Sometimes I think of what defining moments are. I think about what mine would be, and I hate the fact that it’s the moment I lost all trust in guys, questioned who I was, and lost a bit of who I think I was meant to be.
I’d like to explain a bit about what being sexually assaulted does to some girls (keeping in mind, everyone copes differently). I viewed what had happened to me as having been my fault. I got too drunk, I trusted (and liked) him, and I had gone up the stairs with him willingly. But the fact remains, when someone is too drunk to say no, or in my case, too drunk to say anything, what happens next should not happen at all.
After that night, I remember when the first person asked me if it was true, and I burst into tears and ran out of my class. That was person number one. After that, my other friends found out, and they laughed implying that I should have known what type of guy he was, and asking why I would have got myself into that situation in the first place. To you: if I could go back, I would never have smoked and drank with him. I would never have gone up those stairs. I would never have wanted to feel like I had given him something I could never take back, and I would never have wanted to have the next years impacted by what happened.
After that, all I wanted to do was regain control of my life. That’s what some people might find ironic: after experiencing something like that, your autonomy is lost. How do some girls (like me) try and regain their autonomy? By sleeping around.
I remember that summer all I ever wanted to do was hook up with people. When an opportunity arose, and this one guy actually told me I was too drunk to have sex, I yelled at him for leading me on. In the days after this I asked myself who I even was. I knew what it was like to have something done to you you didn’t want, yet I yelled at this guy for not sleeping with me? I was so desperate to get back to myself, and to feel like my sexuality was my own, that I let it get the best of me. I’m still sorry for having done that, but at 17, fresh out of high school, it was hard to cope with what had happened.
Going to university, I realized I had to be drunk to have sex. And I’m not saying just a little buzzed – I’m saying pretty wasted, enough to have confidence resulting from the lack of mental capacity to think about what I was doing. I had to be drunk enough to stop thinking because it’s amazing how trauma follows you around. The smell of latex made me cry (pretty weird when you tear up because someone is blowing up balloons!), the mandatory sexual assault workshop during o-week made breathing hard, I started seeing myself in my Gender Studies textbook when girls would talk about sexual assault, and I didn’t know how to deal with it.
Honestly, I still don’t know how to deal with it. Having girl friends who have had similar experiences (and it makes me so sad that this is so common) has been the most important aspect of me moving on. It’s incredible how a “he shouldn’t have done that” or validation of any kind can help you come to terms with a traumatic experience.
I wouldn’t say I’ve “moved on” (because do you ever really?) but I try and recognize when my decisions become reckless due to a want to regain control. After another extremely unpleasant situation, I pleaded with myself to stop letting these experiences rule my life. Yes, that first experience has an extreme influence on how I think of love, sex, respect, men, drinking, rape, coping, and many other things, but I can’t give him the power to mess up my life. I’m trying hard to surround myself with the good guys, the good listeners, the good friends, and to get through what happened when I was 17.
I’ve had multiple men call me a “man-hater” and this really hits hard. I’ve chosen to trust the guy I’m with now to show me that not all guys are like the ones I’ve experienced in my life. I look at my dad, who’s the most amazing guy I’ve ever come across, and I find hope in knowing there’s at least some out there. But it always stops somewhere.
I now feel like there is a line for what men can understand when talking to a woman who has experienced sexual assault. I’ve been called a man-hater by guys I thought were my friends, and it’s difficult to explain to them that by 19 I had three different defining experiences that I’ll remember forever, and I’ll hope my daughter never goes through. It’s hard to not be scared of being alone in a room with male friends when you’ve had someone you trusted show you that they are predatory. It’s hard to not have a vendetta against men when you can count in double digits how many sexual assault experiences you’ve heard of, when you’re only 20, and those are just from the girls who trust you enough to confide in you.
I want to end this with the statement, I do not in any way hate men. I hate rapists. I strongly dislike people who think it’s funny to joke about something that has the power to make you question who you are, and to take over your life. It is the most isolating experience. It makes you hate yourself.
So to the guys: instead of attacking me for thinking I hate men…please be patient with me because I have experienced firsthand the dangers of what SOME men do when they’ve had a couple drinks and think no one will find out. Show me that you are the good guy, the good listener, and that you recognize what these men do is wrong. I know that the bad is only in some men. But please don’t call me a man-hater. I’m just trying to get through things.