I was 20 and using Tinder for the first time. I’d only kissed three boys before that semester and it was exhilarating to just make out with boys, no strings attached. I didn’t know him but I went to his house at 11 pm anyways. We made out for a while, and I remember thinking he seemed kind of hesitant or unsure. Until he rolled me over on my stomach and pinned me down while he put his hand down the front of my underwear and jumped me from behind. My head was pushed it the pillow so I couldn’t breathe or say no. But I don’t think I would have. I panicked, totally froze, unable to process how this situation had gotten so out of my control so quickly. I couldn’t wrap my head around how this nice guy, in Provo of all places, could do this—how I could have let it happen. It took me days to realize it was an assault.
I didn’t kiss anyone for months after. I didn’t trust a lot of men, but more importantly I didn't trust myself. I didn’t trust my judgement or my ability to make good decisions. I carried a lot of guilt.
About four or five months later, I suddenly became really sick of being scared. I thought if I stopped acting like a victim then I would stop feeling like one. The first guy I made out with after getting back on Tinder didn’t hurt me. In fact, we made out several times and I never felt pressured or disrespected or unsafe. It was a relief to know that not all of my physical encounters with guys were going to be damaging. My guard was back down.
Enter damaging physical encounter.
I was house sitting for my aunt. I had just impulsively chopped my hair off, I felt cute and happy and on top of the world. The boy I had been casually making out with had moved away, so I turned to Tinder again to find a replacement. It was really late when a boy messaged me and I invited him over. I remember him asking me, “What are your boundaries? If I have to drive a half hour to do this, I want to know what I’m getting out of it.” That should have been a red flag. I should’ve backed out. But I didn’t. I was overly confident in my ability to keep myself safe, and I felt like he was being respectful by asking what my boundaries were up front. I told him clearly that I was not going to have sex, and that my clothes needed to stay on. He played mind games with me, asking if I was sure I wanted him to come over. He said that many girls would say they didn’t want to have sex with him but he was “so good” that they changed their minds. He told me he didn’t want me to change my mind and give up my virginity to him in the heat of the moment.
The games worked. As alarmed as I should have been, I wanted to prove him wrong even more. I have always been good at establishing my boundaries and keeping to them even in the heat of the moment. I wasn’t worried.
He came over. We sat on the couch and put a movie on, and he immediately started kissing me. I remember thinking he wasn’t very good. It started to escalate and we approached the line of what I was comfortable with fairly quickly. He constantly asked me if he could things and I would say no and he would pretend to respect that. But then he would ask again. And again. He phrased it in a way that made me feel like he was trying to be respectful, but eventually I started to feel annoyed that he wouldn’t just drop it. Every time I said no, he would pull back so that I would be forced to re-initiate the kissing. And then he would say, “You’re so horny. You want to, I know that you do. I promise you’ll like it if you let me.” I held firm and continued to say no.
Eventually he was on top of me and we were kissing. He asked again if he could take his clothes off, if he could take my clothes off, if he could f*ck me. I figured if I could keep him distracted it would be fine and he would stop asking. So I went back to kissing him. I felt him shifting around on top of me and adjusting himself. I didn’t really pay much attention. I felt like something was poking my crotch, so I shifted, but he tightened his grip on me and held down. At some point, he had managed to get his pants and his underwear down without me noticing. He started to pull down my leggings and I wiggled around trying to get free, continuing to thrust through my clothes as he tried to pin my arms down so he could get my pants all the way off.
I said, "Stop." He asked again, “Are you sure?” I told him I wanted him to leave. He got up and pulled his clothes back on and kind of laughed about how “cute” it was that I had values I would stick to. Still a little rattled, I walked him to the door so I could lock it behind him. He turned to kiss me goodbye and then threw me up against the wall. He whispered in my ear that he knew how much I wanted to have sex with him, and he was surprised at my self control until now, but he knew it was wearing thin. It wasn’t. I was terrified. He shoved his hand down my pants, his tongue down my throat, and told me to take him upstairs so he could “give it to me good.” I shoved him off and opened the door and told him to get lost.
I sat on the floor, trying to catch my breath and process the situation. After about a half hour I got up to check my phone. He had messaged me several times. “Aw come on, let me back in.” “You know you want to.” “Are you sure you don’t want to f*ck” “If you don’t answer me soon I guess I’ll just go home.” I was hyperventilating. I felt so unsafe. He was still out there, waiting.
I sat upstairs in the bedroom with the door locked and the dog at my side. I texted my friends about how he was a douche and how bad the kissing was, but I was still in shock. I was making jokes about ruining his ego by not sleeping with him because I couldn’t yet process the trauma.
I remember sitting at work the next morning and filled with this sudden sense that everything was wrong, out of the blue. One second I was joking about BYU basketball and practically mid-sentence everything went bleak. My friends asked why I looked like a deer in the headlights. I got nauseous and shaky and overwhelmed by all of the emotions I suddenly felt simultaneously. Through the next several days, I replayed the events and I realized what had happened to me was undeniably an assault.
It was worse this time. Even though I wasn’t technically raped, I felt like I was. I felt so much more violated than I had six months earlier, and so much more hopeless.
My period was very late after it happened. I panicked. I was still having trouble recalling all the details of the assault, and I knew that he had managed to do things without my awareness. Did he rape me? Did I just not realize it? Am I that stupid or am I blocking it out of my memory? As the days and then weeks passed without my period, I became worried I was pregnant.
I took a test. It was negative. It didn’t really ease my anxiety. As the pieces of my memory started to put themselves back together, I realized I hadn’t been raped, but that it was more than just a boy groping or pressuring me.
I felt like I was in this dark hole I couldn’t pull myself out of. I slept 19 hours a day, skipped every class, rarely showered. I almost failed all my finals. I didn’t cry. I craved someone to hug me and tell me it was okay, but at the same time I couldn’t believe anyone who told me it wasn’t my fault. “But I invited him over. I let him in. I ignored the warnings. My boundaries were a little further than what my church would say is okay. No I didn’t ask for it, but I put myself in that place.”
Months later, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I learned that my terribly impulsive bad decisions to put myself in unsafe situations with people I didn’t know were results of mania that I couldn’t control. But even knowing that, and hearing the mantra of “it’s not your fault” literally a zillion times doesn’t make me feel any less guilty and used and caught up in all the "woulda coulda shouldas" that might have kept me safe.