I’ve alluded in previous notes and in some tweets to the fact I have some stories that allow me to say, unfortunately #MeToo. I have been quiet about these stories, saving the space for others. But today, I realize that I need to take my space. I need to remember that I am worthy of the space I occupy in any sense of the term. In any aspect. On the train, on the internet, in the world. This is me, forging my space, in a hashtag that so many women have come to confess the pain and sorrow they’ve experienced at the hands of abusers, assaulters, harassers, rapists. But it’s my time and it’s my turn.
After all, I cannot run from these stories–as much as I may want to and as hard as I may try. I cannot run from my truth, and maybe, somehow, writing about it will help me leave it all behind.
Obviously, the subject matter and stories contained within this newsletter contain references to and descriptions of sexual assault and rape. Please read with caution and take care of yourself. If you need to talk to someone about any experience with sexual assault, you can reach out to the National Sexual Assault Hotline via the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) by calling 800-656-HOPE (4673).
Back in the days when I used colored straws to indicate how much Captain Morgan was poured into a Diet Coke bottle, I was reckless. The days when I self-medicated before I realized that was actually what it was. It wasn’t until after I was old enough to legally drink when I learned that, yes, I was self-medicating to solve the rampant mood swings and depression I thrust into.
In my heaviest partying self-medicating days, I spent a lot of time at basement house parties. It was college. I would pack up my orange Nike drawstring bag with my wallet, keys, and Diet Cokes and head downtown on the 11 bus (affectionately known as the “Drunk Bus”) and into a completely different world than one I ever thought I’d find myself in.
I only remember details of a couple of these parties. Not because I blacked out drunk (although that did happen a few times), but because most of them are the same. One, I made out with a guy I was flirting with for a couple months and ended up dating for a while after that.
Unfortunately, the story of the other is less idyllic and far less fun.
I’d pre-gamed before leaving my room. It’s standard procedure if you’re underage and planning on heading to a party off campus where there’s always a risk of getting caught by the police who were notorious for being rude and argumentative with college students. By the time I’d arrived downtown, I’d been a pretty decent level of drunk. Not enough to lose all faculties, but enough to be hazy, tipsy, buzzed (whichever term you prefer).
There was a guy. He was attractive. My hazy memory wants me to say he was blonde, tall, somewhat muscular, very bro-esque. (Many of these stories have to do with bro-type guys in my experience reading them.) I almost remember his name as having been Dylan. I don’t know why.
We were dancing. I’d been wearing a short skirt. I still own said skirt and why I haven’t gotten rid of it is far beyond my comprehension. He was cute. We danced closer. Before I knew it and before I realized it, his hand was inside my underwear. He was fingering me. In public. In front of about fifteen people I didn’t know. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t scream. No one would’ve heard me anyway, I was at a house party with blaring music. I looked around the room frantically. I couldn’t find the friends I’d gone with.
I spotted a friend of mine from another instance, another part of my life. I mouthed “please help me” to him. Multiple times. He didn’t respond. He didn’t help me. I eventually pulled the guy’s hand away and said I needed to find my friends.
I’ve never told this story. I only remembered it recently. I’m ashamed of it and how I knew I should’ve acted prior. I blame myself for a lot of this scenario–which is twisted. It wasn’t my fault.
Still in college. My college friends could regale you with hours upon hours of stories about a guy I still to this day refer to as “Dumbass Boy.” It’s exactly who he was and it’s exactly who he still is. (Once you have a nickname like that, you just don’t shake it.)
I was in love with him for a time (or what I thought “in love” looked like) and he never wanted anything more than what we had. I was likely more of a dumbass than he was.
We met through the “Class of 2014” Facebook group my college set up. We chatted on Facebook for the months leading up to us actually going to school, and for a little while once we got there. We ended up living in buildings across the way from each other and one late night went on a walk together to meet in person. I went back to his room with him, he played “Crash Into Me” by Dave Matthews on his guitar to impress me (it worked), and we then went to second base. He was the first guy to see me topless outside of my now-gay best friend.
