There is a life-size Audubon reproduction of a pink flamingo over the oven in my kitchen. On New Year’s Eve, I learned flamingos are born gray and fluffy and turn pink because they eat shrimp. The person who told me this is tall and has brown hair and I know little else about him. He likes flamingos, he likes weed, he bartends sometimes. I’m not sure how he ended up in my house that night. At 3 am, I was drunk and I was tired and I wrote an account of the night, because the last night of 2015 was also the night I was raped.
My sister and I moved away from home a few years ago, and so did our friends. To ring in the New Year, our parents usually hit the town and leave the two of us to cuddle up with a single bottle of champagne and a James Bond drinking game (take a shot every time Bond beds a woman). I tend to pass out soon after the countdown, and wake up on the couch.
This year, after a back and forth that sounded something like “we should do something,” “mhm, yeah, we should,” my sister and I decided to have a getty. Not familiar with the term? An intimate get-together. Some friends, homemade guac, a little champagne, rainbow gumdrops, and we were good to go.
The evening shaped up to be tight. I can say this because I was drunk at 8 pm. We opened up our house to a hyper-exclusive guest list: a virginal fifteen-year old cousin who awaited our debauched wisdom; a couple of my sister’s college friends; the two of us. It’d be great.
Sometime around 9 pm, and to the sound of 2015’s greatest hits (hello, Justin Bieber! You look hot these days), we realized that we would be five people for a mountain of guac. Dim the lights, throw in some jungle juice that’s 80% vodka, and you’ve got a happy new year ahead.
As I soon learned, the coupled-up college friends were just friends who slept together. Non-exclusive. Also, they were my sister’s friends, so technically not mine. In other words, sober me would never bang a random not-single twenty-five year-old, but drunk me was in the clear.
I poured myself another drink. I popped open another button of my shirt.
There was a New York Times article recently that I recall saying something like “pay attention to [person of interest], there’s nothing sexier.” I get all my flirting/dating advice from the New York Times “Modern Love” column, so I test out this whole paying-attention theory.
We’re sitting at the kitchen table. I put my phone away and bat my eyelashes at brand new sexy [person of interest]. This is going well. His hand is up my thigh.
An hour to midnight, he says, “I’ve told you things I never tell people.”
I lean in.
He says, “I spent three nights in an Italian prison.”
“That’s so romantic.”
“Cause I beat up seven big-ass hard-ass dudes.”
“That’s so hot and cool and please tell me more.”
“Three of them are still comatose in a Florence hospital.
“Woaah you must be so strong.”
My sister makes tea, and [person of interest] and I adjourn to the living room where we make out and he loses his pants and my bra mysteriously unlatches. All is good and well and romantic and sexy until I get scruples.
“Aren’t you with [friend]?”
“No, we’re just friends. And besides, don’t you wanna fuck me right now?”
I consider this proposition and come to a glaring no. My sister’s in the adjoining kitchen brewing green tea. There’s also a potential girlfriend/person/person-he-fucks in that kitchen sipping said tea out of a Princeton University Mom mug. I’ve also been off sex since break and thereby no part of me has been shaved. Also, [person of interest] smells. I definitely do not wanna fuck him right now.
I say no.
I say I’m off birth control. I say my sister is in the other room.
He puts his pants back on and we return to the kitchen. I scavenge another bottle of champ from my parents’ wine cellar that we crank open at midnight. We go outside to look at the city skyline. We share a joint. We use my phone timer to count down the seconds. I am aggressively drunk. Bye, 2015.
Here are a few things a potential rapist may say to you:
You have a lovely home.
This guac is excellent.
I can’t stop thinking about you.
I love to hike!
I want to fuck you so bad.
To that last statement, I answer: I am drunk and not functional. I want to sleep. I just want to sleep. I am so drunk.
He says, I understand you’re drunk and I respect your boundaries.
I say, that’s good. I’m going to go sleep now.
I go upstairs, to my room, to my bed.
I wake up with him inside of me.
What do you do right after you’ve been raped? I know what you do on paper. You call the police and you don’t shower and you go press charges and you eat a gallon of Ben & Jerry’s.
In practice, it’s a little more complicated. First, I force him out of me. Then, I throw on a pair of yoga pants from high school that I forget are coming apart at the crotch seams. Then, I snapchat my best friend: “this is my face after being raped” because I have flippant tendencies (in hindsight, this wasn’t flippant, this was shitty). Then, I go downstairs and tell my stronger, smarter, more sober sister. I am not crying yet. I am not processing anything.
Her friend asks, “Did you say no?” I can’t remember. I think I said no? I can’t remember.
