(Trigger warning: this post contains descriptions of sexual assault and rape culture )
That decision wasn’t mine.
The person who decided whether or not I became a rape victim was a young man, attractive enough to be cocky about it, who walked me home from a party two weeks ago. I met him that night, and there was drinking and he was attractive and then there was kissing. As soon as the first bout – so to speak – ended I stepped away and told him, “Just so we’re clear, I won’t be sleeping with you. I don’t want to do that.”
He said ok. I thought that was that; that anything else that happened was happening with the understanding that it would end when I wanted to go home.
It wasn’t. I spent the whole rest of the night reminding him that we’d already discussed the whole “coming home with me” issue. Not fun. So when he offered to walk me home, I thought it was fine now. Turns out, it was a last-ditch effort to get in my pants after all. I tried to kiss him good night, and he turned it into making out good night. He stopped kissing me, and started trying to convince me to let him in. He would take care of me. He thought I was beautiful. But he also had a seriously tight grip on my arms.
I had to push him away. Then shove him away. He wasn’t happy about it, but after that, he let me go. He didn’t try to follow me. He didn’t try to get in. I found myself sighing a little in relief when I locked my door, because if he had decided to force the issue, I probably couldn’t have stopped him.
I thought about that moment a few days later when our county prosecutor dropped first and third degree sexual assault charges against a man accused of talking his way into a woman’s apartment, holding her down and forcing her into a night of sex. I heard the talk around the courthouse. His mom said she saw them making out earlier in the evening. He said it was consensual. She wasn’t credible enough to convince a jury and he was willing to plead guilty to a lesser charge. So as far as the law here is concerned, the alleged rape never happened. Not because he could prove it, but because the prosecution didn’t even try to prove otherwise.
All I could think of was that small sigh of relief when I locked my door. It made me realize that I did nothing this woman didn’t do. I don’t know what happened between that man and that women. But if the man in my case had raped me, the facts would have sounded exactly the same. I would have been a rape victim with witnesses to testify that they saw her making out with her rapist. I would have been a rape victim with only her word that she said no.
I found myself thanking God that I’d ended up with a decent man, a man who would stop. Then I realized I wanted to give a grown-ass man a gold star for not committing a crime. “Wow, you didn’t forcibly put your penis inside me! Man of the fucking year!” Because the only reason I wasn’t in the situation that woman described is because that man chose not to rape me. I hate it. It should be a baseline expectation that a man is going to hear a woman when she tells him how far she’s willing to go. I should still be angry at him for not listening to me. Instead, because of this fucked up society we live in, I get to feel grateful that he was only an asshole, not a criminal.