On this weekly inventive nonfiction collection, we discover themes of intimacy and sexual assault, as skilled by Stanford college students. Storytellers take company over their our bodies, directing narratives that make their experiences seen. This story is a retelling of the sexual assault our storyteller skilled her frosh yr — the story was constructed based mostly on verbal interviews with the storyteller, with narrative parts added by the writer.
This collection is supposed to attach folks, validate shared experiences and assist survivors inform their tales. It’s a area for therapeutic, so are available, take your sneakers off and make your self at house. Most significantly, deal with your self.
Content material warning: This collection mentions sexual assault and intimate companion violence.
This narrative is a direct account of the sexual assault our storyteller skilled her frosh yr. Our storyteller will discuss with herself as “Okay,” her assaulter as “S” and her male good friend as “B.” These pseudonyms have been arbitrarily chosen by the storyteller to guard particular person identities. It’s a particular feeling to introduce you to the primary of many tales on this collection. Please welcome Okay as her physique speaks.
You already know that feeling once you maintain waking up from a nasty dream in the midst of the evening, and also you return to sleep, and also you don’t understand that you just had a nightmare till you stand up within the morning?
My frosh yr, I lived in Donner. My mates and I’d exit with the remainder of the dorm on the weekends, and we’d get drunk collectively. You don’t know everybody in an all-frosh dorm, but it surely’s not onerous to make mates once you’re intoxicated. That’s how I met S. Whereas we weren’t notably good shut mates, we had met a number of occasions and have been all the time fairly pleasant with one another. After we went out, our good friend teams would usually run into one another on the legislation college, exterior of frats and wherever else that drunk first-years may stumble throughout.
Throughout my third week at Stanford, my mates and I went out with folks in Larkin. We acquired drunk to have fun hours of learning at Inexperienced for chemistry midterms after which headed again to Donner. With my new mates, snacks from the on-call and our RF’s golden retriever collectively within the widespread room, I felt like all the things was proper on this planet. S and his mates rolled by the lounge to say hello earlier than folks began heading in numerous instructions for the evening. After I mentioned I used to be chilly, he provided me his jacket. In my semi-intoxicated state, I questioned if perhaps he was making a transfer however rapidly redirected my ideas — not all guys have been after one thing, and I had no cause to doubt his intentions.
We ended up in S’s room, and he poured me one other drink. Once more, I assumed — and rapidly erased the thought — that S was solely being pleasant towards me as a result of he needed me. Wanting again, I’m wondering if I had minimized my anxieties about S’s niceness as a result of I so badly needed to present him the advantage of the doubt. What sort of world would we dwell in if I couldn’t take a person’s actions for face worth? I let my guard down and allowed myself to ease into the evening. Issues began to die down, and I used to be alone with a number of of my mates, S and a few his mates. I grew to become an increasing number of drained and much more drunk.
The darkness of S’s room was overpowering, and I fell asleep close to him whereas my mates sat on random furnishings in his room. I used to be slouched over, half aware, after I awakened right into a nightmare: I felt two of his fingers inside me, and his fingers grabbing round beneath my shirt. I used to be barely awake, and began to query whether or not what I used to be feeling was actual. I used to be so uncontrolled of my physique that I saved falling asleep and waking up into the identical nightmare. To some extent, I additionally doubted whether or not one thing improper was even occurring to me. A few of my mates have been within the room, and I subconsciously doubted if something that dangerous may even be occurring as a result of I wasn’t alone. I didn’t attempt to cease it or say something — perhaps if I saved falling again asleep, the following time I got here to I’d understand none of it was actual, or it will cease. It didn’t.
Round 4 a.m., I awakened as a result of I heard footsteps shuffling and other people on the brink of go away. I observed that one thing about my physique felt off. My chest felt chilly, and after I glanced down at S’s jacket, I spotted that my tube prime had been pressured off. As I rapidly pulled up my shirt, I bear in mind considering, “Okay, alarm” — this was actual. I walked into my good friend B’s room earlier than I went to mattress, incoherently and quickly asking the identical query time and again: “What occurred to me?” He didn’t have a solution.
The most effective analogy I’ve for my expertise is that this: you recognize that feeling once you maintain waking up from a nasty dream in the midst of the evening, and also you return to sleep, and also you don’t understand that you just had a nightmare till you stand up within the morning? That’s what experiencing sexual assault was like for me. The factor about nightmares, although, is that they aren’t actual. This was.
