8 Ways I’ve Successfully Dodged Unwanted Male Advances, and One Way I Didn’t

  1. Rolled skillfully out of a hot tub after undoubtedly the worst kiss of my life. I continued rolling until I reached the side door and crawled into the house.
  2. Cried in the bathroom at my Sophomore homecoming until someone could pick me up because I didn’t want to spend time with my date.
  3. Refused to sleep in the same bed as a friend.
  4. Stopped texting back after things became inappropriate out of nowhere.
  5. Dressed down, stopped showering, did all I could to be unattractive to a friend who wanted more.
  6. Dodged a kiss by closing a gate between us.
  7. Reported a co-worker for sexual harassment. (He was fired months later for an unrelated reason.)
  8. After realizing I’d been roofied, I got a friend to call us a car.

With all the harassment/assault stories breaking over the last year, (Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, etc.) I felt it important to remind people that these allegations are not exclusive to men in high power positions. All women in one way or another have a story to tell. The more that these men’s actions are brought to light by women and men who feel strong enough to relive their experiences, the more all women can feel comfortable sharing their stories and hopefully bring an end to these actions. There are plenty of reasons to be afraid to tell your story, but there is fear in reliving the incident almost daily (alone), too. I’m still terrified to tell mine.

I was 16. I don’t know how old he was, but he went to a different High School with my friend Shelley*. Shelley drove us to his apartment to smoke hookah and hang out. She had a crush on him and wanted to see if I’d like his friend. It was the first studio apartment I’d ever been in and I thought it looked more like a motel room than a home. The four of us played ‘Never Have I Ever’ and it came out that I was a virgin. He asked more inappropriate questions that made me uncomfortable. The plan was to stay there, and somehow I ended up in the middle on his bed, he to my right, Shelley to my left. His friend slept on an air mattress on the floor by Shelley. I fell asleep.

I woke up in the middle of the night with his hand in my underwear. He fingered me and started to kiss me and grope my breasts while I laid there. I pretended to still be asleep because I was so scared and confused. After it had gone on for a few minutes, I instinctively kissed back, and he asked if I wanted to go into the bathroom with him. I luckily got the courage to speak and said “No. I want to go to sleep.” I don’t remember how he stopped, just that he did. I slept there the rest of the night and begged Shelley in the morning to drive us home right away.

I remember exactly what I wore that night. I remember feeling guilty because Shelley had a crush on him and was scared to tell her what happened. I remember that I hadn’t shaved and I was embarrassed that he was touching me. I remember this as my first sexual experience. I didn’t have the words ‘sexual assault’ for this night until a few years ago, I thought maybe it wasn’t a big deal. I thought because I wasn’t raped that it wasn’t okay for me to be affected by it. I was asleep. I could not have consented. I still have to remind myself that. I have to tell myself it wasn’t my fault. I have PTSD; he probably doesn’t even remember he did it.

If you have a story to tell and are too scared to tell it, it really does help to talk about it. To hear another person validate your experience and say they believe you, and that they’re sorry this happened to you, can be very healing. Talk to someone you trust if you don’t feel ready to tell everyone. Don’t hold it in anymore, you owe it to yourself.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can seek help by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800–656-HOPE.

*name changed