The first time I experienced sexual assault was when I was 16 years old, when my boyfriend at the time raped me in his spare closet.
The second time I experienced sexual assault was when I was 17 years old, when after dropping off a boy at home, he forced my face into his bare lap.
The third time I experienced sexual assault was when I was 19 years old, when a boy at university trapped me in his room and raped me.
The fourth time I experienced sexual assault was in the past year, I am 21 years old. A coworker came to my home and raped me.
I moved to the UK when I was 21, after dropping out of university in the states. I went to a large, public high school in the US, and had a tight-knit friend group that had a tendency to adopt strays who didn’t have many friends.
My best friend and I were inseparable. We weren’t Jamie and Louise*, we were JamieAndLouise; our teachers always let us sit together because they knew we would regardless of a seating chart. We shared a year book in our sophomore year and got messages from teachers to the pair of us.
I had failed my freshman year already, and was heading downhill in my sophomore year. But I felt ok. I struggled with anxiety and depression, but at the time it didn’t seem to rely on academic success, but rather social comfort.
I found myself being kind to a fault. Too open to people whose true desires were malicious. But as a 16-year-old (my age at the time of the first event) I had an overly optimistic view of the world, untainted by horrifying experiences.
After the first time I was raped, the boy who raped me carved into the flesh on his stomach “I’m sorry” repeatedly. Seeing the words etched into his skin sparked no emotions in me. I was numb. My eyes were blurry and I wrung my hands until they were white. The events immediately following are lost from my memory.
The next thing I remember is being in my bedroom, trying to tell my father what had happened. He responded with the ever-comforting words, “I know what you’re going to say, and I don’t want to hear it.” While he may have been trying to protect himself from hearing his sweet baby girl tell him she had been raped, the effects his words had on me are eternal. Either way I forgive him.
The second time, I had built up a stronger response. I was able to push him out of my car before anything else happened. I sped away in my car, and drove immediately home. I scrubbed myself again and went to bed, forcing myself to forget what had happened.
The third time, I was away from home. I was at university in another state and was drunk for the first time without my parents or my home-town friends. After the event took place, I walked across campus in the black of the night to my dorm room. My roommate didn’t speak English, and was two years younger than me. There was no one to talk to.
My university was entirely made up of upper-class WASP students who had an ungrateful attitude towards higher education. Services for students who experienced sexual assault on campus simply did not exist. (However, after telling my counsellor I was dropping out, and part of the reason was extreme drug use throughout the campus, my counsellor was more interested in me naming my classmates involved, than trying to solve my situation).
After couch-hopping in California and New York, I moved in to my parent’s home in London. I am now 21 years old, and when I first moved to the UK, I got a bartending job in London near my new home.
After two weeks of working the job, a coworker asked to come over to my house after our shifts, as my parents were away and I would be alone. I told him I was not allowed to have people over (a lie, but I didn’t want him in my home).
Once I got home after my shift, I was making my dinner and heard the doorbell ring. It was about 2am, so there were a limited number of people it could be. I opened the door as little as possible to see my coworker standing there. After telling him to go away a few times, he pushed his way in. He was about 6’5”, and had 200 pounds on me at least.
There’s still a blood stain on my family’s couch in our living room, where he pinned me down and raped me.
No one else was home. Our neighbours didn’t hear anything. I called the police as soon as he left but no results came of my report, even though I knew his name, where he worked, and what he looked like. They told me there was no proof since I had showered and scrubbed myself clean (until I bled) and no one saw him come to my house.
These moments do not define me; but they are a fundamental aspect of who I am as a person now. I see the world differently, through the eyes of someone taken advantage of, betrayed by the people around her. It’s hard to say there will be a day where my experiences don’t affect me, but I can say with confidence that I do not let them keep me from being happy.
*Names have been changed due to confidentiality.