Trigger warning: This piece contains content related to violence, sexual abuse, and sexual violence.
Last year, something happened to me that I couldn’t have ever imagined. A guy from my university – and in the same program as myself – took advantage of me one night.
We went on one date and I can’t say it went well. He talked about himself a lot and he was quite loud and overbearing. I remember telling my friend over the phone that evening “I wouldn’t mind if I don’t see him again, he’s not my type and the date wasn’t that great.”
Then two weeks later, he invited me to go clubbing with him and his friends. Even though I wasn’t interested in dating him, I really wanted to make new friends. I was living alone that year and didn’t want to spend every Friday night in by myself, so I threw on an outfit and left. I met him on the corner and he insisted I start drinking straight away as everyone else was already “hammered.” Funnily enough, when I arrived at the pre-drink, all of his friends seemed fine, pretty much sober in fact. With only fifteen minutes or so before the taxis arrived, I downed a couple of drinks and we were on our way.
When we got into the club, he pushed straight to the front of the bar and he turned to me and said “You buying?” At first, I thought, “You’re the guy, you buy the drinks?” But then he saw my disapproving facial expression and said “Don’t be like that. Just do it.” Those words I’ll never forget. I bought a round of drinks and he handed them out to his friends. I remember feeling angry that he was using me as his personal ATM for him and all his friends when I didn’t exactly have much money to speak of. Then boom. A wave of intoxication hit me like a train. I felt awful, and didn’t understand how I got drunk so quickly when the night had barely started. I think we were only at the club for twenty minutes or so before he said, “Let’s go back to your place.”
This is where things become fragmented. I recall I had to pay for the taxi because he insisted. Then we got back to my house and all I remember is that it hurt, he hit me, and he didn’t use a condom. When it was over, I was in and out of consciousness, my head was swimming. He left the room and then he came back and started an argument with me when I was in no position to fight. He stormed out of my house, and I passed out. The next morning, I had to be up at seven for work. I stumbled out of bed, my head thumping and my stomach churning. I got to work and sat down. Over the course of my shift, the night before slowly started to come back to me – hitting me in small fragments and fleeting images. I physically flinched every time a memory came back to me. I realized what had happened to me and that it was wrong and I needed to report him. But I was scared. The first thing I did after I finished work was go to one of my best friend’s and told him what happened. He was disgusted and wanted me to tell him who this guy was so he could “sort him out.” I knew what that meant and that wasn’t the way I wanted to go about things.
Instead, I went to the university and told the student support services. I was appointed a wonderful counsellor who helped me through the first month after the incident. I contemplated going to the police, but I didn’t want my parents to find out and I was frightened because it was my word against his. I worried that if the case fell through, then he would make my life a living hell. So I did something else. I went to an organization that dealt with young women who were survivors of sexual abuse. I made an anonymous statement that could be used in support of another person’s statement if someone else ever reported him in the future. Even though I never took direct action against him, I have been able to piece my life slowly back together since that night happened. I couldn’t have done it without my friends, they were hugely supportive and still are to this day.
I’m not encouraging other survivors to stay quiet. On the contrary, I think you should take direct action. And whilst I may sound like a hypocrite, I don’t mean to be. Remember that whatever action you take at the end of the day you have to feel comfortable with, I just urge you to not put your head in the sand. I thought about that and knew it would eat away at me for the rest of my life if I didn’t get help. Don’t hide, tell someone (it doesn’t have to be the police) and make sure everything is done in your best interest. At the end of the day, that’s all the matters.
Featured image via Basmance