I was 18. I was at my 2nd Fraternity Party. Brand new to college life. Surrounded by people I did not know. Social situations I didn’t yet understand. Places I wasn’t familiar with.
I did not know.
I went to the party with new friends. Girls I met in the dorm. Girls I thought were nice. Girls. The party was all boys though. Young men. Brothers and Pledges. All looking to have fun. Everyone had that goal. Nobody had much experience in adult things like this party offered. Drinking – beer and a very alcoholic punch were on offer – was expected. In fact cups were pushed into our hands immediately when my group arrived. We were 18. We had only been drinking a short amount of time. We had no life experience to speak of. We were just barely adults. We were not legal to drink. But we were drinking… and encouraged and flattered to drink a lot.
I drank a lot.
The dance floor was full, the boys were fun, the Alabama night was warm, and the drinks were cold. We all drank too much. Far too much. But we wanted to be liked. We wanted the boys to like us. We wanted to be the fun girls. So we carried on. Until I found myself alone but for one of my friends. The others had left. They didn’t tell us. They just left. We were alone. And we were inebriated. And we were in danger. But we didn’t know that part. Yet.
I got drunk.
I was very sloppily dancing with a much older, very cute boy. He had been paying almost exclusive attention to me for quite a while. He was very polite, always happy to refill my cup, very interested in getting to know me better, not physically pushy. He seemed very nice. But I had definitely had too much to drink. I was far too young to cope with the aftereffects. I fell on the dance floor. He helped me up and I told him I needed to take a break. I was very drunk.
I made a bad choice.
The kind young man, the polite boy, the nice guy… offered me a quiet place to rest for a moment. With my remaining friend. To get myself together. To stop the room from spinning. The quiet place was at the top of the stairs. In the residential part of the fraternity house. In someone’s bedroom. But I was with my girlfriend. He wasn’t there with us. It was just us two girls. We thought we were safe. So we took the offer. We took the refuge.
I was not safe.
Another young man came into the darkened room where we sat, resting. He shoved us alert. He was very young. And scared. He told us that something bad was about to happen to us. That we could not go back into the house. That we needed to go out the window and get out of the house however we could. That we would be badly hurt if we didn’t. That we had to go NOW.
I jumped off of a porch roof.
We were chased. We hid. We got away. Only later did we learn that they had planned to assault us. They were planning a gang rape. The young men were lining up in the hallway. They were deciding who got to go first and who would be last. Being last was a punishment apparently. Going first was an honor. They were planning to do this to two freshman girls. Two drunk freshman girls. Because we were all that was left there at the end of the evening. Because we didn’t know the unspoken code of girls at Frat Parties. No one gave us the book. So we missed the social cues and didn’t leave. We made ourselves targets. We made ourselves victims. We saved ourselves in the end but we almost did not.
We made it back to our dorm. We went to bed. We resolved to never discuss what happened. But we forgot that the world didn’t know that commitment. Despite our silence we were re-victimized by women and men alike. We were the trashy girls who stayed too long. We were whores. We were the temptations that almost caused nice boys to do bad things because we were easy. The boys – almost all of whom were older and far more experienced in these social situations- were considered blameless and the two very young and inexperienced girls were considered to blame. We were destroyed reputation-wise. The rumors never stopped.
We never went back to that fraternity house. We hid our shame. We never spoke of the terror and horror of that night. We never talked about how close we came to multiple assaults. At the hands of “nice boys”. Men who are probably raising granddaughters today. Men who would likely vow to kill anyone who considered doing this to their wives, daughters, granddaughters,…and all of the other women in their lives. Respectable men. Good men. Men who were almost rapists. Men who tried to destroy the lives of two young girls who didn’t know how to fight back.
I am that girl.
Yes… I’m still that scared, hurt, angry girl. That young woman who went out to have fun and ended up running for her life. I am her. She is me. And I still hurt. For her. For me. For every woman who has this story. Or another story. We all hurt. And we all learn. Nice boys aren’t always nice. Bad girls aren’t always bad. Black isn’t always black. White isn’t always white. And after midnight everything is a shade of gray.