Warning: This is my story about sexual assault. Please take care of yourself and skip this if it is going to cause you harm. If you need help or want to talk to someone, I highly recommend reaching out to RAINN. Their hotline is 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
I have written and deleted this post probably 60 times over the past year because I still do not know what to say. The worst is that large parts of me still feel like this was all my fault and that I am responsible for what happened. Watching the absolutely cruel and glib responses to Dr. Ford’s testimony has been deeply upsetting and has caused a lot of terrible feelings to be resurrected. So, after going back and forth, I finally decided this weekend that I would post this story because that bastard got confirmed and I kept seeing this:
Guess what? It happened to me and I can’t remember most of it either. I have not talked to my family or friends (except for the one friend who I tried to talk to) about this because I STILL feel so embarrassed. I have gone to counseling and I logically know that it was not my fault and I have nothing to be embarrassed about, but I cannot make those feelings completely go away. It took me years to understand that what happened was actually wrong.
For long periods of time I have managed to divorce myself from the situation to the point that it almost feels like it is something that happened to someone else. I never thought I would share this because I prefer to put it in a box and pretend it did not happen. After watching Dr. Ford testify and seeing others share their stories, I now understand why it is important to say these things. Well, I’m not sure I can actually “say” them, but I can type them.
In my early twenties I went to a friend’s house on a Saturday night to have dinner with her and her boyfriend. As I was getting ready to leave their house just before 9 pm, a neighbor a few blocks away called to say they were having a little party in their back yard and invited us to join. Since we had nothing else to do, we walked the short distance to the party. While we were there, some guys from the boyfriend’s work arrived. I had met some of them before, but I do not remember speaking to any of them at the party outside of a brief hello. As I usually do at a party, I stuck close to my friend and tried to avoid everyone else.
It was summer and hot as hell, so I was wearing an above-the-knee cotton sundress with pink flowers and gold sandals that always gave me blisters on the top of my foot. It is upsetting to me the details I can remember and those I cannot. I remember how the back yard was set up. I remember what other people were wearing. I remember how the night felt.
At the party, I drank two frozen margaritas. They were in red Solo cups and were about 3/4 of the way full. I remember that I started to feel like my head was swimming and I thought I was going to vomit not long after I finished the second one. I remember thinking that it was the heat and I needed to get inside. Maybe I drank them too fast because it was so hot?
I know I was not at the party for very long because I called my friend’s cellphone at 9:40 from her house phone and left her a voicemail that I had gone back alone because I felt weird. I did not even take the time to find her at the very tiny backyard party because I felt so awful and did not want to be that girl who is barfing at a party. I know I walked back to their house alone because I remember thinking that it was probably not a good idea to be walking alone at night when I felt so weird, and I remember checking behind me several times. I also remember locking their back door behind me because I knew they had their keys. I know I was alone.
I remember going to the bathroom and washing my face. I remember finding an extra contacts case and solution. I remembering feeling sweaty and dizzy. I remember trying to make myself throw up. It did not work.
I remember getting a floral sheet out of a closet to put over my legs because I did not want my dress to come up and show my underwear if I moved around in my sleep. I remember laying down on the yellowish couch fully clothed and wrapped in my sheet.
I next remember waking up with someone large on top of me kissing me. I felt pinned under him and started panicking. I remember saying “get off” and “you’re crushing me,” then pushing against him. He laughed and told me to “chill.” I still felt really sick. I have no idea what time it was.
Then it’s all black. I do not remember anything after that until the next morning.
I woke up in a bed naked and feeling like death. I do not sleep naked. My entire body hurt. The bedding was light purple. There was not a shade on the window. It was too bright.
Someone was on top of me rubbing my back.
I tried to move, but I was trapped under him (he was straddling my lower back). I started to panic because it scared me and he told me to “calm down.” He was a big dude. A lot bigger than me by at least a foot and probably 100 pounds.
He finally got off me and laid down beside me. I saw that he was also naked. I started to move out of the bed and he pulled me against him by my arm. I told him to let go because I needed to leave. I felt like a ghost of myself. It was as if I was looking down on this conversation happening to someone else. After holding me against him for a bit with me pushing away and getting increasingly upset, he finally let go. Then he rolled his eyes and called me a drama queen which made me feel extra stupid.
The guy was from the party and he was the boyfriend’s friend. We had been introduced and had briefly interacted a few times over the past year or so, but he did not even know my name.
I could not see my clothes anywhere, so I wrapped the dark comforter around me and left the room. My dress was behind the couch and my shoes were under it. No memory of any of that. It made no sense.
I went to the bathroom and sat there in absolute horror mentally berating myself for being so stupid. How could I have drank so much? How did I let this happen? What if I was pregnant or had gotten something from him? I have never even kissed a person I was not dating, much less had a casual fling or one-night stand. I do not say that in judgement of anyone who enjoys doing those things, but it was and still is so completely out of character for me. I could not believe it.
I got dressed quickly and tried to sneak out, but the boyfriend was in the kitchen. He wiggled his eyebrows at me and asked, “have fun last night?” I was so humiliated and started to tear up. I said that I did not have fun and I actually felt really sick. He replied, “Of course you do. Those margaritas were made with a shit ton of Everclear.” I was shocked. I was furious that no one had mentioned that the margaritas were made with such a strong liquor in a significant quantity. And I was furious that I had not asked.
I asked him if he knew what had happened and he said I left with his friend. I assured him that I had not left with his friend. I told him that I did not know what had happened and I was worried about it. And he simply looked at me, shrugged, and said, “Don’t get so drunk next time.” I was so embarrassed and left as quickly as possible.
I went home, showered, and threw away my clothes. I still could not believe I had been so irresponsible.
