Even now, some four months after my assault, I find myself asking questions. Why do I still continue to feel depressed? Why do I still wake up some days on the brink of tears? Why do I still keep reliving the incident over, and over, and over again in my head when I already know exactly what happened?
Every time I have a flashback to the night that I was sexually assaulted I am always watching the incident happen as a third person. I see a body that looks an awful lot like mine lying on a bed next to him, semi-conscious. I see the trashcan he put next to her on the floor if she needed to throw up. I see her, 15 minutes before, lying on the tile of the Kelly bathroom in an alcohol induced haze.
At first she doesn’t realize what’s going on, but I do. She can’t tell through the blurry vision and diminished senses of an impending blackout that he is touching her, but I can. I want to cry out to her. I want to shake her shoulders and tell her to run, to fight, but I don’t because I know that even if she had wanted to she couldn’t have.
And him. How do I know what he wants? From what he says to her, from how he manipulates her body, from the way he assumes a previous yes carries over in the absence of a current no, it is plain to see that he wants to have sex with her. When he notices that she doesn’t seem into it, he tells her to leave, but it’s a trap. She can’t just get up and walk out the door and he knows it and he doesn’t care.
I hear her make an attempt to stop him:
“No, please I’m not feeling well”.
He continues. Perhaps he did not hear? She is louder this time:
“Please stop! I don’t want to”.
She picks up his hand and moves it off of her. She wriggles out from under him but there is nowhere to go for beyond the edges of the bed is the realm of the standing. So instead she uses her words, which adults have taught her all her life are her best recourse against injustice. She tries “No” one, twice, three times.
He pauses and thinks. She relaxes, but I don’t. What’s worse, to fall into momentary security only to be blindsided or to know that the break was a hollow promise all along?
“I’m sorry, but the word no doesn’t really register with me”.
It is then that the emergency sirens finally break through the fog. The full gravity of what is about to happen hits her squarely in the chest and so she decides to weaponize her words in the most effective way she knows how:
“If you don’t stop touching me I’m going to start screaming at the top of my lungs”.
By some divine miracle, something in that statement finally clicks with him, and he stops. And I, I am at long last released from the temporary torture of my memories.
In the weeks that followed I was confused on why I felt so profoundly different. I was an empty, sad, shell of person. I couldn’t sleep because I kept having nightmares, I couldn’t focus on my work because I was depressed. I would cry in the shower and in the safety of my single and wonder why I let this happen to me. How could I have been so careless?
Before I was assaulted I thought that victim blaming was only something our culture and community did to survivors. Nobody and nothing on the Middlebury campus did that to me. I did it to myself. It took a long time for me to understand that my personal strength had absolutely nothing to do with my assault. I was not assaulted because I was weak or feeble. I was assaulted because a sexual partner took it upon themselves to violate me, and if there is anyone listening who is a survivor, you were too.
Nowadays my questions concern the rebuilding of my life. I want to know how I am going to feel comfortable in the social scene, I want to discover productive ways of channeling the negative energy that I feel. My journey might just be beginning, but there is a kind of success even in a start. Who knows? By this time next year I could be asking questions about the budding flowers and the hopeful promise of spring.
Author: Anonymous Middlebury College Student