Trigger warning: Assault.
The first time.
Seventh Grade. As much as a middle schooler can, I had a ‘boyfriend.’ He had had more girlfriends in the past than I had had boyfriends and while this intimated me, I remember thinking he was so sensitive and made me feel grown up. I don’t remember how long we’d been ‘dating’ or what really brought this on, but one afternoon in the teen center he came with me to the back room while I got my bags and was about to leave. I had never kissed anyone so our goodbyes consisted of lengthy hugs, burying our faces in each others shoulders, and saying cheesy and manufactured things we’d heard in movies or pop songs. This time though, mid-hug, he laced his hands together on the small of my back and thrust his hips against me over and over so his bulge would hit against my crotch. I froze and then tried to push away from him by putting my hands on his shoulders. He whispered, “You like that” and I couldn’t tell if it was a question or a statement.
My 1st year of college. August. One night I was feeling silly and outgoing. I shouted at a passerby that I liked his beard. As he got closer I realized he was older than the freshman and sophomores I’d been running into, but he was funny and seemed nice. I don’t remember if I got his number that night or if he found me on Facebook or what happened, but after that we started texting and hanging out. While he was new to the school, he was a transfer student and had taken a few years off before starting so he was 25 to my very fresh 18 years. But it didn’t feel like that big of a difference when we hung out. One night he invited me to a party, I felt awkward and nervous because I was the only underclassman there, but his friends were nice to me and let me drink their liquor. I didn’t stand the whole night so when we got up to leave, the alcohol I had hit me like a ton of bricks.
He helped me to his room, where he helped me out of my underwear- but not out of my dress. He asked if he could eat me out. I said yes. He asked if we could have sex. I said no and he stayed dressed. I asked if I could go home. He said yes. We walked to my dorm across campus and he helped me unlock the floor door and my dorm door. I said thanks and good night, but he came in my room. I fell asleep. He woke me up. He asked if he could eat me out again. I said nothing. He ate me out. He stopped. I fell asleep. He left.
I remembered everything that happened and I didn’t feel slighted in anyway, but was still uncomfortable, I couldn’t figure out why. He started texting me nonstop. After about a week, I told him I just wanted to be friends. I apologized, was as sweet as I could be, told him I just wasn’t ready for anything more than that and was sorry if I’d been leading him on. He was really cool about it for the first two days.
Then the texting nonstop continued. And he started showing up outside my classes regularly, despite me never having told him my schedule. He would be in the dining hall with no food when my roommate and I would show up. I’d see him everywhere. I was afraid.
More happened with him, but it isn’t really my story to tell. He eventually left the school due to emotional distress or something- those were the rumors anyway. During my senior year he came to visit, he apologized for everything he’d done to make me and my roommate uncomfortable. He seemed much more relaxed and happier, honestly.
My 1st year of college. October. My high school boyfriend, who I was still back and forth with, had just texted me something cruel and dismissive regarding another girl he had started seeing. I was pissed and hurt so my new roommate (and new best friend) invited me home with her for midterm break. We had an absolute blast. While home with her I met a friend of her then-boyfriend. The four of us went out and me and this guy really hit it off. Like, really. So I ended up with this huge hickey and his phone number. Fast forward a few weeks, it’s Halloween, I’m kind of over this guy. I had expressed my disinterest, but he wasn’t giving up. His friend, my roommate’s boyfriend, was coming to stay with us for Halloween weekend and he invited himself along- after I told him I did not want to see him. I even tried to use my interest in another guy to ward this one off, but he persisted.
As my roommate and I were getting ready, the boys mingled in the hall and hung out. As we were leaving, he told me how hot or something I looked and grabbed at me. I hit him in the face, trying to get the message to him and everyone around us that I was not interested. After I hit him he said something about the “balls” I had and how hot it was that a girl would do that. I was afraid.
Later in the night I was dancing with someone else. My visiting friend, whom I had now hit and run away from, acted slighted and hurt that I would do something like that. He said he’d driven all the way there to hang out with me and couldn’t believe I was ignoring him. I did my best to be polite to him, but also tried not to send any flirtatious signals- though it felt hopeless after the way my slap had been interpreted.
