Unfortunate and unpleasant events that I experienced this past Wednesday night made me realize that I might not know what sexual assault is and has me now asking this question. Womenshealth.gov defines sexual assault as:
Sexual assault and abuse is any type of sexual activity that you do not agree to, including:
- inappropriate touching
- vaginal, anal, or oral penetration
- sexual intercourse that you say no to
- attempted rape
- child molestation
Sexual assault can be verbal, visual, or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention. Examples of this are voyeurism (when someone watches private sexual acts), exhibitionism (when someone exposes him/herself in public), incest (sexual contact between family members), and sexual harassment.
Although I now realize that what I experienced could be classified on the milder end of what seems to be a spectrum covering everything from verbal sexual harassment to rape, a part of me knew I’d been assaulted almost immediately. In thinking about what happened the following day, I felt nauseated and disgusting. I cleaned my entire apartment, changed my sheets, washed my towels, took out all my trash. Showered. Despised the fact that my shower’s water pressure is pathetic and that the hot water doesn’t last very long. I could not concentrate on anything other than how gross and ashamed I felt and how much anger was building up inside of me. I was torn between not being able to think of anything else, replaying the night’s events in my head and physically shuddering and trying to block out every image from my mind as I did. It made perfect sense to me then that so many assault and abuse victims develop OCD, eating disorders, and other mental health problems. In fact, I think it’s pretty miraculous when they don’t.
My assault falls under inappropriate touching and unwanted sexual attention. I think the reason I was unsure as to label is as assault stemmed from how subtle it seemed at the time. What began as a seemingly harmless, albeit alcohol-induced massage turned into unwanted and repudiated sexual advances that, if not for my adamant repetition of “No”, use of and threat of additional force, and the two men who were involved having a very minute sense of morality, I could have been raped. And while I’m very glad I wasn’t, my experience brought with it overwhelming feelings of stupidity, shame, guilt, and disgust with myself. What made it worse was that I fucking drove the bastard home the next day(he crashed on my floor).
I received a text message on Thursday from the one I had first met (the other was his cousin whom I met that evening) wishing me a good day. I wanted to vomit. He sent me an email the day after that apologizing for “things getting out of hand” and saying that it had been bothering him a lot. I didn’t respond. I missed a call from him the day after that saying he’d left me two messages and wanted to check in to see how I was doing. I had been working on formulating a response to the email and finally sent it. In it, I asked that he never contact me again.
I’m hoping he doesn’t, but unfortunately, he still has access to my apartment community. I know for a fact that he came to the complex to get his mail (he used to live here but recently moved) over the weekend. Every time I walk outside, I pray that he’s not there. Every time I see a man who looks remotely like him, it makes me want to turn and run in the other direction or hide. The events of that night are what I think about before I fall asleep at night.
I considered contacting the police. Unfortunately, I have no evidence of what has happened. It would be my word against his (probably), and I have no desire to be made to feel even worse than I do. I made numerous mistakes that night that would be brought out into harsh light that I am already too aware of now. Never again will I go out with a man that I don’t know well alone (or with a friend of his) and let him drive. Never again will I agree to go out with a man after having consumed any amount of alcohol previously during the day. Never again will I go out so late at night with someone I do not know well. Never again will I let men I don’t know well into my apartment. I imagine I’ll add to this list.
When I think back on things I did – letting them into my apartment, going out so late, going out with people I don’t know well after I’d had several drinks already, letting them drive instead of meeting somewhere – I question what the hell I was thinking. A large part of me answers, “You weren’t.” But, we are always thinking something. I believe I was thinking that, to a degree, I was invincible (which is ridiculous in and of itself seeing as I’d just read The Gift of Fear and learned that 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted). I could control myself and/or the situation. I was powerful. And yet, in imagining I was more powerful than I really was, what I actually did was give any power I had away. And who’s to say how power is to be executed? What made me think that power meant overcoming two men who might get the wrong idea? Why couldn’t power have been wisdom to keep me from entering a potentially dangerous situation? How I had limited, you, power!
I’m still processing what happened, and I know that this processing will continue for potentially a long time. I’m considering seeing a counselor because I could foresee this spiraling into something I would like to prevent. I know this will affect how I view men and relationships and dating, though I’m not entirely sure how.