**trigger warning: sexual assault**
But for the TL;DR version:
I want to collect stories from women and men that share, from personal experience, what non-consent has looked like in their lives and the effect that remains. I want to post those stories (anonymously) to keep the conversation going and to change the general consensus of what sexual harm is.
What follows are the stories of non-consent that I’ve already collected, told in their own words. And I’ll update again as often as I can when new stories come in. They can be difficult to take in so I beseech you to utilize self-care in your reading. Check in regularly with your feelings and follow along in a way that is safe for you.
I’m overwhelmed with the way that you all have trusted me with your stories. If you have a story that you want to tell, please use the anonymous form found here or email me: libby (at) xoxolib.com
Thank you for this opportunity. I have never felt that anyone would be interested in my experiences because thankfully in every situation someone has intervened before any actual violence could occur. I am also an exceedingly independent 27 year old woman and I hate the idea of ever labeling myself as any kind of victim so I have avoided contemplating the seriousness of these events for several years.
When I was 21 my friend held her wedding reception at a popular club in North Carolina. It was 1-2-3 night. $1 for domestic beers, $2 for imports, $3 for rail shots. I had taken a taxi there with a male friend I had a crush on and his two roommates. Surrounded by friends and knowing I wouldn’t be driving I enjoyed the opportunity to reach the point of pleasantly drunk, but still far from shitfaced. At one point I danced with the best friend of the bride’s brother. We parted and each continued dancing with others. He returned for a second dance which I accepted. He put his hand up my dress. I laughed and removed it. He did it again. I told him to stop putting his hand up my dress. As I tried to pull away he grabbed my waist and said in my ear ‘This is your fault for being a fucking tease.’ At this point I pulled away hard looking for the guys I had come with. Thankfully I was able to catch the eye of one of the roommates and mouthed “Help me!” right as my aggressor snatched my wrist and tried to drag me to a bathroom. The roommate quickly cut through the crowd and grabbed my aggressor by his wrist forcing him to let me go. My crush saw the commotion and then bodily shielded me while his two roommates frogmarched the asshole outside, called him a cab, and waited til he departed in the cab before returning to the party. I was young and was so enamored with the fact that I had been heroically rescued by my crush I don’t think I ever seriously thought how horribly wrong that night could have gone.
When I was 22 I was on a date having drinks at a bar. It was a Friday night and very busy. I was lucky to snag a stool at the bar while my date stood to my left. After we had been talking for a while I felt a strange pressure against my right thigh. At first I thought it was just because it was packed and someone was simply pressing against me in the crowd. But when I looked I realized the patron sitting on my right had turned in his stool so that I was bracketed between his knees, he was wearing shorts without underwear and from my angle I could see him pressing his bare dick against my thigh. I was mortified. I had no idea how I was supposed to react in this situation. He was large, and when I say large I do not mean fat. I mean, tall and broad. I was scared to make any move that would alert him I knew what he was doing. I whispered in my date’s ear “This guy is touching me with his penis.” I could tell my date was unsure of what to do either against a man who had probably 5 inches and 100 lbs on him. In the end I pretended to use the restroom while my date took my seat so we switched places when I returned. Secretly I wish my date had had the guts to say something. Even more so, I wish I had had the guts to say something. To call this man out for his disgusting action and demand that the bartender call security. But I didn’t because we were scared. I said nothing and pretended like nothing happened.
Last year I was walking to my car after going to hear a friend’s band play at a show. I was parked in a well-lit, well populated area less than 2 blocks away – not even a 3 minute walk. A car slowed down next to me with 3 young men inside, they rolled down their windows and started cat-calling. When I ignored them they threw money at me. At this point I had reached my car and was getting out my keys when the boy in the passenger side started to open his door. There were a group of bar patrons having a smoke across the street. One of them saw what was happening and started to approach their car yelling, “Leave her the fuck alone, I will call the cops!” The boy quickly got back in the car and they drove away. I was wearing jeans and a tank-top. Just for those who think clothing has something to do with this. The only skin I was baring was my arms. It wasn’t even low-cut.
