October 1, 2018

When Consent Isn't Really Consent - This Is My Story

When I was 18 years old I was pressured by an older guy to do things with him that to this day I have not forgotten.

I didn’t speak up during the #MeToo movement because I didn’t feel my incident counts and even now I feel I fall into some gray area because I did technically consent.

The reason I’m sharing my story now, almost 10 years later, is because of the Kavanaugh case. People claiming Ford is lying, that she can’t remember, that it was a different guy and that she should have reported sooner, or why didn’t she say anything when this and this happened. People saying she’s in it for the money, etc.

So I thought, maybe if I share my story even if it may not apply, maybe, just maybe, people will understand why women don’t speak about their assault as soon as it happens or in some cases, the secret dies with them.

I was a senior in high school when M (I know his name, I’ll never forget it, but I won’t out him, so he will be referred to as M) contacted me through Facebook messenger.  I knew M through work, so it wasn’t some completely random guy, but it wasn’t someone I talked to regularly. He was a supervisor. I’m not sure on age, but probably twenties as he was in college; it wasn’t a "huge" age gap. I worked there since I was 16, so I knew who he was and so I accepted his friend request.

What should have been a red flag at the start was that he was engaged, and he was messaging me, telling me I was pretty, sending pics, sexting. Yet, foolish teenage me, me who had never been with a boy, who was already self-conscious about how I looked, thought that maybe he liked me and the other woman didn’t matter. 

In the end, M got me to agree to meet him at his place after school one day. I don’t remember if he asked to touch me, but I also didn’t say no. I remember I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t find my voice. It felt as if I didn’t have one.  I was vulnerable and scared in that moment. I didn’t fully understand what was happening, but it didn’t feel right having him touch me. It wasn’t how the media made it seem.

When one of his roommates came home, we stopped and that’s when I left.

The odd thing was he never pressured for sex, and he never kissed me on the lips. It was purely all hand stuff and nothing more.  He knew ahead of time, from our conversations, that I was a virgin and that I had never been kissed, so maybe he was playing off the “friend” role or maybe those were things reserved for his fiancé’ and part of some open relationship agreement they had.

M messaged me again later, talked about our time together and brought up anal (apparently his fiancé’ wouldn’t do it at the time), which I said no to.  I asked him if his fiancé’ knew, but he kind of skirted around the question, said we were just friends fooling around. That there’s no harm in that, convinced me what we were doing was okay. He managed to sweet talk me into visiting him again.

The second time around not much happened as one of his roommates came home earlier than expected.  That was the weird thing about the second visit. We were in his room, door closed, but when he heard a car pull up, he stopped everything, and opened the door. He even left for a bit to talk to his roommate, then came back and convinced me to play a video game with him for a bit (probably to give off the impression that we were just friends).

It hit me then that what we were doing wasn’t right as it seemed he didn’t want to get caught with me and that is where things ended. I was leaving for college soon anyway, which he knew, so we never met up again. He never contacted me again, though I still saw him at work (very awkward and uncomfortable), and I eventually unfriended him on Facebook.

The main reason I haven’t shared my story, as I stated before, is because I consented. I never said no. I never said stop. However, I didn’t feel good. I didn’t enjoy it. I felt weird, confused, and humiliated afterward. I wanted to forget the whole thing, so I thought if I didn’t talk about it, then it didn’t happen, but here I am, almost 10 years later, and I still remember it like it was yesterday.

However, the law and others won’t see my inner turmoil. Putting myself out here now, I’m sure I’m going to have people saying “well you consented so…” or “you never said stop…” Both of which are true, but as I said, at the time I felt vulnerable. I didn’t feel I could say no. It just didn’t occur to me that was an option. 

I think consent can be a tricky thing for this reason. It’s great to teach our kids “no means no,” but sometimes, “no” isn’t always so clear and peer pressure can cause someone who is on the edge to say “yes” when they really don’t want to.

Had I been one year younger, he would have been labeled a predator due to the age difference, but because I was 18 when he chose to get in touch with me, I lost that defense.

So I don’t believe assault to be black and white. I think there is a gray area, which is where I fall into and I think many girls do, and I want them to know they aren’t alone.