I went to Planned Parenthood the next day. I had a pelvic exam, got Plan B, and was tested for STIs. I felt sore and uncomfortable, and the nurse said it looked like there was some light bruising and evidence of recent sexual activity. Sexual activity. Guess what? There is not evidence of sexual assault. There is evidence of sex. So even if I had reported it, then all he had to say was that we had consensual sex. Bruising can happen during consensual sex. My word against his. No witnesses.
I will forever love Planned Parenthood for the support they gave me. I went back several times over the next months to speak to a counselor and to take a pregnancy test. I continued to get exams to check for STIs, and I feel extremely lucky that I did not end up with any medical issues.
I stayed friends with those people after and I continued to see that guy at parties. He would tease me about our “hook up.” He would always hug me or try to put an arm around me. I felt like it was my fault and my poor judgement, so I just tried not to make it awkward. I did not want to dramatic. I would feel sick every time I saw him and actively tried to avoid him. My friends brought him to my birthday party. That night was the first time I had a panic attack.
I soon moved cities, but years later went back to see my friend for a weekend. I asked her if she knew what had happened that night and she said the guy had told everyone we had sex. I told her that I could not remember what happened. She told me that I should be more careful about my drinking and dress more modestly if I was so worried about it. I thought she was right. She said I should pray about it and make better choices. She then told me to quit obsessing about it and making it “such a thing” just because I “regretted it.” So, I did not say another word. I removed myself from her life after that visit and have not seen her since.
Years ago, I randomly ran into him in another city and he recognized me, but he did not remember how we knew each other. He still did not know my name. Every now and then Facebook recommends him as a friend to me. He has a family. He owns a business. We have both gone on to have good lives. I sometimes wonder if he has ever realized that the situation was wrong. I doubt it. Why would he? What was the big deal?
Speaking to a counselor helped me understand that it was not my mistake or poor judgement, it was his. I am not to blame even though I still carry so much embarrassment and shame over it. I decided to quit drinking for a while because I thought I had the problem. Eventually my counselor told me that I should not have to miss out on something I enjoy (wine!) because of him. I did not have the problem. He did.
In light of Dr. Ford’s testimony, I have been thinking about what I would do if I saw that he was nominated for one of the most important jobs in the country. Could I say anything? I have no memory of what actually happened. I have zero evidence. The medical records are likely gone by now. I know he told people, but do they even remember? Would they believe me? And, worst of all, did this happen to someone else because I never said anything? Would it have even mattered in the end? Is this even anything? Did it actually happen? I am worried about nothing? It it my fault?
I can logically think about all of this, but in the end it is an endless loop of anxiety, shame, guilt, rage, and embarrassment. I can never find the answers which is why I try to forget. Part of me is grateful I do not remember, but it also makes me want to pull my hair out to not know. I mean, I know what happened, but I cannot remember it, so do I really know? It is maddening. And this person who has so negatively impacted my life COULD NOT EVEN BE BOTHERED TO KNOW MY NAME. The embarrassment of it all!! Lord that part still makes me angry.
And what about the things I do not remember accurately? I thought the party was in late July. My friend thought August. Those light purple sheets were actually brown. What if someone thought I was wearing a different dress? There are no pictures from the party that I have ever seen. There are later pictures that have me and him in them. I’m smiling. How could I be smiling if that really happened?
I have no memory of the night after he was kissing me. I did not know there was something to report for far too long, and even if I had, I am not sure I would have had the courage. I could not have gone through the scrutiny and criticism at that time in my life. It would have been my fault and I could not bear that publicly. I still do not want to do that today because I am still too afraid of the shame. This is why I think Dr. Ford is so terribly brave. She had nothing to gain from this. She has put herself out there for judgement by millions of people. I admire her. I am grateful for her. And just like Anita Hill, her courage will remembered by history.
I remain deeply upset by the commentary surrounding Dr. Ford’s testimony and it angers me that she is met with absolute disbelief just because she doesn’t have “real evidence.” What is the real evidence of someone holding you down and trying to rape you? There were no witnesses to my experience except for him. There is no pregnancy or STI to connect me to him (thankfully). There is no evidence outside of the fact that I know I was not in a state to consent to anything and I specifically remember telling him to get off me when he was kissing me.
Just because I cannot remember every detail does not mean it did not happen. I am lucky because I had access to Planned Parenthood and got the resources I needed to keep living. I also had the time, money, and ability to continue to see a great counselor who helped me understand and cope with it. My life is good and I felt pretty dang healthy and happy until all of this. It has been a long time since my memories of that night actively impacted how I felt on a daily basis, and I know the past few weeks have been incredibly hard on a lot of us. That guy has impacted my life in ways I don’t even fully understand yet. I know how you can actively not think about it, but you can’t totally shake it.
I still believe Dr. Ford and I hope that she heals from having to relive this experience in front of the world. I still do not want to talk about my experience right now. Even as I get ready to post this, I still do not want anyone to know. I even considered turning off comments because I just thought maybe it would go into a void where it was read and then another word was never said.
My friends, family, and coworkers read on here at times, so I know that by posting that I will likely have to talk about it. I am dreading the discomfort of those conversations. I do not want to talk, but the article about why we aren’t telling our dads struck something deep inside me. I do not want anyone to see me differently. I do not want my parents to know this about me. I still feel so embarrassed that anyone will know this happened. I do not want to seem careless or weak or damaged. I am not those things. I want to be seen exactly as I have been. And I definitely do not want to be hugged because then I might cry and that will really piss me off. It took a lot of work to get here and I do not want that taken away by his actions.
If you don’t believe me that’s fine, but this is not an invitation for a debate.