“You were explicit? You said no?”
I feel guilty. I made out with him all night. I told him I was going to bed. Was that a yes?
At this point, I am curled up in a corner of the kitchen floor. It’ll take until morning for me to remember that this is rape.
This is rape, because I was not able to give voluntary, enthusiastic consent. This is rape, because we were both incapacitated due to alcohol and drugs. This is rape, because I was not able to make or act on conscious decisions. This is rape, because I said no. This is rape, because I was unconscious. This is rape.
Here are a few things a rapist may say after he comes down from your bedroom in your Princeton sweatshirt and is confronted with three strong, angry women who want him out of the house:
We didn’t have sex, I wasn’t hard.
I’m sorry you feel that way.
Where’s my tobacco?
I don’t have a place to go.
I am hiding in my mom’s office and my head is pounding and I am about to pass out. My sister comes in and says we need to help him. He has anger-management issues. He has a drug problem. He’s going to rehab in four days. He sucks. He sucks a lot. He’s a flawed human, but he’s a human who’s homeless for the night. He needs a place to stay.
It’s all kinds of fucked up to try to find an alternative housing situation for the person who just raped you. I let my sister and her friend deal with him. He is still wearing my Princeton sweater. I feel destructive.
My sister kicks him out.
I was raped in my childhood home, in my childhood bed. I want to believe that I am resilient and that this changes nothing, but that night, I sleep in my parents’ bed. Everything smells bad. I can’t look at myself. I don’t know how to talk to my sister. Do I tell my parents? Do I write an article for the Nass? Is this therapeutic? Is this painful?
What do I do? What is protocol for getting over rape? Do I go back to sleep? In my bed? In the bed I was raped in?
The morning after, I sit on the floor of my room and look around. I’m not sure how you wake up from being raped. I write:
I tried to sleep it off as long as I could, but I’m awake and hung-over and sore. I don’t think you can sleep off a rape. I’ll try to sleep more later and see what happens, but right now it’s daylight and my room smells like armpit and I’m alone, thank god, but I also don’t feel very alone. I feel very much like there was someone inside me last night who was not welcome there, and that makes me feel like there is no more boundary between me alone and me with other people.
I’m not superstitious and I don’t think this says anything about 2016. Or 2015. I had a wonderful year. I’m going to have an even better one. I feel unsafe and hurt and angry and all kinds of terrible feelings, but it’s going to be ok.
I know that, because here are a few things that are good in life:
New sparkly shoes
Sisters who love you
Best friends who love you
Lots of people who love you
You, loving people back
Food in general, but especially chocolate and guac
Feminism and healthy, strong personal values that help give you perspective on the shittiest night of your life
A month later, I read these lines and I am impressed. I still sometimes feel hurt and angry, but I am overwhelmingly ok. I shut down all my social media right after the fact, and for weeks, I feel like there are very few people I can let in and speak to and trust. I want to control who I interact with.
I fly back to campus alone. For a few days, I am paranoid.
I go out on Dean’s Date. I am sober. I am with friends. One of them brushes against my butt on the TI dance floor, and I have a panic attack. I can’t breathe. I am surrounded by drunken bodies, pulsating bodies. I worry they’re all out of control. I sob all the way back to my dorm.
I walk home crying a lot, but I don’t pity myself and neither should you.
I am angry, but I am not sad. I have Facebook again. I’ve been drunk and not felt vulnerable. I’ve also slept with someone I trust and it was fun. I have a SHARE peer I love, and I am so happy for the people in my life. Most days, I don’t even think about it. I hate thinking about it. I try really hard not to, and I worry that maybe I’m repressing, because if I let myself go there I am going to cry again. It’s irrational, but I feel dirty and guilty. In my mind, I can still smell him, and it makes me want to vomit.
I don’t want to give up on the things I loved before because they feel tainted by one screwed up guy. I don’t want to be out of control either. I don’t want to feel threatened in places I love. I don’t want to be embarrassed that I put myself in a situation where I was at risk. I don’t want the fact of risk to be something that even has to cross my mind.
I try to add to the list of things that are good in life. Dancing. Being a little drunk. Being a little high. Rainbow gumdrops. Flamingos.
I don’t press charges. He’s in rehab already, and I hope that’s enough. It’s enough for me. I don’t believe in punishment. I want my ideals to supersede my anger. I want to move on with my life. I’m so close to moving on already.
That night was fucked up, but I’m not going to let it fuck me up for much longer. It’s just taken a little time to get here. I am too happy to dwell on it.
I’ve been telling people about this. I am trying to be open with my friends, but I don’t want them to worry too much. I am ok, I say.
I’m going to be ok.