I was seventeen when it happened. I no longer struggle to make sense of what had happened to me. I know now that it was rape. But what I struggle with very much is my reaction to it. I am confident, I am independent, I am strong. I have a loving family and good friends. I have no problem speaking my mind and talking about my feelings. I travelled alone through the middle east and I backpacked through south america with a friend. I walk home alone in the dark and I am not afraid. But yet, I let it happen and I kept silent about this for a very long time.
I was seventeen and I was spending a few days of my summer holidays with my best friend Lisa. I had recently broken up with my boyfriend and she wanted to cheer me up and so she took me to a party in a different city. I had never before been to this city and I knew no one there except Lisa. We slept at the apartment of a good friend of hers, his name was Christopher and they were from the same city and went to school together. It was Lisa, her boyfriend, me and Christopher. Before the party, the four of us had dinner and drinks and I was going along well with Christopher, he was a nice and funny guy. We went to the party but after a while I was tired and I wanted to go home so I was looking for Lisa. She wanted to stay with her boyfriend so I asked Christopher if he could guide me home since I did not know the way home and I did not have a key for the apartment. He was a little angry that he had to leave the party I think. On the way back, we were walking over a bridge, I remember that he grabbed my hand very tightly, it hurt a little. When we were home, I wanted to go straight to bed. I went to the bathroom, washed my face and undressed myself to put on my pyjama. In that moment he came in, the bathroom door did not have a lock. He threw me over his shoulder and carried me to his room, where he threw me on his bed. He then undressed himself and tried to have sex with me. I struggled with him, telling him “no” again and again. I tried to keep him from me, using my legs to stem against his body. He did not listen. I remember that he succeeded to penetrate me this one time. It hurt since I was having my period and was using a tampon. I do not remember when, but he stopped and fell asleep right next to me.
The next morning he woke up and was very angry. He did not talk to me and wanted us to leave the apartment since he wanted to drive home to his parents. There were bloody spots all over his bed. I felt so ashamed. I said nothing to Lisa, I took a shower and we packed our bag and said goodbye. We left the apartment and walked through the city. She asked me teasingly about last night and if I had sex with Christopher. I said yes. I sat down on a bench and my legs were shaking, my muscles were aching because of my struggle with Christopher. I never told her what really happened that night.
At first, I did not think of it as rape. I tried not to think about it at all. I felt so ashamed that I banned all thoughts about what had happened. Back in school, my ex-boyfriend and I got back together and I tried to tell him but I could tell that he did not believe me. So I stopped trying to tell anyone, because if someone you trust does not believe you, who else would?
A few years later I tried to talk to my friends about it again but I did not succeed to name what had happened to me. Nevertheless, I started processing what happened one how I felt about it. I felt ashamed, I felt guilty. Did I flirt with him and did he think I wanted to have sex with him? Did he just have too much to drink? Did he not hear me say no? But I clearly remember my sore muscles and the bruises I had from the struggle. And I know that I did not want to have sex with him and that I told him to stop.
I struggle very much with my own reaction that night. Why did I not scream, why did I not hit him, why did I not run away? I know that what stopped me from a more radical response to his efforts was that he was a good childhood friend of my best friend. That I was in a city I did not know and that I did not know where else to go. I could not lock myself in the bathroom since there was no lock. He was strong and he was drunk. But still, how did I let this happen to me?
I wonder what kept me silent. I wonder how I was able to convince myself that it was ok. I wonder why it is still so hard for me to talk about it. Why I only think about what others might think about me if I tell them. Will they believe me? Will they think I am damaged goods? Will they think I am mentally ill because of it? But I am making progress. I told my story to a good friend of mine, she believed me. She also told me that something similar had happened to her, too. In fact, many of my female friends experienced something similar. It is easier talking to my friends who made similar experiences than talking to my family. I don’t want them to think that I am hurt, I don’t want them to worry about me.
Recently, Christopher added me on Instagram, Facebook and Linkedin. I blocked him. We have 30 friends in common and many of them think he is a great guy. I would really like to tell them but I am afraid no one will believe me and that he will ridicule me when I speak openly about what happened then. I am thinking about writing him a letter.
I also want to tell my boyfriend about it. We are in a very serious relationship and I love him very much and I have this urge to tell him but I know that he will be furious, that he would want me to report it to the police. I am not sure that he would understand my reaction and why I am still keeping silent about it, why I don’t want to report it. I don’t understand it myself.