In December 2013, I was raped at a small all-women sleepover party in a very upscale neighborhood of a major city -- the type of place we’re all conditioned to believe is safe.
The party was organized through a private women's friendship group on Facebook, and since everyone there knew each other personally, I figured it was a safe opportunity for me go drink, gossip and let my hair down for the night after a busy week of studying. What followed was anything but the low-key night of harmless fun I envisioned.
There were seven of us at the sleepover. One woman showed particular interest in me, and started asking me questions about my love life. I thought nothing of it -- people are interested in others' relationships all the time, right?
I told her my marriage was on the rocks and I was upset that I hadn't had sex in quite a while. She looked into my eyes and I thought I noticed a hint of longing in her eyes as she said, "But, you're so sexy. You deserve to have sex."
I brushed it off, thinking she was trying to comfort me during a shitty time in my life, but my stomach flip-flopped uncomfortably.
The drinks continued to flow freely -- although I imbibed very little, intuitively sensing I needed to stay alert. The woman called to me from the bathroom saying she needed some help.
I went, thinking maybe she had a little too much to drink. Instead, when I entered the bathroom, she abruptly pushed past me to lock the door and shoved me against the sink.
I am not a small woman by any means and I lift heavy weights, but she outweighed me by at least 100 pounds and towered over me by nearly a foot and I was horrified to feel how she pushed me around as if I were little more than a rag doll.
She turned her glassy eyes toward mine and breathed, "You're so sexy," pinning me against the sink as she violently pulled off my panties. I started to scream but she covered my mouth with her hand and I started to suffocate.
The other guests were calling our names, searching for us. They thought we had gone outside and I could hear them wandering the grounds looking for me. I was terrified, but couldn't do anything but let her assault me, because if I screamed, she pressed her hand harder over my mouth and nose.
Finally, the other guests got close enough to the bathroom where she held me prisoner that she spooked.
She let go of my hand, pulled up my panties and told me, "Shhhh. Let's leave one after another so they don't suspect anything." Shell shocked, I nodded and quietly exited the bathroom.
Immediately, I pulled aside a friend of mine and told her what happened. She believed me, but was heavily intoxicated and had no idea what to do. She told the hostess, who separated me from the woman who assaulted me, who was now crying and begging to talk to me to "explain."
The hostess offered me Xanax to help me sleep, which I declined. She told me, "I don't know what happened between you two, but you can sleep in my bed tonight. She won't get to you tonight. Sometimes these kinds of misunderstandings happen at parties. Girl drama!"
While that was a small comfort, the woman at the party was not asked to leave and I didn't sleep a wink the whole night. Looking back on it, I should have immediately left the party but I was in shock.
The next day, the other party guests acted like nothing had happened, and I left as soon as I woke up. Luckily for me, the woman who assaulted me left at the crack of dawn.
As soon as I got home, though, there were dozens of Facebook messages from her trying to explain herself, asking if we could talk and "hook up" again. She said she “cared” about me, which actually made me laugh because it was so insane. Appalled, I immediately blocked her.
Her friend also contacted me and apologized for bringing her to the party and said she was embarrassed. Her friend made a few attempts to invite me to her social gatherings, but not wanting to ever run into the woman who assaulted me again, I declined every time.
Wordlessly, my rapist’s friend unfriended me on Facebook about six months later, and that was that. My last connection to my assailant was severed. No one ever spoke of it to me again, which made me incredibly enraged.
I actually ran into one of other party guests a couple of weeks ago, and she pretended that she didn’t even remember me, probably to avoid any awkwardness. Peevishly, I played along and inside, my blood boiled.
The assault has had a profound affect on my mental health and sex life for years afterward. My ex husband and I split up almost immediately after the rape and a few months later I began dating a new guy. My new boyfriend begged me for a year to let him go down on me and then kiss me afterward, but my own smell reminded me of the rape and her hot breath reeking of my intimate parts and booze, and I would recoil from him in tears.
I became obsessed with getting stronger and bigger so I could avoid ever being victimized again -- and of course, that turned out to be untenable. After spending over 20 hours per week in the gym and putting on 20 pouznds of muscle in a year, I burned myself out training.
Perhaps the most disturbing effect of my rape, though, was how people treated my story. Those I confided in seemed completely unimpressed by the seriousness of the matter — from my friends, to my therapist, to my then-boyfriend.
These people are generally progressive and compassionate people, but they couldn’t seem to grasp the terrible brutality of the rape because my rapist was a woman. I asked an acquaintance on the police force for advice who counseled me not to even bother filing a report, since the assaulter was a woman and there would be no evidence. I took him at his word.
Exhausted and frightened by the entire ordeal, I never reported it formally, feeling as if there would be no point in doing so.
Any reader who is lesbian or queer will recognize the logic in these denials of what happened to me — they are based in the same reasoning that causes ignorant people to ask “How can women have sex”?
Since women are deemed incapable of sexual agency in this way, how could they be capable of violent sexual assault? People believe women are inherently non-violent and that discredits victims' experiences of sexual assault.
Woman-on-woman sexual assault is rarely discussed and victims of it are often dismissed as liars or as parties to lesbian experimentation gone wrong, as happened in my case.
I have been sexually assaulted by both a man and a woman, and my experiences were equally terrifying, yet I received much less support after a woman assaulted me. No one could even register my experience as important, let alone react.
It is my dearest hope that this changes in the future, lest we make it easy for predatory people to fly under the radar. I am still afraid to this day that she preys on other women at parties completely undetected, due to our preconceptions about femininity.