Trigger warning for sexual assault.
My freshman year, I was raped. We were high, I became uncomfortable, and told her no. She didn’t understand. We’d both received abysmal sex education, and lacked the language or consensual comprehension to grok what was happening. It was still assault. I wish we taught kids better.
My sophomore year, I tried to tell one of my best friends about the incident. I was met with a chuckle, 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 invited me to her room. We had some drinks, and she assaulted me. I don’t think she understood either.
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 (I was also in a monogamous relationship at this time). I wanted to separate her from myself, and suggested she sleep upstairs, away from where I would be sleeping. She asked me to lead her there, and – upon arriving – groped my genitals and attempted to push me onto my bed. I ran out
Senior year, I managed, after multiple attempts, to finally escape a two-year long abusive relationship. Over the next few months, she forbade me from going to my social spaces, absorbed my support system, encouraged me to commit suicide, and told 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 me, and I went along with it. I did not want to have sex with her. But I was too scared to say no.
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 some level of sexuality.
I was grabbed seven times, in broad view of both friends and dozens of strangers in a well-lit house. Nobody said a word. She would laugh and keep saying:
“It’s just out there!” (referring to my butt)
Just before spring break of senior year, I reconnected with my sophomore year rapist. 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. I want to talk about the things that happened to me, but this is also 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?
I have also already had individuals mentioned in this piece circumvent blocks on social media to harass me in the time after graduation. I’m afraid of them.
I also 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 too raw.
Things shouldn’t be like this.
The following is a more detailed account of abuse. It is about the abuse I survived at the hands of an individual mentioned in one of the accounts above. I can’t write about it normally. I need to put what happened to me down into writing because I constantly wonder if I imagined it. I have separated it because I think it deserves an extreme tw for verbal abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, self harm, suicide, and depression.
Start of relationship (around November 2013) – constantly called me an ‘idiot’/’stupid’/etc. in public and in private. Not in a pet name, ‘hey dummy’ way, but in a way meant to demonstrate to the people around me – but, most importantly, me – that I was worthless.
I asked her to stop, and she stopped using the words, but continued to tell stories to friends with me present about me not knowing how to do something, oftentimes exaggerated so I would seem less capable/competent. She would also do the same thing to me in private, rewriting these stories as proof that I was incapable of decision making.
Early on I established that I was uncomfortable with PDA – a boundary she immediately broke.
Very early on she established that she had strong emotions, and that meant she would lash out at me, but that it didn’t mean she didn’t care for me. This is an abuse tactic.
During one period of lashing out, she told me we were on a break and left without explanation. When she asked me to meet her (around 2-3 days later), she said she just felt we were moving too fast. About a week later, she told me she loved me.
At this point, she began to heavily gaslight me. At the time, I was beginning to drink more heavily (though I had definitely had a problem to begin with) as a coping mechanism. She would exploit this and tell me that I would black out, every night, just before we went to sleep, and tell her things I had no recollection of saying – up to and including that I wanted to marry her (something I, a 20 year old, did not want to do).
Late in the relationship, I began to suspect that this was how I was being gaslit, as there was a pattern of me being told that, last night, I had given up another element of my autonomy (I said I would not talk to person X anymore, I said I would not watch show X again, etc.). Eventually, I became so unhappy – and the fabrications became so regular – that I realized that I was being gaslit.
A few months into our relationship (which was explicitly monogamous at this point), a queer woman expressed interest in her. She repeatedly attempted to lord this over me, and became frustrated and verbally abusive when I refused to get jealous (something she would do with multiple people over the course of our relationship). One night, she had her over, and told me to leave the room so they could kiss. I did, and upon returning was told that the queer woman had kissed her, continued to kiss her after my abuser tried to push her off, and then pushed my abuser down onto the bed and attempted to grope her before I came back. I was instructed to send her an angry text message. When the queer woman responded – with, it seemed, genuine confusion and apology – I was berated for sending the text message, and was told that nothing had happened.
The first summer after we got together was awful – I would receive hurtful texts, calls, and skypes from her, in which she would insinuate that us being apart was wrong, and that me not staying over the summer meant I didn’t love her enough. I believe that part of why the verbal abuse got so bad during this period was that she couldn’t control me directly, but also partly because she had developed a chronic medical condition that caused her extreme pain. There is nothing wrong with having a chronic medical condition, or even being irritable as a result of its pain – the problem was that, after she told me about it, it would become an excuse to treat me poorly and prevent me from having autonomy
When she explained her condition to me, she explicitly told me that it was the reason for the verbal abuse, and said that if she continued to demean me that it was “because of my knee.”
