I do not have a lot of memories from high school, mostly because I did not enjoy it very much.
For me it was a time of sadness and disconnection. My parents were divorced. My mom had remarried and I was unhappy with the way life had shifted and changed, so quickly. I was 17-years-old, preparing to enter the world of adulthood, and I wasn’t ready.
So I did what teenagers often do…I drank.
I did not drink all the time, but often enough. And I never drank alone, I was always in the company of a friend or many. Most of my friends were older and most of them were guys. They did not care much about my inner world. They were not very concerned with feelings and such, the most important thing in the world was having a good time. And we did.
The night after my Senior Prom, my friends and I rented two adjoining hotel rooms, with the intention of getting shit-faced and hanging out. We were successful. It was not long before I discovered that alcohol on an empty stomach equals trouble.
I do not remember a lot of the little details of that night, but I remember all the significant stuff.
Like how I somehow ended up alone in a room with a friend, who happened to be a really nice guy. He was mostly quiet and unassuming. He was the kind of guy that you would be friends with, but not really see as a romantic interest, you know “the sidekick” guy.
We were alone in the dark.
I was drunk and disoriented.
He began to grope and disrobe me.
I said no, very clearly.
He didn’t stop.
Parts of my body responded enthusiastically to the stimulation.
But my mind and my mouth said no, adamantly.
He still did not stop.
My sister heard my screams and began pounding on the door.
She banged for what seemed like forever before gaining access.
She punched him.
Another friend consoled me, rubbing my back while I puked and wailed to the porcelain god.
Then I slept it off.
I was extremely hungover the next day, but I remembered the details and the pain with great clarity.
He apologized the next time I saw him. He was visibly sad and he struggled to look me in the eye. I forgave him. I would go on to have sex with him again, several months later, but this time it was voluntary.
It took me nearly 20 years to realize I had been raped.
The realization came through in a therapy session. The memory came out of nowhere and the words spilled casually out of my mouth. Even as I was saying them, it still did not click.
Perhaps it was the furrowed brow of my therapist that caused me to connect the dots. Or maybe it was just the way the memory folded over onto itself with certain lucidity.
It did not register in my mind, or the minds of the others, the day it happened.
To be perfectly honest, I am not sure if the people who were there, the witnesses, would call it rape today, but it does not matter. And I still do not know whether or not he realizes that he raped me, but that does not matter either.
What does matter is it happened and that it changed me.
I am sharing my story because rape does not always look like the movies. It is not always brutal and violent. It is not always a stranger or someone who looks the part. It does not always include blood and visible bruises.
Sometimes there are witnesses.
Sometimes your mind will shield you from the truth.
Sometimes people will discount your experience.
Sometimes you will discount your own experience.
Sometimes your attacker is sweet and kind.
Sometimes you will try to make him feel better about what happened.
Sometimes you won’t.
Sometimes you get over it.
Sometimes you don’t.
Sometimes there will be a hole where your heart used to be.
Sometimes something new and different grows in its place.
And sometimes…it doesn’t.
Author: Stacey Herrera
Editor: Renee Jahnke
Image: Jake Przespo-Flickr