On this weekly artistic 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 12 months — the story was constructed primarily based on verbal interviews with the storyteller, with narrative parts added by the creator.
This collection is supposed to attach individuals, validate shared experiences and assist survivors inform their tales. It’s a area for therapeutic, so are available in, take your footwear off and make your self at dwelling. Most significantly, handle 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 12 months. Our storyteller will consult with herself as “Ok,” her assaulter as “S” and her male good friend as “B.” These pseudonyms had 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 Ok as her physique speaks.
You recognize that feeling once you maintain waking up from a foul dream in the course of the night time, and also you return to sleep, and also you don’t notice that you simply had a nightmare till you rise up within the morning?
My frosh 12 months, I lived in Donner. My pals and I might exit with the remainder of the dorm on the weekends, and we might get drunk collectively. You don’t know everybody in an all-frosh dorm, but it surely’s not laborious to make pals once you’re intoxicated. That’s how I met S. Whereas we weren’t notably good shut pals, we had met a number of instances and had been at all times fairly pleasant with one another. Once we went out, our good friend teams would typically run into one another on the regulation faculty, outdoors of frats and wherever else that drunk first-years would possibly stumble throughout.
Throughout my third week at Stanford, my pals and I went out with individuals in Larkin. We received drunk to rejoice hours of finding out at Inexperienced for chemistry midterms after which headed again to Donner. With my new pals, snacks from the on-call and our RF’s golden retriever collectively within the frequent room, I felt like the whole lot was proper on this planet. S and his pals rolled by the lounge to say hello earlier than individuals began heading in numerous instructions for the night time. After I stated 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 shortly redirected my ideas — not all guys had been after one thing, and I had no motive to doubt his intentions.
We ended up in S’s room, and he poured me one other drink. Once more, I assumed — and shortly erased the thought — that S was solely being pleasant towards me as a result of he needed me. Wanting again, I ponder if I had minimized my anxieties about S’s niceness as a result of I so badly needed to present him the good thing about 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 night time. Issues began to die down, and I used to be alone with a number of of my pals, S and a few his pals. I grew to become increasingly more drained and much more drunk.
The darkness of S’s room was overpowering, and I fell asleep close to him whereas my pals sat on random furnishings in his room. I used to be slouched over, half acutely aware, once I wakened right into a nightmare: I felt two of his fingers inside me, and his palms 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 mistaken was even occurring to me. A few of my pals had been within the room, and I subconsciously doubted if something that unhealthy 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 subsequent time I got here to I might notice none of it was actual, or it might cease. It didn’t.
Round 4 a.m., I wakened as a result of I heard footsteps shuffling and other people on the brink of go away. I seen that one thing about my physique felt off. My chest felt chilly, and once I glanced down at S’s jacket, I spotted that my tube prime had been pressured off. As I unexpectedly 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 again 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 understand that feeling once you maintain waking up from a foul dream in the course of the night time, and also you return to sleep, and also you don’t notice that you simply had a nightmare till you rise 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, considered one of my pals requested if S and I had 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 night time. Perhaps it was as a result of I used to be sporting his jacket, or perhaps it was due to how shut we had been sitting once I fell asleep in his room. I couldn’t convey myself to inform her what had occurred, so I simply stated nothing had occurred. I bolstered that I wasn’t concerned with 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 an enormous deal. I couldn’t deny what S had finished, and I additionally wasn’t able to admit that it was unforgivable. So, as an alternative of doubting him, I began doubting myself: perhaps I gave him the mistaken thought by taking his jacket. Perhaps I texted him again too enthusiastically, and he thought it made him particular. Perhaps I made him suppose I used to be as a result of I might give him a hug and say hello each time we bumped into one another. Perhaps I received 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 advised my good friend, who’s now considered one of my closest pals. She would’ve been there for me. Again then, although, I didn’t need to begin off the 12 months with trauma — this was alleged to be enjoyable. I couldn’t be somebody who tore our frosh dorm group aside for any motive, regardless that I might by no means have handled anybody else that manner.
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 handle my panic from the night time 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 greatest shield me when our good friend group was round S. Not if we had 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 an alternative to embrace a extra snug grey space that left me feeling hopeless.
If I had the information that I do now, I may need requested, “What makes you suppose I’ll be round him once more?” However I didn’t; I accommodated his presence and gave my pals the solutions they needed to listen to to keep up some sense of consolation. I might 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 concern sit inside and wash over me. I might reasonably 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 finished accepting something from a man — small favors, gestures for assist, snacks — as a result of even when they had been real and innocently provided, I couldn’t convey myself to danger “owing” something to any of them.
Throughout the pandemic, I took a niche 12 months. The time I spent away from faculty allowed me to lastly confront my trauma. One night time, an in depth 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 thus lengthy. After 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. Just a few moments later, warmed by her vulnerability, I stated the phrases out loud that I had tried to not even suppose: S had sexually assaulted me.
For the subsequent 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? Indignant, as a result of nobody caught up for me as they continued to remain pals with S.
I healed quite a bit that 12 months. Nonetheless, my frosh self that thought, “I don’t need to destroy his life. I don’t need to say something or inform anybody,” rises inside me at instances. When S rushed into the identical frat as my pals, I didn’t make an enormous deal about it to guard his repute. After 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 nice and no person had energy over me and my being. These moments put me again into that night time, with the concern that my wants may by no means come earlier than his.
Proper after the assault, I needed to textual content S an extended message to present him an opportunity to clarify himself. However I by no means did. Like many ladies who’ve been assaulted, I advised myself that perhaps he feels unhealthy for what he’s finished. In spite of everything, he prevented me as intensely as I prevented him. Perhaps he’s not a foul individual. Perhaps he gained’t do it once more.
To at the present time, I haven’t talked to my pals who had 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 gained’t fake like I get up to good goals 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.