Don’t Touch Me There

April 22, 2017

Last year I went to a formal with a long term guy friend of mine. This is something that we had been talking about doing together for at least a year, so when he finally asked I was super excited. Half way through the night it was easy to assume that I was his last choice, considering he vanished into thin air before the dinner was even over. He was my date at his fraternity’s formal, which happened to be at a hotel in a different city, and he left me alone and locked out of our room from 6:45pm – 2:00am. No key card, no cell phone, no idea where he went or who the majority of the people around me were. Needless to say, I was furious…

It can happen to anyone

Everyone has this thought of being invincible, right? Scary and terrible things happen to those around me, but none of that could ever happen to me, I’m a good person. Everyone feels, whether they admit to it or not, like they are invincible and nothing could ever harm them. Then all of a sudden, reality smacks you in the face and you realize you are no longer invincible.

Imagine a 20 year old woman who woke up the next morning completely dazed, confused, and scared. Who was so sore and so weak she could barely stand up and make it to the bathroom, where she spent the next 30 minutes with her head in the toilet. When she’s done, she tries to stand to brush her teeth and she notices a bunch of bruises up and down her thighs, reminding her of what took place the night before…

Does she seem invincible?

That woman was me. That morning I realized I wasn’t invincible and I was foolish for thinking I was. That night was definitely a rough one. I had half of a single drink, and you would have thought I took 7 shots all in a row. By the time we got down to dinner, which was roughly 30 minutes later, I was feeling dizzy, buzzed, and started to question how half of a drink could have such a big effect on me so quickly.

The beginning of the end

My date was all over the place during dinner. Next to me for about 10 minutes and then was bouncing between tables, girls, and rooms. (Side note, I had no idea there was more than one ballroom). After another half hour passed he was no where to be found, completely gone, no warning, no heads up, nothing. I recognized two guys from one of my classes so I went up to them and asked if they knew where my date was, they didn’t. They said that I could hang out with them and they’d help me find him, so I hung out with them for awhile.

Little did I know that everyone basically skips the dance during a formal and everyone goes to specific hotel rooms, the designated party rooms, and proceed to get high and drunker than they already were. This isn’t my scene, I never feel comfortable in those situations, so at this point I was cursing my friends name like nobodies business. The two guys that said I could stay with them thankfully weren’t interested in going to those rooms so the three of us went to their hotel room, which I was skeptical about. Two large men and me in a hotel room, I had no phone and nowhere to go, I managed to put myself in a weird situation. They called my date about five times and never heard from him. They kept trying to get me to drink drinks that they were making and then wanted to play some weird daring game, I left immediately.¬†Once I stood up I realized how off balanced and dizzy I really was, I felt like I was incredibly drunk and had no control. I left their room and went back to where the dance was supposed to be going on… then everything got a lot worse.

Please don’t touch me there

I was downstairs and completely lost. I found my dates roommate at the fraternity and I asked him if he knew where my date was, he didn’t pay attention to me and passed me along to another guy… At this point I was feeling very wobbly and was starting to have trouble standing on my own, the guy that I got passed to was in my morning class that semester. At least I recognized him. Let’s call him Brent (not his real name). Brent didn’t know where my date was but was willing to help me find him. So, he grabbed my arm and suggest we go upstairs to look in those party rooms. Once we got over to the elevators he threw my back up against the wall and started to kiss me. He threw all of his weight and strength into me making sure I couldn’t escape then proceeded to grab my thighs and travel higher up my dress. Thankfully I made the smart decision to wear spandex under my dress, so that threw him for a loop and slowed him down. While I was trying to push him away, weakly, he kept squeezing and pulling on my thighs. He heard a voice from around the corner and pulled back enough so I could slip away.

I started running away from him and he followed. Throughout the next handful of hours I was desperately trying to get into my hotel room so I could get away from Brent then find a way home. Unfortunately that didn’t work out in my favor. I told a few of Brent’s frat brother what he did and that I needed their help. They all drunkenly laughed at me and then left me alone or passed me back to Brent. There were several instances where I was walking the hallway trying to find a female that I knew who wasn’t completely wasted but instead of finding a girl I kept running into Brent. Play this on repeat for about 4 hours.

