SEPTEMBER 2012. You wake up, light seeping in your eyes. You pick your head up. You put your head back down and close your eyes. You’re pretty sure there is a hammer in your head, nailing the thoughts of last night into pieces. Alright, let’s try this one more time. You look down and notice the black and white polka dot sheets. Your sheets are teal. Panic rages through your body. You sit up fast, and come down even faster. Slow movements. Remaining horizontal, you look around and remember you put your spare polka dot sheets on the futon in your dorm room. Okay, I’m home. Your arms flail in an attempt to find your phone without having to move your body. Every thought and movement requires a forceful effort to overcome the pounding headache. Oh my gosh, how did I get home last night? What happened? Natalie, your freshman year roommate hears your jostled and panicked movements. “Hey you’re up.” She towers over you. The L-shaped formation of the lofted beds puts her a solid six feet above the cot on the ground.
“Yeah. Oh my gosh, what happened last night? I can’t find my phone.” Your clenched fists relax long enough to rub over eyes and push on your forehead. “I feel like shit.” You don’t move your head from the flat cot pillow. Fists re-clench.
“You don’t remember?”
“Remember what? I remember getting to the house. The cops came for a second. After that, no. No, I can’t remember after that. Where’s my phone?”
“I have your phone. It’s charging up here.”
“Natalie, you’re the best.” Your heart rate slows a little. She grabbed your phone. Going in blind for a roommate seems to be working out so far. You’ve been at school for a little over two weeks.
“You don’t remember anything from the end of the night?” Anything carries on and lingers in the room, long after she is done saying the word. It is full of hesitation and apprehension. Pity.
Your blank stare turning into a frightened wince is enough for Natalie. “Something happened last night. At the boys’ house. I took your phone to delete some messages. I didn’t want you to see what they were saying to you. You don’t deserve this. After the…”
You’re not sure if it is the mixture of stomach acid and pineapple vodka or the looming feeling of uncertainty and mistakes, but you run out of the room and expel it into the fourth floor toilet.
My story involves me drinking too much. And someone else taking that as an invitation. And another person stepping in when they felt something might be wrong.
Have you ever made a mistake? Just did not mean to lose that $20 bill, or leave your water bottle at the library, or drink too much? Everyone makes mistakes. That is not an excuse for others to disregard your dignity and rights as a human.
This paper had to be distributed to my classmates, and they were instructed to give me feedback on my writing style. One guy in my class had the nerve to start off his feedback with, “Have you ever considered not drinking?”
I wish I was kidding.
The worst part was he was only instructed to give me writing style feedback, but he felt so insightful on sexual assault that he felt he should throw down some knowledge on me. Hey girl, if you didn’t drink alcohol no one would try to assault you. I bet if I had worn a parka I would have been safe too, huh?
ABSOLUTELY NOT. This pattern of believing assault is because someone drank too much or wore revealing clothing or was flirting with people earlier has to stop. Are you at a higher risk if you are incapacitated? Possibly. Is it an invitation? NO. Sexual assault happens to people all the time, drunk or sober, and it is never the victim’s fault.
Even for me, five and a half years later, I can’t help but think I could have prevented this. I have run over the events of this night thousands of time in my mind. What if I wouldn’t have picked up that last shot? What if I had stayed home? What if? And yes, if I never went, it would not have happened, to me that night. If I wouldn’t have been incapacitated, he probably wouldn’t have tried to make a move, not with me not that night. But when do we stop putting the victims in the fast lane for altering their behavior and begin looking at the root of the problem, the originator, the perpetrator. We shouldn’t be asking, “Why did you get so drunk?” but rather, “Why did they think a passed out person was consenting and okay to engage in sexual activity?” We need to shift our mindset to challenging the perpetrator and how they can change to prevent this from the future. If you have ever been a victim of any sort of mistreatment, please know, and truly accept, you are not to blame. You are wonderful and inspiring. And you are not at fault.