It Was Rape

Photo by M. on Unsplash

By Sarah Miller

*Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault*

Need help now? Call 800-656-HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

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It took me a long time to be able to say what happened to me when I was 17 was rape.  You see, I was drinking and I didn’t say no. Growing up, we were told that girls who drink, “get taken advantage of,” and it was “their own fault” for getting that drunk. Good girls didn’t get drunk and make bad choices. Unfortunately, I was a good girl, but I got drunk and something bad happened to me. The rape wasn’t my bad choice. The rape was not my choice at all. 

Rewind.

December 2002.

I went to my best friend’s house for a sleepover. She went to my house for a sleepover… you know that story. This was the first time we’d pulled this on our parents. We were “good girls” and generally followed the rules.

We went to a party with her boyfriend, who was from another school. I didn’t really know anyone at the party very well. The party was in a guy’s basement who I knew from middle school. His name was Sean and he played baseball with my friend’s boyfriend. The four of us drank and played drinking games most of the night. I got very drunk. 

I had no intentions of having sex with this guy, but I was enjoying flirting and kissing him. I had never had sex before and didn’t plan on doing it with some guy I wasn’t even dating. But, that’s not how the night went. My friend and I were staying the night at Sean’s house because we obviously couldn’t drive, and we definitely couldn’t call home. 

I don’t remember a lot from later that night, but I remember laying on the couch as the night wound down. Sean and I were kissing and I felt like things were going in a way I didn’t really like. One of Sean’s friends, Mike, came over and tried to get Sean to go upstairs to his own room and leave me alone. But, Sean didn’t want to leave and Mike eventually left us alone. As he walked away, I remember laying under the weight of Sean, feeling like my chance at safety was leaving. After Mike left, I don’t remember anything else that happened. I was completely blacked out.

My next memory is from the morning. I went to the bathroom to pee and I noticed my shirt was completely inside out and backward. I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh. Did I take my shirt off?” I also felt sore… down there. My first thought was that I did something I shouldn’t have done. I felt shame and embarrassment. Good girls did not have sex and they definitely didn’t have sex they didn’t remember. I told my friend when we left what I thought happened. I couldn’t believe I got so drunk that I had sex. At least, I thought I had sex. At this point, I knew I made a mistake and I was so mad that I let myself get that drunk.

Later that day, I got an instant message from a guy friend that went to Sean’s school. He wasn’t at the party but apparently had heard the gossip. His message to me was, “Did you f&ck Sean?” Not only did Sean tell people that we had sex, he also told people that I wasn’t a virgin. He told people that I didn’t “feel” like a virgin. What does that even mean? My reputation as a nice, innocent, Christian girl was quickly fading. I was glad Sean didn’t go to my school, but there were a handful of people at my school who got word of my “hook up.” 

I didn’t report anything to anyone. What would I have said? That I got drunk and had sex and now I regret it? The only person who knew what really happened was my friend that was at the party with me. I couldn’t tell anyone else. I couldn’t tell my parents. I knew if I did, I would get in trouble for lying and drinking. I think my mom would have been so focused on my lying and drinking that she would not have seen the assault as an assault. It would have been “my fault” in her eyes for letting myself get drunk and getting taken advantage of. Truthfully, I felt the same way at the time.

I was so ashamed of myself for a really long time. I would refer to that night as a time I got “taken advantage of,” but I didn’t call it rape or sexual assault. I didn’t believe what he did was wrong. I thought, “He was drinking, he didn’t know. He couldn’t help it.” I wasn’t even conscious, so how could he be held accountable? Looking back at those thoughts now makes me feel so angry. I feel anger that I grew up (and still live) in a society where men are not held accountable for their actions. Where women are expected to change their dress, walk in groups, and constantly be aware of their surroundings because men can’t control their urges. I call bullshit. We have to do better as a society.

At the time, I didn’t have the knowledge or understanding that what happened to me was rape. I didn’t know that I couldn’t consent if I was blacked out. I made excuses that he was also drunk. I made excuses that I “led him on” by kissing and flirting with him. It was my fault for getting so drunk that I lost my ability to make good decisions. I couldn’t possibly hold him accountable when I was the one that got so drunk. It was my own fault. This is why good girls don’t get drunk at parties. Right?

No.

I was raped. I did not consent to have sex. I was blacked out and unconscious. It’s a really scary and weird feeling knowing that someone did something to your body and you have no recollection of it. I have no idea what he did to me while I was blacked out. Was I passed out asleep, or was I trying to get him to stop? I won’t ever know.

I am a survivor of rape. Sean raped me. I occasionally look him up on Facebook to see what kind of person he turned out to be, and I feel rage every time I see his face. He probably has no idea how much I hate him and how much rage I feel when I think about him. He probably has no idea what he did was even wrong. And for that, I feel even more rage. You might think that it’s not healthy to keep looking at his picture if it makes me so upset, but you’d be wrong. Seeing his face reminds me that I’m strong. I’m a survivor. 

He continues living his life. I continue living my life, but a part of me will always feel anger and strength about what happened. It’s 20 years later, and I will never forget those feelings of shame and regret. I know better now. He was the predator. I was the survivor.

This is a small part of my story. My story is one of surviving and overcoming. I look back at all the things I’ve endured and think, “Damn, you are one tough bitch.”

Need help now? Call 800-656-HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

Sarah Miller is an overly optimistic, conflict-avoidant, newly queer educator and mom of two. She finds joy in writing, sunshine, good salsa, and coffee with too much creamer. She believes everyone has a story that’s worthy of being told. 

“This life is mine alone. So I’ve stopped asking people for directions to places they’ve never been.” -Glennon Doyle

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