At one point I blacked out and don’t remember all of the events that took place or where I was, I remember being outside Brent’s hotel room trying to get away from him. I also remember sitting on the floor of the elevator unable to get up and crying as I rode up and down the floors with all of the drunk passengers. Somehow, someway, I managed to get back into my hotel room around 2:00am and passed out. I remember my date waking me up asking me if I wanted to go party around 3:45am when he returned, I rolled over and fell back asleep.

The next morning

I woke up and was incredibly sick. Thankfully, my grandparents live in Omaha – where the formal was. I found my phone in my dates pants, and then called them asking them to come get me. It took all of my strength to make it downstairs and outside. I gathered myself and sat outside of the hotel for 30 minutes hoping I wouldn’t run into anyone from last night. My grandfather picked me up and took me back to their house where I was able to shower, rest, and try to piece back the events from the previous night. The invincible girl was forced to accept, admit, and realize she was probably slipped something and sexually assaulted. Not only was I ashamed, but I was embarrassed. My grandparents had to witness me like this – pathetic, weak, and scared of what else could have happened throughout the course of the night that I don’t remember.

The aftermath

I had class with Brent three days a week for the last 2-3 weeks of the semester. I was scared to go to class, I was scared of running into him and having mental flashbacks of what had happened. I didn’t want to go to class anymore but I knew that I had too. I didn’t want to see my date again because I blamed him for everything. I felt like I did this to myself and like I foolishly created this mess all on my own. If I never would have gone to the formal then none of this would have happened. If I would have kept my phone and key card with me then I would have been fine (although I had no pockets)…. I should have been smart enough to not put myself in this situation. The list goes on and on. I was very hard on myself and I was intimidated by men on campus and being touched for a few months afterwards. I had a constant reminder every time I looked at my legs until the bruises went away, and it was a terrible feeling.

A lot of my fears and feelings were easy to internalize and I kept to myself. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was so vulnerable and weak, so I kept this a secret for as long as I could. I knew someone in a different fraternity that was able to speak to the president of Zeta Psi (the fraternity hosting the formal) and keep the situation within the frat. Brent ended up getting a light punishment within his fraternity and I felt like I could at least start to move on.

The lesson

What happened to me was not okay, but it also wasn’t necessarily my fault. There were some things I could, and should, have done differently – such as have my phone on me at all times – but overall, I shouldn’t be blaming myself. I also shouldn’t be blaming my date. To be honest, I still blame him a little bit. He had no right to leave me without letting me know what was going on. Plus, he was the only one that gave me a drink and half of that drink destroyed me. Regardless of who’s to blame, I don’t need to take pity on myself because of what happened to me. I don’t need to, nor should I, run around campus scared of running into Brent or his frat brothers. I also don’t need to go through life scared of the people around me who might take advantage of me. I need to own the sexual assault and take it as a learning experience to help me move forward and grow.

I still avoid Brent on campus. I have nothing to say to him and he probably has nothing to say to me. But I am not walking around scared of what’s going to happen when someone is following close behind me, I’m not afraid of men, and I’m not scared to be myself. Instead, I’m stronger and nothing has really changed in my life because of my sexual assault. It might have taken me a little while to get to this point, but I will not let this define me.

If you have been sexually assaulted or harassed I know how challenging it can be to feel like yourself and to feel safe. It’s extremely hard to get back to a point where you feel normal, especially if you have to be around the person who assaulted you. But you’re still you. You’re still the strong, beautiful, and incredible person you were before any of this took place. You might not feel like you can get back to that point, but you can. There isn’t any beauty in sexual assault, but there’s still beauty inside of you. Being assaulted doesn’t take the you out of you, it doesn’t take the beauty, strength, or positivity out of you. You choose to let the assault define you and you take away the beauty within you when you decide to be defined by what happened too you.

I’m not saying you need to ignore it and act like it didn’t happen. You need to learn from your experiences, learn how to avoid those situations as best as you can, and still find a way to love life. Bad things happen all around us and they’re really hard to overcome, but when you find the strength (which we all have) to overcome these battles, you’re able to look at the world in a new way. You’re able to move past bad situations and still find beauty in everything else around you. If you let these battles define you then you’re allowing yourself to miss out on all of the great things happening around you and then you’re allowing the person who hurt you have all of the power. If you’re able to move forward and grow from your battles then you’re able to take back the power that was stolen from you and channel it into the beauty within yourself and your life.

#BonItOut – The Bon

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