In a more chaotic environment, like a party, it is nearly impossible to know what people are doing, or to know their intentions. Even if someone were to witness another person engaged in suspicious behavior, most would not get involved or would assume that someone else was responsible for that stranger stumbling away from the party. It is all part of the social experience at universities. You take chances, make mistakes, and try to move on – though this night would be different.
She drank so much she could not remember anything about the party. She woke up alone in someone else’s room with bruises on one side of her body. She walked back to her place and searched through her phone for photos of the previous night. A group of her girlfriends and sorority sisters came over and told her that she left the party with a guy they all knew, and that they were too drunk to do anything about it. They discussed what she should do; she felt that it was no big deal and they agreed; she said he was a “good guy” and did not deserve punishment, and, again, her friends agreed.
Before the guy came over, he texted her that she received the bruises when she fell out of his bed. When he told her that they had slept together, she told him to bring the pregnancy prevention medication “Plan B.” She asked her friends to leave so she could speak privately with him. Perhaps her friends should have stayed, but she felt secure enough to speak with him alone. She dealt with one immediate danger by preventing a possible pregnancy, and her rapist no longer felt responsible for her because he rid himself of this potential consequence of his actions. No one tried to convince his victim to act against him. It was easier to agree with her than to suggest that she seek help or justice. Perhaps she needed someone to speak to that part of her that knew he violated her and that knew the ramifications of that violation extended beyond her body.
My friend listened to the other girls agree that the boy did not deserve to be punished, and she had to leave the room when the rapist came in. She felt the world was less safe after that, more uncertain. People around her could allow rape to happen and do nothing about it. Even when she tried to convince her roommate that what happened to her was wrong, the rape survivor brushed the advice aside. It seemed it was best to forget and move on.
Earlier that semester, the other roommate (they were three sharing a room) brought a guy over and drunkenly gave him a blow job when all she wanted was to know if he loved her – while my friend tried to sleep. There was no room for conversation, no space for anyone to question anyone else’s decisions. They let the men in their lives dictate the course of a night. The nights seem more dangerous; for my friend, strangers lurk in the shadows and she feels she needs protection from them and from those who would remain silent. The history of silence dissuades anyone from speaking up.
We were part of that silence.