Fault by Tori M.
When I left to go find the bathroom down the hall, I wasn’t startled when he grabbed me for a hug. He was their friend, now my friend, and we were all having fun. I’d met him a few times before when I visited and he was pretty funny, everyone seemed to love him.
When he tried to kiss me, that was funny too. He must have remembered me from those past visits – I had hooked up with a frat boy or two. But this time was different. This time I wasn’t looking for a hookup, I just wanted to visit my friends. I had a new boyfriend (let’s call him K) waiting for me an hour away who I’d be visiting the next day. I was mad for this new boy and all I wanted was for him to love me back. It was the first time I felt wanted and needed and I wanted to hold onto that.
But I was drunk, really drunk, and things were blurry. When he grabbed me in the hallway I didn’t want to be rude, so I hugged him back. He started pushing me towards the wall and I wasn’t strong or coherent enough to push back. The hallway was empty – was I supposed to scream for help? I said, “I have a boyfriend, haha, stop!” He said nothing while he pushed me through the doorway of the closet, he was guiding me, grabbing my arms harder, not letting go.
He kissed me hard. I didn’t kiss back, but then I did. Because I was scared and alone and I didn’t want to embarrass or upset him. My blue dress made it easy for him to turn me around, bend me over, and move my underwear to the side.
As he pushed inside me, I was staring at a yellow mop bucket, mop handles, broom handles, filth. He fucked me in the mop closet, or as I spun it, I let him fuck me in the mop closet. I wasn’t strong enough to stop him and I wasn’t sober enough to think of a way out. I was staring at a floor full of cleaning products not knowing it would be a really, really long time until I felt clean again. I didn’t make any sounds. He fucked me for 60 seconds until he came inside of me. I didn’t turn around, I didn’t want to look him in the eye, I didn’t want to let him see me crying.
He laughed and kissed my neck and walked out of the closet, leaving me there. I wanted to sink down on the floor and cease to exist. A wave of guilt poured over me and it was hard to breathe.
When I walked out of the closet and back into my friend’s room, nothing had changed. Everyone was still sitting around, drinking, dancing, laughing. But I didn’t feel the same, I felt a pit in my stomach the size of a watermelon. It was shame. I sat down next to my friend and tried to blur out what just happened, I felt numb. I felt ashamed. I felt alone. They wouldn’t have believed me either, it was just another casual hook-up while I was in town. I didn’t want it this time, but I set myself up for this type of thing, right?
He found me before I left that night to give me a package of Plan B. “What a gentlemen!” they said. Right – such a smart, sexually savvy friend to always have a backup pill for the women he fucked without a plan.
I woke up with underwear soiled with sex juices that I could smell through my jeans the whole day. I wanted to shower and throw my clothes away. My friend begged for the details and I just laughed about the brooms and mops – I always turn to humor when I don’t know what else to say. I wish I could have just called the cops. But he was their friend and I was just visiting, I thought they wouldn’t believe me – or worse, that they wouldn’t care. We always laughed about regret and shame and drunken hook-ups, so this was just more of the same. But really, it wasn’t the same at all.
On my way to K’s the next morning I wanted to veer off the road. Should I warn him that he’s dating a slut? Or should I never talk about that night again? Should I tell him that I had no self control? Not even enough self control to stay away from the broom closet, to avoid walking down the hall alone? Not even enough self control to say NO without an awkward laugh? Not even enough self control to stay out of the frat? In my bed? By myself? Where nobody could rape me?
I never told K, but the shame didn’t leave. I never told anybody.
The belief that I was a worthless slut sat in the back of my mind throughout my relationship with K. I had this deep sense of guilt and shame, always worried that he’d find out. That anxiety was almost always too much. He actually helped to reaffirm my self-loathing, which made me even more desperate for his affection. He broke up with me so often that I’m not even sure how long we were together or if it was a relationship at all.
My mind whipped back and forth constantly between hating myself and feeling okay and it was 100% reliant on his opinion of me in any given moment. My self worth was destroyed by my rapist and depleted further by my emotionally abusive boyfriend and I couldn’t find a way to love myself because of it.
This cycle continued for way too long until I moved to San Francisco, blocked his number, and got away from the constant reminder that I should hate myself. By moving far away to a city where I didn’t know a single person, I was able to start a new story. It was actually kind of easy to push my rape and ex to the bottom of my mind and not think about it for a while.
Soon, I actually started going on dates.
After a few boring Tinder dates, I built an OkCupid profile and was messaging with a guy while I was out at a bar in the Haight. He wasn’t too far away so him and his friends swung by for a drink. He seemed nice and he was pretty cute. We called him the zoologist cause he looked like one and I couldn’t remember his actual day job.
