TIFFANY

Sometimes the hardest, most damaging experiences are the ones you wouldn't consider to be a big deal from the outside.

He was a coworker. Still is, actually, but only for two more weeks (I'm praying I can make it that long without seeing him again).

I liked him. I thought he was funny, that his sarcastic humor was attractive. He offered to make me pancakes to celebrate being cast in a show.

After we were done eating, he asked if I wanted to watch a movie. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. Super funny, I can never watch it again though.

We talked and laughed and sat on opposite sides of the couch and paused the movie to get some water. Conversation of previous relationships comes up and I express the desire for someone to ask me if it's okay before they kiss me. I've had plenty of guys launch themselves at my face before, I never let any of them actually kiss me though. 

The conversation just kinda petered off, and we turned the movie back on. And then he was closer. And then his arm was around me—I was ecstatic. And then he held me closer...and closer...it became a little hard to breathe with how hard he held me but I thought, this is just how things work in college. And then he kissed me. I expected it to be sweet, maybe a little hesitant—I had only been kissed once before and the concept of anything past a peck was foreign to me. But he was shoving his tongue down my throat and holding me so hard it hurt. He needed to shave—I was surprised later that day at the lack of open wounds on my face from his scruff. I panicked—what if he tried to take it further? This was already far past my comfort zone. I put one hand on his chest, the other around my stomach, to at least have some distance between us. He pulled back, and noticed my pale face and wide eyes. Instead of stopping, instead of apologizing or even caring, he told me to "stop freaking out." This went on for a while. I honestly don't remember if anything more drastic happened, I don't think it did but then again as I try to remember I'm pulling up a trauma-induced blank.

Guys. It was just kissing. But it was still sexual assault. I was afraid, I was confused, I didn't know what to do, and I did NOT give consent.

He later stood me up for the date he asked me on before the incident, and when confronted he blamed me for thinking the worst of him and 'jumping to all the wrong conclusions.' I walked out of the conversation feeling like everything that happened, as well as his crippling depression, was my fault. I don't know if the physical or emotional abuse was worse.

I have a class with him every other day, as well as staff meeting. I often had panic attacks, flashbacks, and extreme depression every time I was around him and every night falling asleep. He acted as if nothing happened, and to be completely honest, perhaps to him it was nothing.

It took few trips to a therapist to realize that it wasn't my fault, and further, that it truly was sexual assault.

There is so much more to sexual assault than rape. Even if the physical act wasn't quote-en-quote "serious", it can still cause trauma and pain and take months, even years, to heal. I am not a lesser survivor because I wasn't raped. 

I am a survivor of sexual assault and it's time I said it out loud.