This is Not the Story of a Rape

Note: This was originally published in Elephant Journal but was taken down because “Your article is potentially libelous and/or defames other individuals by name. We do not publish accusations of assault, misconduct, or other criminal activity without proof.” This shows how difficult it is for a victim to have a voice. There are no details to identify anyone, other than a common first name. My story deserves a voice, so I’ve republished it here. Please share, if this resonates with you.

I never expected I'd be held against my will.

We were pre-gaming in someone’s dorm room, teasing our hair and putting on make up, getting ready for a party. There were about six of us, all college sophomores, and I was the youngest (just about to turn 19 years old). We had been invited to this local fraternity party where all the boys were loud and muscular with perfect everything. Collars popped, bodies still tan from summer, and big egos that seemed like endless confidence. We all took turns sipping from wine coolers that someone had given us, but we only had a few because no one had fake ID. We smoked our Virginia Slims and Marlboros.

I had a crush on a guy named Bobby. He was tall and athletic, and I believe he was at our school on an athletic scholarship, though I can’t remember what sport he played. He was going to be at the party, for sure, because it was at his frat house. He lived there. I do remember that all the girls thought he was really hot; everyone wanted to date him. He was that guy.

When we got to the party, we were handed Solo cups filled high with Coors Light from a keg. Our cups were never empty. This felt cool, but not unfamiliar. A usual college party, no different than any other weekend, except that it was at a very cool frat house.

We danced, smoked cigarettes, and laughed.

I saw Bobby, and as soon as we made eye contact, he walked over. I almost looked over my shoulder to see who he was coming for, but before I had the chance, I realized that it was me. He started talking to me. He was sort of coy and was talking sweetly, so close that I could feel his warm breath on my face. I have no idea what he said, probably some small talk, but he kept smiling. He had a really great smile. At some point, he leaned in and kissed me. Whoa. I felt lucky to have been chosen by him, at least for that night. I felt like a star, like the most beautiful girl in the world.

Since the party was in his frat house and the music was loud, he invited me to his room to "chill and have a few beers." I had no intention of sleeping with him. I wasn't that girl. I thought he wanted to talk quietly, get to know me. Maybe even kiss me a little more. I felt hopeful.

We got to his room and I could feel the intensity of his body. He talked, but his words were quick. His eyes kept darting around. I didn’t know much about boys then, having been pretty sheltered in high school, but I was aware that something was shifting. After talking for a few minutes, he started to kiss me again. It felt nice, but different. More impatient. He started to push his body onto me; he started wanting more. I kept saying, “No.” This made him angry. He tried and tried, and I kept saying “No” and “I’m sorry” and “Can’t we just talk a little more?” He must have gotten tired of the conversation. He jumped to his feet and began swinging his body, punching the walls, calling me a tease. He started throwing things.

And then he locked the door.

He said, "You're doing this," and pushed himself on me again. I resisted, pressing my hands into his chest to push him off my body. It didn’t work. I saw that I wasn’t going to talk him out of anything. In fear, I kicked him, and yelled. I felt the bed sheets give below my heel and heard a tear. What was happening? How did that, out in the party, become this in here? I started to scream for help.

"You think my brothers are going to help you? In our house?" and he began to laugh. His laughter was one of detachment. I knew I was about to be raped. I thrashed around and told him he had to release me. He leaned in to kiss me, and I scratched his face. He called me a bitch, and pushed me to the floor.

Whether it was the physical fighting or the yelling, or both, he backed off.

And while he stopped coming at me, he still he kept raging around the room. He punched holes in the walls. I was crying, terrified. There were no cell phones back then, and I had no idea if anyone knew where I was.

Finally, he said that I could leave. He said I was "trash" and "a prude" and I was useless to him. There was a part of me that was heartbroken, knowing that hours earlier I was thinking he was a nice guy, and that maybe he really liked me. Part of me wondered if I was actually a prude and a tease. As I walked quickly toward the door, he threw a punch past my face and hit the door. His knuckles began to bleed.

He laughed, "You're also an idiot. You think I'm letting you go?" I began to sob. I began begging him to let me go. I pleaded to him, told him he was right about me, that I was a prude. I begged him to let me leave. He laughed.

I could write and write about how this cycle happened over and over, but it starts to feel like fingernails on a chalkboard. It's gritty and ugly, and in the end, this is not the story of a rape. This is the story of a girl who got away.

By magic, or sheer exhaustion, and after hours of this drill, Bobby opened the door. I was terrified that as I approached the door, he would stop me (yet again, as he did the other three times). I walked with caution, and then, as I passed through the door, I walked faster.

I didn't know if it was a trap, if there were more people waiting outside his bedroom door in the living room. With each step, I began to feel the heat of terror and started to run.

I made it back to my friend's dorm (I wasn't living on campus). I told her what happened and she held me in her arms. She told me to just forget it, to let it go. She called him an asshole. And that was it. I'd managed to scratch his face pretty badly, and torn rips in his bed sheets with the heels of my boots. Otherwise, it was as if nothing had happened.

Through the last month of that semester, he tortured me. He called me horrible names and spit at me. He followed me from my classes to my car, only to keep walking past, just trying to scare me. I didn't know what to do, didn't have the tools to know what actions to take. I mean, it wasn't rape. What was it?

That semester, my third semester of college, was my last one at that school. I dropped out that winter and didn't go back.

And to this day, I remember that story. I was able to harness the feelings I had in that space, through breathwork, and move the energy out. But from that day, the day that my 18-year-old self was held in his room, until about 30 years later, I lived in fear. Not in fear of Bobby reappearing, but in fear of someone holding me against my will, of feeling powerless and vulnerable, without a voice. I didn't believe I could heal it, and I was unable to forget it.

Trauma sits in the body. We can talk about it, mask it with substances and bad habits, we can even ignore it, but it doesn't go away. It shapes the way that we live.

Breathwork is a practice that opens the body up to release old energy that restricts us and holds us back. My practice gave me the space to not only release that energy, but to have the space to write about it here, for you to read. Because maybe, if you've been there and you're feeling lost, you'll know that you aren't alone, you'll know that you can tell, and that your voice will be heard.

Most importantly, you'll know that you don't have to carry the pain of the past anymore, and that the way out is simply through the breath.

Photography: Dani McDonald

tiffany curren