I was 20 years old. It was the fall of my third year in university. We'd just gotten back into the swing of classes after a summer off, and everyone was busy reuniting with classmates and renewing friendships. I'd (amicably) broken up with my first serious university boyfriend over the summer, and felt ready to pursue a new relationship. It was truly a golden time - I was loving school, had a part-time job I enjoyed, had a ridiculous amount of friends, life was full of possibilities.
I'd noticed this guy before, a serious kind of guy, passionate about his studies, cute but not the kind of guy women were falling over. He was respected for what he was doing in school - he had talent - and while he was fairly introverted, we had some friends in common. I had a little crush on him, I'll admit it. There was something that intrigued me about his reticence, and his school work impressed me. I'd chatted with him briefly, but didn't really know him.
One Friday night, a bunch of us from school got together at the local pub. There must have been 20 of us, a really good group of people - lots of laughing, and lots of drinking. I have always been pretty good about knowing just how much it takes to keep a good buzz on without losing control, but that night I made a mistake in judgment. I had too much.
Slowly, as the night ended, people started leaving. Without cars, generally too drunk to drive anyway, and too frugal for cab fare, most of us walked the 1/2 hour or so to our various student houses. The guy lived on the way to my place and so we walked together. We chatted and laughed as we walked. His place came first - there was another 10 minute walk for me - and I was a little fearful of walking the rest of the way alone, well after midnight. He invited me in. Looking at the options - one one hand, the dark street, on the other his smiling face in the light of the doorway - I accepted. It felt like a safe harbour.
We were both drunk. We kissed. It went further than I wanted. He was stronger than I was. I said no. He ignored it. He didn't use a weapon, other than his body; he didn't leave a mark, other than internally/emotionally. He got laid. I got raped.
I never thought of myself as a victim. I was a smart young woman. I knew about rape, theoretically. I knew about making safe choices. I knew that what had happened to me was wrong. I didn't report it. I felt so stupid for getting myself into that situation. I blamed myself for "allowing" that to happen. I could hardly believe it had - I kept running over the sequence and doubting whether I'd really made it clear that I didn't want to have sex with him. It was like a choose your own adventure in reverse - if only I hadn't gone that night, hadn't had so many drinks, found a cab, hadn't trusted a stranger. If only I'd fought harder, screamed and shouted, woken the neighbours, run away, been able to defend myself.
I decided I wasn't going to give that incident any power. That I could get over it, learn from it, move on. And for a solid 15 years I have been able to say to myself, "I was date raped. I am over it."
The truth is, you don't really get over it. I don't think there's closure for that. I still blame myself for making bad choices that led to putting myself in that kind of danger (logically, I do know that's not entirely fair to myself).
This is not a story I've shared much. My husband knows it happened, my midwife, of course the guy who did it... that might be it. I didn't tell anyone at the time.
Before this happened to me, I didn't understand why women would keep silent about rape. I couldn't fathom letting someone get away with that. Before, I was a more judgmental person - now, I realize that there is an awful lot of grey in this world. A woman can see the black and white, but her choices are all grey.
It ended up being more about the consequences for me. In a completely typical, cliched response that I was, even as it happened, perfectly aware of - I felt like it must have been my fault. It was me, after all, who drank so much she wasn't thinking straight. It was me who agreed to go in to a drunk guy's place without knowing him very well. I questioned my actions rather than his. I could step back and look at it as though it happened to someone else and say very rationally, that was rape, that should have been reported to the police. But it happened to me and that's different. I doubted myself, I felt like I would be blamed and marked, it would ruin the rest of my studies, I'd always be That Girl. Some people might stand by me, but most would wonder if it were really true or, worse, back up the guy. I'd have to talk about it, relive it, it would go on and on. I wasn't beaten. I had no marks. It would be my word against his.
I honestly don't know that I would handle it differently if I were to go back and relive my reaction to the rape. Would I report it? It's not right that it happened, it's not right at all that he got away with doing that to me, it's not right that I felt too ashamed and scared of the consequences to come forward, and it is SO not right that the whole scenario is, I bet, way more common than anyone guesses.
So why am I thinking about this now? It's been so many years. It isn't something I make a habit of dwelling on at all. The first recent reminder was when I was filling out the forms for the midwife. A question asked - were you ever the victim of sexual assault? I hated checking off 'yes'. I hated that this one incident changed my history and changed the way I would be treated. The midwife asked me about it on reviewing the form and I said I was over it, it was a long time ago. I didn't want to discuss it, I didn't want to be treated differently or even reminded that it had happened. (Doesn't that reaction kind of scream, "Not over it!")
And now I'm 40+ weeks pregnant - a very much wanted baby, a loving and safe relationship with my husband - and suddenly the rape has come right back to haunt me. Not because of the birth - I'm not afraid of that, or of the pain of labour. Apprehensive, okay, nobody likes pain - but there's no fear there. I actually can't wait.
It's the induction procedures that terrify me. The concept of lying there while someone does things to me that I don't want to happen, that I know are going to hurt, that will undoubtedly make me feel bad physically - it's a big problem for me. Invading my body with membrane sweeps or hormone gel. It's a violation. I know it's meant to help and it's not malicious, it's about the baby and not about me. I know it's medical, and not about power or sex. I know these things. Logically, it's perfectly clear and not a big deal. Emotionally, it is something else entirely - it's huge and horrible and makes me want to run and hide. Despite the purpose of it, all for the good, it's the process that troubles me.
I feel like time is running out. I have until Thursday to try to change my attitude about this, to overcome the fear - or just accept that I'll be gritting my teeth, spreading my legs, and putting up with a bad thing happening to me again, a stranger doing things to me that I don't want. Of course, I could go into spontaneous labour naturally in the next 50 hours, but I am not feeling like that will happen.
A week from now, this part will be over. The induction will have or will not have happened. We'll have a new baby and so much more to think about than the past.
Meanwhile... well, after a major breakdown this morning about it, I'm writing this to get it out... hopefully it helps me deal with it, and who knows, maybe it will help someone else somehow.