Trigger warning for sexual assault.
My freshman year, I was raped. We were high, I became uncomfortable, and told her no. She did not understand, pushed me down, and then I did not understand. We had both received abysmal sex education, and lacked the language or consensual comprehension to grok what was happening. This does not diminish my trauma, however. We need to educate kids better. We need to tell them about consent, and make up for the harmful job our culture has done. It is too late to rely on any sort of innate understandings between partners.
My sophomore year, I tried to tell one of my best friends about the incident. I was met with a laugh, and a:
“Men can’t be raped.”
A month later, she sexually assaulted me. I was pulled in for a kiss I did not want, did not reciprocate, and had to push off. The next day, I told her what she had done. She said:
“I’m sorry, I was blacked out, this was supposed to be a new year for me.”
One week later, she raped me. She invited me into her room, poured me 10 shots of Captain Morgan within the span of one hour, and pushed me down on her bed. I told her no, I asked her to get off of me. She stripped me naked, forced a condom onto my penis, and raped me until – out of desperation – I called her by someone else’s name.
I was thrown out of her room – out of my own rape – crying. She would become a Sexual Misconduct Advisor by the end of the year.
It is hard to pick the most humiliating aspect of this story. It is hard to pick the worst way in which survivors are forced to debase themselves for their rapists. It is hard to relive.
New Years Eve of my sophomore year, I invited some college friends local to my home area to a party at my house. One individual sat down on my penis and grinded, despite expressed disinterest at both this party and at events previous. My bedroom was upstairs, separated from the basement where I – and my friends – would be sleeping. I was worried she would try to assault me in my sleep, and told her to sleep in my bedroom. She asked me to lead her there, and – upon arriving – groped my genitals and attempted to rape me before I ran out.
There is no space a rapist will not invade.
Senior year, I managed, after multiple attempts, to finally escape a two-year long abusive relationship (another Sexual Misconduct Advisor). Over the next few months, I became the victim of a gaslighting campaign that saw her dominating my social spaces, absorbing my support system, encouraging me to commit suicide, and telling me my friends were attempting to coerce me into suicide. After months of being told that she was my only real friend, she finally managed to convince me to be alone with her in her room. She began to kiss and strip me, and I went along with it. What could I do? Say ‘no’ to the person who had been on the verge of successfully ending my life for months?
Rape does not exist in a vacuum of encounter. But why did you go into her room? Why did you let her treat you like that? Why did you let her rape you? Because a million things were happening outside of that night and that room, and they led me to believe that my only option for survival was to let it happen – to make her believe that she had control over the situation, and therefore did not need to act with greater violence.
Afterwards, she told me:
“I can’t wait to tell all my friends that my ex-boyfriend still loves me.”
For the senior year ‘Shock Your Mom’ party, I cut some jeans into revealing shorts. I was trying to reclaim my sexuality.
I was groped seven times, in broad view of both friends and dozens of strangers in a well-lit house by another Sexual Misconduct Advisor. Nobody said a word. She would laugh and keep saying:
“It’s just out there!”
Just before spring break of senior year, I reconnected with my rapist (now the head SMA). I had done so on the urging of a friend of hers, who I’ll call James, who insisted that she was ‘different now.’
She demanded to know why I had cut contact with her. I told her everything except the rape. She told me:
“Glad we cleared the air.”
On March 8th, during spring break, four campus safety officers burst into the house I was staying at, asking me if I was drunk, if I was destroying the place, and if I was having a dispute with the people living there. I was sober, had finished cleaning it the day before, and was alone – everyone living there had left for vacation.
I received texts from James.
“Your trauma doesn’t give you the right to say whatever you want.”
“I know what you said to [rapist].”
“Stop harassing my friends.”
This has been very difficult to write. It has been difficult largely due to reliving my traumas, but also because it is hard to know exactly how to present my story in a public venue. This is a small blog, with a small readership, but what if the wrong eyes see this? What if some “”””””men’s rights activist””””””” – some bad faith actor – sees my account, and posts it to reddit, or 4chan, or some other hole on the internet as proof that ‘men have it just as bad’ and it spirals into something beyond my control? What if these evil opportunists appropriate my trauma – as they have done with so many others – to serve their evil agenda?
It has been difficult to know what details to mention. It felt important to mention how many of the women who assaulted me were sexual misconduct advisors – there is a clear trend – but, again, would bad faith actors appropriate my trauma as an indictment of survivor resources? The lesson to be learned here is not that the problem lies with attempts to help victims, but that it lies in the way our institutions and power structures reward certain figures. Indeed, even James held a position of power – he was the head of the Queer Men’s Society. He, of all people – knowing the proximity our community has had to the topic of sex, sexuality, and consent, for generations, in ways both bad and good – should not be harassing victims for speaking out. What kind of systems have we created that rapists – and those who cop for them – are the ones propelled to the top? When the people who rape can infiltrate our communities so brazenly – even in realms specifically meant to counter their actions – what does that say about how our culture disseminates concepts of consent?
It means that the systems are broken, and must be reformed.
It has been difficult to try and tell my stories within what I believe are the safest terms. I have already had individuals mentioned in this piece circumvent blocks on social media to harass me in the time after graduation. I also fear that naming them (or even the college I attended) will be purposeless, and could result in aforementioned bad faith actors seeking people out to attack them in ultimately unproductive ways.
It has been difficult because I am fairly certain I can never obtain justice. There are so many reasons survivors can never see justice, many of which I’ve already discussed. Which leaves me with the question that silences so many of us:
“Why even talk about it?”
I wanted to write this because I had to – because with the constant (and good, unequivocally good) revelations of sexual predators’ presence in our institutions, I could not function with my own stories threatening to spill out messily on a near-daily, triggered basis. I had to organize my thoughts in a clear, considered way, before they came out raw. To this I should say as well – this is not a ‘Me Too’ post. Me Too refers more specifically to the way women have been abused, and how men in high positions of power have used their position to force their monstrosity onto women. What I experienced was on a much smaller scale; and while gendered implications are inherently present in my experience, they are fundamentally different to those seen in the stories exploding from Hollywood and other industries.
Essentially: I needed this to exist, because I could not let it dwell inside me any longer.
My hope is that other male victims of rape can see and read these things, and identify with them. That they can know that they are not alone in their difficult thoughts and feelings. That’s who this piece is for, ultimately. I need them to know that there is life after rape, and that other people have been in their unique experience, and felt the same factors hushing them down. I’m not good at writing about trauma – I’m not – but I need people to know that it doesn’t matter if your account is sloppy, or if you know people will come after you for speaking openly, or if – for your own safety – you feel you must speak vaguely.
I need others to speak, and we all need to listen.
A brief note: I would like to thank the people in my life who did listen to me, and who did care. They have helped me to understand what happened to me more over a year than anyone at my college ever did in four. This literally would not have ever existed without their support and validation. I am endlessly grateful.