This post contains a story I have shared with very few people. Even though I hate this word used this way, there may be some triggering here. I don’t know. It feels like a pretty big deal to me.
This is the story of Mark.
It’s not a happy one.
It was a week after my 21st birthday and only my second time out at a bar. I was excited, I was nervous, I wanted this to be a night I remembered forever. Young, passionate, and free. My friend who took me was 23, older, wiser. She promised to keep me out of trouble.
But she didn’t tell me to stop drinking Long Islands even though I had no idea how much alcohol was in them. She let me go, glass after glass, because as I drank more I became entertainment for them.
Was I entertaining when I met him? I have no idea. I was three Long Islands deep when she introduced us. Mark was her friend, I was her friend, and boy was I grateful.
Mark was an athlete, one of the stars in fact for our local Division 2 college. So kind of a big deal, but not quite the biggest. He was a year or two older than me and he had a killer smile. I was done for the moment we shook hands.
He bought me a belated birthday shot—some weird bubblegum tasting concoction. I downed it because, why not? I was 21 and that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. We continued to hang out for the rest of the night and I had my first and only experience with jag-bombs (disgusting, those things).
All I could talk about as my friend’s fiancé drove me home was Mark. I thanked my friend for introducing us and begged her to help me get him to go out with me. I’d always dreamed of dating an athlete. I wanted him so bad.
She said she’d try. But really she didn’t, because a few weeks later her roommate started dating him. The roommate that she’d pimped out to him.
I wish this story ended there. But it doesn’t.
She dropped me off at home that night. I stumbled up the stairs, drunk out of my mind, waking everyone up in the process. I still lived with my parents (trying to save money) and my mother was none too pleased when I woke her up. I’d been trying to go to the bathroom and wound up puking instead. Even though I was locked in, that didn’t stop her from pounding on the door and threatening to take my alcoholic ass to detox (note: I was and have never been an alcoholic, though there is plenty of history of it on my mom’s side; she was overreacting and honestly from anecdotal evidence I KNOW she partied way harder than I ever did).
When my older brother returned from his night out with friends (generational living is really great), I was still locked in the bathroom. In fact I was laying on the floor, my jeans around my ankles, trying not to throw up again. He was laughing even though my mother was furious. He talked her into stepping away and talked to me through the door. It was him that coerced me to unlock it, by bargaining between my drunken self and my enraged mother.
What happened next is a fond memory of mine. The pocket door slid open and my mother pounced. She yanked my jeans completely off and grabbed me by the arm to drag me down the hall to my room. Still wearing my shirt and underwear, she tossed me into my bed.
I tried to protest, saying I want my pajamas but she told me to stay where I was and sleep it off. She was too mad to say anything else, but when the door closed, I could hear her talking to my brother in the hall. Moments later, my door creaked open and then my brother flopped on my bed.
“I’m supposed to make sure you don’t die,” he told me as he simultaneously pulled out his smart phone and started recorded everything. He egged me on for probably an hour, getting me to say things I normally wouldn’t. The only part I remember in crystal clear clarity was when he asked if I’d be going to church with the family the next morning.
I yelled at the top of my lungs, “Hell no!”
I’m pretty sure that recording still exists somewhere. My mom was disappointed with me for several days, and she took away my credit card for a month (which I admit, she did foot the bill for at the time). After my mom realized I wasn’t going to become an alcoholic, she actually began to view the event as something funny a few years later.
I wish that was all that night ever was. Because while that part of the story is now viewed with a certain amount of fond humor, nothing about Mark is humorous. Nothing about what my friend ended up doing was humorous either.
Like I said earlier, my friend ended up setting Mark up with her roommate instead of me. After losing my credit card, I was also a little mad at her for telling me I could keep drinking Long Islands all night because they were good and I wouldn’t get “that drunk.” I still can’t drink Long Islands to this day.
I didn’t stay mad at her long though. I moved on.
And then in December, Mark finally re-emerged after the roommate decided she was a lesbian and dumped him for a girl before Thanksgiving. I knew that of course because I’d seen it on Facebook. By this time I was pretty sure Mark had forgotten about me. My friend remained mum on the matter.
