by Anonymous 

Content Warning: mentions of rape and sexual assault. 

My rapist follows me on Instagram. I see him on my friend’s Snapchat stories, and sometimes at parties when I go back home. Once he even had the audacity to like one of my pictures. I know what some of you must be thinking — I should’ve blocked him. It’s my own fault, really. 

I didn’t think of my rape as rape until two years after the fact. It never felt right, or consensual, but a combination of “grey area” factors made me think it was my fault. There was no sex. I was high and drunk. I didn’t say no (because I couldn’t.) I had a boyfriend, so I even thought of it as cheating. Infidelity. I spoke to my rapist after it happened and he told me what we did - his carefully constructed version of events. I hadn't forgotten. I remember trying to kick him off but the alcohol had taken its toll. My limbs weren’t working the way they’re supposed to. My legs felt more like logs and as much as I wanted to I couldn’t move. I remember the exact place that it happened, I remember the lights were turned off. I remember that he stopped only because somebody came into the room. I think they pretended not to acknowledge what had been happening — and to this day we haven’t talked about it.

Consequently, Professor Christine Blasey Ford’s pain is something I feel all the way through to my bones. I couldn’t watch the hearing because I knew it would be too painful. It’s an all too familiar story, one that I know we’re not the only two victims of. In fact, I think a six-digit figure for cases like ours would be optimistic. 

I was following the story from six feet away — trying not to engage, not to read her testimony or look at the comments underneath Facebook posts about what happened to her. Mostly because the one time I did, so many of them echoed the thoughts I had regarding my own experience for so long; that it was her own fault for being drunk, that because there was no penetration it wasn’t really rape, that her allegations were down to attention-seeking. Except I don't believe that’s something anyone would want to be known for. 

I think the hardest part about what happened to me was that I felt like the circumstances of my rape didn’t really qualify it as rape. That - coupled with the fact that he was my ‘friend’, my ex-boyfriend, my friends’ friend - led me to believe that I couldn’t possibly be friends, let alone have ever been in a relationship, with a rapist. For the longest time I was reluctant to refer to him as such, a consequence of my need to see the best in people in spite of the most disgusting aspects of themselves but also of my uncertainty as to whether or not I was allowed to call it what it was. 

I was sat with another ex-boyfriend, telling him about it, trying to validate the thoughts I didn’t want to have when he said the words I’d been refusing to acknowledge. “That wasn’t okay. That was rape.” During the couple of weeks that followed our exchange, I felt as though it had just happened — reliving the moment every time I was alone or in bed or alone and in bed. The dark became an ever present memento of what had happened to me, something that even now feels like a dirty little secret that I must not be open about. 

"It’s taken me over three years to realise that the girl in that bed is not a figment of my imagination. I wanted to say no. I wanted to scream no."

Once I finally managed to scrape up the courage to listen to Professor Ford's testimony, I realised that people wouldn’t believe me either if I told them. I can imagine them saying things along the lines of ,“he wouldn’t do that” or “why didn’t you tell anyone when it happened then?” It was hard to realise that I didn’t even believe myself. I think that’s the longest standing consequence of my rape; that lingering afterthought of “did it really happen as I think it did?”

It’s taken me over three years to realise that the girl in that bed is not a figment of my imagination. I wanted to say no. I wanted to scream no. If I think about it too long I can still feel the word curling up the inside of my tongue but getting stuck before my teeth. I wanted to kick him off and push him away. I wanted someone to walk in and make him feel tiny, call the police, stay with me and make sure I was okay. 

It didn’t happen for me, and it didn’t happen for Professor Ford. She gives me hope, that one day in spite of the long lasting effects of my rape I will be able to be strong enough to confront my rapist, even if it isn’t in Capitol Hill. I don’t know if that’ll happen. I think it’s ever so slightly cowardly of me to publish this anonymously but these baby steps, the coming to terms with what happened, is more than that sixteen-year-old could’ve ever imagined.
No means no. But lack of an answer also means no. “I’m not sure” means no. “I don’t want to” means no. “I’m not in the mood” means no. Unless it’s a yes, a clear and enthusiastic affirmation, it’s a no. I wish I could go back in time, if without the power to stop what happened entirely, then at least to tell that terrified younger version of myself that my feelings were valid, that my gut instinct was right. That what happened to me wasn’t okay. What happened to me was rape.