As an addict in recovery, I’ve been raped multiple times. My unconscious naked body has been put on display more times than I can count on both hands. I have had to seek closure on these violations on my own, spending thousands of dollars on inpatient treatment, trauma therapists, and psychiatric mood stabilizers. None of these men who have brutalized me have acknowledged their wrongdoings, let alone apologized. That is, except for one. His name is Henry* and he was my best friend.
Henry and I became fast friends our first year of college in Japanese class. He was more skilled in the language than I was and I got off on male attention, so we instantly clicked.
Throughout the year, he tried to hook up with me numerous times, but I consistently relayed my disinterest. One night, in the throes of a deep vulnerability brought on by the demise of an unhealthy relationship, we fooled around in the dark. I remember being turned off by his hyper-aggressive tendencies and forceful nature. I remember he wouldn’t let me leave when I wanted to and as a result, I was essentially bullied into cuddling, something I have never been a fan of.
After that, our friendship progressed essentially the same as before, always riddled with sexual tension and a tinge of resentment on my end. I always made sure he still wanted to fuck me, even though I had no desire of following through, because I validated myself through this unrequited desire. My vagina had always been my upper hand.
Whenever I would get very drunk, which was frequently, he would request naked pictures and try to talk dirty to me over the phone. He would later hold these pictures over my head and try to emphasize how much I should trust him for the sole reason that he hadn’t posted them online or sent them around.
I could always sense something was off with him, but couldn't quite figure out what was up. All of my friends laughed about how blatantly in love with me he was, about how obvious his desires were. He also boasted how consensual all of his encounters with females were, but I definitely brushed off seeing him head back to his room with stumbling drunk women on the weekends. He pushed a “good guy” persona like no other, and I fell for it, even though he had multiple characteristics that suggested differently.
I had tried to get sober multiple times, but in October of 2012, I relapsed hard. From then on, I was under the influence as much as possible and hanging on by a string at school. The week after my initial relapse, I was drinking with a few friends. Henry and I went outside to smoke a few bowls, and at that point, I was stumbling and slurring my speech.
I informed him I was going back to my dorm room and he told me he was coming along. I told him I didn't think that was a good idea, as I recognized the loss of control that I had over my body. He proceeded to follow me while I haphazardly stumbled across campus.
He walked into my room and immediately plopped himself on my bed. I proceeded to dry heave and try to regain focus. He took off his pants before I could turn away from the computer. Although the remaining details are blurry, in part due to excessive alcohol consumption and in part due to violently crying the whole time, the situation culminated in him penetrating me (without a condom, naturally) while I covered my eyes and wept uncontrollably.
He pulled out, came all over my body, and handed me tissues. As he was tying his shoes, he said: “So, can I tell my friends about this?” I walked to the bathroom and vomited.
The next day, he called and texted me multiple times. When I finally picked up, the first words out of his mouth were: “I know you didn’t want last night to happen.” I didn’t understand. If he had known I hadn’t wanted to have sex with him, why would he have done it anyway? He had been one of my closest friends for the past 3 years, and although our friendship had been rocky at points, he had always been present. My college experience was indescribable without him.
A few days later, in the midst of a drunken fury, I demanded that he come over. I needed some form of closure on the situation. I needed to know why one of my dearest friends had violated me so mercilessly and so unabashedly. He came to my room, also intoxicated, and looking back, I realize that I had additionally put myself in harm’s way by allowing him in such close proximity to me. I slurred, “You really upset me. Do you know why?”
I will never forget the next words out of his mouth: “I raped you. I sexually assaulted you. I want to die every day because of it.” I was stunned. He proceeded to talk about how he had been injuring himself since the event and how he was seeking out the school’s counseling services as a result.
In my mind, and probably aided in part by media representation, I had always viewed rapists as cold, unforgiving, and emotionless. To me, you were immune to the spectrum of human emotion if you had the capability to penetrate someone while they so blatantly didn’t want to be. I told him I never wanted to speak to him again and we parted ways. The closure that I had so desperately sought had not aided in my recovery at all; instead, it made me feel that I should feel sorry for him, like he needed support more than I did.
I Sharpied these words on my wrist daily as a reminder to be kind to myself.
The next two months were a mess of booze and self-hatred, eventually culminating in a violent rape by a stranger from the Internet and a trip to rehab. I couldn’t get Henry off of my mind. I saw him around campus frequently, and I struggled with whether or not to report him to our administration.
When I would see him laughing with friends, I would experience sharp, jolting pains, livid that he was able to release steam while I was caught in the throes of punishing myself. One day, in the school cafeteria, I walked past him and he cornered me, just to say hello. The feeling of having no way out at that moment was so inherently triggering that I bolted away with tears in my eyes, unable to speak. That night, I sent him a long message specifying that if he were ever to have contact with me again, I would report the assault.
We haven’t spoken from that moment on, but I constantly wonder if he’s doing okay.
I wonder if it has something to do with the way we have been socialized as women, but I constantly worry that I didn’t give him credit where it was due. Because he apologized and was actively taking strides to get better, does that mean I should have forgiven him? Was his level of pain just as great as mine? I wonder if I threw 3 years of friendship away because of one night in which we were too intoxicated to be rational. I wonder if he continues to make women that he violated feel sorry for him.
*Name has been changed.