In the middle of the night after a bar crawl in college, while I was passed out sleeping, my roommate’s friend crept into my bedroom, climbed on top of me, and assaulted me. He kissed me, he took off my pajamas, and put his hands on and in my body. It was not consensual. It was pierced with “stop”s and “no”s, and in the morning, after I sat in the shower with my arms around my waist—like you do when you feel like bits of yourself are sliding away—I chided myself for being so damn dramatic.
“You’re overreacting,” I told myself each time I felt like crying. I told myself it wasn’t that big of a deal, and that these things happen all the time, and besides, we were both drunk, and weren’t you flirting with him earlier in the night? I invoked every excuse in an effort to quiet the shouting in my head that something very wrong had just happened…but then again, had it really? After all, it could have been worse—I knew the guy; I had even sort of liked him. It was just a hookup gone weird, I reasoned. I was touched, but I wasn’t raped. I felt violated, but I wasn’t raped.
WE’RE DESENSITIZED TO THESE EVERYDAY HARASSMENTS; THEY DON’T ALIGN WITH HOW SOCIETY VIEWS ‘TRUE’ SEXUAL ASSAULT.
Because that’s what women have been conditioned to believe, that some unwanted touches just, unfortunately, happen: You get your boobs grabbed in a club, or your thigh squeezed at a dinner, or a kiss planted on you by a stranger. That’s life. It’s just a war story you swap with your friends over drinks and group texts.
And even though, criminally, sexual assault is very clearly defined as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient,” society’s binary idea of sexual assault creates an all-or-nothing mentality: Either it’s rape—in which case you should definitely report it, get help, and take action—or it’s everything else, a muddled scale ranging from receiving unsolicited dick pics to getting your ass groped during a meet-and-greet.
For confidential and free support about rape or sexual assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline 24/7 at 800.656.HOPE. You can also IM anonymously at online.rainn.org.
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