I was sexually assaulted by one of my good friends
Now I’ve stopped blaming myself
I had been good friends with George since high school, a purely platonic relationship which never developed into anything else. We shared similar friends and I got on well with his girlfriend at the time.
When we moved away to uni, I found first term particularly tough. I hadn’t found my core friendship group and often came home at the weekends. Freshers’ Week certainly wasn’t turning out to be what I expected, so when George invited me to visit him for a couple of days in Sheffield, I jumped at the opportunity to be back with old school friends. It was just like visiting him at his house back home, which I did all the time.
A group of us went out that night and I got horrendously drunk, afterwards I blamed this entirely on what happened. I convinced myself that had I been more sober, I wouldn’t have ended up in such a dangerous situation. It was exactly as if we were on a night out at home, dancing with people I knew and even getting with one of his friends for most of the night. At not one point did I ever make any advancement on George, or display any sign of wanting sexual attention.
We stumbled into a taxi at around 4 am and continued to drink back at his accommodation. For months afterwards, I punished myself over and over again for getting into such a state that I had very little control over my body. My bag was back in George’s room but I was more interested in staying with his friend, we’d flirted and kissed all night but George insisted I went back to his.
I remember kicking my shoes off, lying a blanket out and him saying, “No don’t sleep on the floor come in here with me”, gesturing to his bed. I jokingly told him to piss off.
The events that followed are not blurred by the alcohol, I know exactly what happened and so does he. I woke to find myself underneath a 6ft4 football player, kissing my face and body all over, with one hand up my top and his other elsewhere. He breathed heavily over me, the smell of the stale alcohol knocked my sick and I sobered up in a split second. “Don’t do this to your girlfriend”, was my immediate response, knowing I had no chance of pushing him off with my arms, “You’ll regret it, we’re just friends, don’t throw your relationship away”. Talking him off me was the only thing I could do, I knew he had an fiery temper and he could easily have snapped. He resisted for a bit but eventually got up and went back to his bed.
I had never before nor to this day been in a situation where I was so consumed by fear that I could neither cry nor move. I lay quietly and stared at the time until it was a reasonable hour to go out for a shower. I had no idea whether he would wake up and do it again, or get violent with me for rejecting his advances.
I rang my friends frantically and they booked me a train home for the next hour. Not one questioned what I told them.
In the months that followed, the first response from the friends I confided in was “Did you report it?” Before everything happened, I had no idea why more women didn’t come forward against their attackers, how could you just let them do it again to other people?
But every time I thought about it, I blamed myself. I shouldn’t have got so drunk, I shouldn’t have stayed in his room, I just shouldn’t have visited him in the first place. I put myself in a vulnerable position and it was just my word against his. I’d be accused of being a lying bitch trying to ruin a young man’s career, disgracing him from the football team who I was told, “always stick together”.
For a long time, I refused to label it as a sexual assault. I didn’t really know what to call it, but ‘sexual assault’ had connotations of being dragged into a bush by a stranger, stripped and raped. This was just a school friend who had gotten a bit too drunk.
But the more I became aware of the increased attacks on university campuses and read about other people’s experiences, I realised that I had indeed been a victim of sexual assault. I too, like the Stanford victim, had been the target of a university sportsman – in this case a prominent football player. I wasn’t fully awake, I hadn’t given consent and it took a while for him to get off me. He knew I was vulnerable, and no person should ever blame themselves for being attacked.
We’re experiencing a frustrating time when women are warned not to drink too much in fear of the position they could find themselves in. We’re also too afraid to speak out against individuals due to the constant threat of their powerful families, friends and lawyers. As long as these attacks continue to happen as frequently as they do, we need to stop restricting a woman’s freedom on a night out and enforce a more serious education in consent.