This is my contribution to the You Are Not Alone project. It’s sort of like the It Gets Better project, but instead of talking about what it’s like to be bullied for being gay, this is about talking about what it’s like to be sexually assaulted.
This story is about an upsetting sexual experience I had in college. This story is a good example of how grey and muddy these cases can be. If you’re blacking out drunk, how much can consent can you really give? If I, a relatively empowered young woman at an Ivy League school, felt this much shame and personal responsibility around what happened — and never said anything to anyone, not in any kind of accusatory way — it’s hard to believe that less empowered women are reporting what happens to them. Where is the line where we start calling something sexual assault? I don’t consider this assault, since I gave consent in the moment, and yet I was so drunk I couldn’t see. I feel traumatized by this experience to this day.
I alluded to this story in this post about my father abandoning me, making the point that my worst secret (abandonment) is the shame that leads to the rest — that’s what leads to eating disorders and blacking out drunk a lot in college and winding up beneath two football players.
Talking about it helps. Once I share stuff here, it hurts less, and I find it far easier and less charged to talk about in the world. When I alluded to the football players in that post above, that felt very dangerous, because that was one of the bad secrets. Then I knew I would have to tell the story here some day. Now is as good a time as any. I’m a storyteller.