How I Almost Died From Date Rape, And Why I Didn't Report It

The eradication of victim shaming is on all of us. Don’t ignore it.

Warning: Some readers may find parts of this post to be triggering.

I remember what it looked like, the blood on my hands. First I felt it gush onto my car seat, warm and wet. I reached between my legs and touched the outside of my already saturated jeans. It was dark in the car, and I was confused.

It must be my period, I thought. I couldn’t accept any other explanation.

There are many reasons that I turned the car around and returned to his house. One was that I had over an hour to drive home. I needed a restroom immediately, but I’d be lying if I said that was the real reason.

I was convinced I had nowhere else to go.

In the months leading up to that night, he used careful words and actions to ensure my isolation, my guilt. There was blood on my hands. I felt like I was the one to blame.

I left a violent red trail in the snow as I made my way across his yard and up a few flights of stairs. Walking through the front door and past him into his bathroom, I stood there trembling, completely unsure of what to do. I could still feel the blood rushing down my legs, warm, real. I remember asking him what was happening to me.

I thought I knew what I wanted. Until I didn’t. Until things escalated, and I was lying naked on his couch, and it had all happened so fast.

He told me it was no big deal, as he removed my shoes, these are so hot, you don’t want to ruin them, as he peeled my jeans – the skin-tight ones he told me countless times that he preferred I wear – from my legs and told me to sit on the toilet.

“I’ve seen a period before,” he shrugged. He was so calm.

That’s not what this is, my head said.

“OK,” is what I said.

I told myself that I had wanted to have sex with him, and in the beginning I think I had. I felt like it was my fault, because I had implied for weeks that I was ready. He made me feel desirable, like I was worth something during a time when I was otherwise lost. He made me feel attractive and interesting. It was the first time in my life that I felt sexy, and all of a sudden I was doing things I would never normally have done. I found myself fooling around with him in his car on our lunch breaks. I found myself taking off my panties and handing them to him in broad daylight because he wanted to keep them. I found myself wondering, how did I get here?

“I brought condoms,” he said.

“I’m not going to have sex with you in your car,” I said.

It felt bad, and part of me liked it. He was unbelievably charismatic, drawing attention wherever he went. He was tall, dark and handsome, and everyone knew he wanted me. I loved walking back into work after going to lunch alone with him and having the other girls stare jealously.

I thought the only way to keep feeling that rush was to give him what he asked for. I was in over my head. I was so dependent upon him, so trusting of him, and so deeply attracted to him. Our chemistry was undeniable, electric.

That night was our first official date. We went to dinner where we shared everything, sitting in a corner booth, cuddling like those couples I always rolled my eyes at. When we got back to his apartment he asked me inside, and I said yes. After all, I wasn’t allowed to change my mind. I thought I knew what I wanted.

Until I didn’t.

Until things escalated and I was lying naked on his couch and it had all happened so fast. Until he tried to penetrate me and it hurt.

“No, stop.” I said, shrinking away.

The only response I received was an immediate change in position. He grabbed me, flipped me onto my hands and knees, and took me from behind. His movements were aggressive, violent and it felt wrong. It felt like my body was still saying no, no, no, like I was one big spring, wound as tight as it possibly could be. I clenched down and froze. There was nothing I could do to change anything because it was already happening.

More importantly, I had asked for it.

And just as quickly as it started, it stopped. “You’re bleeding,” he said, as he stepped away and walked out of the room, still erect. “Are you sure you’re not a virgin?” He asked, his tone condescending.

“I told you I’ve had sex once before.” I felt defensive, and immediately embarrassed that there were drops of blood on his couch.

“Well, he may have started it, but I finished it,” he laughed, as I walked into his bathroom and shut the door.

The bleeding seemed normal at first. My period returned from a few days before, I reasoned. But once again, maybe an hour later, I found myself in that same bathroom. That was after I tried to pretend like everything was fine, that I felt fine. After he asked me to give him head because it was my fault he hadn’t finished. I’d done it, to try to cover up how uncomfortable and ashamed I felt. That was after he put on a recording of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and critiqued the supermodels as I sat next to him, half naked, even though he knew my history of eating disorders. If they aren’t good enough for him, how could I ever be?

My mind wouldn’t allow me to process that something was seriously wrong. Shock and denial are a deadly combination.