At the end of the night he was still coming on to me regularly and I kept trying to nicely rebuff him, but at one point I pushed him away, he fell, his phone broke. He looked at me sweetly and said it didn’t matter. My skin crawled. Eventually we all laid down to try to go to sleep. Instead, our visitor began texting my roommate’s boyfriend about how sad he was he had to sleep on the floor and how he wanted to lay next to me and promised no funny business if he was allowed up into my bed. The boyfriend was showing these messages to my roommate and imploring her to talk to me, so she started texting me. I felt guilty and tired and figured I’d just curl against the wall- use it as leverage to push him out if he did try anything. So I let him up, told him I felt bad he was on the cold floor and earnestly implored him not to be an asshole.
He was. He insisted he be against the wall so I could more easily get in and out of bed. And then about twenty minutes later he wrapped his arms around me and put his hands under my shirt, cupping my breasts, saying it doesn’t really matter anyway. I wanted to cry, but just laid still, hoping that no reaction would end his game. It didn’t. A little while later he spooned me and said, “You make me so hard.” Again, I stayed frozen. He eventually moved back to his side, but kept his hands on my breasts.
My 1st year of college. April/May. I started hanging out with a new friend group. I met a guy in my Spanish class, subsequently met his friends, we all hit it off and started hanging out. The dynamic was that the guy I’d met in Spanish had a sort of obvious crush on me, but I didn’t feel the same so I acted oblivious and did my best to make it clear I just wanted to be his friend. One of the others in the group had a pretty serious girlfriend, the other was chronically single, and the final guy was a notorious flirt. I, of course, developed a crush on the flirty guy, but didn’t want to let on given how new the friendships were. About a month in, because I can’t keep my damn mouth shut, I told the guys about my crush, they teased me a little, but nothing else really happened for a few weeks.
One night we all went for a walk. It was the weird kind of weather that called for a jacket, but made you sweat. It was a good night. We told jokes and stories, just normal freshman exploring campus. The night ended in one of their rooms, we played video games, snacked, just kind of hung out. Eventually we all dispersed and the flirty one asked me to come to his room, he wanted to talk. I was nervous and just stood in his doorway. He teased me a little, and strummed his guitar, I swooned, but stood my ground. After some navigating, he expressed that he knew about my crush, but didn’t think it was a good idea to have anything happen because of the feelings another person in the group had for me. I agreed, and we talked and laughed. I went to my room.
He texted me not long after that, less than an hour later, and asked if he could come upstairs and watch a movie. Great, I thought to myself, we’re definitely gonna make-out and then we’ll pretend it never happened and the friend group will survive and everything will be fine. I texted him back, told him to give me a few to get ready- i.e. put on cute pajamas and clean my dorm.
To be clear, I knew, he knew, and anyone reading this knows we were not going to watch a movie. I mean, when he came upstairs, we didn’t even pretend to pick one out. He just got in my bed and we started talking. Then we started kissing. Then he slid his hands in my shirt and I said, “That’s fine, but I want to be clear that I don’t want to have sex.” He nodded and we kept going. He took his pants off, and then my shorts. He fingered me, kissed me, and then got out of bed to put a condom on. I said, “Troy, I don’t want to have sex.”
He said okay, left the condom on, and got back in bed. I was afraid. I said, “Stop.” He got on top of me, I put my knees on his chest and said for the third time, “I don’t want to have sex.”
He said something like, “Yes you do, this feels so good. Tell me you don’t want to.”
“I don’t want to.”
He laughed, “Yes you do.”
I was afraid. I was pushing my knees into his chest telling him I didn’t want to, but he was pushing back, trying to get into me. My mind raced with something to say to get him off and out of my room.
“This is illegal. What you’re doing, it’s coercion. It’s illegal in New York. I don’t want to have sex.”
He made a noise that sounded pissed off. He got off me, threw the unused condom in my recycling bin, and left. I cried, wrapped a blanket around me and didn’t move for a few hours.
My 3rd year of college. Early Spring. I went to a party with a friend. I wasn’t old enough to get into bars yet, but we were both tired of just drinking in our rooms. We’d pre-gamed a little and were buzzed. His buzz turned to brooding about 30 minutes after arriving so he left. I didn’t want to leave and felt comfortable staying since I’d seen a few people I knew, I didn’t plan on drinking more than a beer or two. We made a pact that I’d check in every hour so he’d know I was safe.
I was dancing with this pretty attractive hockey player that had lived on my floor freshman year. He was pretty drunk so I knew nothing would happen, but was enjoying the attention and was glad not to be awkwardly standing against a wall. While we danced he was rubbing his hands from my ribs down to my legs, sometimes grazing my ass, but was generally respectful and when he got a little too close to my breasts and I pushed his hand, he didn’t offend again.