But then one Friday night, before finals, I was studying and on Facebook at the same time when Mark began to message me. Thrilled, I shoved aside my nursing textbook and began talking to him right away. He had my full, undivided attention. I had all weekend to study anyway.
Our chat turned quickly to flirting and eventually we agreed to exchange numbers. We continued texting and finally he asked if I wanted to come over so that we could talk face to face. He came to my house and picked me up. The ride to his house I was a little nervous, but more excited because I really liked him and had spent 2.5 months mooning over him. I’d texted my friend and she told me to go for it.
“Mark is a great guy.”
Her words exactly.
That night at Mark’s we played Mario Cart on the Wii, which I admit I was horrible at. I couldn’t even finish some of the races. He thought it was endearing and wrapped an arm around me. The grin he gave me set my heart aflutter.
I thought finally things were going to work out in the romance department.
After playing Mario Cart, we settled in for a movie. It was weird as fuck about some kind of beer drinking Olympics. I watched it because he wanted to and I wanted him to like me. We talked over most of it. Our conversation covered a vast amount of topics from religion to politics to future plans to hobbies. Every new topic we explored we found we only had more and more in common.
We agreed and aligned on almost everything. It was the start of a beautiful new relationship. Or so I thought. Late that night as I was starting to fall asleep on him, he suggested he take me home. He kissed me on the cheek and helped me down the ice covered steps and driveway.
I told him I was a big girl, I could make it by myself. But he insisted on escorting me.
“I don’t want you to get hurt.”
We continued to text after we separated. A night or two later, I got another text from him asking if I wanted to go bowling. I jumped on it wanting to further whatever blossoming relationship we had. For some reason my mother wanted me back at a reasonable hour. I think it was because I’d just been royally sick and had a near anaphylactic reaction to penicillin and was still on a boatload of medications. My doctor had also advised me that with the combination of meds I was on to treat the reaction that I really shouldn’t drink until I was off them. Since I’d already had my quota of feeling like crap, I listened.
So I was sober when I arrived at Mark’s house.
Unfortunately Mark was not.
He wasn’t that bad though. He wasn’t slurring or stumbling around. He just couldn’t drive because he’d had a few. I ended up driving him and his friends to the bowling alley. He called shotgun because I was his girl, he said, and the others weren’t allowed close to me.
I had fun bowling. I was focused on winning (I’m way too competitive for my own good) that I didn’t notice how drunk Mark was getting. As the evening wore on, he got more bold, his hands sliding into the pockets of my jeans, his arms wrapped around me. None of this bothered me. I was fine with this because we were flirting and I wanted to kiss him.
On the drive home, he put his hand on my thigh. I’d stuck to my no drinking rule and was still completely sober. At first I’d tensed because no man had ever really touched me that way. My ex-boyfriend hadn’t even really gotten that far.
Mark laughed and told me to relax. His hand didn’t move any higher up on my thigh, but I was keenly aware of its presence the entire drive back to his place. It was already getting late as I parked in front of his house. I didn’t mean to go inside, but Mark told me he wanted to show me something. I remember not taking my shoes—purple moccasins—off right away because I was supposed to be getting home.
But then Mark smiled and suggested we watch part of a movie. I checked the time on my phone and said okay, but maintained that I had to leave within a half hour to an hour. He accepted that popped the movie in.
Dumb and Dumber.
It’s not anything I would have chosen. But like the clothes I was wearing—American eagle skinny jeans, a purple and navy plaid button up with a tie at the waist, a black bra, and long dangling earrings I’d bought in Spain—I remember it in vivid detail.
I sat next to him on the couch, Mark right next to me. He slung an arm around my shoulders and we started watching. His roommate was in the chair right next to us. I watched the first ten minutes before I felt Mark’s lips brush up against my skin. They’re on my neck, his stubble scratching me. A bolt of panic shoots through me as he began to suck my skin.
Do I want this? I thought we were watching a movie. I had no intention of this happening.
But it started and I hesitated. I didn’t want to say anything for the fear that he’d decide he didn’t like me and kick me out into the cold. I just wanted him to like me.
