He was supposed to be my mentor – 10 years my senior, I met him through a student run program that paired MBA students with undergrads aspiring to enter into the finance world. He was nice, charming, gave me career advice, and was so helpful when he looked over my resume. I trusted him. He got me drunk. And in the 30 minutes I was at his apartment, the only thing I remember was his outstretched hand gently grabbing my hand through the alcohol induced haze and leading me to his bed, all the while saying “come here, everything’s okay.”
I lost my virginity that night. I didn’t mean for that to happen. To this day I have blocked out most of the memory of that night – only that outstretched hand and the uncontrollable hours of sobbing that came afterwards are left. I didn’t know how I felt. Just confused. A small part of me kept chiding myself – “You’re a strong woman, why are you crying. It’s just sex. Everyone does it.“ So when he called me again, I went … to prove to myself that I was strong, that nothing was going to shake me. Thus began my first “relationship”. Needless to say, it was the worst experience of my life. This “relationship” consisted of him calling me once a week in the middle of the night, and me trudging to his place, laying in bed with a blank mind while he had sex with me. Many times when he had sex with me, I would zone out and not even realize someone was having sex with me. But still I kept going… because I thought I was strong… because I thought this was normal relationship… because I thought this smart, charming, nice man couldn’t possibly be the bad person… and mostly because I guiltily thought maybe it was my own fault that it happened. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone to his apartment. Maybe I shouldn’t have accepted his drink. Maybe I had sent the wrong signals. Maybe…
During the rest of my time at MIT, this man was my secret. I never told anyone about what happened or how I got together with him. I just continued to be in a state of hurt and denial. I had no idea just how wrong he was until 2 years later. We had both graduated and moved on with our lives and he had a new girlfriend halfway across the world. But we all got together with friends for a trip. I got sick halfway through the trip. So while the group drank and talked with new friends in the living room of the guesthouse we were staying at, I was knocked out on Nyquil attempting to sleep my cold away behind closed doors of one of the bedrooms. He came in to “check on me”. I was woozy from the Nyquil. He took off his pants and presented my face with his penis. He tried to push it into my mouth. I pushed him away. He came back again. I pushed him away again. The third time, he got on top of me and started kissing me. I pushed him so hard he stumble backwards into the wall. He peered out the door into the living room to make sure no one noticed. Then whispered to me “Be quiet. Do you really want to ruin my relationship?” I was scared. I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s relationship. I didn’t want him to get in trouble. I didn’t want to get in trouble either. So when he came at me again, I thought, “maybe it’s easier to just get it over with.” He climbed on top of me and did his thing. It hurt. A couple minutes later he was done. He walked out of the room and pretended nothing had happened.
When I went back home after the trip, I told a close coworker of mine what happened. I had never seen anyone get so upset in their life. I didn’t understand why she was so upset at him. I only felt ashamed and guilty in myself. I felt terrible I had participated in his cheating. I felt stupid and felt like maybe it was my own fault for trusting him and going on that trip. I thought what he did maybe wasn’t that bad and that he had just really missed me…? I thought that maybe I hadn’t done enough to express that I did not want sex with him. So there I was in the conference room at work when I first told anyone about my experience with this man. She told me I had done nothing wrong, that it had never been my fault, and that this man had been raping me physically and emotionally. And for the first time in my life, I began to acknowledge that maybe I was not wrong and that I shouldn’t be ashamed or feel guilty. This man was disgusting and took advantage of me and knew exactly what he was doing. This man made me fear him. He manipulated me. He emotionally abused me. And most importantly, it had never been my fault.
I never talked to him again. Even though I came to forgive myself and acknowledge my traumatic experiences, it still took years to just be somewhat okay. I tried to get into relationships after him, but it never worked. I had issues opening up to people – not just men but people in general. He had destroyed my trust in others. I also couldn’t have sexual relations. It felt disgusting to be touched by another man. And when I tried to have sex, my mind would completely blank out and I wouldn’t realize I was having sex.
It’s been 7 years since that night happened and it still haunts me. Luckily, 2 years ago I met my current boyfriend. He is the sweetest, most patient, caring, and gentle human being I’ve ever met. He nurtured me. He took care of me. He treated me like I was a queen. He understood my past and took things slowly. He gave me lots of love to help me open up and have a genuine connection with someone. I’ve come a long way and am so very happy these days. I'm still not fully recovered yet, but I'm on a good path to it. I’m slowly becoming more open in connecting with people in general. I’m learning to speak out and not feel ashamed or guilty of my past. I’m learning to love myself and understand what true strength is. And the sex with my boyfriend is awesome!
For those of you out there who have experienced sexual assault or an emotionally abusive relationship, please know that there are many of us who have been there. Know that it is NOT your fault and that you don’t have to be “strong” and keep dealing with it. Don’t feel ashamed – speak up! We are here for you. And know that there are so many good days and happy experiences that await you! Much love to you all.