The verbal abuse continued, and eventually became a means to keep me in my dorm, outside of classes. My schedule became tightly regimented around pre-approved social gatherings that she was already going to. I was not allowed to go out on my own, basically ever, with her condition requiring a constant caretaker presented as an excuse for this abuse. The nights that I did go out on my own, she would text me constantly to guilt me for leaving her, and I was met with verbal abuse upon coming home every single time I went out.
Early on in the school year, she had a falling out with her roommates, and I was told that they told her to kill herself. She again instructed me to send a text message – this time more overtly threatening – to the two individuals. Again, after sending the text message, I was berated and verbally abused. I had a order of no contact taken out against me by the two roommates (rightfully so).
Around this point, even my personal time began to be restricted. If I watched a youtube video, played a game, watched a tv show, played guitar without her present, I was reprimanded. When I tried to do any of these things with her in the room – I was reprimanded. When I was allowed to partake in these events, they were completely dictated by her. My media consumption was entirely up to her decision. She forced me to write music for her – something I explicitly said I did not want to do – and would often change the lyrics of my songs, because she didn’t want anyone to think I was “too sad.”
When second summer of our relationship began, it got truly dangerous and bad. I was trying to work out (1 hour, monday wednesday friday), and was told not to. I pushed back. I was told that I was allowed to work out, but that I wasn’t allowed to get ‘too muscular.’ Also, at the time, I was trying to write video game criticism – I was not allowed to. I was only allowed to edit her writing. I was instructed to set up her account on the GameInformer Community Blog section (the platform where I was going to put my writing), and was told to get her enough points (there was a prerequisite number before they let you post blogs) for her to be able to post. I was trying to build a portfolio so I could have one after graduating – something she didn’t like. She told me that I was not to move from our college town (where she lived) after graduation, until she moved. I was told that I had to move with her, wherever she chose to go. She also used her grandfather’s ailing health to pressure me into things I was uncomfortable with doing. She insisted we tell him that we were going to get married (again, something I absolutely did not want, but had been gaslit into believing was true). When I did manage to have time to myself, she was either constantly with me, or texting me to tell me to meet her, that she was sick/tired/upset/etc. When I would meet her, usually coming home from something, she was very rarely one of these things (except upset – as she was often drunk and verbally abusive when I came home). When she would go out, I either had to come with, or was told to stay home. When we were out, she would often tell me a girl was checking me out (they never were, just a wild guess), and then use this as an excuse to hurl further verbal abuse at me. A large part of her abuse at this point centered around insinuating that I would leave her for another woman, and asking me for my loyalty.
When school began again, we were living together – something she wanted, and that I had very little choice in. I bought Until Dawn and played it while she was in class, and was screamed at for doing so, because it meant that I was doing something without her. It was around this point that I knew I would kill myself if I didn’t get out of the relationship. I tried to break up with her, which she rejected. She hit me on the arms and face, and called her father to spend the night at his place. The next morning, she insisted that we ‘work it out,’ and said that if we didn’t, she would kill herself. She took me on the most awful ‘date’ I’ve ever been on – where she threatened me physically, and kept saying “this is the first time you’ve been charming since our first date.” I broke up with her (again) a few days afterwards, and was once again hit.
She dictated the terms of our breakup. She said that she would find another room, but that she wouldn’t live with a roommate, and that I therefore needed to pay the extra money she would need to afford a single (a little over $1,000). I did so. The room she moved into was in the same building we were living in – a tall dormitory, with one elevator, guaranteeing that we would continue to see each other. She stole numerous personal items, including clothing, games, and schoolbooks (which I then had to re-buy). I was told that I could not attend radio meetings (of which we were a part – she had joined very early on in our relationship, I suspect to have control over that aspect of my life), that I could not eat in the dining hall while she was there, I was told I had to come to her before signing up for any new classes, and that I was not allowed to speak or talk to any of our friends – all of this, she said, would hold, until she gave me permission to come back to these spaces and have autonomy over these aspects of my life. She said it would only be a few weeks before I was allowed to resocialize. The last thing she said to me for the next three months was “if you sleep with anyone else, we can’t be friends anymore.”
During that period of time, I essentially talked to no one, had my meal/sleep schedule ruined, had zero social life or support network, and fell into a cycle of suicidal depression and drug and alcohol abuse. No one reached out to me. I was alone. In late November I took a fishing knife and permanently scarred my left forearm. I did not understand what was happening. I texted her to ask why I hadn’t heard anything, and asked if we could talk.
