*Note: This piece has details of a sexual assault.
This letter has been a long time coming.
A few years ago, you raped me.
The way you acted the next day, slighted that I didn’t give you a hug, confused me. When you sent me a friend request via Facebook a few months later, I was perplexed. A question appeared that I continue to ask myself, “What memories do you have from that night? What memories formed from your perspective?”
Something tells me you didn’t spend the next few months experiencing violent flashbacks. Did you not feel the pressure of your thumb bruising my neck? Could you feel the sensation of your knee pressing into my inner thigh as you forced my body open, and yourself inside? I did, and often at the most inopportune times.
Like while I was working with a small group in my kindergarten class, “Ms. W., what’s wrong with your eyes? Are you crying?” Their words could only do so much to bring me back to the present moment. And when I stood in the bathroom, hardly able to look at myself in the mirror. When I wondered if others could see the disgust that filled my being. With future partners with whom I willingly tried to share myself after you. Did the night we unfortunately shared together remotely affect your life as much as it did mine?
I’ve written drafts of this letter before, but generally, anger took over. Tonight I am no longer writing from a place of anger. I am writing from a place of clarity, both embodying it and seeking a bit more. I am writing from a place of forgiveness and compassion, not just for you, but for the collective male consciousness and all the boys who have been raised in this culture.
In our society, we tend to be taught that the idea of a good night is to go out, get drunk, and get laid. Wake up hungover and celebrate with your buddies, perhaps making up stories about sex you don’t quite remember. It is no wonder so many more women are coming forward with their stories, not unlike my own.
In this age of Brett Kavanaughs being exonerated, of drunken sexual assaults being dismissed as “Boys being boys,” we, as a society, need to get clear. You getting drunk (and encouraging me to drink well past my limit, removing multiple waters from my hand and replacing them with whiskey gingers) is no excuse to let your sexual urges take priority over my consent, my safety, my sovereignty.
Let me repeat something I said to you throughout that evening, I had no intention of having sex with you that night. We danced, we flirted, we made out on the dance floor. All those things are true. None of them are equal to consent for sex.
You claimed you wanted to come back to where I was staying so you didn’t have to pay for another Uber, I told you that you could sleep on the couch. Yet somehow, when I came out of the bathroom and into my room, there you were. We ended up making out on the bed, and I could feel sleep calling. I told you again I didn’t want to have sex. Yet for some reason you removed my dress, obviously having no regard for my opinion. I found myself pinned underneath your body, your penis way too close for comfort. I could see you had no intention on stopping and asked you, “Do you at least have a condom?”
Why you would even want to have sex with someone who has such a low level of enthusiasm for you is beyond me. I certainly don’t want to have sex with someone who isn’t stoked on me.
When you said no but it was “fine,” I told you definitely not, beginning to push your chest when I felt your grip tighten. Before I knew what was happening, you reached across my body, your hand pressing my left shoulder down, leaving the thumb-shaped bruise right near my collarbone that would haunt me in the days to come. Your knee found my inner thigh too skillfully, pinning my leg down as you entered me—unwelcome, dry, resistant. I laid back for a moment, resigned only briefly to this fate, until a wave of fury and power coursed through me.
Perhaps you had thought I relaxed enough to loosen your grip when I reached up, pushing you off of me, pushing you out of me as I exclaimed, “I said no! Do you realize what you’re doing?” You never answered that question. And I still wonder, do you know that you raped me? Whether you finished or not, whether you were inside of me against my consent for 30 seconds or 30 minutes, you violated me. You assaulted the most sacred part of my body, and you took what was not yours. For what? Was the pleasure you received during that worth it? Was it worth the long road I have had to traverse, seeking healing in my own unique way?
I have wondered if there are other women you have done this to, whether ignorantly or not. Unfortunately, the answer to that feels like yes. I have carried guilt around about that for years now, which is a big motive for me writing this letter. Why should it be my job to educate you? I took full responsibility for my own healing, with the help of beautiful friends and an amazing therapist. Why can’t you do the work to be better on your own? Perhaps you have been. I can’t claim to know. The optimist in me wants to believe that you realized the error of your ways. That maybe, your unanswered friend request was an attempt at an apology that I shut down. I truly don’t know.
What I do know is that I am ready to release this. I don’t want to carry this unknown energy around anymore. I want you to have all the information you need to make better choices in the future. My hope is that you educate not only yourself about consent and respecting women, but that you have conversations with your fellow men, with possible future sons, with boys who are just entering into their own period of navigating the confusions of sex and consent.
You now unequivocally know my perspective of our short story. I don’t know what role your character plays in others’ stories, but I sure hope it is a more respectful, loving, and moral version of you than I got to know. You get to choose how you will proceed, and from here on out, I wish you well.
*Details have been changed to avoid libel concerns.