2 years 11 months after Sept. 2012. The white Greek letters peel off your car as you scrap at them. Even after a year of having them on your car, they didn’t put up much of a fight. Your family asks why you are taking off these letters that you were once so excited about. Naturally, it’s because of the date you are going on. He’s an older guy that asked for your number while you were trying on your bridesmaid dress at the seamstress, and you don’t want to give off that college sorority girl vibe. At least, that’s what you tell your parents. Partially true, but you also get a creeping feeling wash over your body while driving at night. You worry that the car behind you will know that you are a woman and see that you are the only one in the car. At a stoplight, a man driving behind you might come up to you. He might follow you home and see where you live. He might have fake police lights and pull you over. You can’t chance it anymore. Fear stills invades when you’re alone and feel vulnerable. You’ve lost trust. Not necessarily in people, but in situations.
1 year 11 months before Sept. 2012. The Halloween party is wilder than you imagined. You’re pretty sure that your mom is going to kill you, but it might be worth it. 33 of your classmates showed up. You walk up stairs for a break from all of the basement dancing to “No Hands” and “Teach Me How to Dougie.” You notice Austin holding Kayla, your best friend, up, trying to help put her to bed on the living room couch. You thank Austin. What a great friend he has been tonight, and always. Very reliable, but really who wasn’t? You would have trusted anyone in that basement to help you out if you were too drunk. These people always have your back. Whether you are boating on the lake, going to the annual county fair, attending a barn party, or watching movies together, you trust these people. You know it may be naïve, but you feel as if the only things that can go wrong are the bad choices you make, like this party with 33 people. The week of grounding will be worth it, though.
2 years 2 months after Sept. 2012.
You shoot up to the sound of the alarm, not sure of anything aside from finding your phone to turn off the alarm. What happened? Why am I on top of all my covers? Looking down, you notice you are in the white crop top and black skirt you wore last night. Sobs begin to accompany the dread in your body. You question yourself. You scold yourself. How could you get that drunk? How could you let this happen to you again? You haven’t blacked out since freshman year. At the boys’ house. This memory has been pushed to corner of your brain, a memory you tried erasing.
You stumble to the bathroom and collapse on the toilet, trying to calm yourself, but you hate yourself too much right now to really be an effective coping agent. You had the ability to not put yourself in this situation, but you still did it anyway. How could you be so fucking stupid?
Courtney, your roommate, walks in and smiles. “You’re up! Wow, last night was crazy! You were so drunk. I’m not surprised you’re on the toilet.” You love her, but right now you wish she would stop talking. One, so her chipper, optimistic voice would stop punching your brain, and two, so she would stop shoving your mistake down your throat. Natasha, one of your housemates, walks in all smug. “Yo, so where is that guy who was here last night? What was his name? You were fucked up!” Her eyes lock yours, craving the juicy story that must of came out of your last night adventure. Neither knows what happened September 2012. They will probably never know. You aren’t good with sharing your personal emotions, and relinquishing this story makes you think about it. Makes it harder to erase.
Sobs immediately radiate through your body. Your world begins to feel like it is falling apart slowly, and you have nothing to grab onto right now. “What? What guy? What are you talking about?” Finishing your sentence was a battle between the sounds of speaking and crying.
Courtney quickly pipes in, “Oh no, that was just Justin’s friend. We came home, and you passed out. His friend tried going into your room, but we made him get out. He was trying to wake you up.”
Nothing happened. This time. Despite the fact you made it out of the night with only a head pounding, stomach-churning hangover, you can’t stop crying. And you don’t really throughout the day. This night brought you right back to the night you tried so hard to forget, but can never release from your memory. Forgetting has made the situation manageable. You feel normal and happy most of the time. Remembering breaks you down and forces you to reflect on what happened. You don’t want to have to deal with it.
Blacking out is undoubtedly detrimental, but for you it’s much more. You lose your control of what people can do to you, and you promised yourself to never lose that control again.
This part of the story is one that I didn’t want to include. I figured I could just leave it out because I thought all three segments either seemed stupid or made me look bad. I read this blog recently about a women talking about being assaulted after a night of drinking, and she talked about how she would get afraid at night, that she didn’t like to walk around at night because of it. I was shocked. Not at that, because that makes a lot of sense, but that I wasn’t alone in this thought, this consuming feeling of avoiding situations that may leave you vulnerable. This simple silent reassurance, the written “uh huh”, the nod, felt so good to me. To feel understood, to not think that I am crazy. I wish that I had put more thought into what had happened to me earlier, maybe reached out to more people to talk about my struggle. I wasn’t as alone in this as I thought I was. Even writing this paper two year ago, I don’t think I fully grasped how detrimental it was to just ignore what happened. Which leads us to the last segment. This one is loaded. I am still embarrassed reading this part. I am not proud that I let myself get that drunk because I have more than one reason to not get that way and that was absolutely preventable. And that day I was an absolute mess. I had to leave in the middle of my physical chemistry class, a class with 17 people, because I couldn’t stop crying. After my incident, several factors (that will be discussed through out the rest of the paper release) lead me to package that night away, throw it in the back of my mind, and cover it up with a blanket of anything but critical thinking and evaluation. I never thought about what happened to me, what did it mean, how did it make me feel, how did it make me feel as the days went by, how did it come into my life during various times, do I have any triggers? This was the first night since my incident, over two years later, that made me stop even for a second and think. Even after writing the paper, it still took me later that year and then writing this blog to fully let myself think about what happened without any restrictions.
I think bottling up and attempting to forget is one of the most unhealthy things that you can do. It is so vital to talk it out. With other people would be best, but even at first just with yourself. You need to go through the emotions and process. I wish I could go back to after that night and take time to really understand what happened. Yes, I got too drunk. That was my bad. It was not my fault that he laid me down on a bed. It was not my fault that he didn’t care that I wasn’t responding. It made me feel sick knowing what he tried to do. And I couldn’t help but feel guilty and dirty for putting myself in that situation.
Taking time early on in the healing process to acknowledge these things would have actually let me start, you know, healing. When you push it to the back of your mind, you have frozen your process in time. You aren’t moving forward from that. You may think you are “getting over it,” but you most definitely aren’t. And that was so apparent after my last segment. If I had taken the time to think about it, maybe I wouldn’t have drank so much (again, ABSOLUTELY NOT YOUR FAULT IF SOMEONE ASSAULTS YOU WHEN YOU ARE DRUNK, but it does give scumbags an easier time to access your vulnerability). Maybe I wouldn’t have had a tearful day of self-loathing. I hated myself that day. Yes, absolutely I am in control of how much I drink, I am not trying to say I am not at fault for that. I can hate myself for the hangover. But I, and you, should never hate myself/yourself because someone assaulted you and something reminds you of that. It’s disgusting that I gave him that power, years later, to make me feel so bad.
At the time, it will seem impossible. But it will be the best thing you can do. Take time to think about what happened and process your feelings. If you know someone who has been assaulted, be the person who listens to them. I processed it many years after, and let me tell you, it was magical. I felt uplifted, inspired, and washed clean. There are things that still upset me, but I don’t lose a whole day over it. I don’t hate myself because of it. And I easily keep going forward.