*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those who don’t deserve it.
Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault.
The first time wasn’t the only time he sexually assaulted me. But if you’d asked me back then to define those experiences I would have said they were consensual. Uncomfortable and violating, but consensual. And then “friends don’t rape friends. Friends don’t rape friends” would play on loop in my head.
It took me a few years to realize that each of those experiences was a sexual assault. And when I realized what they were, the trauma of them hit me head on. I blamed myself for them. I’m still uncomfortable at the thought of them. I go back to those nights and I hear my voice in my head telling myself I don’t want what he is doing, but I’m paralyzed and can’t speak. I remember knowing he would only stop when he wanted to, that my pleas would be ignored and my fighting arms would be pushed aside. Even though it’s been years, I still feel violated.
Ironically enough, I don’t feel violated when I think back to the night he raped me. Because that night was different since it had started out, from the very beginning, consensually. That night, he didn’t force himself on me to start. That night, he didn’t have to convince me to try something I didn’t want to. That night, I was awake. That night, my vocal chords weren’t paralyzed. I said stop and he didn’t listen. And that, as Detective Olivia Benson would tell me if she were real, was rape.
When I talk about being sexually assaulted, often mentioning it nonchalantly as ‘the other times’, I’m talking about each sexual experience Chuck* and I had together, not including the night he raped me. Those experiences are as much a part of my story as the night he raped me, but because I didn’t acknowledge what they were as they were happening, they didn’t have the same effect on me as my rape. I had told myself if I could still see him, if I could still be friends with him- they didn’t count. “Friends don’t rape friends. Friends don’t rape friends.” But the night he raped me, I knew- in the moment, without a doubt, I knew. That night, as I drove home crying, I knew. The next morning, as I told my best friend what happened, I knew. For the three days after, as I limped around, I knew.
I look back at myself and the friendship I had with Chuck*, a friendship that ended as I pulled out of the driveway at 4:00 AM on the night he raped me. With hindsight it’s so easy to see how over time he was able to shatter my self-esteem and self-worth without me even realizing it. It’s so easy to see all of the ways he manipulated me, the ways he convinced me I was crazy for thinking certain things weren’t okay. It’s so easy to see how each sexual assault got progressively more severe and ultimately leaded to him raping me. I wish I had paid more attention to the signs my body was trying to send me: the bad feeling in my stomach when we first met, the fact that I was never able to get wet with him, the need to drink too much anytime it seemed like we might somehow end up alone.
I spent a lot of time blaming myself for the other times. I was angry with myself because I knew what he was capable of and stayed friends with him. I was frustrated that he’d been able to shatter so much of me without a second thought. I was upset that I had hid what he was really doing to me from my friends because that on its own should’ve been the sign that things weren’t okay. I was heartbroken that I didn’t love myself enough to walk away, that I hated myself to such a degree that I effectively let it happen because I cared more about being his friend than I did about my own safety. But on the night when he raped me after I found my voice, I knew I had no choice but to walk away and save myself.
In writing this I just realized I was right all along. Friends don’t rape friends.
He was never my friend.
THE NATIONAL SEXUAL ASSAULT HOTLINE NUMBER IS 1-800-656-4673.
TO CHAT WITH THEM ONLINE, CLICK HERE.