My Own Vigilante
The day after he raped me, he told me his mom was dying.
He told me she had 3-9 months to live and I was the only person he was willing to trust with that information.
He told me he came to my room to seek emotional support.
He told me how much my friendship meant to him.
He told me how sorry he was that he violated me and that it “so wasn’t him” and he couldn’t believe himself. He told me he was having problems with his girlfriend and that he wanted my advice. He told me every nice thing and every horrible thing he could until I was so confused that I almost forgot why we’d met to speak in the first place.
We spent hours speaking at a table on the patio outside of a dining hall. “Somewhere other than my room,” I’d said over text. “of course, umm I’m assuming your wouldn’t want my room either,” he replied, his first written acknowledgment of what he’d done. In the following days, he would, numerous times, openly confess to sexually assaulting me.
This is my position.
. . . . .
Two days after he raped me, I was supposed to take a final exam. I told my dean what had happened to me, but refused to name a name. I even changed his name in my phone so I could show my dean the texts, phone calls, and missed calls leading up to the incident without giving away his identity.
. . . . .
Three days after he raped me, I told him that I expected him to tell his girlfriend. He told me he would, after her birthday. I mocked how that would go down:
“Hey by the way I sexually assaulted my friend a month ago! Sorry I didn’t tell you A MONTH AGO!”
After expressing frustration about this to my best friend (and the only person I’d told), she told me how frustrating it was that I was acting like it was okay that this was a “back and forth,” as if he got some say.
After even more disagreement about when he should tell her, I took my friend’s advice. I texted him: “Ok you know what, honestly ********* no. You need to tell ********** within the next 24 hours or I am going to. You raped me and this is about me, not anybody else, and I get to make the demands and draw the conditions, nobody else.”
I don’t think I would have been able to "speak” with that sort of assertiveness if she hadn’t been in the room, encouraging me. A few minutes later, insecurity about that text set in, and still hasn’t gone away. I’m still not entirely sure if it was my place to give this ultimatum. While what he did impacted my life significantly, was I overstepping the line by forcing him to also impact hers? I’m still not sure.
Four days after he raped me, he told his girlfriend.
. . . . .
Eight days after he raped me, I texted my best friends in a group chat and told them what happened.
“… I’m still bleeding down there – like not a lot but I see it on toilet paper and my underwear. …”
I asked them what kind of soap was okay to use there.
. . . . .
Fourteen days after he raped me, I graduated. In the last two weeks I had presented my thesis, taken my last college final exams, and even gone to bar night and a number of parties. I am both proud and insecure about the way I was able to handle myself following the day he raped me. I made a point of operating within my daily environment as uninterrupted as possible.
While my lack of ostensible traumatization had helped me to move forward with my life as scheduled, it garnered a lot of judgment from both male and female friends of mine who appeared skeptical about the truth of what happened that Sunday morning, at 6:14am. I had been concerned about what our mutual friends would say when they heard that he raped me. A vast majority of them asked what I was wearing.
They are no longer mutual friends, and I am no longer concerned about what they think.
. . . . .
. . . . .
157 days after he raped me, I posted on Facebook as part of the #metoo movement.
158 days after he raped me, I felt the weight of the movement and the guilt surrounding my lack of action regarding my own, most recent experience. I emailed my dean and told him the name of my assaulter. I told him I still didn’t want to pursue anything judicially, but that if he had been named as a perpetrator by anyone other than me, that would maybe change things. My dean didn’t know if he’d be able to disclose that.
“Let me know if I’m supposed to do anything further or something…” I said at the end of my email. “This feels oddly anticlimactic but at the same time I’m somewhat hoping nothing else comes of this.”
. . . . .
165 days after he raped me, I returned for homecoming and finally spoke to the dean of judicial affairs after she reached out and asked if I would be willing, following contact with my dean. She was, honestly, incredibly helpful and validating. Without my asking, she very clearly laid out the circumstances under which she would be required to judicially pursue my case (if even against my wishes) before I’d begun, so that I wouldn’t say “too much” if I didn’t want to. She felt wholly supportive, without seeming like she was “out to get” anyone.
She, like my dean, didn’t know if she was allowed to tell me if he had been named as a perpetrator by anyone else. Regardless, she told me, it wouldn’t change the punishment. According to her, there is no “tier system” for sexual assault response. Either you’re expelled, or you’re found innocent. However, I was advised that with all of the written confession I had from my rapist, my case was bulletproof.
My options were therefore to press criminal charges, get this boy expelled, or do nothing.
Cue: suffocating confusion.
. . . . .
In the 274 days since he raped me, I have been consistently weighed down by uncertainty about how to proceed.
