*Names changed to protect identities.
The first time I met my rapist was at a philanthropic event for my sorority. Because of my lack of experience with guys, I perceived the qualities I should have seen as creepy instead of helpful and friendly. John* was pledging a fraternity, and he would ask me for small favors all the time like helping him make posters and getting me to invite my sisters to pledge parties so there would be girls. Being the nice person I am, I always obliged. I thought I was just a good friend, so when John would get drunk and be handsy with me, I’d just shrug it off and blame it on the fact that HE was drunk and move away from him. When he would say creepy, inappropriate stuff while sober, I would just blame it on the fact that he was a guy. I stupidly didn’t take any of these signs that he apparently was seeking more from me.
When formal time came around that spring, I didn’t have anyone in mind I wanted to take. All of my friends that were guys were already going with my sisters, and since it was my first formal I wanted to go with someone who I thought might be a good time versus a random that a sister hooked me up with. One day, I was sitting in the cubes in the student activities involved talking to my pledge sisters about whom to ask, and John came waltzing in. He sat and listened to our conversation, and jumped in offering to be my date. I figured I knew him well enough that it’d be fine, but that obviously wasn’t the case.
During the week of my formal, he sent me a text that read, “I need a favor.” I was used to helping him out, so I asked him what was up. He responded with “As a part of my pledgeship, I need to kiss a girl in every sorority. Do you want to be the girl in your sorority?” I knew he was serious, and it creeped me out. I just told him “No.”, and ignored anything he sent me after that. The actual night of formal, he ended up being over 2 ½ hours late, and when he did show up one of my close guy friends went up to him to grill him on why he was so rude. I was so annoyed with him, that I ignored him for the rest of the night, and just focused on having fun with my sisters. Later that night while I was setting up for our after party, I went outside to get some air and get away from people asking me questions and making me make decisions. John just so happened to be out there, and we stood out there for a few minutes talking about how stressed I was. He asked me for my hand, and when I asked him “why?” he only told me that whatever he was going to do was going to make me feel better. He then grabbed my wrist, and placed my hand on his backside and starting flexing it. I quickly tried to remove my hand away in disgust, but he had such a tight hold on my wrist that it took a struggle to get away from him. Everything after that moment up until my rape is a blur, and I can only rely on what everyone else told me to know what happened.
After the butt incident that I promptly told my close sisters about what happened, and I did my best to stay away from him all night. Even when I ended up drinking too much that night- I stayed away from him and refused to talk to him that night and told my friends to keep me away from him. At some point, my sisters decided it was time for me to go home. My roommate put me to bed and left me in my bedroom sound asleep. That night, he approached one of my close sisters and asked her where I was. She told him that my roommate took me home because of my state. He started talking about how he felt bad because he’d been such a bad date, and kept asking for my address so that he could “check on me.” When he offered to take her big sister home, she finally agreed. Before he left, she gave him a sobriety test to make sure he was safe to drive. He passed with flying colors and made his way over to me. When he got to my house, he gave my roommate the same speech about how he felt so bad that he wasn’t helping take care of me. My roommate let him up to my room (which happened to be a huge “no no” for me- I didn’t let any guys in my room), and he locked my bedroom door.
Even if what I remember is hazy and almost in slow motion- I can still remember the details and exactly how I felt. Since I was in a deep sleep, I didn’t hear him come into my room, close the door, or lock the door. I came to consciousness when I felt the searing pain of him trying to force himself inside of me. It took me a few seconds to fully realize what was going on, and when I did, I could barely move. It was like I was underwater and had weights attached to my limbs. When I finally gained the awareness I needed to move; I tried to move and tell him “no.” He responded to this by putting his hands on my shoulders and held me down. I was so terrified, confused, and in pain, it was like I lost the ability to speak. Somehow, I mustered up the strength to fling my body off my bed and onto the floor. This was when my roommate realized something was up and ran upstairs to my room. When she got upstairs, I was on the other side of my door sobbing and still in so much shock and confused that I couldn’t even figure out how to unlock my bedroom door. When my dad came later that week to take care of me, my door handle had to be replaced because of the struggle that ensued from both my roommate and me to unlock my door. When we finally did get it open, I remember looking back, and the bastard was just lying on my bed pretending to sleep as if nothing had happened. When my roommate asked him what happened, he told her that we had sex and that I freaked out for no reason in the middle.
