Why Knowing Your Rapist Doesn’t Take Away From Your Assault

I didn’t realize that 75% of sexual assaults are not committed by strangers. Usually, the victim knows their assaulter. I came to realize this after googling statistics, knowing I had become one of them. I was taught that you should be wary of the strangers who lurk in alleyways and cat call you while you’re out walking alone. Perhaps this is why I turned off all cautionary methods when I was around a friend, and this term is being used in the loosest sense possible. I never thought that I would be sexually assaulted, and there’s actually a term for this. A Just-World Hypothesis is one where you believe bad things only happen to bad people, but I can’t think of any scenario where someone should be robbed of their innocence.

I don’t know why we are taught to be afraid of strangers when it is the ones who know us best that can pinpoint when we are most vulnerable. What I thought could be an innocent night out, quickly turned into the nightmares that keep me up and even play during the day. Knowing my attacker made me feel like what happened to me wasn’t valid to claim as an assault, and I think that’s why I never reported it. We know the same people and I knew it would be his word against mine.

The whole world could be black outside my window and I’ll lay awake counting the turns on my fan to keep my eyes from closing and having the night play like a horror film across my eyelids. When I can’t sleep, and that’s most nights I find, I like to play the “What If” game in my head. I’ll ask myself where I went wrong and how it was my misjudgment that caused a friend to think they could have sex with my body without my consent, as though it can even still be called sex.

What if I hadn’t worn that low cut shirt? But then I remember I was in my pajamas when it actually happened. What if I hadn’t kissed him earlier on in the night? But then I remember a kiss is not my consent. What if I had said “no” or “stop” a little louder? But then I remember that I shouldn’t have to tear my vocal cords to get a message across. What if I had tried to push him off a little harder? But then I remember he had over 80 pounds on me and that wasn’t quite feasible when I had been drinking. So then I think, well what if I hadn’t drank so much? But then I remember that the buzz had worn off by the time I was assaulted and that we shouldn’t be teaching people to fear getting drunk, but instead people should be taught not to rape others.

The emotional roller coaster I strap myself into every day is not one I would want at Six Flags. I question if I led him on and blame myself for what happened. This was someone that I trusted, so perhaps my signals were misinterpreted and that isn’t fair to label him a rapist when it could have just been a misunderstanding. But you can’t mistake a “no” or a lifeless body laying there, only moving to try to push you off as a go ahead sign.

I still wonder why I, and so many others, have been sexually assaulted. I hope that any survivor comes to the realization that it is not your fault that someone decided to hurt you in the most intimate way possible. If you know your rapist and have flashbacks of the day everything changed when you see them pop up in a photo or hear their name in a conversation, I want you to know that you are not alone.

I feel for you, but also want you to know something that took me a bit to fully believe. You are not what happened to you, it doesn’t define you. You were made to light up the world and are a star on the darkest of nights, he didn’t, and cannot, change that.

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