His lips traveled from my neck to my ear. I felt his tongue trace my lobe. Shivers went through my body. It had been a long time since I let anyone get this close to me. And I wanted him to like me, so when he turned my head, I gave in and kissed him.
His roommate was still there.
It was awkward, so I pushed Mark away and told him I wanted to watch the movie. He listened for two minutes before he tried a second time. Again, I pushed him away and tried to focus on what we were watching. His roommate was staring intently at the screen.
The third time, I was tired of saying no and pushing him away. I figured we might as well get it over with and make out if that’s what he really wanted. So again, I let him kiss me.
I’d never done anything but kiss a boy at this point in my life. No one had ever seen me naked. No one had ever really truly touched me. What I wanted to just be a kiss turned into his fingers fiddling with the buttons on my shirt. Embarrassed, I brushed his hands away.
Mark relaxed behind me on the couch. His lips still grazed my neck. Soon his tongue was in my ear again. Then he pulled my earlobe, including my earring from Spain into his mouth to suck. I wanted to ask him what the fuck he was doing, but he jammed his thumb in my mouth.
I didn’t know what was happening.
Why was his thumb in my mouth? I bit him—not hard—but he only laughed and stuck his thumb in deeper. He liked it. His other hand went for my shirt, flicking open the buttons before I had a chance to yank them away.
Things were rapidly getting out of hand, but I was too afraid to tell him to stop. He didn’t know I was a virgin and I didn’t want to tell him. But I also didn’t want him to go farther.
His hand slips beneath my bra to cup my breast. My body freezes. I try to bat his hand away, but he just takes it and get me to feel his rock hard abs. He’s officially into territory where no man has ever gone with me and I don’t like it.
This wasn’t supposed to happen this way.
I grab his wrist, I remember because they were hairless. He shaved his arms for his sport and I could just feel the prickles of new growth. I kept my hand on his arm because I thought if I held onto it he wouldn’t be able to do anything I didn’t want him to do.
I was wrong.
He still has his fingers in my mouth. Was he testing me to see if I’d give a good blow job? God, please no. I’d never done that either and I really didn’t want to see his penis at all. I barely even knew him for Christ’s sake.
I remember wanting to tell him to stop as his hands snaked down to my jeans. The only “no” I managed to say was when he reached for my zipper.
But that no wasn’t enough either.
He pulled his fingers from my mouth and rolled on top of me. I wanted to push him away, but my arms were pinned. Couldn’t he see that I didn’t want this? Where was the nice, chivalrous man who’d helped me down the steps the night before?
This was not how I wanted to lose my virginity.
He took my mouth again and tried to slide his hands down the front of my jeans. Every time I pulled them away, hoping that would be enough for him to get the picture. I wanted him to stop, but my heart was beating a frantic staccato in my chest and my breath was only coming out as raged gasps.
“Come upstairs with me,” he whispered as he kissed me. His hand darted to my jeans again. When I once more didn’t let his hands beneath them, he stuck his hand between my legs like a blade and began to rub me.
I tried to wiggle away. My thoughts were racing. How do I say no? How do I get him to stop? How does this end?
He kept me pinned beneath him, his mouth making work of mine, his hand sawing away at the fabric beneath my crotch.
I wanted none of it.
“Let’s go my room.” He whispered when he released my mouth for air. “Let’s go to my room.”
“No.” I tried to push him away, tried to turn my head away from his mouth. I wanted that to be it and I wanted it to be over. But his lips found my jaw again and even though I laid there without responding to him, he began trying again. No matter how many times I pulled his hand out from between my legs, he put it right back.
I couldn’t get out from beneath him. I couldn’t make it stop.
“Let’s go to my room.” He’d pull me, but I’d stay where I was. I would not go up there. I knew that would be it if I did. I couldn’t go up there.
I thought if I refused or didn’t respond enough times it would end.
But there was nothing I could do to make it stop.
Until my phone began to ring on the table, loud and annoying. It made Mark pause enough that I was able to reach out from beneath him and grab my phone. I ended up missing the call, but I saw the name flashing across the screen.
“It’s my mom. Oh my God, I have to go.”
The phone had jarred him enough that I was able to slide out from under him. My shirt was all askew. My bra was beneath my breasts and I felt my stuck churn as I pocketed my phone to fix myself.
