When I was in naval boot camp, I was reprimanded for fraternization and given a lecture on sexual harassment. Perhaps she thought I didn’t know the meaning of this.
I remember she implied that it was women like me who allowed things like this to happen.
But honestly by age 19, I already knew what sexual harassment meant; I knew what it felt like.
And this was the ‘90’s; this is when it made it to the media. It became a really big deal. I understand now what their intentions were. Good intentions, but often the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
I not only knew what it felt like to be sexually harassed, I also knew what it meant to be sexually violated. And, I knew what consent meant. I knew the difference at 19.
Around the age of 17, I had returned to New York to finish out my last two years of high school. Life felt like it was stabilizing. Some of the extremes were slowly dissipating, not all, but some.
Easter break. I took a friend with me on this trip. We went to Virginia. I’m not sure if I had been back there, to my mom’s, since I moved out about a year prior.
It was hard going back to Virginia. I had learned a lot in Virginia. I had no idea how much more it was going to teach me.
My little sister wanted to go roller skating. Our mom had dropped us off at the skating place. We skated and had fun.
I always loved roller skating. I had fond memories of roller skating; until that night.
My friend had made friends with one of the workers there. They skated together. When it was time to for my little sister to go home, our mom picked her up. We made arrangements. We were supposed to call a cab back to her house.
I wasn’t much of a party-girl growing up. I wasn’t allowed to do much. At 17, my experiences with alcohol were minimal compared to that night.
The skating rink closed. We were going to walk to a party. I hadn’t been to many parties at that age, not those kind of parties.
I remember the huge jug of vodka. I remember the orange juice. The party was a lie. It was him, his friend, my friend and me. Something didn’t feel right.
There are only shreds of memories with this night. This is what I remember.
I remember walking. We walked through the city that night. We walked on residential roads too. I remember my friend had on my white jeans. I remember when she fell on the road. I remember her puking. I didn’t think she would stop. I remember she couldn’t walk very well.
I had been casual with his friend. I was polite, we talked. I wasn’t interested. I did not hold his hand, kiss him or flirt with him. I was simply congenial.
I remember at one point we were walking on a dark road. The guy who was with my friend had his arm around her. I was walking alongside them. His friend walked on the other side of me.
I remember when he dropped his arm off her shoulder. I remember when he came over to me and tried to put his arm around me. She got very angry. I got very confused. I removed his arm. He laughed it off and went back to my friend.
We ended our long walk at a house. It had a camper in the front yard. We all went in the camper. They turned on music. I remember the music played all night. I hated the music.
We drank a lot of Vodka that night.
I remember my friend sitting on the bed. I remember she couldn’t talk well anymore. I remember her getting sleepy. We needed to leave. It was time to go.
They had promised us that they would walk us back. I didn’t know where we were, it was a big city. I trusted they would walk us back. They lied.
I remember them telling me that they were too tired to walk all that way. They tried giving me directions. I couldn’t comprehend their directions. I knew I was in a bad part of town. I was scared to try to make it back to my mom’s house. It was a dark night. There were no cell phones back then. There was no phone in the camper. They wouldn’t let me go into the house. There was no way to call a cab. I was very lost in that big city that night.
My friend was sleeping at this point. There was a big bed in that camper. Her friend lay down next to her. I sat on the other side of her. His friend sat next to me.
I woke up and heard the music. It was heavy metal. I remember the music. I hated the music.
He was in me. My friend was next to me. Her new friend was in her. I remember the confusion. I remember trying to wake up. I remember saying, ‘no’.
I couldn’t stay awake. I tried so hard. I didn’t understand what was happening. I lost consciousness again.
I woke up again later on and her friend was in me. They had switched.
I remember trying to yell her name. She never heard me.
We woke up when the sun rose. I didn’t say much. I no longer cared if I was lost. I would find my way. I would find our way.
We left quickly and we found our way to my mother’s house. It took us a while. It was a long walk and I didn’t always go the right way.
When we got to the house is was about 6:30 am. My mom met us at the door. She was very angry at me for being so late. She was angry that I didn’t call a cab. She thought I had been with my first love, he lived there in Virginia.
She was wrong. There was nothing about love that night.
My friend and I went upstairs to the bathroom. I remember we still weren’t saying much. We needed a shower. We needed to wash all of it away.
As I was undressing, I remember she gasped.
“Oh my God, Chris! What the hell happened last night?”
I was covered in bruises. I don’t know how they happened. They were everywhere, some very dark ones. On my back, on my legs, on my stomach, on my arms, there were bruises.
We inspected our bodies. She had a few too.
My friend and I didn’t really talk about this afterwards. We both felt guilty. We both felt ashamed. We both felt stupid.
I’ve heard some perspective on this night throughout the years. Some say I should’ve just gone home. Some say that I shouldn’t have drank. Some say that it wasn’t my fault.
I think there is truth in all of that.
This was the first time I was raped, but it wasn’t the last. There was one more really bad night. It also involved alcohol and a ‘party’. I was older then. I thought I was more careful. I had locked the door.
I wish I could have told her that day – the commanding officer. I wished she understood that I knew the difference between harassment and consent. Perhaps I knew the difference better than she did. I had learned this from life first hand.
My thoughts today:
I think the statistics are very wrong with rape. I know they are wrong. They never had my numbers and I know that I am not alone. I know others.
Yes, I made some poor choices that night. Perhaps even some naïve choices, but it never justified rape. Consuming alcohol as a minor was illegal. I own that. Consuming large quantities of alcohol without understanding how that would impact me was poor judgment on my part – that was a lesson learned. I own that too. Passing out from consumption of alcohol does not give anyone a free pass to penetrate – PERIOD! There are very few things that I can say with absolute, but this is one of them. There is no justification for rape.
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