Denial — Delaney Flatford
* Content warning: this piece contains representations of sexual assault *
The night before finals your junior year, your parents go out of town. You have your friends over and a few of the senior guys you and your friends have been seeing. You stock the fridge with cheap beer and even cheaper vodka. Everyone has arrived, and you all start to drink while a generic playlist is blaring in the background. The beer pong is set up on your parents’ formal dining room table, and everyone is kissing their temporary other halves.
Hours later, you remember you have a final project due in the morning. You pull yourself from the company and disappear to your room to work. The guy you’ve been seeing follows you up shortly after. As you see him turn the corner to come into your bedroom, you feel a sense of security. “Oh, good,” you think, “he wants to talk to me. Maybe he cares about me; maybe he’s not as terrible as all of my friends think.”
For the few years you’ve known him in high school, he’s been dangling a relationship over you. Pretending he cares about you but going to parties and messing around with other girls. He’s not the relationship type, but you have this silly belief that you could change his mind. You’re so different from the others, and you encourage him in his endeavors, trying to help him be a better person.
You thought his coming to find you in the midst of a party was a reassurance from him that he cared about you.
You start kissing, which is fine—you’re used to that. But then he shuts your laptop and turns off your bedside lamp, and you know this is going somewhere fast. Maybe you can satisfy him with a make-out session like you have so many times before. It’s always worked when you’ve pushed him away after it’s gotten too intense. And you tried to push him away playfully, but instead, he slides his hands between the waist of your pants in an uninvited motion to slip them off completely. You’re anxious because this is uncharted territory. Because you’re not ready, and you don’t want it to happen like this, and you don’t want it to happen with him.
You whisper “stop,” but he doesn’t. Maybe he didn’t hear you, so you keep your legs together in an attempt to turn him away. He parts them forcefully, and you mutter a “no,” but the alcohol and the fear and the nerves don’t let you sound confident in your protest. He shoves his face between your legs and holds them apart with strength, like he’s not willing to let someone’s lack of cooperation interrupt his desires. You keep saying no, but you don’t even know who you’re talking to anymore because no one is there to listen. He comes up for air, and he can’t see the tears running down your cheeks in the dark, but you can see him towering over you like a giant that has every intention of crushing your soul.
He slides inside of you and this time you say a “please” before you breathe another “stop” like the manners that your parents taught you as a child were going to keep a teenage boy from using a toy that he didn’t have permission to play with.
The tears come more rapidly now as you lay there and think of your parents. How they’re somewhere else and they think you’re safe. And this is happening in the house where you’ve all eaten dinner as a family and watched movies and hugged each other good night. You start to blame yourself because you let him in your home and maybe he thought that invitation was extended into you and now everything about you is tainted. Finally, it’s over and he finishes like the moans of your objections were moans of satisfaction and encouragement.
He grabs his boxers and leaves you alone. Normally, you’re afraid of the complete darkness that encompasses your room, but this time you’re afraid of the light and what it might do to your memory. You can’t remember the room you have to live in for the next year and a half like this, so you leave it in the dark. You gather yourself and get back to the party. He’s outside smoking, so it’s safe to reappear in front of everyone. Your two best friends come up and ask for the details and you whisper that you lost your virginity, and you tremble, and you cry, and they direct you to your parents’ bedroom. The three of you sit on the king size bed and they know you’re not okay, but they assume it’s just because it was your first time, and you’re not going to redirect their thoughts. You sit on your parents’ bed, and you cry, and you’ve never felt so dependent on another person’s presence and so helpless.
You all return to the kitchen, and he’s there, sitting in your dining room chair. He nods you over, so you go. You sit next to him and he shows you his phone. “Look, we got twenty-three likes on our picture.” As if that was some sort of reassurance from twenty-three people that what just happened was okay because they approved of you together.
The next day comes and the sunlight washes the night to the past. You’re okay. Not because what happened was any different, but because your friends made it seem normal.
As the days pass, you make excuses for him. Not that he deserves any, but at the time it seemed to be no one’s fault but your own.
You’ve made new friends since high school, and you tell your story like it’s typical, and they are taken back with shock. They tell you it’s not. They tell you what it really is. You refuse to believe it, because all the stories you’ve heard about it aren’t like yours. It’s too late to rearrange the actions in your mind. It doesn’t deserve your emotions, and as far as your concerned that night wasn’t real. That couldn’t happen to you. As long as you don’t accept it, you aren’t its victim.