Trigger Warning: This post discusses rape and sexual assault.
It was a Friday evening. We had just finished the first wave of exams, which had wiped us all out physically, mentally, and emotionally. It couldn’t have been a better evening to unwind with some homemade food and wine. A group of my girlfriends decided to meet up later in the evening for a good old soul-warming potluck to fill our bellies and our hearts to the soundtrack of laughter, at the expense of our classmates and colleagues.
Afterwards, with our bellies full and cheeks dripping with tears from laughing so vigorously, we made our way to the car for a night swim at a nearby resort. We parked outside the gates and carefully snuck in. With nothing but the moonlight to guide our way and the ocean’s roaring waves behind us, we dipped into the pool and let our worries sink away with every ripple. With a plastic cup of cheap wine in one hand, my friend decided to initiate a game of “truth or drink” to lift our spirits after a tough week.
One by one, we took turns going around the group asking each other naughty questions that we wouldn’t dare tackle with sober minds. As we waddled our way through the pool, and each question got more and more intimate, my inhibitions slowly washed away. All at once, it was my turn. Without hesitation, I answered “Truth!”. At first, my question seemed harmless. Yet upon further interrogation, it worked to uncover something I had buried deep inside.
“Have you ever had a one-night stand?” my friend asked. At first, the answer was a blind “No”. Yes, I had had a somewhat promiscuous past, with multiple relationships over the years, but I never had participated in a one-night stand. But wait.. there was that one night. “Yes. I have had one. But… it wasn’t pleasant.” I replied with trepidation. The girls laughed nervously at first, but quickly hushed down as I began my story. Alcohol always seemed to dissolve my inhibitions- both conscious and subconscious. Without my intent, the words escaped from my mouth before I could process the memories that came rushing back.
“Once I was at a cottage and got really drunk in the company of my friends. I remember that one of the guys there, who had a girlfriend at the time, was all over me. I remember having passed out drunk. But I kept waking up for seconds at a time and I remember seeing him on top of me. He was doing things to me. I didn’t want it, but I couldn’t say anything. I didn’t have control. And the next thing I remember is waking up again. And again. And again. And he kept going. Having his way with me.”
The next morning, I was awoken by the bright light that pierced through the window, only to find myself lying next to him on a sofa bed. Robotically, I got up, put on my clothes and went upstairs. I had some breakfast and waited for everyone to wake up. For some reason, I desperately tried to forget everything that had happened the night before. I willed my memories to cease from existing
When He awoke, he softly touched my face and looked into my eyes.
“You’re so beautiful”. I couldn’t even look at him. He disgusted me. His words meant nothing. I was ashamed. I was embarrassed. I’m sure everyone assumed that something had happened between us last night. How could I make them see that I never wanted this?!
Looking back, I want to shake that scared little girl and ask myself - why had I been ashamed? Why hadn’t I realized back then that I never gave him permission? Didn’t he realize that I was passed out? Why didn’t any of my “friends” say or do anything? How could I have let this happen to me?
After having recollected this, the mood grew somber by the pool and the girls’ grins suddenly turned to worry. I reassured them that I was fine although I was far from it. As I fought back tears, I wondered why it was still so important for me to hide my pain from those closest to me.
Today, I know that I need to share my story with you because unfortunately, this type of situation happens too often and the majority of the time, victims are too scared and ashamed to come forward. Consent and safety are incredibly important topics that I don’t think receive enough attention and discussion.
It was just one night. One night of partying. One night of excess. But one night I just can’t remember has led to a thousand endless nights. Endless nights of crying. Nights of questioning. Nights of analyzing. One night changed everything about my life and I can never get it back.
As we celebrate International Women's Day, let this article be a reminder that even though we have made so much progress over the years, there is still so much work that needs to be done to ensure safety and respect for all women around the world. If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault please contact:
Toronto Rape Crisis Centre: General line: (416) 597-1171 24/7 Crisis line: (416) 597-8808 Barbra Schlifer Clinic: (416) 323-9149