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A Consent Uprising and My Own Sexual Assault

I didn’t tell anyone what happened for weeks. When I finally told my best friend, Brittany, about our date, I simply said, “We had sex.” We both agreed to how hot he was, and that was the end of the discussion. It wasn’t until the next year, when I told a guy named Joe at drama camp what had happened, that he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Carlyn, you were raped.”

It did not occur to me that what happened could have been rape. It was not talked about at school, or at home, and definitely wasn’t part of the national conversation like it (thankfully) is now. I assumed that I must have asked for it by wearing what I did, and I blamed myself for not fighting him off harder. Most of the time, and even sometimes now, I was in denial.

What followed was typical of what I know now to be true of sexual assault survivors. I was promiscuous. I felt like my plan of waiting for love to lose my virginity was over, so it didn’t matter who I slept with. My already disordered eating habits ballooned into a full-on eating disorder that I fought until my mid-20s. I partied, hard, and scared my parents many nights when their sweet, honor roll student came home drunk and/or high, again. I was fortunate to be able to switch high schools Junior year, to a magnet school in another city where I had the chance to start over and never risk running into my perpetrator in the halls again. That decision effectively saved my life, and I am forever grateful.

There is so much I wish I could have changed about that night. I wish I had the information to understand what had happened to me. I wish I’d told my parents, gone to the police, and at least attempted to throw his ass in jail before he could hurt someone else like he had hurt me.

But none of that happened, and I dealt with the pain silently, like most other people did at that time, and I imagine still do.

I saw the sock model 4 years later.  I was home from college and I ran into him with his wife and baby at Wal Mart.  When he saw me, his eyes lit up and he ran over to greet me. It was in that moment I realized he had no idea what he had done to me. He had no idea what he’d put me through.