As I opened my eyes, the whole room was in a blur and my head was pounding. The brightness of the sunlight streaming into my bedroom window made it even harder for my eyes to focus and intensified my headache. After a few seconds of blinking, I was able to find my phone and check the time. 10:30 AM. I was supposed to have been at a work meeting at 9:00 AM, followed by a six hour shift starting at 11:00 AM. Knowing I was in no shape to make it to my shift, I began to get up to call my boss. As I sat up up in my bed, I realized I was completely naked. I typically never slept naked, because I had roommates at the time. My clothes were strewn on the floor leading from my bed to the bathroom. And in the bathroom, there were vomit stains on the floor. Feeling uneasy, I tried to put the pieces together.
The night before I had went out to a dance party at a local club with a friend. As I had waited for her to arrive, I pregamed. When we arrived at the club, we each got one drink. We made our way across the dance floor to the area on stage near the DJ’s booth. I loved my friend’s socialite attitude. She seemed to float through crowded spaces making her way to her destination, usually near or on the stage. As we sat down, it wasn’t long before we’d made friends with other folks in this quasi-VIP. I smoked a joint passed to us by a cute boy. And as if it were film that ran out, my memory just went blank. I couldn’t remember what else happened that night. I didn’t remember making it home. I didn’t remember getting into bed. In a search for answers, I texted my friend.
Me: “Hey! What happened last night?”
Her: “You got shitfaced. We left early. You could barely walk. And you threw up in my car.”
Me: “I’m so sorry! I don’t know what happened…I didn’t even drink that much!”
Her: “Yeah I don’t know either, but you were super out of it. I had to ask the security guard to take you upstairs.”
It was at this moment that I felt most uneasy. I lived in private student housing which had security guards on duty around the clock. The security guard who had worked at the front desk the night before was my least favorite. His creep factor was astronomical. He constantly stared and smirked, while making inappropriate jokes and comments. It seemed like his job was more to bother female residents, than secure the premises. I knew I had to talk to him to know for sure what had happened that night.
Later that day, I made my way downstairs. I pretended to be going to check the mail. As I stepped of the elevator our eyes met and his normal smirk grew into a huge grin. I lowered my gaze and made my way to the boxes. It was Sunday, so I’m sure he knew I hadn’t come downstairs simply to check the mail. As I started to walk back towards the elevator, I made sure to look at him and hoped he’d start talking…and of course he did.
“You had a rough night last night, didn’t you?,” he chuckled.
“Yeah, I guess so. I heard you had to help me up to my room.”
“Yeah, I did. You kept saying ‘I’m sorry’. I left you laying in the bathroom, because you were sick.”
Unsure of why he’d offer that last piece of information, I opted to end the conversation.
“Oh really. Thanks.”
I thought talking to him would ease my mind about the missing pieces of my night, but it only added more anxiety. I couldn’t help but to wonder, if he left me lying on my bathroom floor still fully clothed, how did I take off my clothes and get in bed, if I couldn’t walk on my own? I didn’t feel like I could talk about what happened with anyone. I was the one who had gotten blackout drunk. I didn’t remember anything past the club and didn’t have any bruises or pain, so how could I accuse the security guard of anything? But I felt most uncomfortable with everything because of my past interactions with him. Most days, he worked evening and night shifts, so often he was the guard signing in my boos, dates, and hook-ups. He had direct knowledge of who I brought into my apartment, how long they stayed, and if they visited again. I knew he noticed, because he’d made inappropriate comments about it. I wasn’t ashamed of my number of sexual partners or dates, but I knew how other folks could perceive me. I couldn’t help but wonder how could the creepy security guard not take advantage of the drunk girl who had a rotating door of dates?
I was no stranger to sexual trauma, having experienced it as a child and a teenager. I didn’t talk about it often and had internalized a lot of shame about my role in what had happened to me. I couldn’t fathom really trying to talk to someone about what might have happened to me that night, because of the shame I felt. How could I have let myself get so drunk? If I would never had pre-gamed at home and had a drink at the club, this would have most likely never had happened? Oh and not to mention, why did I smoke with a complete stranger in a club?
I felt like I couldn’t hold anyone else accountable for what did or didn’t happen that night, but myself.
Years later, I confided in my girlfriend. She also had met the security guard and was uncomfortable with him. She let me know that my feelings about the situation were valid and while I may not have made smart decisions that night if anything happened it wasn’t my fault. And she wished that I would have said something to someone.
After telling her, I realized how much of a relief it was to talk to someone about what had happened.
Even though I had given myself permission to be sexually free, I had never reconciled my internalized guilt and shame of the sexual trauma I had experienced. The first step for me was being honest about the traumas that I’d experienced, not only with myself, but with my partner and trusted friends. Reconciling my guilt and shame also meant naming triggers that were a result of my trauma and not being ashamed of those triggers. I remind myself that my healing is an ongoing journey that I will constantly be working on and that while these experiences were defining moments in my life, but they don’t define me. I define me.
[Feature Image: Picture of a person with their hand over their mouth, the palm facing outward, and in the center of the palm is a set of pink lips.]