021: It Feels Fresh These Days
Content Warning: This post contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to some survivors.
"It Feels Fresh These Days," Sarahjane Fischel.
I have been sexually assaulted.
That statement terrifies me.
Being sexually assaulted always meant you had been raped. I didn’t understand growing up and I didn’t even fully understand until the last few years that being sexually assaulted encompassed so much more. I was never educated on the subject…beyond rape. I think that is why when I realized I had been sexually assaulted, it freaked me out and then it was almost like reliving the experience all over again in a more terrifying way.
Growing up I was what I think most would consider a “goody two shoes.” I didn’t get into trouble and was as responsible as any teenager exploring their limits can be. I didn’t do drugs and would try an alcoholic drink here or there at the rare parties…that was it. I wasn’t promiscuous. I was a virgin. When I moved 3,000 miles away from home and started attending college in Boston, MA I realized there was a lot of drugs I didn’t know about. I made a firm decision from the beginning to not even try them. I had a father who as a prescription drug addict. I didn’t need to tempt fate. So, I decided I would just drink alcohol and try to keep up that way. No harm in that, right? And there really wasn’t. I made sure to try to always arrive and leave with the same group of friends at every outing. I had no way of knowing one of my closest friends would take advantage of that.
We’ll call this friend “J.” J and I were super close. We went to concerts together and spent many nights hanging out and listening to music during our time in college together. He had brought up having sex multiple times. I should mention that he didn’t want a relationship. I told him I loved him like a brother, but that I didn’t want to lose my virginity to him. He always seemed super cool with it and never pushed beyond a little teasing here or there. In total, it probably came up four or five times.
I remember THE NIGHT in waves. I remember showing up to my friend “K’s” apartment and starting to drink early with her. I remember joking around with my friends about past parties and shows that were coming up. I remember starting to feel sick. I remember going to my friend’s room to lock myself in her bathroom to throw up in privacy. I hated people trying to take care of me when it was me who drank too much and pushed my limits too far. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep on the bathroom floor, because the next thing I remember is my friend J knocking on the door and insisting on coming in.
I don’t remember letting him. I don’t remember him taking his pants off.
I do remember trying to tell him I didn’t feel well and that I had been throwing up. I remember him saying it didn’t matter. I remember him “helping” me to my knees. I remember him putting his penis in my mouth and making me give him a blowjob.
The next thing I remember is walking out of my friend K’s apartment.
I don’t remember the five-block walk to J’s apartment. I don’t remember the elevator ride to his apartment. I don’t remember walking into his room.
I remember waking up completely naked, J had just thrown my underwear to the side and he was reaching for a condom.
It felt like a giant slap in the face. Like waking abruptly from a long sleep.
I freaked out. I pushed and kicked him away from me. I cried and I yelled. He didn’t understand what the big deal was. He said I had told him it was ok.
I remember asking him what he thought had changed since we had a sober conversation about this not being what I wanted. He still didn’t think it was a big deal.
I got dressed and walked out of his apartment. Alone. Drunk. Terrified. Upset. It was around 3:30am and I was in the Back Bay area of Boston with no money, an uncharged phone, miles from my apartment and almost hours until the subway opened. I eventually walked to the station and waited for it to open. I rode the train home. I went into my apartment. And that was it.
I have gone through all the what-ifs. What if I hadn’t woken up when I did? What if he had invited his other friends from the party over? What if he hadn’t stopped when I pushed him off me?
I didn’t know what sexual assault was when I was in college. I didn’t know that I could have spoken up or done anything. I wouldn’t have even known who to report it to at my school. Even now though, I don’t feel confident it would have been taken seriously. I was drunk. He was my friend. We spent all our time together. The list goes on.
I pushed it to the back of my mind and have only mentioned it briefly with a few people.
It feels fresh these days…
My 22-year-old brother was recently charged with six counts of sexual abuse in the first degree. A felony. I won’t share the details, because it isn’t my story to share with the world. I will say that I appreciate the officers and federal employees involved in the case for taking it so seriously.
This new situation has made me look at my past a bit differently. It has made me realize I was a victim and that I didn’t ask for it, just because I decided to drink too much. It has made me realize I shouldn’t be ashamed, that I should be open to sharing my experiences. I have had more open and honest discussions about sexual assault with friends and family in the last few months than the rest of my 30 years put together. If there is a positive to anything…it’s that.
About the art:
Sarahjane is a wonderful friend from high school, who is a passionate musician and free-thinker. I've always admired these traits in Sarahjane. So when she came forward with her story, I was really taken aback. I hate learning that anything bad would happen to anyone, and especially to good friends of mine. Especially friends who have held in their story for periods of their life.
Sarahjane's story is not atypical to the Boston/Cambridge area. It has the largest number of reports of sexual violence in any college town in the world. That does not minimize her story. But it adds a context to his epidemic that BREAKS MY HEART to read about on such a consistent basis.
I'm glad that Sarahjane chose to share publicly and I am glad she asked me to use a lyric from the Demi Lovato song, "Warrior." The lyric is a powerful statement for both Demi and Sarahjane as survivors in their own right. Knowing that it serves as motivation and a reminder to be courageous and resilient makes it all the more special for me to have made it for Sarahjane.
It's always hard to share a piece written by someone I know, but I am so glad that my friends are willing to be vulnerable and honest about their experiences. I am proud of Sarahjane and I glad to know her as a friend, even if its been a few years since we've crossed paths.
And thank you, Sarahjane. For being you.
For being stronger than you've ever been.