At least his roommate was gone now. How much he witnessed, I don’t know.
I wanted to button my shirt all the way up to my throat, but they didn’t go that high. I tied my sash and jammed my feet into my moccasins.
“You don’t have to go.”
I couldn’t look at Mark as I grabbed my jacket and put it on. Everything was reeling and I couldn’t process anything except my mother’s missed call.
She was going to be pissed.
I focused on her anger.
“Yes,I do.” I didn’t wait for him to try anything else. I let myself out and ran for my car. All I could think about was how mad my mom was going to be. I was over two hours late. She’d expected me hours ago. I’d missed my med dose.
When I entered my house, my mother could tell something was wrong almost immediately and I hated it. She followed me into my room and quizzed me about the events of the night. I took my earrings from Spain out o my ears and was almost sick looking at them.
They’d been in his mouth.
It hit me in an awful whir. I felt so dirty and used.
And I hated myself for going back in that house when I should have gone home. For not telling him to stop. For being so damn afraid to say anything at all.
My mom got all the facts from me. She didn’t say much at the time. I thought I was stupid and an idiot. I thought I’d done something wrong.
I texted my friend about what happened the next morning.
Mark’s a great guy, she wrote back, don’t over think it. Give him a chance.
I was studying with 2 of my nursing school friends when that exchange occurred. I had given them a brief narrative of what happened because I didn’t know what to do. Did I tell Mark that things went o far the night before? Did I tell him I wasn’t like that?
It’s not a big deal. My older, wiser friend told me.
My nursing school friends’ jaws dropped.
“No. He doesn’t get to do that to you.”
I eventually ended up sending him something about how I believed the night had gotten out of hand and that I wasn’t just going to be a bootycall for him because that is not what I wanted at all.
Lol. He texted back.
I never saw him again and I tried to put it all behind me.
Except it’s not behind me. It’s made me afraid to trust. It’s made me scared to let other men touch me. There have been a few, but they’ve all given me a reason to trust them.
That trust isn’t easily earned anymore.
When it happened, when I was 21, I didn’t think any more of the experience than that it was awful and it happened. But this summer as consent became a trending topic on the internet I finally realized something:
Mark sexually assaulted me.
I broke down crying as I realized how many times I’d withdrawn my consent from the situation. How many times I’d said no with either my mouth or my body language. But that hadn’t been enough.
I couldn’t wear those fucking earrings for over a year. I wanted to burn the clothes I’d been wearing.
But my mind never went to sexual assault back then.
I wouldn’t have been able to deal with it.
Shortly after this realization, I called my mother. I’d just ended a two date thing with a guy because I didn’t feel anything towards him and I wanted to tell her about that. That eventually stemmed into what happened years ago.
“You know what happened to me was assault, right?”
My mother sighed into the phone. “I’ve known since the night you told me what happened.”
“Why didn’t you tell me then?”
“You couldn’t have processed it. You needed to realize for yourself in your own time.”
Some people might have screamed at her for doing this. For knowing this all along. But I knew she was right. I knew it was something that potentially could have destroyed my 21 year old self. I was not the girl that got assaulted. Nothing bad was really supposed to happen to me.
But this did and for many years I made myself forget—but not truly—about it. It was never completely gone. I’ve still felt the repercussions of what Mark did to this day. I think this summer I was finally at a point where I could reconcile it with myself.
He made me feel less than I was. He made me terrified. I honestly don’t know what would have happened if my phone hadn’t rang and I thank God that I hadn’t been drinking at all that night. That I was sober instead of drunk. He could have raped me that night.
Instead he touched places no man has ever touched, places that I didn’t want him to touch. It wasn’t rape, but it’s still a violation of my body.
Of my trust.
I always thought it was small compared to what has happened to other people. But the thing is, it wasn’t small to me, and no matter the perceived size, sexual assault is still sexual assault. I felt violated. I felt like I couldn’t be me anymore for more than a month after.
The passage of time healed most of me, but the memory of that night will always be with me.
I wish it wasn’t.
“I don’t want you to get hurt.”
Ironic now, isn’t it?