That is until the third or fourth song when he started pulling my dress up. At first I thought it was a mistake and just pulled it down and laughed a little. Then he kept doing it, to the point that I stepped away from him and danced arm’s length away. He got the point, though reluctantly. A few songs later I asked him to show me where the bathroom was, since it was a house I’d never visited. He grabbed my hand and I followed him down a hallway into a bathroom with no doorknob. He held the door open for me, followed me in, put his back against the door to keep it shut, and started to fumble with his belt. I was afraid. He was blocking the only exit.
Trying to play it cool, I said, “No sweetie, I actually have to pee.” He nodded and left with his belt undone. I nearly pulled a muscle trying to pee and hold my hand over the hole of the missing doorknob. I didn’t see him again. I went home.
The worst time.
My 2nd year of college. January. In the last semester, there had been this light flirtation going on between me and a ‘friend of a friend’ type. He was someone I thought was funny and sweet and I wanted to get to know him better, but he was someone I really only saw in passing, someone I was friends with on Facebook but neither one of us had taken the step of messaging the other. Luckily, at the very start of the semester, I ran into him and a few other mutual friends in the dining hall. We did our regular smiling and waving, but this time he invited me to sit with them.
It turns out they were planning a surprise birthday party for the guy through which I had met all of them. They invited me to come along and the guy I had the flirtation with gave me all the details.
The day of the party came up and I was excited! This wasn’t actually the first party this group had invited me to, but I was never able to actually make it, for a whole host of reasons. The guy texted me and asked if I was going to be able to come, I responded yes and told him I was on my way!
I got there and the same group from the dining hall was there (most of them lived there) along with a few other friends-of-friends I recognized. However, I was then informed that the party didn’t start for another hour and I had been given an earlier time than everyone else because of my chronic lateness and habit of not showing up. At first I was a little offended, but instead realized that it was probably more a reflection of my habits and this guy’s crush than it was an insult.
Given the early hour, I had not had time for dinner- I tried really hard to be on time! So the guys offered me some pretzels because it was the only vegan food they had. I started snacking on the fruit in the jungle juice because little underclassman Emily Jo was completely ignorant of how fruit in alcohol absorbs said alcohol. Between the fruit and the pretzels I was feeling better, but also tipsy.
The guys got a text that the birthday boy and the girlfriend escorting him to the party were going to be late. So we all started playing a drinking game, something with cards, I don’t remember. I got pretty drunk.
Eventually the guest of honor arrived, we took a picture. So somewhere on someone’s phone or laptop there is a picture of me fairly wasted, holding an empty shot glass next to a guy in a birthday hat surrounded by strangers and acquaintances.
I don’t remember much about the rest of the party. I don’t know if I ran to the bathroom alone and was followed or if I spoke to the flirtation guy about how ill I was feeling and he led me to the bathroom. I don’t know. I just know I ended up in the bigger of their two bathrooms throwing up pink bits of fruit and brown pretzels.
I remember people knocking and him saying, “Occupied” a bunch of times. I remember having to move to the smaller bathroom because one of the roommates needed the shower. I remember struggling to make that move. I remember being really cold and annoyed by that. But most of it is blurry.
I was so weak and out of it that the guy was holding me up so I’d vomit in the toilet. I was so weak and out of it that I had to ask him to lift the toilet seat. I was so weak and out of it that I was falling asleep in his arms between the bouts of sickness.
I was so weak and out of it that I’m surprised I remember him kissing me. I was so weak and out of it that I couldn’t stop him running his hands up my pantyhose and rubbing my crotch over them. Or pulling my dress up.
I’m not sure how long I was in there, puking and being assaulted, but eventually I stopped throwing up. He told me I could use his bed until I felt better. I don’t know how long I slept, or if I even did. I just remember my head spinning. When I was finally able to see straight, I started looking for my phone. I wanted to get out of there. Even though I felt much better, things were still blurring and I stumbled around. I needed help finding my phone, but as soon as I did I called friends that lived nearby and quietly begged them to let me stay on their couch.
I left as everyone else did, they were walking towards campus, towards my dorm. I ran in the opposite direction, towards the apartment of the friends I’d called. At first they chased after me, they didn’t know I’d called anyone. They thought I was being drunk and difficult so they were talking down to me, annoyed but concerned. I yelled back that I was fine, or something to that effect, I don’t remember. I was trying to run and dial and not slip in the snow. I got to the door of the apartment building and called my friends again to be let in. I cried on their couch.