It Was Not My Fault
*All names have been changed to protect identities*
A few weeks ago I came across screenshot from a Tumblr post. The text read ‘I’m here for girls who unwillingly consented to sex or sexual acts because they were in a situation where they didn’t feel as if they had the right to say no and now feel violated but don’t feel like they can say they were raped or molested.’
This statement immediately struck a chord with me because there have been countless times where I felt like I didn’t have the right to say no to sexual activities. Prior to this, I had never seen or heard a very personal and very nuanced feeling expressed so clearly.
In the past I have said yes to sex that I didn’t want to have because I didn’t want my partner to get mad because I changed my mind. I have said yes to sex that I didn’t want to have because I felt peer pressured. I have said yes to sex that I didn’t want to have because I simply didn’t know how to say no.
The Tumblr post goes much deeper than the act of engaging in sexual activity despite having conflicting emotions. Things get deeper when there is a sense of violation during and after the act. You ask yourself, was I actually violated? Didn’t I agree to this? Can I actually speak up about this violation because I allowed it to happen? These questions cause women to feel powerless and bury away their feelings and trauma.
When I read the Tumblr post, there was one situation in particular that stood out to me. It took me 8 years, and this post, for me to fully understand what happened and how I felt. It’s weird. For some reason, I feel like I should protect the identity of this person despite the trauma that they caused me.
So, flashback to when I was 17. I just got fired from my job at Wendy’s and was looking for a new gig. Brian, the 24-year old friend with benefits, told me that his roommate, Mack could get me a waitressing gig at the breakfast joint he worked at on 52nd street.
Now Brian and Mack were not roommates in the traditional sense. Mack still lived with his parents and Brian was crashing at his house… indefinitely. Whenever Brian and I would hook up, it would be in one of the spare bedrooms.
Mack eventually got me the job at the breakfast joint. I worked every Saturday and Sunday from 6 AM - 3 PM. One night I was over at Mack’s hanging with him and Brian. I decided to crash since I was already in West Philly and had to be to work on 52nd street early in the morning - it was no point in going all the way back to North Philly.
As the night waned on and folks started getting sleepy, Mack offered me his bed to sleep in. Not long after, Brian was sleep on the floor and Mack crawled into bed alongside me. This I fully expected - it was his bed and he totally had the right to sleep in it. What I didn’t expect was to feel his erect penis pressed up against my butt. Or his hand finding his way up under my shirt and to my breast.
Initially I was shocked. I didn’t really do anything at first - it took me a while to process what was happening in that moment. I was honestly conflicted - what was happening physically felt good and I was slowly becoming aroused. My body responded by pushing back against him. But overall I didn’t want this to be happening. In no way did I ask for this man to touch me - least of all while his friend and my consistent sexual partner was asleep on the floor. Emotionally, I didn’t like what was happening. It felt wrong and I felt violated.
I moved Mack’s hand out from under my shirt, pushed him away. I started crying to myself and in return Mack whispered empty apologies. I was so confused about everything that was going on. I could not bear to stay in the bed with him for the rest of the night.
I decided to go and lay on the floor with Brian. He woke out of his slumber because he heard me quietly weeping to myself. He asked if I was ok. I lied and said yes.
The next morning I was required to go to work with Mack. I didn't speak to him on the ride there, or at work. He kept trying to apologize and I kept saying that it was ok. I felt like everything that happened the night prior was my fault. I should have never gotten into his bed. I should not have liked how his touch felt. But I did - and this was the price that I had to pay for being human.
I eventually forgave him later that day. I pushed all the negative feelings I now had about him, as well as that experience, deep down inside me. So deep, that in the past eight years, I almost never thought about what happened. At least not until I saw that Tumblr post.
Seeing that post reminded me that is is ok to say “NO”. The word “No” is a protection shield. “No” is one of the strongest forms of self-care. “No” is self preservation. “No” is autonomy.
Many people could read this and say I had no business being in Mack’s bed or that I wasn’t molested or assaulted because I liked it and responded. All of that is bullshit. Over the years I have shared beds with men who did not touch me unless I had given them consent. I have even slept in beds with men who did not fondle me at all because they knew that I was not in their bed for sex, but to sleep.
As far as me enjoying the touch, people process unsolicited sexual advances differently. Some people are immediately defensive, some give in entirely, and others, like me, to a certain extent like the feeling but then realize that there is something wrong with what is happening. All of these reactions are valid. In a situation like this, a victim’s reaction should not be what is microscopically examined, but the actions of the attacker.
To this day, when I look back on that night in Mack’s bed, I still feel like it is my fault. I feel like I can’t be mad at him because of the situation I put myself in. I feel that since I liked it, I don’t really have the right to be mad.
I am trying my remind myself that all my feelings and reactions were and are valid. That what happened was not my fault, but his.
Melissa "Lissa Alicia" Simpson is a 23-year-old freelance journalist, media & marketing specialist, event curator and amateur model. Her interests include binge watching Dr. Who, writing creative nonfiction and street art. Find out more about Lissa at lissalicia.com.