Reflections of Resilience: Origin Story
Posted by Bella Rosa
It’s an ambitious title up there.
I feel like I should have something profound to say to live up to that title.
Instead all I have are distant observations that are colored by the more vivid memories that I deliberately want to block out.
TW: Descriptions of sexual assault, rape
Twenty years ago today, I was raped.
I was raped in a college dorm room. Right before Thanksgiving break in 1996, my freshman year. It was less than a month until my 19th birthday. I was 900 miles away from home, there alone, without any of my familiar friends or family nearby.
I was an A student, sorority girl and up and coming leader when I was raped. I had just been initiated into Alpha Chi Omega. Within a few weeks I elected to be Vice President of Intellectual Development, unprecedented in our chapter to have someone so young on the Exec Board. I was chosen in part because of my academic credentials, which i admit now were pretty decent. It helped that I was mostly articulate and could flirt easily with the men in the fraternities on campus.
I was raped by someone I knew. I was in the room of my current fuck-buddy at the time. His friend was visiting from out of town for his last hurrah before getting married. We sat and watched the Fly while drinking beers. I left for a bit to sit and talk with the Indian guy down the hall whose name escapes me.
I was raped after a lot of alcohol had been consumed. But I had two beers that night. Two over the course of maybe three hours. They had the rest of the case to themselves. I’d say they had at least four or six on me each.
I was raped after I had previously consented to a sexual activity. When I returned to the room I was caught in a three way kiss between the fuck buddy and his friend (not the bachelor) that I had previously fucked with. This kind of threesome had happened a few times before and we always had a good time with each other. They invited Bachelor to join in and I consented to that–three pairs of hands on me at once is so magnificent.
I was raped after someone had drunk so much that they passed out: At one point in this 10 minute group grope session (which, if I’m not mistaken may have hinted at some man-on-man action too), fuck buddy had to get up and take a piss, so we all stopped. We turned another movie back on and pretended to watch it. Fuck-buddy’s friend noticed that fuck buddy had been gone for a while, so he got up and left to go find him, leaving me alone with Bachelor (and a creepy dude in the opposite corner of the room trying to go unnoticed).
I was raped by someone who wouldn’t take no for an answer. He suggested that we make out while we waited for Fuck Buddy to return. I consented to making out. When he tried to grope under my clothes, I didn’t feel comfortable and told him to stop. He didn’t.
I was raped by someone despite trying to fight back. He continued to undress himself and me. I struggled as he was trying to get my jeans off. I told him no repeatedly. He was able to get my pants and underwear off while keeping me pinned down with his knee. He had slithered a hand between my naked thighs and I was squeezing them hard to try to get him to stop. I didn’t want to be touched anymore and I gave every signal both verbal and non verbal that would be recognized.
I was raped by threat and force. As I struggled, he had flipped me over onto my stomach, his hand holding me down into the pillow by the neck. I could only look to the side–I couldn’t even tell you which side. We were on the top bunk and my head was smashed into a pillow. Tears and drool on the pillowcase, blacking out for a moment because I couldn’t breathe. I remember being outside my body at that point, ready to make due with whatever happened so long as I didn’t die. That was my bargain. If I don’t die, God, I promise I will deal with this. Even our bargains with deities are soured by internalized misogyny.
I was raped anally. I had never done anal play of any kind. I had a boyfriend ask for it once and it just never came to anything. While still holding me down he first tried my vagina. Then when I was still blocking him with my thighs and movements, he raped me anally. No lube, no prepping, no asking.
I was raped as a demonstration of dominance over me. Rape is and always will be a crime of power. This is about power and control over another human being–sex is just the vehicle for that exertion of control. It’s pathological, angry and destructive by intent. It is not impulse or a force of nature. It is a deliberate choice. I was his promised Bachelor’s gift (I would later find out) and fuck this bitch for daring to say no to me. Entitlement. projection and blame is the environment where our rapists dwell.
I feared for my life. I screamed into the pillow the minute I felt him enter me, his grip became tighter around my neck. I was worried my neck would snap. I froze. In shock. I still don’t know where my head was looking. I was out of body again. Maybe blacked out.All I know is how much all of my senses were on overload. The only thing I felt besides life-threatening fear was the white-hot, searing pain from my ass.
I was raped in front of a silent accomplice. Remember creepy dude in the corner? He was still there, watching the whole thing. When my rapist was done, all i could hear was the fapping sound of his hand on his skinny, shitty prick. He was getting off on this. I was doubly humiliated. I call him an accomplice because he was complicit in what was happening. He would have been clearly witnessed me saying no. He would have clearly seen me struggling. He would have clearly known that I didn’t want it. And what’s worse is that he got off on witnessing that.
- Fuck Buddy had passed out in the bathroom. Friend was blocking people from getting into the room I was in.
- Fuck Buddy’s roommate heard me screaming and the Friend told him to not worry about it that we were all role playing.
- Another guy who was just getting back in that night, heard banging against the wall and faint sounds, but the music in the hallway was too loud for him to know what was going on.
- At least 5 other guys on the floor heard me that night; not one of them intervened. Two others (in addition to the in-room witness) had gotten off to it.
- I found out he had used a condom. I heard him snap it off when he was done.
- It took me more than 10 minutes to get back to my room, from getting over the shock to getting my clothes back on, to drying my tears, to breaking through the guys who were trying to block me in and make me go for round 2.I stumbled down the flight of stairs to my floor
- I was bleeding and in a lot of pain. I already had a bad back and it had completely seized up.
- I called one of my major crushes who was in school in Detroit. He was an architecture student, so I knew he would be up. I cried on the phone with him for 2 hours without being able to say much.
- I skipped all my classes the next day.
- I skipped my date that night with a man who I’m pretty sure would have taken me straight to the police to report it to distract me while he would have been getting his mob friends to dispense justice.
- I did eventually shower, but only because I couldn’t sleep.
By the end of that weekend, I had taken myself down to the lake at 4 am. I couldn’t sleep more than a few hours at a time. I decided to take a walk to the lake, halfway torn between suicide and victorious resistance. One of the guys from that night who had been just getting home from a date, saw me leaving. We didn’t really talk much as we walked. I confirmed his suspicions: that I was really saying no and crying out for help. His feeling of guilt and shame was evident. We found a bench outside the library, looking out at the lake.
Right now, I’m reminiscing about Lake Michigan. All the healing that happened in that spot over the years. Not just from this, but other things too. Remembering one of my most stable and stalwart lovers during my years there. A Navy Man who still provides me comfort and protection from my overthinking and strict need for control even after years and many miles apart. Texting with him right now.
As we sat there, he just held my hand. He was present for me as I channeled whatever strength I had left into the words that tumbled out of my mouth. It was just a stream of consciousness. Acceptance that what happened to me was real. Resolve that it would never happen again in the future. A commitment to dictate the terms of any sexual encounter I had from there on out. From now on I was in control of my body, my voice, my actions, my motives. And if a sexual encounter didn’t align with what I waned then it wasn’t going to happen.
But there was one glaring absence in my bold speech of recovery:
I didn’t call it rape.
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