That was after I tried to leave and drag myself home.

I’ll never forget the inside of that bathroom. There was blood everywhere – on me, on him, on the floor. As I sat on the toilet it poured into the bowl, the stream so steady it sounded like I was urinating. But my mind wouldn’t allow me to process that something was seriously wrong. Shock and denial are a deadly combination.

It was over an hour before he suggested nonchalantly that the hospital was right next door, if I really thought that was necessary. That was after I allowed him to leave me there to run to the store to get tampons, because he said that was all I needed and then I could be on my way. That was after he brought them back and made sure to mention flirting with the girl who worked there.

“Yes, I think we better go.” I latched onto his suggestion like a lifeline, having been too afraid to bring it up myself. I had to put a bath towel in between my legs underneath a pair of his basketball shorts, those underneath a pair of his sweatpants, to make sure I didn’t get any blood in his expensive car during the three minute ride to the hospital. My clothes were already destroyed.

I remember feeling like I was going to pass out while checking into the Emergency Room. The man behind the desk asked me for my birthday three times and slapped a name tag bracelet on my wrist. I remember the adhesive ripped at the hair on my arm.

I didn’t lose consciousness until I was in an exam room and the nurse asked me how long it was taking me to go through a maxi pad. The question confused me. “I have a bath towel in between my legs,” I said, as I slipped off the side of the bed and into blackness.

The oxygen and hydration IVs in each arm brought me back around for the examination. The muscles in my legs shook uncontrollably as the doctor on call tried to examine my vagina. “I can’t clear the cavity,” he said. “I can’t see anything.” They brought in more doctors. I was told that I had a traumatic vaginal laceration and they couldn’t control the bleeding.

When they questioned me about the cause, I told the medical staff that yes, I had sex that night, but he had done nothing wrong. “There must be some mistake,” I said. This must be some kind of a freak accident. When they asked me if he was rough, I said no. As the lie hit my ears, I knew that now I wasn’t telling the whole truth, but that didn’t matter. If he’d been rough he hadn’t meant it that way, and they might not understand, I thought. Best not to have to explain.

No one offered me a rape kit.

I allowed him into the hospital room with me while I waited to see if I’d need surgery to stop the bleeding. I refused to call my family or friends, texting only my best friend and roommate, who was panicked because it was the middle of the night and I had never returned home. Panicked, because weeks earlier she had warned me that something wasn’t right about him.

First he was perfect and concerned, horrified that he had hurt me. He was how he had been at the beginning – attentive, interested, caring. Then he was telling me that if I needed surgery his ex-girlfriend was a surgical nurse at that hospital, and wouldn’t that be awkward? Haha.  He was holding my hand, talking to me softly about how everything was fine. He was telling me I looked like a hot mental patient and asking if he could take my picture.

When I finally returned home around 5 o’clock in the morning I didn’t just tell my best friend that I was fine, that he had done nothing wrong. I believed it at the time. It was months before I admitted to myself that I almost bled to death. I ended up needing session after session of blood and iron transfusions to bring my blood count back to normal, but that still didn’t mean it was his fault.

If I had really wanted him to stop I would have yelled, I thought. I would have fought him off. I would have scratched, bitten, screamed. This wasn’t rape – it couldn’t be. When I was 10 years old my mother was grabbed by a convicted rapist while she was running through our neighborhood in broad daylight on a Sunday morning. He had nylon over his face and tried to drag her into the woods. She screamed and he let her go. That would’ve been rape. The other women sitting in the courtroom where she testified against him, there to recount their own stories – those women were raped.

I have not been raped, is what I told myself, even after all the dust had settled. Even after I said, “Please leave me alone,” and he refused. I said it over and over again, to which I received a variety of replies.

It was months before I admitted to myself that I almost bled to death.

“It’s not over until I say it’s over,” he said. Serious, threatening. “We’re connected because of what we went through that night, you know? Like soulmates.” Soft, caring. “You’re crazy. You need psychiatric help.” Angry. “Don’t you think you owe me an explanation?” Pleading. “Do you think I don’t care about you? If I didn’t care about you I would have dropped you off at the hospital that night and driven away.” That one was my personal favorite. That, and when he demanded that I return the now bloodied sweatpants he had so generously loaned me.