The next week, the zoologist and I made plans for a real date on a Friday night. When Friday rolled around, I decided that I wanted to hang out with my girlfriend so he brought along his roommate and we made it a group date. We moved around North Beach from bar to bar, he had to have bought me at least 5 cocktails, and we eventually landed back at his place. Things were really blurry and the last thing I really remember clearly is taking a hit of a joint. I don’t remember my friend leaving but I do remember making my way to his bedroom.
Then, I remember waking up. I was lying face down in his bed, immobile, my face pressed into his pillow, my jeans pulled down to my thighs. I could hear him grunting and I felt him pull out of me. I felt his cum pour onto my ass. It took me a few seconds to understand what was happening, but I was too weak to do anything about it. I continued to lie there, not moving.
I was just raped. Again. By a stranger I had met on OkCupid. 3 years later, same watermelon sized pit of of shame, powerlessness, fear, confusion. How did I let this happen?
I passed back out and woke up in a few hours, called an Uber, and went home. I talked to the Uber driver about the nice weather and how nice of a drive it was from North Beach to the Richmond – some of the longest 25 minutes of my life.
I didn’t leave my room for the next few days. I tried to spin this story into a comedy by pretending that I didn’t know if he fucked me or not – he probably just masturbated onto my ass while I was sleeping, what a weirdo! As if that would have been ok. It did make for a good story though and it made it easier to talk about, so I stuck with that for a while. I even tried to convince myself that I didn’t know if it really happened.
I didn’t have sex again for 18 months.
I didn’t feel connected to anyone for a lot longer. I distanced myself from my closest friends and sunk into a pretty dark place, rarely leaving my room. I’d cycle between going out every night, drinking a ton to diving into a low depression without wanting to burden any of my friends or family with my problems. It was too hard to lie to my best friends by saying, “I’m okay,” so I started avoiding simple conversations altogether.
Over those 18 months, I found myself being pulled in the direction of women’s health. I started reading deeper gender and sexuality literature and became fascinated by the subject. It wasn’t easy, but I was eventually able to reclaim my sexuality even if I still wasn’t able to talk about what had happened to me.
While I was starting to love myself a bit more and shame myself a bit less, I also met a man who started to pull me further out. His patience and kindness and lack of judgement made me feel like I didn’t have to pretend to be okay all the time. He pushed me to explore this new path in women’s health, so I enrolled in a program at CCSF to get a certificate in sexual health education.
This coursework was fascinating, and I connected with one teacher in particular who helped me find my own path for healing. I was feeling more honest and passionate every day and was assigned a volunteer project to work with San Francisco Women Against Rape – an organization who I’d end up volunteering with long term as a rape crisis counselor.
Through my exploration of women’s health, sexuality, healing, sexual violence, and counseling, my career goals started to morph into a clear path to work directly with survivors of sexual assault to help them heal their sexuality through counseling and sex therapy.
I can sit here today and look back on the path that brought me here. The ghosts of my rapes were sitting in the pit my soul, guiding me here, and they allowed me to begin to heal along the way. I’m not finished, but I’m excited. I didn’t think it was possible to love myself, let alone be loved by someone else, but here I am.
It took me a really long time to understand that it wasn’t my fault. I understand now that just because I had gotten drunk and flirted didn’t mean that I was a vessel for penetration from anyone who wanted it. I understand now that consent is an ongoing conversation, it’s not defined by perceived attitudes or past actions. I don’t feel ashamed for not being “strong enough” to stay away from the mop closet. For not being “smart enough” to refuse the 5th cocktail that the zoologist bought for me. Though humor helps, I don’t have to joke about the fact that I was staring at mops and brooms when an acquaintance came inside of me against my will. I don’t have to joke about the fact that someone fucked me while I was unconscious in his bed.
I also know now that my friends and family would have never judged me for being sexually assaulted and I feel confident that they still love me after reading my story. As the guilt of my secret built up, the fear of sharing grew too. But it’s a pretty sweet release to stop holding it in.
It is not my fault that they raped me. It is not my fault that I felt ashamed. It is not my fault that I thought not talking or thinking about my rape would make it go away. It’s not my fault that I got raped again.
I’m a sexual assault survivor and I’m proud of my resilience and ability to heal. I’m thankful for the person I’m starting to become and the people I’ve met throughout my journey. I’m proud of the women and men who have been nearly destroyed by sexual violence and who have had the strength and courage to stand up, ask for help, and heal together. Through their stories, I’ve been able to explore my own.