My experience of sexual assault at a party
This SpunOut.ie reader shares their experience and how it has impacted their life
This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SpunOut.ie. It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for SpunOut.ie please contact email@example.com.
A few months ago SpunOut.ie reached out looking for people to write a piece about consent for their sexual health and relationships campaign “Have Better Sex.” I wrote a piece on consent and sex. I now realise that at the time, I didn’t fully understand what that term consent meant. I knew that in theory it was someone saying yes to taking part in a sexual act. It was only when the option to say yes, or more importantly, the option to say no, was taken away from me that I really began to understand the meaning of consent.
After an evening of drinks and dancing with friends, a few of us stayed over at a friend’s house. Some friends were asleep upstairs and I was sharing the sitting room with a friend of ours. I had shared a room with this friend on more than one occasion and I considered myself to be very safe with him. There had been flirting on and off about a year ago but nothing ever came of it and I was happily in a relationship with someone else at this point.
I thought that having spoken about my boyfriend all night would have been a clear enough indication that I wasn’t interested in anything more than friendship, but it turns out he didn’t see it that way. When going to bed, we shared the couch but that wasn’t unusual for us. I fell asleep turned facing away from him. Of course, no matter what the circumstances were, no one should experience sexual contact they did not consent to. I woke up to a hand trying to force its way down the waistband of my trousers, my t-shirt was pulled down and there was a hand on my breast.
I didn’t really understand what was happening and for a minute I froze. When he realised that I was awake, he began apologising and saying that if I had been asleep he had just sexually assaulted me. I wasn’t processing what was happening. I was still drunk and half asleep. I kept telling him that he couldn’t have done that, that I was fine and that nothing had happened. I even managed a while later to go back to sleep. When I woke the next morning, there was a hand on my exposed chest again. He had pulled down my t-shirt and was lying next to me, getting himself off. In that moment I completely froze. I didn’t move. I didn’t push him off of me. I just lay there, stuck.
The next morning
When I eventually got up he started talking about how much he had enjoyed the night before, as if I had played any part in what had happened. As if somehow, me being asleep during the event was okay. I got dressed and left. I even stopped to say goodbye to him. I sent a text that morning saying that it was okay. It was only later, sitting in a cafe on my lunch break from work that I realised what had happened. I sat there, shaking and sobbing into a cup of untouched coffee.
I sent another message. I told him that it wasn’t okay, that he what he had done was a violation and that it was wrong. He apologised and said that we shouldn't be friends anymore. It was weeks before I could say the words sexual assault when talking about what happened, but that is what it was. It is so clear that consent means positive affirmation from a person that is awake and interested in engaging in the activity. A lack of an answer is a no and people need to know that.
Processing the assault
In a situation like mine a person may freeze and be unable to stop what is happening. That is the hardest thing to deal with afterwards. I was angry for a long time at my own body for not fighting back. It took a lot of convincing from my very supportive parents and partner to realise that what happened to me was not okay. What happened wasn’t my fault. It didn’t matter that I had five drinks. It didn’t matter that I fell asleep in a room with a boy that wasn’t my boyfriend. What mattered was that a person who I trusted betrayed my trust and assaulted me. He took what he wanted without my consent.