She came over during thanksgiving break (I was staying on campus) and asked me what was wrong. I showed her my self-harm cuts, and she immediately blamed my friends. She said that she had been insisting for months that they check on me, and that she – and no one else – could tell I was depressed. She also told me that she missed me, that she had written music about hating me, and that she would always be there for me. I asked if I could tell my friends what was going on – she said that I shouldn’t, but that she would do it immediately. She insisted that I remain in contact with her, and that we spend time together, one on one, regularly, to “help me.” When she left, she broke a physical boundary, hugging me from behind as I sat on a couch – so that I could not see her coming, and move away – and kissed me on the cheek.
Several days went by, and I heard nothing, though she daily insisted that she had told them of my situation and need for support. I never verified this. When I asked my abuser why no one had contacted me, she said it was because they had known about my depression for months, and that they were, in fact, intentionally trying to isolate me in an attempt to coerce me into suicide, which I bought, because I had been so badly gaslit at this point, and because I was still experiencing heavy substance abuse.
Before the end of the break, I spoke with one of my friends over the phone. He was under the impression that she had broken up with me, and also revealed that she said I had hit her during our relationship. I had no memory of this, and met her to apologize to her. She became upset that my friend had told me this. She said that it only happened once, had been more of a light slap than a hit (she said this was why there was never any bruise), said it was during a blackout, then said she never brought it up because she assumed I remembered, said she had forgiven me after it happened, and that the fact that I had never done it again was one of the reasons she knew she loved me. This is a serious allegation to make about a person. I do not think this happened, but I do not know.
We hung out once after this conversation, and during that time, she made a physical advance that I did not want and did not reciprocate. I declined a request to hang out again. About a week later, she caught me going up the elevator to my room. Though she pushed the button for her floor, she did not get off, and – without my permission – followed me up to my floor, and came into my room. She insisted that she needed someone to spend time with, as her grandfather was dying. She also demanded that I hang out with her brother, who had recently become suicidal. I agreed. This was just before winter break. She demanded that I text her regularly to ‘make sure I was safe’ and to ‘support her since her grandfather was so sick.’
During that break she sent me threatening messages, often full of insults or telling me to kill myself. Upon returning from break, she would intimidate me into spending time with her. During one of these awful nights, she asked me who I was spending time with. I told her a few names. A few days later, she accused one of the people I had named of assaulting her at a gathering, leaving, returning, and sexually assaulting her again. She asked me to investigate this, and to inform the dean of the assault. I investigated, and was told that the individual was at the party, that the two were never alone, that he went home afterwards, and stayed there. I asked his roommates if he’d left the house and been out during the time my abuser specified. I was told he had not left, had been at home, smoking weed with him multiple roommates during the time she had said he’d come to her room and assaulted her, and that he went to bed after they were done smoking.
She would repeatedly make physical advances that I did not spurn out of fear. Eventually, she got me alone in her room. She started to kiss me, and I froze. I just went along with it. She raped me. This happened twice (it may have happened a third time, but I legitimately cannot remember much from this period of time) over a period of (i believe) two to three weeks. I never told anyone about these rapes.
After being raped, I managed to muster up the courage to tell her to leave me alone. She said that I could go to one party of her choice, and that she would not go. I went to that party, and she was there. I then moved to pursue an order of no contact – this was also partly at the urging of friends. When I went in to get it, I told the Dean a few stories of the abuse I had suffered. He asked my why I let this happen. He did, however, grant the order of no contact, but only after bringing it to her so she could have input on the terms. At my college, an order of no contact required consent from both parties. This meant that the order did very little. I ended up not really leaving my room at all for my last semester of college outside of classes. I graduated. It wasn’t done.
Eventually, I gave up blogging on GI’s community blog section, because she posted there too. There was no interaction – I literally just couldn’t handle the daily panic attacks from scrolling down and seeing her name.
A year after graduating, I went back for a friend’s graduation – we’d known each other for over a decade, and I wanted to be there to see him graduate. We went into the old radio station to hang out, and campus safety came, and told me that I had to leave, as there was a no contact order that existed between me and another student in the building, and that she had heard my voice. I left, shaking.
After the graduation ceremony, I walked past her on the way to my car. I left a nervous wreck. That was the last time I saw her.
This is an incomplete record. I don’t remember a lot of things from this nearly three-year period of my life. There is such a volume of detail from this period of time that it’s hard to remember it all. There’s also a lot I don’t care to talk about. It’s very painful. I don’t have anything to say about this. I don’t want this experience to be a lesson. It was just pain, and it remains pain. The only reason I’m writing this is because I need to. I can’t have a dissociation at work every time I see a tweet about abuse. It’s unhealthy, and it’s dangerous. I’m not naming her because I’m still fucking terrified of her, and I’m terrified of what she’ll do if she finds this. Abuse is awful, and it never stops, and it never stops being scary. I need to speak, but I also need to be left alone. What am I supposed to do with that?
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.