Barn catalogue’s design for a pre-teen girl’s room. I can remember hearing a comedy show in the background and looking up at him watching the TV while holding my head down, like I didn’t even exist. I remember there being no thoughts in my head, as this moment in my life seemed to go on forever.
I can remember responding to and doing what he told me, but it didn’t feel like me. I felt so detached and confused at that point that I didn’t even register it as me doing those things.
I finally got out once his roommate came home, but I feel that a piece of me was left behind in that room, a piece I’ll never get back. He told everyone he blacked out that night, despite, as everyone remembers, being completely coherent and able to function perfectly, and even able to convincingly tell me he wasn’t drunk anymore. He didn’t speak to me for six months afterward, because, to him, I was disposable. I was nothing better than garbage. I was nothing.
It took me months of denial to come to terms with the fact that I was raped. There were so many grey areas involved that it was relatively easy to write it off as a drunken mistake. I didn’t want my first experience to be rape, I wasn’t the “type of girl” who got raped. He was supposed to be my friend, I even had feelings for him. I think the most difficult thing was that, even after the rape, my feelings for him didn’t just disappear, they merely got muddled with the confusion of a night I didn’t fully understand.
When I finally started speaking up about what happened to me, I got a mix of reactions. Some of my friends were extremely supportive, where as some were downright cruel. I was told that I was lucky I wasn’t “actually raped” because at least he was decent enough to not force me to have sex. I was told that the costume I was wearing was “asking for it”. I had friends tell me that AJ was a good guy and that I shouldn’t be so hard on him, that they wouldn’t stop being friends with me just because of what happened. When I finally told an authority figure, my best friend’s RA, who also happened to be AJ’s, the first thing she did was pull my friend out in the hall and ask her if I was telling the truth, like this was something I would be capable of lying about. I felt invalidated, I felt crazy; I felt like I was making it all up in my head. The only thing that could convince me that it had really happened was the pain, and the sadness. There is no right way to describe how I felt. I felt so much pain and complete nothingness all at the same time. I let what happened consume me, I let it become me, and I stopped caring about myself, my only concern was running as far away from my problems as possible. It’s taken a long time to start recovering and relearning how to be a person, to be me again, and not just be this one moment, this one story.
I never got an apology, I never got any admittance of wrong doing. After our second semester ended, he transferred schools, and I never saw him again.
— Mary Connors, age 20