I also never told anyone because I thought it was just a really big mistake. I was the one at fault, but now I’m not entirely sure that’s the case. I think this guy saw an opportunity. He found me, a girl who knew nothing about sex, nothing about relationships, and used it to his advantage. He manipulated me, made me believe that what we were doing was okay, and basically convinced me to say yes.  

So I totally understand why many women don’t speak up until years later. They blame themselves. They want to forget. They had strict parents, like I did, which is another reason I didn’t say anything until now.

I grew up with abstinence-only education, so what I learned was mostly from bad young adult novels, friends, and worst of all, porn. I really didn’t have anyone I could go to talk about boys or sex. If brought up, it was basically "don't do it" or "you'll get diseases and die." I lacked the education that may have saved me from this situation.

I was also somewhere without my parents’ permission, so if I told them, they would find out I was lying and I feared the punishment, so I chose to pretend it never happened, which is another reason why many women don’t say anything until years later because they were likely somewhere they shouldn’t have been, like a party or friend's house. Something bad happened, but they feared punishment or worse, that their parents wouldn’t believe them or even worse, their parents would blame them, so they choose to live with the shame instead.

In the end, I’m left with a bad memory and no words for it. I don’t feel it classifies as assault, but I don’t think he is innocent either. All I know is, he wounded me and the scars will forever remain.

13 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing your personal story with us. So many of us are holding things in because we feel that we are the one causing what happen to us or we deserve. We still have a long way to go, but there is hope.

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  2. Thank you for sharing such a personal story. I know it's hard to speak up and admit how vulnerable you felt. Such a hard age because you don't feel confident yet to speak up and stand up for yourself.

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  3. “I don’t feel it classifies as assault, but I don’t think he is innocent either.” This quote speaks to me. THANK YOU for sharing.

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  4. "I didn't say no" "I couldn't find my voice" are the things that scare me having a daughter. I am trying to help her understand what consent is and that she does have a say. Thanks for sharing, it must have been hard to write this.

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    1. I think if I had better sex education, not just don't do it, if I had the knowledge to know that I do have a say. Things would have turned a lot differently. No one ever told me I had a voice, that I could say no, even if I had said yes in the beginning. Consent wasn't talked about in our sex education and I think that's a huge problem. It's great that you are having that discussion with your daughter now so hopefully she'll feel more empowered than I did. I want my daughter to feel she has that power too.

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  5. Thank you for telling your story! You are brave and it doesn't matter if you didn't say no. I have had many instances that are similar and I felt just as violated. Your struggle is just as real as any other victims. 😔 keep on keeping on sister!

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    1. Thank you. I'm sorry for what happened to you. I wish we all didn't have to have these kind of stories to share.

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  6. How brave of you to share this. I think there are lots of women out there right now feeling old wounds open up, and there are always these questions of power around sex that are uncomfortable and scary. You are awesome for talking about it.

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  7. I hope that telling your story allows you some relief and release. This is definitely a story I would want my teenage daughters to read. Thank you for sharing.

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  8. Thank you for sharing your brave! I agree that there is a gray area when it comes to some assault stories. I have a #metoo story as well, but still don't have the courage to talk about it. With every story brought out into the open, I feel like I get a little closer to getting to that point, so maybe (hopefully) one day I'll have the courage to add mine to the many others😔

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    1. I'm so sorry. Coming out has definitely helped me realize I'm not alone. It's really great to have all that support, but at the same time, it's really sad because there are so many stories.

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  9. I'm so sorry you've fallen into this gray area that makes you feel like you don't have the right to share or report. That makes your story that much more important because like you said, I think a lot of women fall into this gray area for one reason or another. Anything other than an explicit, confident "YES" is a "NO." If you were coerced into saying "yes" and didn't feel good about it, it absolutely was not consent! Your hindsight here is invaluable. There are so many factors here that went into this happening and hopefully by being brave enough to share your very significant experience, we as a society can change them!

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  10. I'm so sorry you've fallen into this gray area that makes you feel like you don't have the right to share or report. That makes your story that much more important because like you said, I think a lot of women fall into this gray area for one reason or another. Anything other than an explicit, confident "YES" is a "NO." If you were coerced into saying "yes" and didn't feel good about it, it absolutely was not consent! Your hindsight here is invaluable. There are so many factors here that went into this happening and hopefully by being brave enough to share your very significant experience, we as a society can change them!

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