I was a freshman in college. He was my boyfriend. I can’t remember how long we had been dating, maybe a few weeks. I had never had sex before, but not because I didn’t want to. We were drunk, went back to his room. We were fooling around. We had been drunk and fooled around plenty of times before this. But this time he had sex with me. We didn’t talk about it. I didn’t consent. I didn’t say yes. I didn’t say no. I didn’t say anything. I just laid there. When he was done he left the room to go to the bathroom. I sat there, kind of stunned. I cried. I remember thinking “why am I crying?”
I made sure to stop crying before he came back. And by the time he got back I had pulled myself together and had decided I was going to have a “re-do” of my first time. We would have a romantic date the next night and have a do-over. When I told him this, he agreed. He told me he was sorry, that he hadn’t believed me when I had told him I was a virgin. The next night we had our romantic do-over. We stayed together for another few months. I eventually broke up with him, but not because of what happened.
For a long, long time I did not think of what happened as rape. When I thought about it or talked about it, it wasn’t a traumatic thing, just that I didn’t give consent my first time. I’m still not comfortable describing it as rape. Maybe sexual assault. I don’t know.
What I do know is something significant happened in the three minutes between when he left the room and when he came back. In that moment, I first thought “what just happened?” I started crying. It was so confusing, overwhelming. I couldn’t stop it. Could I have stopped it? But if I did try to stop it would he have gotten angry? Would he have done it anyway? I must have done something that made him think that’s what I wanted. I don’t know exactly what I wanted, but not this. Then I stopped myself from crying and pulled myself together.
What I realize now is that I couldn’t let myself see what happened to me. I couldn’t let myself consider that he might have forced me had I said no. Or if I said no and he did stop, then I’m a tease, I’ve led him on. I didn’t want to be that girl—the tease, the prude, the whiner, the victim, the one who couldn’t handle it. My whole life would change. Instead of being the cool party girl, I’ll be the girl who cried rape, or worse, the girl who was raped.
In those three minutes, without even realizing it, I negated what happened and turn it into something else. I couldn’t handle what I was feeling, so I subconsciously took back control by reclaiming the narrative. I didn’t want to be a victim. So I decide that we are going to do it again and erase what happened. I’m fine. I’m fine.
But, of course, it did happen. I’m not in control. I’m not fine. He took something from me. And I don’t mean my virginity. I mean my agency. It took me thirty years to realize how deeply it affected me, still affects me today.
My work with sexual assault survivors is some of the most personal and most difficult work that I do. My experience enables me to empathize and work with survivors to help them understand their experiences. Even in cases where we don’t end up bringing a civil suit, I know that my work with survivors is a step toward healing.
VT Sexual Violence Hotline: 1-800-489-7273
VT Teen Dating Abuse: 1-866-331-9474
VT Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-228-7395
If have been sexually assaulted are considering pressing charges or bringing a civil suit, you can call me for a free consultation at (802) 327-8458