Saturday, July 16, 2011

Regaining Her Voice: Jennifer's Story

How old were you at the time of the assault(s)?

How old are you currently?

Did you know the person(s) who committed the assault(s)? Where did the assault(s) happen?
Yes, he was a friend of a roommate. It happened in my dorm room.

Did you tell anyone about the assault(s) at the time?
The next day I managed to tell a girl I knew.

Did the assault(s) go to a court trial? Was there a sentencing? If so, how long?
No, I never reported it.

Do you think they will commit sexual assault again?
I don't know

What would you like to say to others about sexual assault?
Sexual assault is not what people think. It isn't something you see coming. It isn't something you can prepare for. It is a frightening, life changing, blood chilling moment where everything you thought you knew about the world changes and you don't know how to survive, or even if you want to. What I didn't understand until recently was that they can take your body, but you have to give them your soul. I believed that I had done something wrong. I believed it had something to do with me and I let those beliefs take who I was away from me. I gave him my soul. Now I'm taking it back.

What would you like to say about this project?
This project is a chance for survivors to reclaim themselves.

My Story:
I was a college freshman and I was a virgin. I had been in love a few times but it was little kid love, nothing that had led to anything. I wasn't sure how I felt about sex but I didn't really think about it. It wasn't central to my personality. I went through several roommates that year, one was a work-a-holic and was up all night so I couldn't sleep, one was a pot head who hung a huge tree branch on the wall and couldn't understand why I didn't just want to try drugs. She would always emphasize try like that somehow made it different from doing drugs. It just wasn't me. My third roommate was local, which I was not, and part of her appeal was that she 'belonged'. She was a New Yorker and she was cool. She was friends with cool people, they went out clubbing, they dressed well, they threw parties and because I was her roommate I was on the fringes of all of that. One night she went out and a bunch of her friends came over to hang out with her. When I was there they decided to hang out anyway. I was in heaven. It was like an acknowledgement that I wasn't some yokel but that I was almost a real New Yorker...or at least that they thought I was cool enough to be. I had never been a drinker, I had gone out a few times to a local place that didn't ask for ID's but I just didn't like the taste of strong alcohol and I didn't know there were other, sweeter, kinds. That night they introduced me to a malt drink that was some kind of coconut tasting thing. I drank it because it was sweet and I enjoyed the feeling of being tipsy. I was also enjoying the attention of one of the guys who was getting more focused on me than the other guys were. I was flattered. He was cute and he was cool and he liked me. Me, not my roommate, not someone else, me. As the night wore on we went to the store to buy more to drink, and my memory gets sketchy but I know we went back to the room and everyone hung out for a while but all of a sudden they were gone. He put on Sade and I think we were dancing. I know he kissed me and I liked it. Then I woke up on the floor because I was in pain. I was lying on the floor and he was over me and I truly didn't understand. Then I realized my jeans were around my ankles and he was half undressed too. As I got up I realized there was blood everywhere and that's when I realized what had happened. I didn't know what to do. I was in shock. He said I should clean up and we could get some sleep so I did. We got into bed and were only lying there a short time when the buzzer sounded. It was my roommates boyfriend looking for her and a place to sleep. I let him in and thought maybe he would make the man in my bed leave. Instead he all but passed out. Meanwhile over in my bed, he tried to touch me again and I was trying to find a way to convince him to stop when I heard my roommates boyfriend say 'see, I told her you wouldn't care'. I was mystified so I asked 'care about what?' to which he answered 'if we had sex while you were here'. Clearly he was not any help. Eventually we all fell asleep. I slept for an hour or so and when I woke up I saw the bloodstains all over the floor, our all came back to me. I wanted him to leave. I cleaned up, got dressed in which stretch pants, a white sweater and white socks and went upstairs to the tv room with my white blanket to wait until the men woke up and left. It never occurred to me to wake someone up, I didn't want to bother them. I did go through his wallet and found a slip with girls clothing sizes on them and in my head I thought, 'it could be for his sister or his mom'. I had, in my delusion, convinced myself he had done what he did because he liked me. I wanted to be liked so that made it ok. Which meant I could still function. Eventually he woke up and left but not until I had got back and forth for hours trying to see if they were awake yet. When he finally left he treated me as if we had shared something pleasant. I'll never forget him leaning on the desk by the door, his shorts covered with my blood and his face showing he wanted to get out without me thinking he wanted anything more than one night. I was relieved and crushed. I wanted it to be something he did because he liked me, which then made it ok in my head, but I didn't ever want to wake up on the floor again and be embarrassed by someone knowing he was trying to touch me. I finally called another local girl I knew. I would have told my roommate but she had gone home and the phone company was on strike and I couldn't have that conversation in the hallway by the front door. I called the other girl because she was a little bit wild but nice and I knew she would just come. She did come but when she did she told me the best thing was not to let him know that what happened bothered me. She helped me pick the sexiest thing I owned and we hung out in the tv room like we were waiting to hear from friends about our plans for the night. She said his friends had to see what happened didn't matter to me so he would know. I don't even remember what we did that night. All I remember about that period of time was that one of his friends, who was living in the dorm, but was one of the most scary and street wise and unsympathetic people I had ever met, was taunting me about how he had a girlfriend and it didn't matter what I tried I wasn't going to get his friend. After a few days I finally snapped and turned to him and said if that was what he thought then he should talk to his friend about how he had left the room covered in my blood. He never said anything to me ever again. I was in my early thirties when I finally stopped saying 'the first time I had sex it was not my choice' and actually said the word rape. I was in my mid-thirties when other events finally made it impossible for me to keep it a secret from my parents anymore. My father left the house and has never spoken to me about it. My mother was in shock and I tried to be fair since I had been living with it so I said I would tell her what happened if she wanted but that she didn't have to hear it. She said that for then she just thought it would be better not to. To this day she has never asked. I've been in therapy for years and I am finally starting to reclaim my soul but it is a constant struggle. Sometimes it takes so much of my energy that the rest of my life suffers but I keep taking it one day at a time. He took everything from me and you can't get everything back overnight but every time I reclaim some part of me I know I am one step closer to being whole again.

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