When I finally woke up the next afternoon, I was still processing what happened to me. I was also in intense pain. My rapist didn’t know enough about me to know that I’m allergic to latex, and he used a latex condom. Not only was I suffering from a painful allergic reaction, but he also thought it was okay to insert himself into me while I was on my period and wearing a tampon. To say I felt violated was an understatement. I couldn’t even cry because the whole situation made me numb and a little dead inside. The bastard even had the audacity to text me and tell me he left something at my house the next day. I didn’t cry until I called my mom to let her know what happened. She was the first of many people to ask me, “well what were you doing that made him think that was okay?”
Why is it that rape is the only crime committed in which the victim is guilty until proven innocent, and not the actual criminal? Why is it that people’s first reaction to rape is to ask the victim “Were you drinking?” “What were you wearing?”, And my favorite “What’d you do to make him think that’s what you wanted?”. All of these questions are stupid. Rape is NOT about sex. It’s about power. He knew at that moment that I did not want to have sex with him, but he enjoyed the power he had over my body, my mind, and my emotions. He fed off my fear. At the time, I thought the only way to take back my power was not to report him to the police. My reasoning at the time was that by not reporting him, I could control the information and the story that was told. Surely he wouldn’t want to brag about what happened in fear that I’d tell the REAL story? I naively thought that he would be his ashamed by his actions on accord of his conscience. I thought he would learn. I also thought I could control the pain, and how long I felt it. I didn’t want it to be long and drawn out. I desperately wanted and thought I could just put it back of my mind. I also didn’t want to become “that girl.” What I found out, though, was that I was completely wrong. I did become “that girl,” whether I liked it or not.
For the reasons I listed above, very few people knew what happened to me that night. It wasn’t something that I wanted to talk about because I wanted to forget it. I did my best to get through finals, I worked my summer job, and I did my best to pretend that I wasn’t broken. I threw away the clothes I was wearing that night, got new bedding and sheets, and completely redecorated my bedroom so that it would be as far from the place I was raped as possible. My mom forced me to go to rape counseling, but I refused to talk about the rape or what happened to me to my therapist. I attributed the nightmares I had of my drowning every night to stress from taking 9 hours that summer. I was on the classic stage of denial.
The moment that I could no longer hold my shattered pieces together was that June. I was at the pool with some sisters and one of them that I wasn’t exactly close to pulled me to the side to let me know that a bunch of his fraternity brothers was telling people at parties that I was a whore and a liar. He told everyone the story that he told my roommate but said that I was lying about being raped. I just wanted to move on. I gave him the opportunity to do the right thing, and to leave the situation and me alone in peace. That’s the moment that I broke down. The power that I thought I had over the situation was gone. Once fall started, it seemed like everyone I knew, seemed to have some version of the story. I’m not the type of person to just turn the other cheek, and after that moment at the pool, I willingly told anyone who asked me the truth. I realized how idiotic of me it was to assume that he’d feel bad that he put himself inside of my sleeping body without any consent. Rapists don’t feel empathy.
Every day since then, I have regretted my decision not to take matters to the police, and press criminal charges. I realize now that by not going to the police I did a disservice to my healing process and myself. How much time did I waste broken by my denial? I was afraid of condemnation from my peers. I was scared of being labeled a liar. I was afraid of the stigma that surrounds rape victims. In our society, you have every reason to be fear all of these things like a rape victim. Honestly, though, you should not care. I learned that the people who stuck by me and encouraged me to seek help were my friends and the people who whispered behind my back that I was a “liar” were either ignorant, in denial about John’s character, did not know my side of the story, or a combination of the three. When I realized that what the world thought about the situation didn’t matter, because the people who genuinely loved me and I knew the truth, I found my strength. I know him would not have been easy by any means, but it was the right thing to do. In fact, by not reporting him I put other women in danger. A year and a half after he raped me, he raped one of my best friends roommates in the same fashion. Had he been convicted, he would have been able to get the help he desperately needs. A confession would have no doubt started an act of war, but I can assure you it is by no means the war that will be waged within you if you stay silent. You are not saving yourself by not speaking up.
As much as I hate to admit it, the best time to report a rape is right after it happens. If you’re a survivor, and you’re reading this, you probably already know it’s too late to go to the police. I guess the point of telling my story is to encourage people to be proactive in making sure that if this happens to themselves or a friend, to get them help immediately. You will always regret not going to the authorities. If you’re a survivor, and you’re reading this, there is someone out there who understands what you’re dealing with. Please, if you have not already; find the strength to get help. To my rapist, I don’t hate you anymore. In fact, I pity you for the incurable disease that lives inside of your brain. Please take the chance I gave you to get help.
If you or someone you know is a rape survivor please get help and support! Visit the Rape Crisis Center to view resources.