Adam* and I met at the beginning of the school year. He lived nearby, but I didn't actually meet until a friend of mine, Emma*, invited me to come with her when she went to hang out with him.
He was quiet, and his room was practically empty. He didn't really make an impression on me. But I saw more and more of Adam while I was hanging out with Emma, and eventually, he became a core member of our friend group. It was always Emma, Adam, and me. We saw each other every day.
One night, Emma went home while Adam and I stayed up. This had happened a few times before, but this time was different. We ended up having sex. I didn't regret it, but I admit, I was a little taken aback at how casual I was being. I never imagined that I'd have one-night stands or sleep with friends.
Things continued like that for a while; the three of us spent a lot of time together, and he and I continued having sex.
All of my friends know that I have an anxiety disorder. I've never tried to keep it a secret, and it's always made things easier in terms of people understanding why I cancel plans last-minute, or when I need help with something that seems really trivial. One night, while hanging out with Adam at my place, I started having a hard time, and a lot worse than usual. Adam was in my room, and we were going to have sex, but I stopped him. I said I couldn't have sex, or even kiss him.
I burst out in tears and couldn't make it stop. I was having a full-blow meltdown. I poured out my heart and didn't move off my bed. Adam had been emotional in front of me before, so I wasn't really afraid of being judged, but I felt guilty; I had totally lost my mind, and he had to listen to it. I'd been there for him, but it seemed different to expect it from him. My crying fit ended with me saying I wanted to die.
Adam didn't say anything. I didn't expect him to know what to do, but I also didn't expect him to respond the way he did: He leaned over, started grabbing my body, and put his hands up my shirt.
I pushed him away and sat up. I had said no to sex, to everything involving sexual contact, and he knew it. I had just told him that I wanted to die, and he responded by groping me.
I stopped talking. He said, "That probably wasn't a good reaction," and he left.
I felt like a wreck. I felt violated. I felt stupid. I'd willingly had sex with him multiple times. It's not like he raped me, I told myself. It could have been so much worse. I felt like a huge baby for being so upset, but it rattled me to the core. I had trusted him.
I told one of my best friends in hopes that she could put things into perspective for me. She was livid. Up until that point I had convinced myself that I was overreacting. She made damn sure to let me know that I wasn't.
I still didn't know how to feel or how to properly proceed, so I avoided him. I refused to mention any of it to Emma because I didn't want to ruin her friendship with Adam, or even worse, ruin her friendship with me.
When I told another friend, I explained how torn I was. I felt like I shouldn't have been so affected by it. I thought there was no way to justify being so hurt by someone who didn't rape me, especially when I'd willingly had sex with him before. She told me that she would classify what happened as molestation — that I was sexually assaulted. It wasn't something to brush off. She validated all of my feelings, and I finally didn't feel like I was crazy.
I continued avoiding Adam, but after a while, I started missing my group of friends. I confronted him; I showed up at his door and told him he had hurt me and that I was angry. I made him tell me what he did, because I felt like he needed to acknowledge it. He apologized, but then we fought. He got angry with me for being so upset, and I stormed out.
And yet, for some reason, I decided that I didn't want things to end that way. I've always been one to want to peacefully resolve issues, and I felt guilty for leaving on such a sour note.
So I acted like everything was fine. I told myself it was. He had apologized, after all, and even though he invalidated how I felt, I thought that should have been enough. It wasn't. But I had sex with him again.
I know — what the hell was I thinking? Truthfully, I don't have an answer to that. I wanted things to go back to normal so badly. I wanted to pretend nothing had happened, so I started seeing him again. In my mind, being his girlfriend justified what he did. This unwanted sexual touching seemed a lot less serious to me if I thought of him as a person I could move forward with and call my boyfriend.
I think it goes without saying that I made a stupid choice, and everything crashed and burned.
He didn't want his family or friends knowing that we were together. He didn't tell anyone and wouldn't even hug me in public. The resentment I felt towards him just kept building up. I felt angry with myself for not holding him more accountable for his actions. I felt angry with him for not taking it more seriously during the period when I avoided him and for giving me such a terrible apology.
Needless to say, I broke up with him. I realized that in trying to normalize what had happened, I ended up making it seem like it was OK when it really wasn't. I unintentionally got him to think that I had forgiven and forgotten; I gave him the impression that what happened wasn't serious. Part of me still believes that it wasn't.
Remembering what happened makes me angry, sad, and disappointed in myself for the way I handled it. Sometimes I still feel like I'm overreacting, despite people telling me otherwise. It's hard to come to terms with the fact that someone I trusted could cause so much emotional damage, especially when I know it could have been worse.
Those words have continued to haunt me: It could have been worse. But it doesn't make it OK.