It’s been almost 7 years now and I never reported the incident to anyone of authority. It took me 3 years to tell my mother because of the pure shame and guilt I felt. I was 17 and on vacation with my two best friends in Chicago, staying with my aunt. We met some guys, exchanged numbers, even spent a day hanging out with them in the city. At the end of that day I started to get an uneasy feeling about them. It was nothing but pure gut instinct but I knew I needed to listen to it. These guys wanted to hang out that night and I told my friends no, we shouldn’t go. We had snuck out the night before and I just knew we shouldn’t do it again. After being called several explicit names by one of my “Friends”, I gave in. We met up with them and they had the biggest jug of vodka I had ever seen at that point in my life. Long story short, they got us all drunk. Really drunk. Three of them, three of us. I wondered off to clear my head and one of them followed. At that point I couldn’t feel my body anymore and collapsed in his arms. He laid me on the ground and started kissing me. My whole body was numb, but I could fully comprehend what was going on. When he started to pull on the button of my pants I asked him to stop. He didn’t respond, so the next time I told him. I repeated myself maybe five times and finally he said “why”. I gave up and asked if he would at least use a condom. He said “No”.
I have no idea how long it went on. How long he assaulted my lifeless body as I moved in and out of consciousness. How long he used me to fulfill his needs. Every time I opened my eyes my body was jerked into a different position. I remember him grabbing my arms, pulling me up and shoving himself inside of my mouth. It finally all stopped when he heard my friend coming towards us. He jumped up, grabbed my clothes, tossed them at me and told me to get dressed. My Jean shorts had grass stains as well as my brand new Chicago Cubs shirt that I would never wear again after that night.
When my friend got over to me, she said that our other friend was having sex with one of the guys and the other had tried to touch her. At this point after practically having alcohol poured down my throat and being raped, I pieced together that this was planned. They planned to get us drunk. Hoping we wouldn’t know what was going on or be able to tell them no. I put my clothes on and went to find our other friend. Turns out, she was totally cool with that was going on and wouldn’t pull herself away from this guy. After what seemed like an eternity, we all headed back to my aunt’s house and went to sleep.
The next morning, I woke up and was really disoriented. I sat up in bed and everything came to me in one big wave and I just started sobbing. The friend who unknowingly stopped my assault sat next to me and held on to me, comforting me as I wept. The other friend… well she told me I wanted it. That there was no way in hell I was raped. Convinced me of this even.
It took me a really long time to accept that it wasn’t my fault. And it’s taken even longer than that to push aside the guilt of not making us all stay in that night. It’s been almost seven years and I’m finally dealing with my PTSD, anxiety and depression properly with medication and therapy. I see more and more of these stories coming out and it’s so disgusting to me what these people get away with. That the victims are blamed if they drank too much, but the predator gets away with it because they drank too much. I educate people around me on these situations, and when the time is right I will educate my younger sister as well.
Of prayers. A lot of love and support from family and friends. Just. A lot of me. Things were very dark for a good chunk of time after that happened. But at some point I told myself. Okay. This happened. And it is fucking terrible. And I have options. I can let this define me. I can let it swallow me whole. I can let it take more than just a piece of me. I can let it take all of me. I can let it literally take over my life and consume me. I can let this take my happiness. And take my future. And take my hope. . . Or. I can fight. I can fight to get my life back. I can fight to get my happiness back. Yes it happened and yes it’s horrible. But I do not have to let it take over the rest of my life. I want to fight. I want to heal. And slowly but surely…..that is what I did. **thanks for taking the time to read this. There is such power in knowledge. And sharing.Age: 31
In middle school the first guy who noticed me was a freshman in high school and I thought that was the coolest thing ever. What wasn’t that cool, however, was the fact that he convinced me to do things that made me uncomfortable. Lie to my friends, lie to my family, stop eating to get skinnier, go a little farther in the sexual parts of our relationship. He said things that were mean. Would talk about how he could get any girl he wanted but thought I would be so much prettier if I just did this, or that. One day I got a call while at school and it was someone at my father’s work and when I picked up, worried something happened, they said he passed away. But it was him. Joking. But I was at that point depressed and smitten because I was convinced no one else would like me except for him. One day it happened. He got me with my clothes off to ‘give me a massage’ because I would love it. He promised. He didn’t just violate me. He did something that at that age I didn’t even know people did. Anally violated me. With his parents downstairs. They would drive us to the house with him making out with me and they wouldn’t even say a word. I thought my parents were wraps prudish (he convinced me) but at that point right there. The pain and humiliation made everything click that something happened that wasn’t supposed to. I went into my shell even more after that and he eventually dumped me for another girl that was slightly overweight that I wonder if he did the same thing to. Eventually I found out he was kicked out of a school for harassing a girl who later became a friend- while we were dating.
