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No. Not your fault. His fault.

My rape happened when I was 18 years old and a freshman in my first semester at college. My story is the same as many young women’s. I was on my own for the first time. My roommate was a friend from home so I tended to follow her around like a puppy. I am shy in big groups and she helped ease me into the college scene.

She was a little sister for one of the fraternities on campus, so she was invited to all their parties. My friend took me over earlier in the week to meet “the guys.” Most of them ignored me, except one guy. He was not my type – a jock – but I was lonely and grateful not to feel so alien. We chatted a bit – he seemed nice. He complained about his English term paper being a mess and I volunteered to edit it for him. He was very happy for the help and invited me over to his dorm room later that week to read it. I went over the next day and essentially rewrote it for him. He was grateful and, I thought, seemed to really like me. He invited me to the weekend frat party at the house.

I had not attended a fraternity party, ever. I also did not realize that the frat had a reputation as a hard partying group. I did not drink in high school so my tolerance for any alcohol was very low. The party was already packed when my friend and I got there. I knew no one so I kept looking around for “John.” I had dressed up – skirt, sweater, boots and a leather jacket. “John” appeared but ignored me. Feeling a bit hurt and very nervous about the crowd, I started drinking. I don’t remember what I drank or how much I drank, I just drank. I was drunk pretty fast. I could hear the music but it was muted and I felt off balance. I sat on a couch and waited for my friend, so could go home.

A couple of guys sat next to me on the couch, they remembered me from the other day. I mentioned “John” to them and they got strange looks on their faces. I was not sure how to read them. “John” then came into the room and gestured to me as he went towards the door – “You coming?” I looked at the guys sitting with me and one of them said, “I wouldn’t go.” I went anyway.

I followed “John” 5 blocks to his dorm, stumbling as I went. I don’t remember if we talked or if he helped me to his room. I was tired and I was obviously drunk. When I made it to his room, I flopped onto his bed and passed out. I woke up to “John” on top of me. I think my underwear was off. I felt him pushing his fingers into me. I was so confused. I did not know how we had gotten to this place. Did we kiss? Had I said anything? I was slurring my words and could not speak clearly. He kept asking me, “Are you ok? Are you ok?” as he fumbled with his penis. I did not understand what he was asking. Ok, with this? Ok, with what?!?! He finally said, “Are you fixed?” Birth control. He was asking if I was on birth control. I mumbled, “Yes,” and then he pushed himself inside me. I didn’t feel much, maybe a blessing. It was over quickly and to tell the truth, I was still so confused. When he finished, he got up and threw a towel at me. “Clean yourself up.” I think I did but I cant remember. I do remember starting to sober up. I laid next to him in a twin bed waiting for the sun to come up so I could leave. I was embarrassed, horribly so.

I snuck back to my room as soon as it was light. I kept trying to go over what had happened. But I could not piece it together. The next day, he asked to talk to me. I was angry but had no idea what to say. I went back to his room (what the hell was I thinking!). He stood in the room looking a little contrite. “I am sorry but I miss my girlfriend and I just pretended you were her last night.” I was so caught off guard I started laughing. “Fuck off,” was all I could get out and I left.

For the rest of the semester, I thought about it as a bad decision on my part, my fault, my choice. Apparently, “John” felt it necessary to tell his friends about that night, and they would follow me around campus yelling slut and other wonderful sexist slurs.

For the rest of the school year, I did not think of it as rape – I got drunk. I went back to his room. I failed to take care of myself.

My second year, I was cast in a play called Extremities, a play about a woman’s attempted rape and her revenge on her rapist. The cast talked about their own close calls or actual rapes. I was asked if I had a story. “Of course not,” I said. They were surprised. To join in, I told this story. There was silence. A woman leaned forward and said, “That’s rape.” I gasped. Rape? “It was my fault,” I said, “My fault. I should have been more careful.” She said, “No. Not your fault. His fault.”

That day I acknowledged that, yes, I had been raped and it was not my fault. It was his. It does not matter that I went with him. It does not matter that I liked him and had been alone with him before. It does not matter that I chose to drink and got drunk. What matters is that he chose to take advantage of all of that to commit a crime. His fault, not mine.

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