I Said No

I Said No

From Chicken Soup for the College Soul

I Said No

I was eighteen years old when I left home for the first significant period of time. As a college freshman, I spent the five-hour drive upstate arguing with my mother about the speed limit and the radio. When we arrived, I was eager for her to depart.

Growing up, I had been shy, reclusive and insecure. I viewed going to college as a chance to wipe that slate clean. Despite my parents’ reminder that “we take our hang-ups everywhere we go,” I wanted to become an entirely new person, outgoing and confident. I began to introduce myself with my middle name instead of my first, about which I had been teased for years.

I met Brian my first day on campus. A tall, charming senior, this Texan lived right down the hall and helped me move my things in. Although I was suspicious of the endless string of compliments he drawled, I was also quite flattered. I had never believed I was beautiful, though my family told me so all the time. I didn’t date much in high school; just the occasional movie date with this boy or a walk around the mall with that one. I felt special when Brian called out, “Hey, gorgeous” even when I was wearing my glasses instead of my contact lenses.

My roommate, Tara, had turned out to be a disaster. Tara was a homesick Bostonian who cried all day about how she should have joined the Peace Corps. Frankly, I also rather enjoyed the idea of her departing for some far-off country. The tension between us made Brian’s room a haven of sorts for me. He would fix me screwdrivers, which I sipped while he downed beer after beer and talked about scamming people for money. I knew he was bad news, but at the time that just made him more appealing.

One night he came into my room and lifted me over his shoulder. He carried me, kicking, screaming and laughing, into his room and began tickling me. The next thing I knew, we were kissing.

We began fooling around every day. He was much more experienced than I, who had never done more than kiss. I was upfront about my virginal status, and he said he was fine with it. Then one night things got out of hand.

I remember certain things, like we were watching The Cutting Edge, and I was wearing my white ribbed tank top. I had been hinting all week about wanting to discuss “where we stood,” but he kept dodging the subject in that sly way of his. It was like pulling teeth, but I finally got an answer—only it wasn’t the one I was hoping for. He didn’t want a girlfriend because he was graduating in the spring.

I felt stupid and used. All I wanted was someone to love me. We started discussing sex again, but I knew I wasn’t ready, especially with someone who wouldn’t commit to me. He said there were other things we could do, to which I finally consented, even though I knew it was against my better judgment.

It happened so fast. One minute we were making out, doing “other things,” then before I knew it, it was all over.

I wasn’t a virgin anymore. I was so shocked I couldn’t move or speak. I was so angry, so scared, so confused— and I couldn’t quite believe it had happened.

After it was over, Brian made me swear not to tell anyone. At that time, I was so humiliated, I couldn’t imagine telling another soul. I was sure my friends and family would lose all respect for me because I had sex with a guy I had only known for a short while. It took me a while to accept that what happened to me wasn’t sex.

Most of us have a stereotyped image of sexual assault. In the TV movie of the week, rape is about being grabbed in a dark alley by a stranger. It is always violent and always leaves physical scars. That isn’t what happened to me. As with most women who are sexually assaulted, I knew my attacker. The scars left by “acquaintance rape” are emotional, yet the scars last just as long as, or longer than, physical scars.

After it happened, I had tests done for STDs and pregnancy, all of which were fortunately negative. I moved to another dorm, all the way across campus, where I would no longer be greeted with Brian’s sheepish, “Hey, kiddo, how’s it going?” I talked to my friends. I went to a counselor. It’s a process, and it makes me angry that I have to live with it for the rest of my life. But it’s fading. I am moving past it.

One thing that really helped me was the “Take Back the Night” march on campus, where victims, their friends and anyone opposed to rape joins in a rally. Afterward there was a speak-out, and girl after girl got up to tell her story. It shocked me to see how many young women have experienced some version of what I went through.

All of our stories are different, yet the same. While I wish this had never happened to any of us, it makes me feel better that I can be available to help someone else who may experience something similar.

Natasha Carrie Cohen

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