For months we stayed on third base. I was okay with that–a man was paying attention to me. He was attracted to me (or so my delusional brain thought). I was desirable. I was more than just the fat girl for once in my life.
Before the end of my first fall semester, we had sex. I trusted him to be my first. And it’s a comical story now featuring the “Family Guy” laugh track and a bed uncomfortably tall for me to climb onto.
He lingered around in my life for years after that.
We would hook up, I’d get in a relationship, that relationship would end, he’d come back, and the cycle would continue. I came out as bisexual, I told him, he had the stereotypical reaction of a bro (“Can I watch? Can we have a threesome?”). I was playfully unamused, but had come to expect it from him. He was that type.
When my college boyfriend (I only had one while I did date two girls) dumped me, I went back to Dumbass Boy. Something about him always had me coming back. He was comfortable and he was the first man in a long time to make me feel desired. To make me feel like I mattered. Like I could be wanted.
We fooled around just like we always had. He always tried to get us to have anal sex. I refused for a long time. I was scared. Everything I ever knew about anal was terrifying. Bloody, potentially embarrassing, and terrifying. I’d determined that that wasn’t ever anything I wanted to partake in. And he knew that.
One night, in his shower, we decided to have sex. We hadn’t had actual sex since he took my virginity. I was open to that idea–it’d been a while for me.
He wanted anal.
He got what he wanted–after guilt tripping me. He was good at that.
After, I cried silently and washed thoroughly with his Irish Spring body wash. It has forever been tainted for me; even though it had been a scent and a soap I always loved. Just thinking about it brings me back to that night, pushed against the shower wall, wishing I was having a vivid nightmare, wishing I was anywhere else. When I think about this, I can still feel the slight sting of the soap’s scent in my nose, clear as day.
I never told him how that made me feel. I regret it. To this day, I don’t think he knows what it was.
My second year living in Washington, DC. I had gone to happy hour with a couple coworkers and being as young and reckless as I was, didn’t realize that you probably shouldn’t get tanked while out with your coworkers. (It took me a significant amount of time to learn this lesson.) They went home, I wanted to keep drinking. And I did.
I texted a friend (and coworker) to see if he wanted to meet up with me at a gay bar. He lived close to it and I used to frequent that bar when I lived in the Northwest quadrant of the city. He said sure, I’d gotten to my apartment and was still taking Fireball shots in my apartment and then left for the rest of the night’s adventures.
I continued taking Fireball shots and drinking rum and Coke. (Rum and Coke was my drink of choice for a long time. If I’m feeling particularly nostalgic, I’ll go back to it. Now it’s more Jack and Coke if I can get it.)
I was very drunk by the time my friend decided to go home with an attractive man. I wasn’t going to begrudge him that. I told him that he should go. He offered to escort me to the Metro station, but I didn’t want to be a cockblock (me, in my eternal quest to not be a burden to others).
I got on the train and I don’t remember much after that.
I remember a police officer taking me off the train because I’d passed out or fallen asleep (likely the former). I remember a man telling the officer that he’d take me home. I don’t know why I agreed. He did take me to my house, but not after some pieces I still have yet to fully put together (and I don’t think I ever want to).
I remember a basement, the smell of laundry detergent likely Gain and not Tide, sitting atop a washing machine, and vaguely giving a blow job. Then blacking out, and coming to right before I made it to my apartment. I slept for hours upon hours after that, missing a date with my now-wife.
This is the first time I have ever told anyone other than my wife, one of my coworkers, and my therapist this story. It haunts me.
I tell these stories in hopes that being honest with myself will remind me that I am a strong person who deserves to be treated like a human. I tell them hoping desperately that my future daughters will never have stories like these. That this will only be a distant memory and I can tell them of the change and revolution a few women caused via just a little thing called the internet. And I tell these stories with a fervent hope that the conversation will continue and that someday there will be no more stories like these.
Editor's Note: This post originally appeared on Jessica's blog, Rivers, Streams, and Painted Turtle Shells.