This article will contain sensitive and potentially triggering subject material regarding sexual assault, so please take care of yourself and proceed with caution.
I don’t remember everything about that night, which is both a blessing and a curse. In a way, I’m thankful because it saves me from reliving the details of the trauma. In another way, it frustrates me and scares me. What if I’m misremembering details? What if there’s something I could’ve done to stop it and I don’t remember?
The #metoo movement began the same week of my assault. When #metoo spread like wildfire on Facebook, three things happened to me. Firstly, I felt an incredible sadness that so many women in my life had been assaulted. Secondly, I felt infinitely less alone. Lastly, with every hashtag, his name rang through my head. Me too, me too, me too. It happened to me too
I posted the words “Me too.” with no further explanation, no more context. Writing those two words felt like writing a novel. I couldn’t bear to put anything else. Forty-five people reacted. Thirty-one likes, ten hearts, four crying faces. No one pressed for details, no one messaged me, and I’m grateful for this. I didn’t want to explain myself, I just wanted to acknowledge what happened to me.
I don’t remember everything about that night, but I remember saying no. I remember fighting. There was no ambiguity in my actions or my words. I said no. I pushed, I shoved. Ultimately, I lost. This is clear in my memory, so why was it so hard for me to absolve myself of fault? Over and over again, I had this battle in my mind; one side of me telling myself the words I’ve said a million times, to friends, to students who took workshop I taught for nearly two years about sexual assault: “It’s not your fault.” Yet, the other side of me wouldn’t accept that. I should’ve drank less. I shouldn’t have let him in my apartment.
The other side would pipe up, “you invited him in to watch Always Sunny in Philadelphia, because you both like the show.”
“Yes, but what did you honestly expect to happen? Besides, you kissed him once, a few months ago.”
“But you said no.”
I told my best friends, and not one of them for a second ever hesitated to believe me. Each of them offered support, told me they would be there for me. I told my therapist, and cried in her office, and she told me that what happened was not my fault, that she would support me in any action I decided to take.
I’ve been harassed before. I was in a verbally abusive relationship before. I’ve been groped, taken advantage of, followed home. But nothing ever came close to comparing to this. Each of those incidents I was able to brush off and keep going. I never expected this one to change me. The day after it happened, I stayed in bed the whole day, unable to change, unable to eat. The next day, I walked downstairs in my bare feet and threw out the trash, avoiding broken bottles, my feet freezing on the cement. I felt like a ghost. In my favorite class, a poetry writing class, I went from someone who spoke every day, to someone who couldn’t say a sentence without shaking. I felt like I was caving in on myself.
The day after it happened, he texted me. “I couldn’t tell when you seriously wanted me to take it down a notch, and when you were play resisting”. I wasn’t playing. None of it was playing. How dare he assume my resistance was a joke? Later, in response to short, vague answers from me, he texted “you seemed upset by the time I left yesterday and I’m not okay with not giving someone a good experience.” After some weeks of me ignoring his occasional text of asking if I’m going out, he texted “Did I do anything to offend you.”
I want to answer, with every part of me, but I can’t. I can’t type the words. I want to, I want him to know what he did, but I can’t.
Two weeks later, he texts “Hey I’m sorry. I know I did something shitty and I’m sorry.”
I tell him I’ll text tomorrow, but I never do. Once again, I can’t say it. The next day, he says I should meet him if I’m going out. I don’t know if he knows what he did. We never spoke after that. I don’t know if I’ll ever tell him the three words I want to say. “You raped me.” I want to. But I can’t. I don’t know why I can’t. It took me weeks to admit it to myself, but to say it to him? I guess my biggest fear is that he’ll try to deny it. That he’ll fight me on it, justify himself. I don’t think I could handle that. I don’t know what would happen to me if he did that.
I listen to Lady Gaga’s “Til it Happens to You,” because it makes me cry in a way that feels less lonely. When Celeste is raped by her husband on Big Little Lies, I hyperventilate on my bathroom floor. When I walk to my best friend’s apartment, I pass his fraternity, and all I can think is that my rapist lives there. It's a parasite I can't rid myself of.
This story doesn’t have a happy, uplifting ending. I’m not over it. I don’t know how to get over it. A lot of the time, I still fight myself, try to invalidate myself. I tell myself that it wasn’t real, that I was asking for it. When I do acknowledge it, I cry. I feel weakness. I know I’m not okay, but I don’t want to end this article here, because even though this is as self indulgent as I’ll ever be, I don’t want to leave anyone reading with a negative ending.
Me Too is a start. To stand in solidarity with so many people who have gone through the unimaginable is a tragedy, but there is a strength that grows from tragedy. Habitual predators are being taken down in Hollywood, but it can’t end there. Let it spread to the music industry. Let’s not end at Kesha. Let it spread to sports, where men are protected and idolized. Let it spread to politics. Let’s get this disgusting molester out of office. Let it spread to businesses, the medical field. Let’s laugh at Larry Nassar, and spit on him as he’s led to spend his life rotting in a prison cell. Let every women feel empowered enough to say “Me too”, and know that you’re not alone. I’m here with you. I’m not going anywhere. It happened to me too. You’re not alone.
Vice President of University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Mogul hub. I'm a senior at the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana. I'm getting a double major in Political Science and Psychology, and my career goal is to become a corporate lawyer.