The Time I Was Almost Raped And Why This Is Important To Share
This is a vulnerable post, because of the shame I (and many women, and some men) feel in somehow ending up, repeatedly, in situations like this. It is important we start sharing about these almost-rape experiences, to overcome shame and begin to shift societies and cultures around the world.
I imagine every man who has been in an even somewhat romantic context with me is clutching their pearls right now. Cool it. Because I am trained to protect men from the consequences of their own behaviors, I won’t reveal your name publicly, and I will not share any identifying information about who this is. But, if you are the man I am writing about, you will certainly know it.
I have had so many grey-area experiences with men in my dating life. In these grey-area, almost-rape experiences, I have not given full consent and then ended up engaging in a sexual experience I didn’t really want. Or, I have narrowly avoided what felt like a creepy, scary interaction, where someone was invading my boundaries, and it was quickly escalating to where force could have easily been used. So, almost-rape experiences could be those that are grey area encounters that actually ended in a sexual process, or they could be experiences where someone successfully evades and escapes the experience through physically leaving or possibly distracting the potential perpetrator.
I think many people would dismiss my label of almost-rape and simply say that these men were oafish, meant no harm, and that they were perhaps “bad” dating or sexual experiences. Honestly though, I am tired of giving men the benefit of the doubt, and thus enabling them to continue to feign a lack of human decency or relational intelligence. If this were true that men just intrinsically were this way, ALL men would be this way, and we all know, not all men are.
I am also aware women are capable of perpetrating these almost-rape experiences as well, so I am not saying men haven’t struggled with being in this situation too. But sadly, I think it is alarmingly imbalanced how often men are the perpetrators in these situations.
I once read a meme that stated men who without consent attempt to penetrate a women’s anus, and then play dumb when told to stop, definitely know better. They seem to understand consent when a woman might flip it on them, and tries to penetrate their anus without consent. Women are expected to not get mad, when this is done to them, whereas if a man has this done to them, it is very likely they will become enraged.
Women who have sex with men are held to a standard that the men aren’t for being sophisticated sexually in regard to consent. We are held responsible for understanding what our (and our partner’s) needs, desires, and boundaries are, because we constantly need to redirect the momentum and activity of sexual experiences with these men. We don’t get the luxury of playing dumb, and creating a “bad dating” experience for a man, without either being humiliated, dealing with an adult tantrum, or in some frightening cases, being physically harmed.
Why are we still accepting this behavior? Is it too scary or shameful for us women who have sex with men, to acknowledge we have all had an almost-rape experience? Is it shameful to admit, even the most empowered and feminist of us have perhaps succumbed to the desires and momentum of a man, and convinced ourselves we might want it, so we won’t have to face a tantrum, or face the fact that we need to confront a man, and tell him he is being creepy or extremely unskilled? Or worse, to avoid being physically harmed and maybe even killed?
We really need to start sharing our stories. I propose a hashtag #almostrape to help us organize what we are sharing. Below, I will share one of my many stories, for solidarity, support, and education.
It is the fall. I am 22 years old. I live and work in Bounder, Colorado. I am nursing a heartbreak from a tumultuous, on and off, relationship spanning the course of about four and a half years. I graduated that prior spring and am trying to figure out what to do with myself. I work at a children’s shelter as a counselor, and am pretty severely depressed by the work I am doing, and being in a toxic work environment.
I am trying to branch out and meet new people. Figuring out how to meet people outside the context of school, is a challenge for me. I feel shy and awkward, and I find my peers are often in to heavy drinking and drugs, or alternatively, are such heavily self-identified power athletes or yogis, I don’t feel like I fit in well in any of these scenes.
One day I manage to meet a new guy who seems friendly enough. I meet him through my work friends, on an obligatory night out. He realizes I am in to spirituality and meditation, and he invites me to an Integral Psychology event.
I am picked up a few days later, and he is with a friend in tow. I enjoy the gathering and bond with the two men about our experiences with spiritual development. The friend of my new friend, greets everyone, and is well-known in the community. I notice he seems somewhat strange, or eccentric. His cadence of speech is different, and also people speak to him as though they have recently been concerned for his well-being. Like he just went through an intense experience. I decide not to ask what this is about, and enjoy my evening. At the end of the night, the friend of my new friend asks for my phone number, and says he would like to get to know me more. I figure he has romantic interest, and I wasn’t particularly excited about him, though was still open to connecting. I figured perhaps interest could grow?
Fast forward a week, and he is picking me up from my place. He is about to drive us to his town home on the outskirts of Boulder. He has prepared a healthy meal, and says we can hang out, and even hot tub it if we want to. But, no pressure. He seems nice and generous. He seems safe. He mentions he has a roommate. I notice I feel more at ease with knowing there is a roommate too.
I don’t pay much attention to where we are going because we have great conversation in his car. I had made a mixed CD for him to listen to, and we also enjoy flipping through the songs together.
We get to his place, and he announces we have it to ourselves because his roommate is out of town. I feel a bit of fear knowing we are alone, but I override it. We have a wonderful conversation about neuroscience, love, life, and healthy eating. We eat dinner. It is great. He then asks if I want some wine. I decline. He asks if I mind if he drinks, and I have no problem with it. I assume he is going to stretch one, two, or maybe three glasses out through a long evening. But, he quickly drinks the whole bottle himself.