Going to work every day became a nightmare. He tapped on my car windows in the parking lot. He used his body to block the doorway if I tried to exit the break room. He harassed me over company instant messenger. He made sexual noises if I was forced to walk by his desk. I quit after about a month of this behavior, but it didn’t matter. He showed up less than two weeks later at my new place of work, shouting at me from a street corner. Another week after that, he drove his car up on the sidewalk to block my path as I walked down the street on my lunch break. A full six months went by before the emails started. The police were quick to point out that, “Hey you, I miss your pretty face,” is hardly threatening in content, but what about context? What about the fact that I had never given him that email address?

I spent my days in a constant state of distress. I had male employees walk me to my car at night. When he finally had the gall to walk right into the building and ask for me by name, I had him trespassed and took him to court.  In my impact statement, the one that got me a restraining order, I used the word consensual to describe our interaction on the night I was injured. I was afraid not to. After all, I knew what his lawyer would say.

He’d say here are the instant message transcripts in which you say you will have sex with him if he ever gets you to his apartment. You’re a tease.

He’d say you performed sexual acts in his car prior to this incident. You performed oral sex on him after the alleged assault. Who would do that? Give their rapist head after the fact?

He’d say you returned to his house for help. You’re afraid of him now, but were not afraid of him then?

He’d say the defendant sat with you for hours in the hospital. (His lawyer did use that as character defense against the stalking charges.) You explicitly told medical staff the sex had been consensual. You’re a liar.

He’d say here is a text from the following morning reading, “Thank you, I had such a great time.” He’d say you interacted with him normally for months after the alleged assault before you abruptly ended contact. You’re so dramatic.

So I sat in a courtroom in front of a judge, in front of strangers, in front of my father, in front of him, and described that sexual encounter as consensual. I described it as consensual because I was afraid. Because I would never accuse anyone of rape if I wasn’t sure, and how could I be sure? I’m still not sure, sometimes.

I didn’t know what to say.

So I haven’t said anything. I’ve kept silent about what happened. The only problem is that silence has become so, so loud. I hear it when I read about college rape cases. It taunts me when I see that people are saying that the woman who carried her mattress around Columbia as a message to her rapist could not have been raped because there are Facebook transcripts in which she said she wanted to have sex with her abuser. It screams at me as I read the Stanford victim’s impact statement, alongside claims that her drinking makes her at fault for being assaulted behind a dumpster while unconscious.

Now I speak for those who don’t yet know they can. For those who are confused, because they don’t know consent is something that can be revoked at any time, for any reason.

I can no longer let that silence live. Instead of keeping me warm at night, it has become deafening. The pressure of it has built inside of me and every time another woman speaks, every time she comes forward, it threatens to explode. I’ve tried to put it into words. I’ve written draft after draft, and they’ve made their way steadily to the garbage. I could tell the narrative, but not the story. I couldn’t make anyone understand how I feel, because for the longest time, I didn’t let myself feel.

This is my most honest account of the behavior that I have been so ashamed of. I was ashamed that I trusted him. I was ashamed that I didn’t stand up for myself when I could have. I was ashamed that I couldn’t even find my voice as I bled out all over his floor.

Now I speak for those who don’t yet know they can. For those who are confused, because they don’t know consent is something that can be revoked at any time, for any reason. For those who are afraid date rape is not as loud as being abducted from the street by a stranger with nylon over his face.

Date rape will only be loud if we make it loud.

I don’t see blood on my hands anymore, but the eradication of victim shaming is on all of us. Don’t ignore it. Don’t ask the wrong questions, what were you wearing, how much did you drink, how loud did you scream? Instead, hold someone’s hand and listen. I mean, really listen. Don’t let the silence live.

Help us keep the conversation going with #MakeDateRapeLoud. If you feel that you’ve been date raped or that you may be involved in an abusive relationship, please consider the following resources:

  • Talk to your family and friends. It may feel as though your partner is the only one you can turn to, but that’s not true. Those who are close to you want to help you if you’re in trouble.

  • Consider speaking to a counselor. Sometimes it’s easier to speak candidly with someone who is not close to you. A counselor can give you an unbiased opinion and also provide other resources for help. Contact your health insurance provider for more information about your mental health coverage.

  • Contact RAINN’s (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-HOPE (4673)

This post originally appeared on www.onmogul.com

Need help? In the U.S., visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN. For more resources, visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.

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