Ten years ago, someone I knew drove me home from a party and took advantage of me. Most people would call it rape. Back then, that word was too scary for me. I thought that if it was someone I knew, maybe it wasn't rape; I thought since I got in his car, it might be my fault. I was 18 and didn't even want my family knowing I kissed boys, so uttering the word rape to anyone was out of the question. I couldn't imagine the embarrassment of telling my parents, my doctor, or police.
We had gone to the party together, and I sat at a counter by myself most of the night while he drank with his friends on the other side of the kitchen. After a couple of hours of failing to mingle, I couldn't bear the social anxiety that came over me and I wanted to go home. I was grateful that he had no problem leaving to take me home.
He had a really nice car; I remember getting in and thinking about how I couldn't believe a guy like him would take me to a party. We talked comfortably with all the windows down as we drove; I was comfortable enough that I closed my eyes. I opened them a couple of minutes later when I realized we had come to a stop.
I looked around. It was pitch black, and all I could hear was crickets — then my voice yelling "no" and "stop." He forced himself on me and repeated the words "I'm sorry" over and over until he was done.
I wanted to get out of the car, but I was in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, and I was in a state of shock that seemed to last for weeks. He drove me home and kept asking if I was mad at him and repeating that he was sorry and how he thought he might be in love with me.
For weeks, I didn't want to go anywhere or talk to anyone. A friend called me and begged to know what was wrong. I told him, "I think I was raped." It was the first time I had ever spoken that word and once I did, the pain it unleashed made a permanent habitat in my soul.
I kept very busy. I worked multiple jobs that kept me occupied seven days a week, but every Sunday afternoon, after coming home and showering, I would cry in my bed all night.
I saw him at a party about a year later and could feel him looking over his shoulder at me, watching me. I couldn't stand to be in my own memories with him, never mind the same room. As I stormed out, I stopped in front of him and, eyes glaring, said "Don't you ever look at me again, and if you know I'm going to be somewhere, I advise you don't show up."
Drunk, he called out, "Maybe you should have called the police that night then."
I keyed the whole side of that fucking car to the tune of him and his friends laughing after me. I stopped going to parties after that.
I stopped a lot of things, like making eye contact with men. As love interests entered my life, I learned that I could not handle physical touch. I didn't even like people holding my hand. When I had sex, I had to put all my focus into the moment or else I would have flashes of that night in his car. It would cause me to freak out and leave. Crickets — I still don't like the sound of them. In these flashbacks, every detail was so clear. I could hear the song playing on the radio and the color of my undergarments. I could remember the sickening smell of beer on his breath. I would sometimes have these flashes while I was driving. One time I almost lost control on the highway; I remembered not being phased by it.
These side effects continued for years, and crawling out of the dark hole I was in wasn't easy, but I eventually learned how to heal myself through counseling, time, and trust. I even began a ritual where I would only let myself think about it once a week at spin class. I would then drive to the track and run a mile or so and cry before getting in my car, ripping up a picture of him, and throwing it into the wind as I drove away.
It wasn't until many relationships and years later that I finally felt "over it," whatever that means. It wasn't a specific day or moment, but a period when I just felt OK.
Three years after that, I got a very unexpected friend request on Facebook.
My heart pounded when I saw his name. You have got to be shitting me. I felt so many emotions rushing back, and I weighed my next move carefully. Part of me wanted to ask him who the hell he thought he was, and another part of me wanted to ignore it and say nothing, like I had years ago.
I decided to do something different this time and confront him.
What I initially took from this exchange was a lot of disgust. I felt like he was trying to cash a free pass for all of his wrongdoings now that he was in AA. I saw it as the most generic, half-assed apology I have ever read. Did he wait a decade to approach this now that he has something to blame his actions on? Is that really taking responsibility? What might have cleared his conscience filled my mind with painful memories, and I wasn't OK with that.
As the days passed, I kept thinking about our messages and the idea of acceptance. He says he's a recovering alcoholic making amends, and I know him as the kid that raped me and didn't give a shit until 10 years later (if you can even call that giving a shit). I knew my reply to him was true, that I didn't need his apology. When it comes to letting go of anger, I didn't wait for an apology to move on.
Regardless, I had to at least accept the situation for what it was, and that night was long in the past.
He ended that message with "I understand and wish the best for you," and to my own surprise, I replied, "Same to you." Whether I mean it now or another 10 years from now, I don't care, but I won't be revisiting it by sending him a friend request at any point.