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I Was Sexually Assaulted, but I Never Said 'No'

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Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

I was sexually assaulted, but I never said, “No.” It’s probably not what you’re thinking. Some of you may be picturing a woman leading a man on, knowing exactly where things were going, changing my mind and not bothering to say anything. But allow me to explain.

• What is PTSD?

We have a much clearer definition of consent today than even a few years ago. My incident was only in 2012, but even then, people were not educating society as much as they are today. The truth is, I didn’t even fully comprehend I was sexually assaulted at the time. I thought I had accidentally consented, if that makes any sense.

I was 17, and it was the summer in between my junior and senior year of high school. My friends and I were throwing a party we should not have been throwing. I wasn’t really drunk, though. There wasn’t enough space for all of us to sleep in beds and couches, so many of us went out to our cars and cracked the windows since it was warm enough. I had a bit of a crush on the guy who would later assault me. He was nice to me. He was cute and charming. I had been dropping some pretty heavy hints that I was interested.

Just because I liked him did not automatically determine how far I wanted to go with him. I never had any intentions of anything more than making out with him. At the time, I had never gone farther than that with anyone. And even if I had, that doesn’t automatically mean I’d have to with anyone else.

I was lying in the backseat of my car. I had taken off my bra, as I always did before sleeping, and was lying cuddled in my blanket. I then heard a knock on my window. It was him. He motioned for me to follow him to his car. I was excited because I believed I was going to get to talk — and maybe kiss — my crush. We sat in his car. We kissed a lot. Eventually, something happened I wasn’t expecting. He went up my shirt. I didn’t even feel him going for it. One second the only thing touching my breasts was my shirt. The next, his hands were on them. A lot of people would assume I later changed my mind. The thing is, I never wanted that. I never expected it. If I’d had any indication he was going to go for it, I would have stopped him. There was none.

I still remember exactly what I said to myself in my head when he did this. “Oh my God! What is he doing? Did I do something to make him think that’s OK? How did he even do it that fast? How did I not feel him going for it? What do I do? I don’t want this? OK. OK. It’s OK. They’re just boobs. It’s not going to kill you. It’s too late now. I have to be OK with this now.” At the time, there wasn’t much talk about being able to tell someone to stop. Since I didn’t say “no” before it happened, I thought that was it. I never had the chance to tell him “no.” There was never a “yes.” In the months to follow I began having nightmares about being raped or molested. At the time, I didn’t understood why I was having these nightmares.

I came to the conclusion that I had been assaulted toward the end of 2017. I’m still unsure what triggered it, but I finally went on Whisper and anonymously asked a few rape survivors if they thought it was consensual. None of them did. I never said “yes.” How could that count as consent? I had a whirlwind of feelings about this. There was guilt for not telling and anger there would be plenty who wouldn’t believe me if I did tell. There was anger at myself for not understanding sooner and anger at him for not bothering to ask me. I was angry that I felt like a victim.

Over the years, I have been very back and forth about whether or not I believe he knew it was not consensual. I slowly have been becoming less optimistic. I started to become more doubtful of him when I found out he had told people at school he fingered me years later. That never happened, consensual or non-consensual. He’d also tried to touch me at a party without permission before this incident, but he was extremely drunk. I slapped his hand away before anything happened, and he apologized. I’m not entirely sure whether I think he knew. But that’s not the point.

I am allowed to feel uncomfortable even when that was not the person’s intention. I am also allowed to like someone and still have boundaries with them. I never have to dive right into anything physical with someone I like. The bottom line is, he did something to me I did not want him to do. Therefore, it cannot be consensual.

Photo by Soragrit Wongsa on Unsplash

Originally published: March 31, 2018
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