Politics. I don’t get into them. That doesn’t mean I don’t pay attention. I just won’t fight with people about them.
Human rights? Advocacy? Support? Those are more my jam, even if I do it quietly. This is one of those instances where I have quietly been supportive and advocating. In light of the recent sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a reader reached out to me. She told me she had a story to tell, it was all written out, but she didn’t know where to put it. I gave her a few blog names for options who might publish her piece anonymously, and then I offered her THIS space. She knows me, I know her, and I know how hard it is to put words out there like she needs to when so many people are ready to jump at you with, “Why didn’t you say anything when it happened?”
Well, sometimes it’s not as easy as just saying the words. It’s a lot of processing, self-blame, confusion. There’s also a lot of worry that no one will believe you anyway or, and worse than all of those, others will climb up on their pedestals and victim blame and shame away as though they are not part of the problem.
This is her story, in her words, as she adds to the greater dialogue that needs to happen. It needs to happen right now.
*Names have been changed to protect the author’s identity.
One Night in College
One night in college, I was hanging out with a friend of mine, drinking beer and watching TV. His name is Steve*, but I don’t know his last name. I think he was from Pittsburgh. There were two Steves from Pittsburgh that I hung out with — this was the skinny, lanky one with blondish/brownish hair.
Steve and I had hung out many times, both on our own and in a group of friends. It was always platonic. We laughed and had some of the same interests and were both smokers, so we often saw each other in the smoker’s circles outside of academic halls or dorms. I trusted him. I had never not felt safe around him.
At the end of us hanging out, it was after inter visitation hours. I lived in a dorm with a designated girls’ floor. Steve said he was scared to get caught on the girls’ floor and he didn’t want to get in trouble. I had a double room to myself, which meant a spare bed, so I offered it to him if he wanted to avoid sneaking out and risk getting caught. The frames were separate from each other, but they were also next to one another with a small crack between the two beds.
He stayed and I turned off the light and went to bed.
He went to the other bed.
I had fallen asleep.
I woke up suddenly because I felt his erect penis in my mouth. He was pumping in and out; his knees surrounded my body. I felt trapped. I closed my eyes, pretending to sleep. I kept my mouth barely open and slack jawed, so as to not encourage him to keep going. Then he pulled out and sat back on the bed.
I heard him pull out and unwrap a condom.
The condom wrapper was thrown on the bed.
He got on top of me and inserted himself.
My eyes were still closed. I was aware of what was happening, but I was frozen. I couldn’t move. I was trying to process what was happening.
He started having sex with me. His hands kept holding me down. I remember trying to say something in protest, but he put his hand over my mouth and said “Shhh — someone will hear.”
I was on my back and felt the condom wrapper. I slipped it between the crack of the beds to hide it underneath. I think I wanted to leave something to mark what was happening, but I didn’t really know why I purposefully did it in the moment.
He didn’t stop having sex with me. It hurt. I remember thinking that maybe I should try to enjoy it so that it wouldn’t hurt as much. Then I remember thinking that if I pretended to like it, then maybe he would finish faster. I remember moaning and breathing heavy to fake having an orgasm. I wanted this to be done and I thought that maybe that would help this end.
I don’t remember how long he kept going. I kept my eyes closed the entire time. I didn’t want to see what was happening. So many thoughts went through my head. Maybe I gave him the wrong idea by letting him stay in the extra bed. Maybe I gave him mixed signals that doing this to me was okay. My boyfriend had broken up with me a few weeks earlier — maybe he thought I was trying to be with him. I kept running through scenarios and it was always my fault that this was happening.
At the time, I didn’t have the words to describe it. He was a friend. He wasn’t a stranger. We weren’t on a date, so this wasn’t date rape, the only kind of rape that I thought there was besides a stranger boogeyman who would jump at a girl in the dark and assault her in a park or something. He didn’t beat me up or punch me. I didn’t actively fight back. I didn’t know how to explain that this was still non-consensual, unwanted sex.
At some point, he finished. He took his used condom with him. He got dressed. He looked around for the condom wrapper, and I remember him swearing under his breath because he couldn’t find it. I finally opened my eyes. I looked at him in the face. We locked eyes. And then he left. He opened the door to the all girls’ floor of my dorm. He was not afraid of getting caught by an RA.
That night, I can’t remember if I fell asleep or just laid there all night. The next morning, I got up and got dressed like normal. I looked under my bed and saw the condom wrapper. The only thing that solidified what had happened the night before. It was not a dream. It really happened.
I got my pack of cigarettes and a lighter and went out the front door of the dorm. Maybe I asked my friend Kelly to join me for a smoke or maybe she was already having her morning cigarette. I can’t remember exactly. But, I do remember whispering to her while we were smoking, “So, I found a condom wrapper under my bed. Steve stayed over last night. I don’t know what happened. I blacked out.”
I don’t know why I lied. Maybe it was because I still didn’t realize what had happened myself. I had not put it together that I had been raped. I think I said that just to see what her reaction would be to gauge whether I should be upset or not.
She got serious and said, “What? Really?” I could tell she was concerned. And as one of my hallmark characteristics in my late teen years, my non-confrontational side took over and I shrugged it off. I probably changed the subject.
Later, I threw away the condom wrapper, questioning why I would have stupidly saved that. That was stupid. I was being stupid. I shouldn’t make a big deal out of it. It was just a boy being a boy. I was probably encouraging him anyway. I did offer my spare bed. I brought it on myself.
He didn’t come back to college the next year. I don’t remember if we continued hanging out for the rest of the year in our smoker’s circle.
About two years later, out of the blue, I got a phone call from him. I don’t remember the specifics, but he was asking me for money. I remember saying that I had to call him back in a few minutes. I hung up on him. I blocked his number. A few days later, I got a new phone number. I never spoke to him again.
When I finally realized what had truly happened to me — when I finally could label it for what it was — I didn’t feel better. I felt like another statistic. I felt like this must happen to everyone. I told a couple of people here and there in vague terms that I had been raped in college, but I never told the whole story.
Hearing Dr. Ford describe what happened to her, especially the part about his hand over her mouth, brought it all back. I believe Dr. Ford and her detailed memory. I also believe that perhaps Brett Kavanaugh doesn’t remember it in detail. It was probably no big deal to him, but it was a life-changing moment for Dr. Ford and having lived my own version, I guarantee she remembers exactly every moment of that day. Her individual story brought all of this back and I’ve been constantly thinking about what happened to me 15 years ago.
I don’t know if he is still out there or what he is doing. The last I heard from him was that phone call when he asked for money. I know memories change over the years, but the details I have written here have been burned into my mind. I don’t know if he remembers it. I don’t know if he feels shameful about it. I don’t know if he shrugged it off and moved on with his life. I don’t know if he remembers me. But, I know I will never forget that experience. Ever.
A few years later, when I was 22, I dated a guy who was about five years older than me. After a party one night, we snuggled on a futon, which is where we would eventually fall asleep. I was very drunk. He said, “I’m not going to have sex with you when you’re drunk. You don’t know what’s happening.” And we didn’t. That moment is embedded in my memory as the time that I learned that “boys will be boys” is a stupid excuse for bad behavior.
Dave, I remember you. Thank you.