Personal Narrative: “What Happens If I Open My Eyes?”
In honor of Take Back The Night, The Thrill is proud to feature personal narratives. Today’s is authored by an anonymous student.
*Trigger warning: this post contains graphic descriptions of sexual misconduct.
It comes back with a rush. I see the image of his twisted smile looking down on me. It was playful, dopey even. But there was manipulation on his lips and power in his mouth, like sand grating on his teeth. He told me I was better at oral sex than he would have guessed. He told me I had to swallow. I brushed my teeth until I could no longer taste the shame. He pushed me to try things I was uncomfortable with. It was my first time being with someone. I didn’t know. Then he made fun of me later. He told me that I liked it. That I was into it.
He pried into my emotional life. I was depressed and had issues at home. He blew the issues up into great bubbles that suffocated me and then popped them in mid-air. I felt stupid, belittled. But of course, he acted like he cared. He was at once a humiliator and a rescuer, and I hate him for that. He shamed me for hooking up with several guys over the course of the year. But he dangled other girls before my eyes and broke me down, just enough to swoop in to rescue again.
I hate him for that.
I had moved on. I was charmed by a different guy. This time he was older. We had been eying each other all semester. We finally found each other at a party after I had reluctantly turned him down to hang out with friends the week before. We made out on the dance floor. I asked him to leave and we went back to my room. He left to answer a phone call and came back. We hooked up and clothing came off piece by piece. Fine, I thought. But then, he penetrated me and I didn’t know what to do. So I went with it, frozen, caught off guard. I moved my hips and tried to enjoy it, but he scolded me. You’ll make me cum too fast. What a travesty, I responded with irritation. When it was over, I quietly turned the other way. He said, I didn’t hurt you, did I? No, I said. Though I think it did. He asked for my phone number and left. I was confused.
I woke the next morning with an anxious mind. Was I assaulted? He didn’t ask. He didn’t ask. But I went with it. I don’t know. I don’t know.
I liked him a lot, and I convinced myself that it was fine, even though I wasn’t planning on having sex with him. I saw him a few times more and banished the questions that persisted in my mind. But they came back, because they never really left. And I still don’t know, was it assault? I still don’t know.
Blink three times.
A year later and I’m at a frat house on campus. I was drunk. Very drunk. In fact, I blacked out. The last thing I remember was my inability to get him away from me on my way home. I wanted to go home. I didn’t want him to come with me. I told him I’d never date him. He said we’d see about that.
And then I woke up. It was the next morning and I had a message on my phone. Confused, I opened it and it read: But seriously please don’t ever talk to anyone about what happened last night, if you do remember it, as it’s something awful I never want to think about again. Please please.
I said that I didn’t remember. I was alarmed, but I said it was ok. You ok? I asked. I wanted to be nice. He was upset. I was upset. But what happened?
He responded, Yeah I’m fine I just feel shitty.
like not sick, just pissed at myself haha
it’s better if you don’t remember haha
I still have all of the messages.
He spotted me doing homework and came over to talk later that evening. I asked him what happened. He said he asked to have sex with me. Apparently, I had said no. And apparently, he left. But I don’t remember and I don’t know. His messages made it clear that he knew I was too drunk. Why would he ask? Did he assault me? I couldn’t give consent and he knew it. But he asked anyway. Was this assault?
I still don’t know. But I still can’t look at him.
Blink four times.
I was on a date with a stranger. He seemed nice, the conversation flowed easily. We went back to his apartment. I was tense. Sitting next to me on the couch, he slipped his arm around me and placed his hand on the back of my neck and shoulder. After a little while, he turned my head to kiss me. I was nervous, but I went with it. He took off my pants and went straight to oral sex. He stuck his fingers in my mouth. I didn’t like any of it and pulled his head up, and pushed his hands away. He stopped. But he started again. And each time, it got more aggressive. He tried to have sex with me, I told him no and pushed him away despite his groans. I got up to leave and he playfully begged me not to go. No, I really have to go, I said. I couldn’t leave fast enough. He told me to call him when I got home. I said maybe I’d text him. I didn’t. I felt violated and undone. He texted me the next day and I didn’t answer. And then he texted me again to say he felt like I was upset about the previous night. I confirmed his suspicion. He didn’t seem to care and told me to wish him luck with an upcoming job interview. Like hell, I thought. I didn’t respond.
Sex is enjoyable, and I pursue it, but I can’t help but feel dirty afterward. To this day, I am unsure if the instances I have detailed here were assault. I’m afraid to talk to anyone about them. I don’t want to claim victimhood because I know there are others with far worse experiences. My intuition tells me that I’ve been violated, but my anxiety is a gag that silences my words.
What happens if I open my eyes?
- National Sexual Assault Hotline – 800-656-HOPE
- National Domestic Violence Hotline – 800-799-7233
- Kenyon College Sexual Misconduct Hotline – 740-358-1544