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Owning A Long-Buried Truth

Up to 70% of college students admit to being sexually coerced.

This is her story.

I blog about dealing with owning various truths about myself – the painful ones, the happy ones, the well-lived ones and, in this case, the ones that have remained buried for years.

Many of my truths have been recent discoveries while others I’ve owned for years. But there’s one truth, one single truth that I’ve kept buried for a long time, unwilling to examine it or call it what it was. This long-buried truth was yanked up to the surface by a recent online discussion.

Owning this truth began with another post by someone else, in which the author insinuates that an incident of sexual coercion was merely an accident, a bit of miscommunication between he and his girlfriend.

Some might agree with that.

But, as I read it, all I could think was, “Just because there wasn’t an explicit no doesn’t mean it was consensual.” And then a long-buried memory hit me like a sucker-punch to the gut. Some fifteen years ago, I didn’t explicitly say no, either.

I was a sophomore in college, living in my first apartment. I had a boyfriend, slightly older than me, whom I had met in a history class. In that class, we had to do those awful, awkward introductions everyone hates – you say your name and then offer up a favorite movie or book or quotation. This guy let fly with Marx’s, “Religion is the opiate of the masses,” and my angry, punk-rock eyes lit up.

I was smitten. We started spending a lot of time together. He stayed over at my place frequently. And we drank.

A lot.

One night, after we had been drinking, he started in with a request that I’d denied on many previous occasions. See, he really, really wanted to have anal sex: “C’mon, just this once. I’ll go really slow. It won’t hurt. C’mon.”
I was beyond hesitant – I didn’t want to do it. I was scared. I was also very, very drunk and absolutely incapable of making good decisions. The pestering continued and I finally caved.

I don’t remember much except pain. And blood. And tears. And humiliation. I remember sitting on the toilet, tears falling, somewhat sobered by the pain and the reality of what I had allowed to happen. Allowed to happen. It was my fault – I didn’t said “no.” I cried but I never said “no.” I told him I didn’t want to…but I never said no.

I didn’t stop him.

I let him do it.

It was my fault.

I took that shame and I buried it nice and deep. I never examined it, never called it what it was. Rape was something different: something forceful and angry and not something that happens with your boyfriend, especially not something that happens if you don’t say no.

But that’s exactly what it was: rape. I didn’t want to do it. I was crying, for fuck’s sake. I was wasted. He did it anyway, despite my hesitance, my prior protestations, and my tears. It wasn’t an “accident” and it had nothing to do with a lack of communication.

It was non-consensual, and non-consensual sex is rape, plain and simple.

Since this memory resurfaced, I sat with it for quite some time. There’s been lots of processing, more blame, and then letting go. I’ve decided to share it now, during Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, because I’m certain that I’m not alone. Sadly, I’m sure it happens every day. A woman doesn’t want to…isn’t comfortable with it…might be drunk, might not…but doesn’t explicitly say no. Her reasons do not matter: what matters is that she didn’t want to and he continued.

Being sexually coerced isn’t equal to giving consent. It’s not your fault. And it wasn’t mine.