Then this is when things begin to get weird.
We decide to change scenery, and go to the hot tub. We are in there about five minutes before he asks to massage my shoulders. When he entered the tub I realized he was a lot more muscular than I thought he was. I felt a bit of animal attraction, and figure it would be nice to have a shoulder massage. He is massaging me for a few minutes before I realize I am not in to this. He is beginning to slur his words, and is clearly quite drunk. I say the tub is too hot and I get out. He follows me out.
The sun is starting to set and I realize because he is drunk, I may end up stuck here. I don’t even know where “here” is!
I quickly get to his apartment and lock myself in the bathroom to change. I begin to hear the CD I gifted him, being blasted in his apartment speakers. I am changing slowly in the bathroom, and trying to privately buy myself time for what I am going to do next. He doesn’t seem to notice how long I have been in the bathroom. He plays “House of the Rising Sun”, a song I was very in to at this point in life, and then he plays it again, and again.
Then he begins to drunkenly slur the words to the song, as he plays along on his keyboard, in an adjacent room. At this point, I decide to call a friend and ask if he could come and get me. However, when he says he will jump in his car and drive immediately to me, and wants to know where I am, I tell him I have no clue. I say I will call him back.
I exit the bathroom to the blasting music and to my drunken date. I yell through the music, “Hey, what is your address? It is getting late, and I want to do you a favor and have my friend come get me, so you don’t have to drive.” He turns around from playing the keyboard and nonchalantly says, “I don’t know”. He then turns back to playing. The same song starts playing again, and I feel as though I am in my own personal horror movie. How could I not see the signs that there was clearly something off with this guy?!
A couple repeats of the song later, as I have been in the kitchen trying to stop a panic attack from coming on, while searching for mail sitting out around the area, he then stops playing and comes towards me. I couldn’t find any mail at all, and he had caught me searching.
I rush past him, and say I have to use the bathroom again. I lock myself in the bathroom, call my friend, and tell him everything I could remember about how I got here, and where I was. Then he says he will look for me, and if he doesn’t find me in a couple hours, he will call the police.
I take a few more minutes to calm myself, I take a deep breath, and exit the bathroom. He is standing there, swaying to the music. He has opened another bottle, he has it in his hand, and it appears he is drinking from it directly.
He says, “Why don’t you just sleep here? You can use my bed and I will sleep on the couch?” He is smiling a weird smile, with a blank look in his eyes.
“My friend is on his way and I am going to go out there to meet him.”
He says, “Ok, but it is getting cold. Are you sure you don’t want to wait in here with me?”
I am collecting my things. I couldn’t care less that I am headed out into the dusk, with a wet head, and without covered shoes.
He begins stumbling towards the front door, singing loudly, as I collect my things. I realize he may end up blocking it. We are both in the narrow hallway. In a split second I decide to make a run for it. My friend won’t ever find me if I stay in here. It is possible no one will ever find my body… I calmly approach him, until I am almost facing him, and he seems to be leaning in towards me. As he is leaning forward, I quickly make a run for it. I grab the door handle, and leap out into the cold fall air.
He starts to run after me, but I am running for my life. I am sober, so I run faster, even with my sandals on. He is calling my name. He is about 50 feet behind me, and I run further out into the prairie, on an open, suburban, dark road. I run down toward where it winds down a hill and meets the main highway. I begin waving my arms around for whatever random driver might see me. Even though I turned a corner, and am hidden behind a bluff, I feel he is still following me. In this moment I am grateful he is too drunk to keep up.
I am so lucky. My friend is the first car that pulls over, as I am waving my arms, in the middle of the interstate. I jump in before he fully stops the vehicle, and we drive away.
After this experience, I preferred to pretend this ex-date didn’t exist. However, despite me sharing he had scared me and I preferred never to hang out with him, for about a month afterwards, he ceaselessly kept inviting me to events. Then once he stopped inviting me out, I came into a morning work meeting, to find he was newly hired. I couldn’t get away from him, and he acted completely clueless about having ever scared me or violated my boundaries, and why I would not want to be around him.
Eventually, after a few months on the job, he was fired, and I was free from ever seeing him again. Thank God.
The strange thing is I completely dissociated from this experience, and forgot it probably a year out from when it happened. Only now, more than ten years after it happened, on a random sunny day, while eating an ice cream bar on my rooftop here in Mexico, did I happen to remember it. And, the first feelings that arose were shame about how I was stupid enough to let myself get into a situation like this. I blamed my self! Never mind that this man was WAY out of line, and acting like a drunk sociopath.
It makes me wonder, how many other almost-rape experiences have I forgotten? And, how many almost-rape experiences have other women forgotten as well? We have become so good at hiding or making excuses for these experiences, that we even end up hiding them from ourselves.
I challenge anyone, no matter the sex or gender you are, to stir up your memory, share your almost-rape experiences within your community, and help us all begin to heal, and overcome the stigma of being almost-victims.
Remember. Share. Get support. Allow yourself to be supported. Let go of shame.