Within the morning, one in every of my mates requested if S and I have been a factor. She had fallen asleep in the identical room as us earlier than he assaulted me, however on the facet had been questioning if there have been “vibes” that evening. Perhaps it was as a result of I used to be sporting his jacket, or perhaps it was due to how shut we have been sitting after I fell asleep in his room. I couldn’t convey myself to inform her what had occurred, so I simply mentioned nothing had occurred. I bolstered that I wasn’t focused on him, however that was the extent of what I admitted that day. She was sorry for making it awkward, and I used to be sorry too. I used to be sorry as a result of I knew that what S had finished was going to stay with me for all times, however I didn’t need to make it a giant deal. I couldn’t deny what S had finished, and I additionally wasn’t able to admit that it was unforgivable. So, as a substitute of doubting him, I began doubting myself: perhaps I gave him the improper concept by taking his jacket. Perhaps I texted him again too enthusiastically, and he thought it made him particular. Perhaps I made him assume I used to be as a result of I’d give him a hug and say hello each time we bumped into one another. Perhaps I acquired so drunk that I fell asleep and couldn’t defend myself. Perhaps I used to be being dramatic. Perhaps it was my fault.
I may’ve informed my good friend, who’s now one in every of my closest mates. She would’ve been there for me. Again then, although, I didn’t need to begin off the yr with trauma — this was speculated to be enjoyable. I couldn’t be somebody who tore our frosh dorm group aside for any cause, although I’d by no means have handled anybody else that method.
That very same afternoon, B pulled me right into a room with him. He was actually uncomfortable with what he witnessed, and he needed to deal with my panic from the evening earlier than. He didn’t name it what it was, although. After beating across the bush about S’s violating touches, B requested me how he may finest shield me when our good friend group was round S. Not if we have been round S, however when. Though S so clearly and publicly violated me, and though my good friend knew the gravity of what had occurred, nobody addressed the absoluteness of my trauma, selecting as a substitute to embrace a extra snug grey space that left me feeling hopeless.
If I had the data that I do now, I may need requested, “What makes you assume I’ll be round him once more?” However I didn’t; I accommodated his presence and gave my mates the solutions they needed to listen to to take care of some sense of consolation. I’d be the issue if I spoke up, and who was I to destroy our good friend group? I didn’t need to be a buzzkill or be sad with my very own expertise simply because S made me really feel sick. I let the worry sit inside and wash over me. I’d moderately be uncomfortable than be an issue.
There’s a shift once you get assaulted by somebody. I prevented S as a result of each time I noticed him someplace, my physique would tense up. I felt so viscerally uncomfortable. I began overthinking each good factor a man would ever do for me. I ended accepting something from a man — small favors, gestures for assist, snacks — as a result of even when they have been real and innocently provided, I couldn’t convey myself to danger “owing” something to any of them.
Through the pandemic, I took a spot yr. The time I spent away from college allowed me to lastly confront my trauma. One evening, a detailed good friend opened as much as me about her childhood sexual assault. I needed to assist, however I didn’t know what to say… What can you say when somebody shares one thing so weak with you? All I knew was that I didn’t need her to really feel alone, as a result of she wasn’t; listening to her story gave me the braveness to face my fears and at last begin processing what I had pressured down for therefore lengthy. Once I heard her story, I may lastly name what S did to me for what it was. I got here to phrases with the truth that I had been assaulted. A number of moments later, warmed by her vulnerability, I mentioned the phrases out loud that I had tried to not even assume: S had sexually assaulted me.
For the following few weeks, I felt each emotion that I had been making an attempt to keep away from this entire time intensely. Unhappy, as a result of I used to be beginning to mourn my degraded sense of autonomy. Betrayed, as a result of I wasn’t alone within the room with S, and the way may my good friend, who noticed it along with his personal eyes, let that occur? Offended, as a result of nobody caught up for me as they continued to remain mates with S.
I healed so much that yr. Nonetheless, my frosh self that thought, “I don’t need to damage his life. I don’t need to say something or inform anybody,” rises inside me at occasions. When S rushed into the identical frat as my mates, I didn’t make a giant deal about it to guard his fame. Once I bumped into him years later, I requested him to get lunch with me to protect some sense of normalcy, making an attempt to show to myself that I used to be so wonderful and no person had energy over me and my being. These moments put me again into that evening, with the worry that my wants may by no means come earlier than his.
Proper after the assault, I needed to textual content S a protracted message to present him an opportunity to clarify himself. However I by no means did. Like many ladies who’ve been assaulted, I informed myself that perhaps he feels dangerous for what he’s finished. In spite of everything, he prevented me as intensely as I prevented him. Perhaps he’s not a nasty individual. Perhaps he received’t do it once more.
To today, I haven’t talked to my mates who have been in that room with me about what S did. Perhaps they know, but it surely doesn’t matter anymore. I discover myself misplaced within the absoluteness of who I’m now, as a senior at Stanford. It doesn’t matter what your relationship along with your assaulter is or isn’t, you’re the solely one who will get to outline what you want. I received’t faux like I get up to good desires on a regular basis — progress is summary and undefinable. However even when I get up in a nightmare, I’ll return to mattress and face my fears. And in a number of hours, the morning will convey a brand new day.