On Being Assaulted…

*names have been changed, otherwise this is all true

When I was in college, most of my friends were gay males. Any time I had a crush or thought a boy was cute, all of them had an opinion about it. If he was actually cute (and this is not a joke) they would often try to woo him for themselves, test the waters to see if he was actually gay, and if he wasn’t they often would find something wrong with him that meant he was no good for me. And so, I never dated, I never had sex, I never even made out with anyone.

My nights were often spent either alone in my apartment (if my friends were in relationships) or with a gaggle of gays at my bff Chase’s apartment where we often stayed up super late watching bad TV, playing internet games, doing homework, and laughing obnoxiously loud. I don’t want to say these were bad times. They weren’t. But they were troubling. I was quickly groomed into a meek best friend. My greatest quality, they would probably say, was that I was always there for them, and I was sweet. On top of that, I was raised to be a caretaker in an alcoholic household, so it was easy to be exactly the type of friend they wanted. I didn’t even realize there was such a thing as a friendship in which you are not on-call 24 hours a day.

I remember when Mark came around. Handsome, former army man, charming. My friends met him at a gala for the LGBT club on campus. He was volunteering, a huge advocate for equal rights. As they were want to do, my friends flocked to him. And Mark loved them. What was not to love? I gotta tell you, my friends were fucking cool. They were popular, charming, funny, easy to talk to, a blast to party with, and boy oh boy did they know how to say exactly the right things at the right time.

Mark started coming around to group gatherings. I remember Justin, one of my more outspoken friends, vocalizing his massive crush on this former Army, current straight boy. Between Justin and Chase, they were set on turning this boy gay. “He’s definitely gay. He just doesn’t know it yet.” And so, to me, this man was nothing more than another gay friend. I didn’t really even think of him as much more than that.

So, when the night came of one of our friend’s birthdays, I was SHOCKED when Justin informed me that Mark had a thing for me. “He thinks you are so cute.” Nah, not me. No way. Never have any of my friends lead me to believe that any guy was into me. And besides, even if they were into me, they were never good enough. This was all super foreign territory for me. So you know what I did?

I drank. A lot.

While Justin did my make-up, wanting me to “look extra cute” since Mark was going to be there, I chugged whatever alcohol was in the apartment. I filled a water bottle with a mixed drink. We all trekked over to the party. By the time I got there, I was drunk. BUT, Mark was there, and I was WAY too aware of my insecurities and the poking suggestions of Justin. “Go talk to him.” I grabbed another drink and followed instructions.

I don’t remember much else. I blacked out. I vaguely remember coming to as we were making out in the backyard. And then the wobbly walk back to his apartment. I remember laying on his couch and seeing that he was cleaning my vomit off his floor. And then I remember waking up, naked, and him taking me home.

I had no idea what happened. I could assume. But I don’t remember.

Cut to a day later, I’m sitting in the courtyard of our apartment buildings, playing card games with Justin and Chase and another friend. And they are reliving the night. Justin is in tears with laughter as he tells me that Mark said, as he tried to have sex with me, I was crying, “it hurts.” It was so funny to Justin and it was so embarrassing to Mark that I, the nervous girl with all gay friends, was a virgin.

The boys go on to tell me that, at the party, once I had blacked out, apparently I kept telling them I wanted to have sex with Mark. Thinking back, I can assume that means I said I thought he was cute and wanted to go home with him? Who knows, I was 21 and way too drunk to be able to make decisions of my own.

I was horrified by this event. But I also thought was in the wrong. That I, somehow, should have told Mark that I was a virgin. That I should have had the consciousness of mind to go back to my own apartment instead of go home with him. In fact, I felt guilty for putting him in that situation. After that night, I tried for way too long, mind you, to get him to like me. We even ended up hanging out a bunch, and spending another night together. And there was never any romance at all. And I thought, without a doubt, something was wrong with me.

I’ve held on to this for years. I was raised in a fairly conservative Christian home. My mom’s first question to me when I told her my heart was broken (from a previous guy) was, “Are you still a virgin?” So, as you can imagine, this was exactly the kind of situation I felt I needed to keep to myself. There was no way she would understand. And to top it off, my own friends thought it was a big laugh riot. This was my darkness. My mistake. My embarrassment. I bottled it up.

It wasn’t until recently (like in the last few months) that I really started processing this, and I realized that this was sexual assault. And my “friends” made me feel like the bad guy. This has affected me for so long. I have such an incredibly hard time feeling comfortable with flirtation, sex, intimacy. I can’t help but notice how big of an impact this event had on me.

For years after this, I was so sure I would have to tell any guy I wanted to even date that I was “mostly a virgin.” And wow, can you imagine explaining what that means to someone? Especially from the understanding that this was all my fault. When I finally did lose my virginity, by choice, I didn’t even tell the guy. We were both fairly intoxicated. It was fun, yeah, but it felt like a big secret. I felt like I had no power. “Let him do what he wants. Don’t embarrass him. Don’t tell any of your friends any details or things that weirded you out because they’ll probably laugh at you.”

You know what? Fuck all of that. Fuck the sexual taboo. Fuck people who make fun of others for their insecurities. Fuck not being able to talk this stuff out. Fuck not feeling safe. Fuck glorifying virginity. Fuck making women feel powerless. I’m done with that. I’m done with holding this in.

I hope that maybe someone sees this that needs to see it. You are not the bad guy if you were sexually assaulted. You are not the bad guy if you are virgin. You are not a joke. You are worthy of love. You are worthy of respect. And do NOT take people’s shit. Do NOT let them shame you for being vulnerable. Those people aren’t worth your time.