I’ve always been the type of person to claim that “weed does nothing for me, really, which is why I don’t smoke it.”
On Saturday, I found myself defending my position again to a friend at his house. We had just left a function, and I needed some downtime before I headed to my next event, so I went with him and another friend to hang out at his house. We found his brother there, already very high on weed. His brother said how I couldn’t possibly be able to smoke weed from a bong because I would choke on it, and his brother, my friend, offered me an opportunity to redeem myself when the next round was lit up.
Sure enough, I could take weed in a bong, and I only choked once, compared to others who choked more than once. However, my insistence that “weed does nothing for me” proved to be untrue, because I found myself very quickly high, and in need of a nap. I went to one of the rooms and locked myself there for a nap. I napped for about an hour when I heard a loud knock on the door. I opened it to find my friend’s brother there, claiming he needed something from the room. I told him I’d leave the door open so that he didn’t have to disrupt my nap.
What happened next still feels like a bad dream. He proceeded to come into the room no less than eight times, and hover over the bed. I have very good reflexes, so each time he came in, I woke up and asked what he wanted, because I was just trying to sleep. The first time, he was genuinely confused that I woke up, and kept apologizing and saying “I thought you were asleep, I didn’t mean to wake you…” so I said “It’s okay, just get what you want from the room and leave me alone.”
The third time, I woke up to his hand on my body, under my arm, very near my breast, and he pretended to want to see if I was cold, which was when I told him that if he was so concerned, he could get me a blanket. He came back with the blanket alright, and attempted to touch me again under the pretense of covering me with it. I woke up five more times to him hovering over the bed. The sixth time it happened, I asked him “what the fuck do you want” and he proceeded to say he was sorry over ten times. I told him to “get the fuck out and leave me alone” because I really needed to be done with my nap so that I could head to my next engagement. Because there were other friends in the house, and I could easily beat up the guy (I have taken a couple of martial arts classes for self-defense, the guy in question has probably never had a day of exercise), I did not feel terribly threatened, but I felt threatened nonetheless.
The second last time he came to hover over me, he found me seated, awake on the bed, texting a friend. I could almost touch the disappointment he felt when he stopped dead in his tracks at the doorway upon realizing I was awake. He left quickly, then came back the eight time with some fake excuse about how he needed some keys, and he left the house without his phone, or his wallet, for almost half an hour.
I struggled with telling my friends what had just happened in the last hour. Was it a good idea to do it? I wondered how to tell my friend that his brother was a bonafide creeper. I could imagine what might be said about the situation. “He was high” or “What were you doing high on weed anyway?” or “You know you were asking for it when you decided to take a nap in that room while you were high” or “You know such things happen when a group of young people get together and drugs are involved” or “Nothing even happened to you, why are you complaining? Do you know that some people actually get raped?”
For the first time, I understood what it meant to be completely helpless in the face of your assaulter. When we were leaving the house, he came back, and I couldn’t bring myself to look him in the face, talk to him, or even scream out loud about what he had just done. I felt disempowered. I wanted to take an endless shower, because I felt dirty.
I wanted to be sure that I didn’t actually make all this up, and decided to work on an approach to tell my friends the next day. Then I thought back to what had happened when I arrived at the house. When my friend’s brother had asked me how long I was planning to stay, and I said “no more than an hour” and he said “well, that’s a pity, I was hoping you could stay longer” and I mistook that for friendliness. Was that when he started planning his “approach”?
I thought back to the last time I was at this house. I had come over for what ended up being a party, and ended up getting cozy with my harasser’s cousin. What my harasser couldn’t see, perhaps, was that his cousin and I had a long history together, and our interaction at that party was a continuation of this. Perhaps what he saw was a girl who was “loose enough”, one who “deserved it”. Perhaps this was when he started planning this?
I thought back to one of my friend’s stories, about how she went out with some friends and came home, and allowed them to crash in her house. She awoke to one of them on top of her, having sex with her without her consent (she was asleep when he started) while another one watched on the sidelines, cheering him on. I remember how she related what she went through, and how pained it made me feel, and wondered, was this what this man was planning for me?
By the time I got home, I was feeling disgusted with everything, including my clothes, which I tore off in anger and threw in a pile, staring at them as if they had something to do with how I was feeling. I could barely stand the contact my skin made with my pajamas, or with my bed. I wished I could sleep in a bed of air, with nothing touching me. Until now, I can feel my harasser’s hand on my body, and no matter how hard I try to forget, or wash it off, it refuses to go away.
Upon waking up the next day, I told two dear friends what had happened, and asked them to help me understand what was going on. They agreed on almost everything. That the man in question had no good plans for me. Perhaps he even planned to rape me. He definitely planned to touch me sexually. All this was going to happen without my consent, probably because he knew that there was no way I would consent to doing anything with him, high or otherwise. He had probably done this before. Successfully, in fact. This was probably why he was so shocked and confused each time I woke up and caught him hovering over me, perhaps planning on how he would touch me. I also had to tell his brother and my other friends what had happened that night, so as to let him know he couldn’t get away with it, and so that they could keep an eye on him in case he tried this on anyone else. Or, in case he ever raped someone, because rape is the next stop on the train he is on.
I decided to call a female friend who was there that day to tell her what happened, and ask her to confront my friend and his brother on my behalf because I did not have it in me to do it. I was nervous before calling. Would she believe me? I felt the fear that all other sexual harassment/assault victims feel: will they believe me? Will they say it’s my fault? Was it my fault?
She believed me. She was understanding, and she said that she would handle it. I felt safer. I felt sane – I was not crazy. I did not make this up. I did not do it to myself. And then I cried, on behalf of all those who have had it much worse than me. The burden of what had happened, what could have happened, and what has happened to others before me was all too much. The fear they must have felt. The pain when they were told it was their fault. The loss of sanity when no one believed them. The self-doubt when they started to tell themselves that perhaps they made it up, perhaps it did not happen. The nightmares.
Then I thought of my harasser, and how, when confronted, he will say that I must have imagined things. That what I said was actually not what happened. That he came to check on me eight times in my sleep because he cares, deeply. That he did not touch me sexually. In fact, he only made contact with my body accidentally when covering me with a blanket to ensure that I did not die of hypothermia. He will ask why I am trying to ruin him, and perhaps even shed a few tears to cement his position. He will garner their empathy, and convince them he could never do such a thing. He will make my friends doubt me, if even for a second.
He will continue to live his life unscathed, perhaps considering this a light warning, while I continue to try scrubbing the feeling of his hand off my skin.