A few years later, he actually FB messaged me asking how was life. When I asked him why he thought it would be OK to message me, he acted confused. I honestly wonder if he even remembers what he did to me. I never even told my parents and only a couple of people know what happened to me.
I’m pretty sure I said no, but that detail is fuzzy, so I blamed myself. It wasn’t violent and I felt like I set myself up for it, so I blamed myself. He didn’t ask, he took, and I blamed myself. It is uncomfortable, embarrassing, and he took something I wasn’t ready to give.
This is my gray area.Age: 33
I was dating someone super controlling and he constantly was pushing me farther than I wanted to go. I was a virgin at the time, and didn’t even know what some of the terms were that be was using. One day he pressured me to let him “just get some head” – except he couldn’t control himself. I was terrified of saying anything and felt frozen inside of my body. I felt so gross and terrible but didn’t think I could tell anyone about it. 2 years later I was introduced to the term “date rape” and I had the shocking realization of what had happened and why I always felt so violated even thinking about him. It took me years to come to terms with the fact that no one had ever told me I was allowed to simply say no. No one seemed to talk about he instances where they froze and then blamed themselves.
I’m a woman. And although I have never been sexually assaulted, I’ve been made to feel like I was merely an object for sex by a number of men.
In more than one incident I have made it clearer someone that I no longer want to have sex with them. And in these incidents I have explained myself, my reasons why (something I realize I shouldn’t even have to do) because they keep asking.
I was recently called rude when I told a man for the second time that I did not want to have sex with him anymore. He was absolutely livid at the fact that I would say “no” to him.
Even after he expressed his feelings of how rude I am, he has still texted asking me to come over (aka sex). I’ve learned to stop responding, but it scares me the way men have made me feel like I owe them something even though I know I don’t.
I know not all men are like this, but because of the world we live in and these attitudes, sometimes it’s hard for me to allow new men, even just friends, into my life because I am always afraid of being seen as someone who is only good for sex.
I was someone who lived in the grey area of consent for 2.5 years. My first serious boyfriend emotionally abused me and used some picture-perfect gaslighting. He was so good at it that I didn’t know anything had really been “all that bad” until my therapist told me the anxiety and depression- the nightmares and crying- were caused by PTSD. I was free to say no as much as I wanted as long as I understood what that really meant. “No” meant 5-6 hours of hostile persuasion, pleading, and “why don’t you love me?” If I was too tired to argue in vain for hours, I just wouldn’t say no. I wouldn’t say yes either. It just happened to me. If I told him I was sick or hurting he would say he just needed one more minute. Like I was interrupting a conversation instead of protesting his use of my body. It took 4 times of trying to break up with him- and 4 subsequent suicide threats on his part- before I was free. But I wasn’t really free. As the fog started to lift, I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t have sex with the lights off without the shadows morphing into his face. My body would shake and sweat. Sometimes, I would cry for what I thought was no reason. It’s been 4 years since I left for good. I’ll always be trapped in the grey area. I hope to find the courage to tell my family soon. I hope this can help someone.
I’m still collecting and assembling stories. I have new ones in my inbox all of the time. I’m humbled by your bravery and honesty and trusting me with it.
My hope is that these stories will create a community of “me, too” for survivors, spark a conversation for change for the future, and prove that these are not one-off situations that are happening in the world.
This is what a culture of non-consent looks like.
Thank you to everyone who has submitted so far. If you’d like to share your story, click here or email me: libby(at) xoxolib.com