Even before my fingers pressed to the keyboard and my words began to appear on this page, my hands shook with the weight of this story.
Long before I had opened my laptop and the only existence of my intention to write lay in my mind, hot tears of anger began to take form in my eyes.
It has been a little over eight years since the following incident occurred and I am still taken aback at my bodies reaction to the memory I have swept under an ever growing rug.
Now I want to straighten my spine, take a deep breath, and pull back the rug. I want to shake it out, clean out the collection of pain from underneath, and lie it down, flat and renewed.
So here goes.
When I was 16, I was neither cool nor popular. I did not attend parties and I rarely went to our home football games either because of social anxiety or more likely, I wasn’t invited. It was also going to be two more years before I received my drivers license so I was almost always at the whim of what my friends wanted to do. That being said, I had a close group of friends and we did all sorts of goofy, teenage things together. I had five older, handsome brothers, three of which attended the same high school before me so I was not seen as a sexual prospect, only as a little sister. It bothered me initially but falling under the radar allowed me to read books and go unnoticed by any undesired attention.
In my friend group, only one of us had a license and a car so we usually followed what she wanted to do. So one night she proposed we go to a party in the next town over. A boy she liked told her about it and requested she bring girls because it was mostly guys.
(Red flag, right?)
I was hesitant because the words guys and party were acceptable on the pages of a book but not in real life. She begged me and another friend of ours and soon we were all in her bedroom, busy pulling clothes out of drawers while plucking and tweezing our miscellaneous hairs. I couldn’t bring myself to wear anything revealing so I wore a pair of black sweat pants, too loose to be considered yoga pants or leggings and a long sleeved, red, Louisville Cardinals shirt.
In the past, when I read things online or heard jokes along the lines of, “Yeah? Well look at what she was wearing,” my heart would race. I would repeat the contents of my outfit from that night to myself like a mantra-
black sweat pants and a long sleeve, red Louisville Cardinals shirt,
black sweat pants and a long sleeve, red Louisville Cardinals shirt,
black sweat pants and a long sleeve, red Louisville Cardinals shirt.
We drove to the party.
Turns out when her guy friend stated “mostly” guys, he meant only guys. Suddenly we were at an unfamiliar house with six guys and us three girls and no one else.
This was our party.
I nervously sat in a corner until one of the guys asked me to play beer pong and not knowing how, I refused as a blush crept up my neck. He was really kind and offered to teach me so we began to play.
And I began to drink.
Suddenly I wasn’t so nervous anymore. Lovely how that works, isn’t it?
The night continued and I began to wonder when we would leave when I noticed both of my friends had paired up with their chosen guys and went into separate rooms. At this point, I was very intoxicated and stumbled my way to an empty bedroom, falling immediately into some strangers bed.
I vaguely remember attempting to lock the door after closing it behind me and wondering why the mattress didn’t have sheets on it and after that, I was asleep.
I don’t want to go into any more detail even though all of these details are as clear in my mind as the exact shade of red of the shirt I wore that night.
I’ll just say waking up to another body on top of you, waking up to feeling a person force themselves inside of you, waking up instantly screaming because you don’t know where you are, and hearing “You said yes, you said yes!” waking up to any one of those things is the one of the worst feelings I have ever experienced.
I never learned his name and I know eight years later maybe I should be at a place of peace now but whoever you are guy-
I fled the room, pulling my black sweat pants up high over my belly button, hoping to hide my shame, and left immediately with my friends. I screamed into my hands on the way home and I saw them share a look across the front seats, half believing me, fully not knowing what to do.
I remember arriving home to my bedroom with pink and yellow painted walls, colors I looked at as my last connection to innocence, my last connection to being carefree and young. I crawled under my raised bed frame, lay on my floor in my black sweat pants and long sleeve, red Louisville Cardinals shirt and I wept.
I am writing this story now, eight years later, because I have felt the crumbling pressure in the past two years of misogyny and sexual harassment. At work and in social situations, I have had men make multiple comments about my body, leer at me, and physically grab me. And unsurprisingly, I’m sick of it.
I am writing this for myself, yes but I am also writing for the millions of other men and women who have felt like they were the word I have detested for years- a victim. To me this word screamed weakness and I never wanted to open my mouth to these truths because I did not want others to see me as a victim or look at me with pity in their eyes.
But the even darker truth is I was afraid others would view me as dirty or unclean. Or worse, not believe me and see me as an attention seeking liar.
None of these things are true but when you have two things in your life that you feel are wholly and rightfully yours- your mind and your body, and the latter is stolen from you either for an hour or a day or even years, your mind can easily follow suit.
It took years before I could hear the word rape without flinching and it took moving a thousand miles away from home to overcome the fear I may run into that person someday. And it took years for me to put these words on paper because I didn’t want to acknowledge the growing mound underneath my mental rug.
The thought of sharing this experience started with one of my friends sharing her own story online. In her telling of being a victim, she was reclaiming her power and allowing others, like me, to realize how strong we truly are.
That was the first domino in this process and the next involved me stumbling across a beautiful, minimalist depiction of a woman’s figure drawn by Frederic Forest. I stared at the few lines he put on paper and as I placed the following lines on paper, I began to cry.
Rub my Clit
No means Yes
I am filled
Not by You
But by a
That rage still resounds in my chest when I wake up from a night terror of someone on top of me. That rage throbs when I read a story of a woman being taken advantage of. That rage has brought me to tears but that rage also brought me here. To a place of understanding and given me the desire to share with others why we should care so deeply about consent.
Consent is something that retains its importance not only with strangers, acquaintance or friends, but also with your partner. Consent is something that should never be stifled or ignored. It is the same as your mind and body in that it belongs to you.
Recently, I felt uncomfortable by a man’s constant comments about my body and I made a comment about it to my male friend. His response consisted of, “Well, I really like him and I don’t think he’s a bad person. I guess cause I’m a guy, those parts of him don’t really affect me.”
I felt that quiet rage stir in my chest but I took this conversation as an opportunity. So I told him-
“I believe it does affect you because these women who are hurt, disrespected, and abused by that person or another persons words or actions are women you know. These women are your friends, like me, they are your mother and your sister, your niece and your future daughter. So it does affect you.”
We sat together and I watched my words wash over him as he realized the truth of my words. He apologized but more importantly, said he would keep it in mind for the future. Because the tolerance we allow for these people who mistreat others, whether it is directed at you or not, is not okay.
I have never been much of an advice columnist in my writing and my desire has never been to tell others how to live their life. In this specific story I’m sharing, I wanted to spread awareness that what happened to me has probably happened to many people you know. I wanted to give a voice to those it has happened to and hopefully make someone feel the same way I did when I read my friend’s story and realized I was not alone.
And if I’m being honest, a small part of me just wanted to express that quiet rage I have felt and still feel at times and I think that is okay too. We should all have the opportunity to scream into our hands or write a poem with a clenched fist that shakes with conviction with each word.
But my main intention is simply to share my story. We live in a day and age where we can easily share our thoughts, our art and creativity, and our experiences. A few lines impressing the figure of a woman onto paper set a fire in my heart that turned thoughts into print. And a strong female sharing her truth inspired me to share mine.
Who knows what this honest telling of a hurt girls story,
or the few lines of a quiet rage,
or the sharing of the fierce determination to learn and grow from these experiences we face,
who knows what all of these things could bring?
Thank you for reading.