Blame will get us nowhere

Ambiguity, swaps, and the blame game.

Drinking Mahal pennying rape sexual assault sexual harassment Swap week 5

Let me paint you a picture. It is not one to which I wish to attach a label, but as a warning: many may find it affecting.

There is a girl, fresh from the shire, new to Cambridge. She ‘really’ started drinking 5 months ago, when the end of A levels happily coincided with turning 18 and a ‘laddettes’ holiday to a suitably grimy location in the Med.  A summer of drunken mistakes followed but upon arriving at Cambridge she was still very fresh, very naive; and studiousness, fear and unhappiness limited the drunken nights in that fresher’s term.

Week Five came, and with it an invitation.  A sports swap with another college, supposedly all freshers. Location, the mahal. Theme, ‘anything but clothes’.

Despite none of her close friends being on her team, she went. A bin bag concealing the skirt, top and hoody beneath. 

The other college seemed nice, if not in fact freshers (an administrative confusion) and one particular member was funny, interested, they chatted a lot.  She was pennied, a lot.  So she drank, a lot.  More wine was bought, she didn’t know who paid.

Leaving the ‘restaurant’ they walked together, and as discussion behind them centered on the college bar he suggested they walked to his.  She, standing on the pavement, knowing she was making the wrong decision, agreed.

The lights go out.

They flicker back on, there is a door, some stairs, a maroon carpet.

And off.

And on again, there has been sick, but where she does not know, a red sheet is pulled over a bed.  There is a formal menu on the wall, it is from 2009. In 2009 she was so young she thinks, and then he was me, just a fresher. 

The lights go off.

When they go on again this time it is for good.  Morning has come.  And she is in a stranger’s bed, confused.  He goes down stairs to get breakfast.  She uses this time to search for her clothes, and to send a confused and confusing text to her friend.

And she leaves, feeling tearful, confused, empty and as she walks, grateful for her hoody.  She does not remember the walk from last night, it is a very long walk.  She wants to stop off as she passes best-friend-from-home’s college. But to do what, talk? cry? She does not know, and it would only delay the return that was going to happen. She plods on.

She continues to plod on through the rest of the day, going to see a nurse, the lie that a condom split to hide the blackness, another lying nod to the prying questions about the guy in question, ‘I’m fine’ to the best-friend-from-home’s probing.

Seemingly unaffected.

But in fact deeply affected.

It took several months, but the emotional crisis came.  

But it went.  She saw him again, twice.  The first time was later that same term, Mill Lane, he was locking his bike next to hers. She spent that whole lecture feeling afraid, but of what she didn’t quite know. The second time it was May Week, he was standing outside Life, he said hello, she told him to piss off, and she walked off.  She came back, knowing this would be the last time she would see him, he was a fourth year and would be leaving.  Full of anger she asked why, she asked what happened. He replied with a sorry.  Again she walked away, and this time did not go back.

She is fine.  She still doesn’t know what happened.  She knows she is responsible, for drinking too much, for walking back.  But other than that she does not know what else she is responsible for. 

And there can be no blame game. 

I would never say it was rape, but I know it wasn’t right.

This is just an experience.  It is probably not uncommon. I have chosen to write this anonymously not because I am ashamed, nor do I want to protect myself, but because this experience doesn’t need to be attached to a name.