Girl Talk: Should I Be More Scarred By My Date Rape?

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Last week, I met a friend for dinner. The restaurant we tried to go to was crowded, so we decided to wander around and look for a different place to eat. We turned down the next block and my pulse raced. It was the block of the restaurant my date rapist worked at.

I considered asking my friend if we could walk down a different block, but that seemed silly. And then another thought crossed my mind. What if she spotted the restaurant and wanted to eat there? What would I say? I tried to mask my anxiety. I was more anxious about telling her why I didn’t want to walk down that block than I was of potentially running into him.

He was a bartender I met while dining at his restaurant. We went out a couple of times. On our third date, I drank way too much. The events of the night are fuzzy, but before I knew it, we were back at my place and he was inside of me without a condom. I said no repeatedly. He didn’t stop. He pulled out and came on my back. And then he left. He called me the next day to see how I was feeling and apologized for bolting the night before. He had too much to do the next day, he said. And then we never spoke again.

I didn’t feel brutalized. I just felt regretful and repulsed about the entire night. I wish I didn’t drink so much. I wish I didn’t invite him back to my place. But I’ve felt that way after a number of my sexual encounters. So what made this one different? The fact that I said no. That word separated bad drunken sex from rape, I decided.

In the months that followed the incident, I ate more junk food than usual. I went through a phase where I developed crushes and engaged in clandestine flirtations with guys with girlfriends. And then I settled on the idea that I was not to blame, even though I was drunk. And I forgave myself for making poor choices that led up to, but were not responsible for the rape. I recognized that he was wrong for violating my boundaries of consent. I got tested for STDs and came up clean. I stopped mixing dating with excessive drinking. I decided to become choosier about who I spent the night with. And then my life more or less went back to normal and I was left with this incident, this thing that happened.

As hard as it was for me to imagine finding the words to explain to my friend why I didn’t want to walk down my rapist’s block, it has been even harder broaching the subject with my sexual partners. For some reason, I’ve felt obligated to, although I’m not sure why. It never feels satisfying or soothing when I do. The few men I’ve told have reacted in various ways. One replied with an, “I’m so sorry that happened to you.” Another, felt the need to fix it, asking me endless questions about why I didn’t press charges. And another, I ended up having to comfort. He thought me telling him meant I didn’t want to have sex. “No, no really. I’m OK. I want to have sex with you,” I tried to convince him.

I’ve never gotten the reaction from any partner that I’ve wanted. I can’t even say what reaction it is that I’d want. Two different men I was sexually involved with have told me that they were molested. Both times, I was unsure about how to react. I settled on holding them and telling them how sorry I was for their experience. But it felt insufficient. I suppose the men feel similarly when I tell them about the date rape.

Whenever I speak the words “date rape” aloud, I find myself having to reassure someone that this experience has not ruined my life. That it doesn’t really affect me that much. But is that the truth? Am I just in denial? I don’t think so. It feels like the truth to me. This is what makes me not want to talk about my rape. Not the fact that I am scarred by it, but the fact that I’m not.

I decided not to say anything to my friend. I took a deep breath and continued walking down the street. I passed the restaurant my rapist worked at. Then, I turned the corner and the block was behind me.

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