Editors’ note: The following essay provides a brave and necessary story. For those reasons, we have decided to publish it; because of its sensitive nature, we have decided to protect the privacy of the author.
— Olivia G. Oldham and Matteo N. Wong, Magazine Chairs of the 148th Guard
— James S. Bikales, Managing Editor of the 148th Guard
Content warning: This article discusses rape and sexual assault at length and in great detail.
I tell myself it wasn’t rape if I liked him.
I never found him physically attractive, but there was just something about him — or about the way he made me feel — beautiful and desirable. I think part of me must have liked that.
I meet him for the first time at a party on a Friday night. Our conversation is playful and easy, and it flows naturally. Later that night, he asks me to go upstairs with him. I agree. We make out for a little while in his bedroom, and then I leave.
I see him out at the next few parties and think nothing of it, or of him. I have no intention of getting with him again. We don’t even speak for the most part.
A few weeks later, there is a huge themed party. I’m excited for it because my close friends are hosting, and they tell me I can help them plan it. I put on a black one-shouldered dress that cuts off just above my knees and black stilettos. It’s a more conservative outfit than what I normally go for, but I feel good in it. The night begins, and I take a few shots, but I don’t really feel anything. He arrives about an hour or two into the party, and that’s when I drink a lot — like a lot — more.
The rest of the night flashes by in brief, blurry images — a dark alley, an Uber ride, someone’s lips on mine in the corner of the room. Next thing I know, I wake up in my bed, stark naked with a sore vagina and no memory of the past 10 hours.
I spend the day piecing together the events of the previous night. When I ask him what happened, he tells me that we had sex in my bed. “Don’t worry,” he says. “We had a good time.”
I tell myself it wasn’t rape if I liked him.
For the next couple of months, I go into each night out hoping that he is there, hoping that we will hook up. I tell myself that if we do, I will feel okay about what happened, because that means that there is something real between us. Alcohol is my solution. Blacking out becomes my norm. I drown myself in vodka and then throw myself at him once it hits me. He rejects me every time — telling me that he is not interested or that he doesn’t like me like that or that he just wants to be friends — but I don’t care. With each rejection, I’m a little bit more convinced that I’m into him, and I walk away from each night feeling a bit better about myself.
We make out one more time, but again, I do not remember it.
If alcohol is my solution, humor is my shield. I black out during the night and then wake up laughing about it in the morning, despite not remembering anything that happened. It’s all funny to me. I make jokes — too many jokes — about him and about that night. My friends laugh with me, not knowing the truth. It’s the only way I can handle what happened.
Sometimes I cry about it, but only when I’m alone.
When I’m sober, I know how to pretend. I’ve always been good at putting on a performance, and I convince everyone that everything is normal. No one ever asks questions. Alone at night, I stalk his Instagram and try to convince myself that I am attracted to something about him. I almost succeed, but I never really do.
I know how to pretend at parties, too. I dress like a slut, drink too much, and then act like one, too, flirting with every boy there in some skimpy, revealing outfit. Typical, people say.
My mom is the person who knows me the best and my closest friend. She never suspects a thing. Instead, she asks me again and again when I’m finally going to bring a boy home to meet the family. At first, I don’t have the heart to tell her that I probably never will — at least not anytime soon.
Seven months later, on a random phone call, I finally tell her the truth about what happened that night. We both cry.
He will never know how much he has messed up my life or the extent to which he has hurt me. Deep down, I want to believe that he is a good guy. I can’t bring myself to hate him. There are times I wish I could place all of my pain on someone other than myself. All my life I was taught that the survivor was never at fault, but the pressure I feel to find good in him leaves me with no one but myself to blame.
I never have sex. When I do, it’s with someone I care for immensely and someone I know feels the same way about me. It is something that I think should be personal, and this belief makes up a large part of who I am. I know no part of me wanted to do it with him that night.
He is still the only person I’ve had sex with at Harvard.
I hear so many different things when someone mentions my name. The words “she’s crazy” come up far too often. It doesn’t really bother me. In fact, I find it pretty funny. The truth is, I’d rather be viewed as crazy than broken.
I’ve become a really fucked up person. I’m pretty sure I’m now an alcoholic. I black out at every single party I go to. Part of me wants to be on good terms with the guy who raped me.
Writing this is the first time I’ve admitted those words to myself. I read them back in the mirror and watch my reflection cry. It is like being outside of my body. The story feels like it couldn’t have happened to me.
This detachment gives me a small sense of release. It grows larger with the thought that other people will read this and understand me without knowing my name. I hope they will see what I for so long have been unable to: that I am still not okay, but I am still myself.
Online commenting has been disabled for this piece in an effort to help protect the author’s identity.