Originally written for herHABITAT in Spring 2016.
Although it’s not the most digestible piece to read, it is significant. Talking about these things and being able to choose how I frame them is important. It’s not meant to be a sob story – and it isn’t a sob story.
It’s a piece on personal power and how we choose to show up in the framework of our own experiences. We get to choose, over time, what and who and how we want to be. I choose to be a person that empowers others with my voice. Who lets you know you don’t have to stay silent, nor do you have to speak up either. I want to be a beacon for the choice everyone has in themselves to decide what is right for them – not dictate their actions based on masses and media.
These days, I don’t think too much about these experiences. At one time they were consuming. I was defined by them. Now this piece serves as a reminder for those times as well as this time, right now, where I am empowered by all of my choices – including the choice to publish this.
TW for sexual assault.
I was 15 the first time I was sexually assaulted.
I had a no-hook up rule for anyone in my school and I held to it well. I never dated anyone I went to high school with, only kissed one of my peers, and generally kept my sexual relations well out of the city. I didn’t want drama or awkwardness. Yes I had a lot of crushes and people I wanted to kiss and people I wanted to want to kiss me but that never manifested.
I like things simple. And the simple truth is that I was forced to give a blow-job to someone who’s name I had just learned when I was originally trying to keep my friend from the embarrassment of hooking up with him when it was rumoured he had a girlfriend. It’s pretty simple that everyone had known what I did when I walked back to my friend group with tights ripped at the knees, and also at the crotch where he tried to penetrate me multiple times in a fucking parking lot.
I went back to my friends house that night, a bunch of girls piled into a living room on a fold out and cried. Not one single person took me seriously that night, no one believed me when I had told them what happened. I was drunk and emotional and had seemed really eager! I think I ended up making the journey back home that took over an hour that night even though it was well past midnight.
Turns out I was right to not want to hook-up with anyone I went to high school with. For weeks after his friends – that I had never spoken to before in my life – called his name after me every time they saw me walking down the hall. The girl that he had been rumoured to be dating and assured me he wasn’t called me a slut and I failed math that year after feeling too threatened and depressed to go to school.
But this was not a hook-up. This was sexual assault. And they thought it was funny. It wasn’t serious – like my casual relationship with rape that was fast blossoming.
About a year later I was drinking in my best friends basement. I had had a weird year with newly formed phobias like thunder and lightning, and being touched – specifically picked up. Whether it was my mom, my grandparents, or my friends that I had hugged 100 times and trusted completely. We were with her boyfriend of the time, his best friend, and a few other guys.
We played drinking games, and were probably all more drunk than we should have been, and the room was a mess of intoxicated, hormonal, teenagers. My best friend and her boyfriend went upstairs and she whispered to me that the bathroom was the best place to go before departing. When you’re 16 hooking up with your best friends boyfriends best friend seems to make sense regardless of anything. It’s romantic. Like a movie. And so we made-out furiously and I climbed on top of him and we did end up fucking in the shower. Which was painful I soon learned and I asked him to stop. And he asked me to give him a blow-job to which said no to because I was still traumatized by gravel in my knees and names echoing after me in stairwells. After he begged me and pushed me down I complied reluctantly and stopped 30 seconds later because I couldn’t breathe.
I told him I was tired and drunk and just wanted to go to sleep, and if he wanted he could cuddle. I went to her sisters bedroom. I looked for the comfiest, unsexy clothing I could find and won with track pants and a hoodie. Not long after he crawled into bed and spooned me hard. Which turned into grinding. Which turned into him sliding down the track pants and trying to penetrate me once again because he “couldn’t sleep if he had blue balls and it was too painful” but shoving his penis into me dry and bareback wasn’t in so many more ways – especially for me.
I spent from 3AM until 5AM sitting in her driveway crying. And when I was sure everyone was asleep I crawled back into her basement and slept until they all came down in the morning. When he left he looked me straight in the eye and said “well, it was nice meeting you” and gave me a sheepish smile. He had no fucking idea what he had done, and truthfully it took me a couple of years to understand that what he did was rape. It was all very casual.
When I was 18 I was in BC. It was my first time travelling. My first time doing something that felt good for me. The end of high school was a mess, I had gotten out of a toxic (but well-meaning) and dependant relationship and I was trying to learn about what I wanted from life; what I could give back; what made me who I am. I spent 2 weeks in a small town with one of the people in my life that I’m closest to and we went rafting, hiking, ate SO much food, dressed up as men and got incredibly fucked-up at a town gender bender party. We had a fantastic time if you sans the hangovers.
One of these days we went on a hike with a guy who was pretty new to town. This transitioned into plans to see a waterfall with his best friend, followed by a truly fancy dinner which we were all under dressed for and ended up costing us all more than 100$ each. We drank too much wine, drove back to the town we were staying in, grabbed a bottle of gin and rounded up some more locals. We drank gin and juice from the bottles by a pond and laughed and told sad stories and bonded. We were all becoming close in that way that drunken people do. The way any people do when they open up.
We wandered back to one of the shared houses the guys were living in and after puking in the toilet realized I was too drunk. It happens. They put me in bed and since it took 5 minutes to walk anywhere in town the person I was with asked if it was cool if I stayed? Truth be told the five minutes seemed harder intoxicated than hung-over.
“Take care of her!”
It was all a joke. Until I woke up naked next to a guy I barely knew and had no recollection of how I had gotten there or what had happened. He went down on me that morning and we “fucked” – in other words I lay there in still-drunken disbelief of what was happening while he went in and out of me.
Not all rape is violent. You don’t always know when it’s happening. It’s hard to wrap you head around. You do not feel like a changed person all at once. Your world doesn’t always shatter. Sometimes it splinters and you slowly pull out the pieces – sometimes waiting while your skin pushes it back to the surface. You try and rid yourself of it, and sometimes it takes a while for it to be apparent what exactly that means.
I got up and went home and told my friend what had happened. I made her come back with me to ask if he had used protection – which he hadn’t. I asked him why he thought it was okay and he said he didn’t know. He had woken me up and I seemed “down for it.” And when I told him I was black out drunk, that I didn’t remember anything, he looked shocked but it didn’t register with him that he had raped me. Just that maybe I wasn’t on the pill (but that was okay too because he remembered to pull out, obviously).
I felt a deep, unshakeable shame. A few years later when I found out my friend and my rapist were dating I felt it again. Every time I see a picture of their serious relationship I remember the casual time I was raped, the time that she said “well it wasn’t that bad” while trying to reassure me about the lack of violence. When I was asked to support the union, I felt shame. When trying to understand the logic of just how exactly the fuck that even started up, I feel shame. Maybe for not understanding? Maybe for trusting her so much? For not being mad even if I’m not accepting? I don’t know.
I’m 20 now. No person will ever touch me without my consent. I will no longer feel shame because of boys who forced me to my knees, or who apparently didn’t force me at all. It’s pretty simple – rape is rape. It’s changed me, I’ve grown from it. I wouldn’t say it’s made me a better person, or that it had to happen for me to learn vital life lessons.
There is nothing to justify these experiences happening, and I’ve made a commitment to knowing that everyones voices, everyones experiences are heard; are made to feel valid; are reassured that rape is not casual – it is serious – and that they have a right to the freedom of speech when they felt the freedom of their body was taken from them.