I don’t know your name. I can’t say I even knew it that night. And almost ten years later I have almost forgotten what you look like. I still remember the white, grandpa shoes you wore. I remember thinking how much older you were. That it was weird you were out with young college kids. You were the cousin of a friend’s boyfriend or something like that. Honestly, I can’t remember. As a dumb, freshly 21 college student, I drank too much. I wanted to have a drinking contest with my friend’s boyfriend. I wanted to prove I could out drink him because in college that somehow was an impressive feat. It was stupid. I was stupid. I remember drinking….a lot. Shot after shot, drink after drink. It was Panama Hattie’s in St. Augustine during their sink or swim night. You pay an amount and drink as much as you can. What a dumb concept. As a 29 year old, happily married, mother of two, I think, “Damn, I was an idiot.” I look back on that night and feel shame and guilt because I drank too much. I should’ve known better. I was there with two girlfriends. They drank too much. We all drank too much. Funny enough, you didn’t drink. You were the DD, the responsible one. I remember walking to your car. I remember throwing up the artichoke sandwich I had for dinner as soon as we got to the house. I remember my friend’s boyfriend smoking weed and immediately getting super sick. Throwing up. My two girlfriends were so preoccupied taking care of him. And you were quite the “gentleman” offering to take care of me. I could barely stand or talk.
The rest of the night comes in flashes, some of which came back to me days, months, years later. I don’t remember much so I’ll write what I do remember. I remember you kissing me after I threw up, gross. I remember I didn’t really want to but you kept insisting. I remember you laying on top of me on my friend’s couch. I remember wanting you to leave me alone, to let me sleep. I remember you kept waking me up to kiss me and talk to me. I remember wanting your body away from me. I remember you asking if I was really a virgin, a fact I had mentioned during our time at the bar. I remember saying, “yes.” I think that is the only reason you didn’t have sex with me but maybe that is giving you too much credit. The rest is a blur. I vaguely remember you sticking your fingers inside of me. I remember pushing you off, wanting you to stop but you kept going and I was going in and out of consciousness so I couldn’t really articulate myself. I remember waking up in the middle of the night next to you. I remember crawling into bed with my friend. I remember waking up in her bed, telling her that I think you had taken advantage of me. I didn’t want to see you. I wanted to wait in the room until you left. I remember feeling disgusting and dirty. I remember feeling like it was my fault because I drank too much. It was my fault because I didn’t look out for myself. And then I pushed the memory to the back of my mind. For the past eight years, every time the memory snuck up on me I pushed it away. I don’t want to remember. I don’t want to know. I don’t think we had sex or at least sexual intercourse but maybe we did, I’m embarrassed to say I can’t remember. I know you at least sexually assaulted me with your tongue and your fingers. Even writing this I want to shower. I want to push it away.
I read an article today. It was about the swimmer Brock Turner. It was the statement the victim he sexually and physically assaulted had given during his trial. As I read it, everything came flooding back along with bile. I felt like I was going to throw up. In that moment I realized, it wasn’t my fault, it was your fault. You were sober. You saw me throw up, slur my words, stumble. You saw I was unable to string together words to formulate even the most basic thought. You saw how much I drank that night, how I slipped in and out of consciousness and yet you still shoved your tongue down my throat. You still shoved your fingers inside me. You still groped my breasts. It wasn’t my fault because I’m a girl, because I dressed a certain way, because I drank too much, because I couldn’t fully and clearly say no. IT WASN’T MY FAULT. You are responsible.
I never reported the incident like so many girls. I never reported it because I couldn’t remember enough, because I felt partially responsible. I wish I had. Maybe you would’ve been held accountable. I saw you years later. I was at a club with my good friend. I saw you on the dance floor grinding on a girl that could barely hold her head up. My stomach dropped. I always thought that if I ever saw you again I would march up to you and tell you what you did was wrong. That what you did to me was terrible. That you were old and gross and awful. Instead, I turned to my friend and asked her if we could leave immediately. Your face made me sick. The flashbacks of your hands on my body made me sick. I wanted to run. I wanted to hide, to shower, to die. I thought of that poor girl, possibly your next victim. I thought of how many girls you may have done this to in the past. It made me sick.
I am writing this now because I need to. Because I need the world to hear me, to know that YOU WERE WRONG. Maybe you were hoping I would never speak out. Maybe you honestly don’t believe you did anything wrong but you took advantage of me. You assaulted me. I didn’t hold you accountable then but I sure as hell will now. You are not the victim. You did not have someone enter you without permission. You did not have someone violate you. You do not know the sickening feeling of thinking about that night. In fact, you were that one that did that, to me. I do not forgive you. I do not feel sorry for you. You are a predator and I hope that somehow, someday you will be held accountable. As for me, I will no longer keep silent. I will no longer cower in shame and guilt. I will no longer stand aside and continue to perpetuate this lie that sexual assault isn’t “that bad”. I have to speak out. I have to. And all I can hope is that my words help someone else speak out. That my words can add to the dialogue about rape. The more of us that speak out the more power we have because at the very least we can empower each other. We can feel less alone, less responsible. Together we can stand together and say, “This is wrong!” My body is not for someone else to use at their leisure on some technicality. My body is mine and a violation of that is exactly that, a violation! Not a mistake, not an error in judgement, not a debate for others to chime in on.