On one hand, it makes me extremely uncomfortable not to do anything. Especially following all of the #metoo conversation, support, and encouragement, it feels wrong to let it slide with no consequence. When someone violates you, they’re supposed to be punished. But while I agree with that, I wasn’t and am still not comfortable with the punishment options presented to me.
He raped me, but he didn’t ruin my life. And even if that gets me judgment from those who think I must have exaggerated the circumstances, I refuse to let that judgment push me into what I feel would be an exaggerated consequence.
How would I sleep at night knowing I ruined his life – getting him expelled his senior year, while his mom was dying? The pressure and responsibility of having someone else’s future up to my discretion – someone who used to be a friend – is way more than I feel qualified for. Once again, I question my place.
. . . . .
In the past two months, I have been back in communication with him. I told him about my meeting with the dean of judicial affairs. I told him my options, and I told him that I needed him to give me a compelling reason not to press charges. His response was structured around key phrases like “I had no intentions of hurting you,” “You’ve known me and my personality,” “I wish it never happened,” “You didn’t deserve that,” “When you told me how you felt about me, I was disgusted. I thought about it all summer,” and my favorite, “I don’t hurt people. That’s not me, that’s never been me.”
I responded back, reminding him:
“Unfortunately, ‘knowing’ somebody doesn’t mean shit. And I don’t think you were trying to hurt me. What’s unfortunate is the way that you, and many men (and women, but less often because #societalconditioning) don’t even realize that their behavior is inappropriate or unacceptable. I’m not going to go into some lecture about entitlement, but it’s really messed up that because I let you in my bed and we have prior history, you took that as an ‘it’s okay to do this.’
I know you keep saying you learned from this, but I still feel the need to drive home my point. Friends have been telling me “how much fun single ********* is", and that concerns me. I hope every single time you get a girl in bed, no matter how drunk you argue that you are, you are dramatically more conscious of consent, even to the point of asking about it rather than assuming she’s into it.
Personally, I’m really proud of the way that I’ve built up the confidence to tell a guy that I would actually rather not have sex EVEN once I’ve ended up back in their bed or they’ve ended up in mine. Getting to the room does not mean sex, but college hookup culture has never seemed to grasp that. This isn’t me preaching or drawing assumptions, this is me spending 4 years in it and witnessing my girl friends go through the same insecurities.
Many girls won't change their mind if they want to fuck you and you ask if they're down, but you should give a girl an opportunity to be able to say that she doesn’t want to, because often we’re too socially intimidated to say it of our own accord. It means a lot of girls will do it reluctantly because they felt too ashamed to say no, which is the case with a lot of the public accusations in the news now due to male positions of power in the workplace, but the same goes for social intimidation in school. You’re a good-looking, socially relevant varsity athlete. You have a significant intimidation factor to you that obviously isn’t your own fault, but you should be very conscious of it at all times."
. . . . .
In the months after he raped me, our communication has consisted only of these “informative” sessions, where I preach at him about consent, and he replies in a way that’s surprisingly receptive and feels like he’s actually learning. I’ve also asked him to join (and he’s complied in joining) sexual assault prevention programs on campus and championing the training for others on his team and in his social strata. But how effective is that, really – “forcing” someone to get involved in a cause because the other option is being expelled? I’ve since retracted my “demands” for him to be involved in any of it, but am relieved to hear that he is still proceeding regardless.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
For however much this entire piece is about me “taking things into my own hands,” you’ll notice that every time I “took action,” it was due in part to the support and encouragement of others. This entire experience has been a constant battle between what I feel like I should do based on others, my own morality, and the fact that I just can’t figure out what the “right” thing is.
What often goes unmentioned following incidences of assault is the way that women, as victims, can feel buried under the guilt of being “complicit” in their mistreatment – by “allowing” something to proceed, not speaking up in that instant or even for months or years to come, or by continuing to operate in their daily lives and not act openly as though they are traumatized or hurting in every given moment.
If I have learned anything, it’s this:
It’s okay not to be okay.
It’s also okay to be okay.
There are social ramifications felt within all settings, including my own, in addition to uncertainty due to normalization and societal conditioning, and confusion all around because we’re always told to stand up for ourselves but apparently there’s a “right” and “wrong” way to do even that.
Never let anyone tell you that there is a right and a wrong way to face and process a traumatic event. That affect is yours to hold and yours alone, and is unique to you.
I’m not sure yet if I’m at peace with what I’ve been through, considering the nightmares haven’t stopped and I still try to kill boyfriends in their sleep from time to time, but I am approaching a place of comfort with the current state of things, and all told feel that I have responded with the most proportional, fair expectations of whatever penance should be made.
And while I’m not sure if I’ll ever be certain that my little form of self-vigilante justice was the appropriate response to the day he raped me, I can say that I’ve never stopped moving forward, and I do not intend to.