Grey zones and questions
It was shortly after I had turned twenty when it happened. I had met him on a night out 1.5 years before while I was traveling and we had hit it off. He was the first guy I really really liked and to my 18 year old self it seemed like love at first sight. I had never experienced anything as intense before. We went on a date but nothing more than a goodnight kiss happened. After I went back home we periodically kept in touch. Come next year, and I flew back to visit a good friend of mine. He knew that I would be in town again and we made plans to catch up. As soon as we saw each other again all the butterflies came rushing back. We went to a bar, had some wine and a great conversation and everything seemed so easy and good. That night we slept together the first time. It also was my first time and I wanted it to be with him. He was gentle, caring and much more concerned about my wellbeing than his pleasure. He communicated constantly. He asked if I was okay. I fell asleep in his arms that night thinking how lucky I was. So I was completely blindsided for what happened the next time I slept at his place. He asked me if I wanted to come over to his apartment for a movie night and a sleepover. I was a bit hesitant to say yes. Not because I didn't want to see or be with him in general but because I had gotten my period a day or two before and I knew I didn't want to sleep with him during that time. But I didn't want to text him that, so I agreed and thought I would just let him know in person when it came to that point. (Did I mention I was super naive?) I was so sure that, even if a little disappointed, he would understand me. That it would be enough for him to just cuddle and be together. Especially after that first night it never even crossed my mind once that he might not respect my boundaries. But I was wrong. While watching the movie we had started kissing and making out a bit - all of which I was totally on board with. He had started to undress me and when I was just in my underwear I told him to pause. I explained to him that I was on my period and that I was sorry but I couldn't sleep with him that night because of that. He told me it didn't matter, that it wasn't weird or gross or anything like that. That it was normal. That it didn't bother him. Which was all nice and good but this wasn't about him. It was about me being uncomfortable and weirded out by the idea. Not to mention that I had just started being intimate with someone and period-sex was the absolute last thing on my mind I wanted to try out. So I kept saying "I don't know", "I'm not sure", "But it still feels weird..." and we dropped the conversation and went back to kissing. In my mind I had told him I didn't want to go further and that the matter was settled, even though I didn't outright say no again and I wasn't very firm in the way I was speaking. But maybe he thought I was reluctantly agreeing? Because just a few minutes later he was on top of me, asked me if I was "ready" and before I could even process what was happening he pushed himself inside of me. He didn't wait for an answer. I can't even recall him removing my slip or putting on a condom. I just froze. I couldn't move or speak. I didn't dare tell him that he had just pushed the tampon I was (obviously??) using inside of me and that I was in pain, because I was so ashamed. Somehow, I thought it was may responsibility to let him know beforehand and that I had neglected that responsibility. I prayed he didn't notice. My mind couldn't understand what was going on and how the situation could have taken such a turn in a matter of minutes. I couldn't for the life of me comprehend how that was the same person who had been so incredibly gentle and caring before. How was it possible that now he didn't look me in the eyes, kiss me or ask me if I was okay? How could he not notice that I wasn't making a sound or participating at all? Or was I just being overly sensitive? So I laid there and waited for it to be over, trying to hide my face from him because I wasn't sure what kind of emotion it was showing. After he was finished he threw away the condom and came back into bed. He gave me the same shirt to sleep in as he had done the last time. I was still in the same spot where he had left me. When he crawled under the blanket next to me I thought, no I hoped, that he would pull me close to him. That we would cuddle again until one of us fell asleep. I needed to feel some sense of normality. But instead, without saying a word, he turned me around so that I would face the wall instead of him. Then he went to sleep as if nothing had happened. I felt so used. So dirty. So empty. So hurt. Like a toy you could put back into its box after you were done playing with it. When he was asleep I tiptoed to the bathroom to clean myself up and quickly try to remove the tampon. Without the little string visible tho it was impossible to do that and I didn't want to take too much time in the bathroom as to not arise any suspicion. So I went back to bed and tried to fall asleep. The next morning I got back to my friends apartment and she asked me how it was. I smiled. I said it was a great night. I told her about my little tampon predicament without mentioning how exactly it came to that and made fun of myself. I joked about how awkward of a trip to an Obgyn that would be. We laughed about it. Eventually I got it out myself. Over the next weeks I saw him again a few times in group settings. We were super weird and awkward around each other. I hoped we would return back to normal. I still had feelings for him and I wanted him to like and want me too. But we never got back to how it was before and eventually our situationship faded out and left me feeling conflicted and confused. But still I told myself over and over again that what had happened that night wasn't that big of a deal and that it was just a bad experience, like everyone has from time to time. That it was a case of miscommunication. That he didn't mean to overstep my boundaries. It took me over two years to question this self-created narrative. Then it took another year to finally and truly admit to myself that that night wasn't consensual. He didn't need to use any force or threat for it to be wrong. Even if it didn't fit the descriptions of SA that I was taught, I knew that something happened that should't have. It was freaking painful to realise. And still I felt like somehow I didn't have the right to feel that affected by what had happened. It wasn't a clear cut situation. It was more like this grey area and I didn't know where to place my experience. But maybe it doesn't need a specific category to still count. It's been over 5 years since it happened and I only really started my healing journey about fifteen months ago. I'm still not completely over the feelings of shame, guilt, betrayal, confusion and anger. Often I still feel numb and detached. But there are good phases as well. I just need to get to a point where this event doesn't dictate my life anymore. Where the memory is only an interruption of the good times and not the other way around. A few months ago I told a friend of mine. Her understanding and support helped in more ways than I thought. It was frightening to open myself up to someone but now I'm glad I did. My next step will be to start therapy. I'll close that chapter and move on with my life. And then I'll see where to go from there.