Type the name on your Facebook search. Backspace. Type again. Click on the name. Go through recent posts. Feel appalled at the completely usual Facebook activity on said person’s profile. Feel nauseous. Disgusted. Switch to another window. Repeat.
No, I’m not obsessing over my ex-boyfriend’s new life. I’m looking for a reaction from my rapist. A sign of self-doubt, remorse. Something.
It is Monday afternoon. A colleague is talking about going for a court summons because some men in a car “outraged her modesty” a year ago. Her courage to report and pin them down upsets me. Did I make the wrong decision? As a journalist who writes about gender-based violence, sex, and the like, have I failed myself in not reporting a crime? Perhaps. But I need my justice in the best way I can get it. By writing and putting this out on social media.
I’ll call him A. He is 26 years old. He is also my ex-boyfriend. A and I dated in high school and through college, until we finally drifted apart. He was always the perfect son, the hardworking employee, the understanding friend, but a bit of a lousy boyfriend.
It is Monday afternoon. It has been two nights and three days of guilt, confusion, loneliness, hurt, lack of confidence, and self-doubt. I have been living alone in an apartment for a year now, despite having my parents live in the same city. And I’ve always felt safe here. So as irony may have it, less than a month before I move back in with my parents, I get raped in this place I’d begun to call home.
He came home after midnight on Friday, following a “let’s meet over drinks outside” plan that didn’t work out. His girlfriend had dumped him a week ago, and he was due to move to the US, but hadn’t managed his Visa yet. I figured he needed to talk.
We smoked one joint after another, reminiscing about childhood, talking about the people we’ve grown into, how much we’ve changed and what life had taught us. He told me that he had to leave around 6AM to run an errand for his dad. I could tell he was attracted to me, but I didn’t see it as a threat. I’d known him for far too long for that.
Some time after 3AM, he propositioned. “Do you want to have sex?”
“Nope. Don’t feel like it,” I said.
He tried again. “Do you at least feel like a kiss?”
“Why do you want to kiss me?” I asked.
“Why? Because this has been such a nice chat. It reminded me of the good times we’ve had. Don’t tell me it wasn’t one of your best times,” he insisted.
“Okay. But I still don’t want to,” I replied.
After some time, he leaned in and kissed me. “Okay, that’s it,” I thought.
“Happy?” I asked.
He kissed me again. This time, more aggressive and needy.
“No. I know where this is going. I don’t want to have sex with you,” I told him again.
He seemed angry, upset. “Natural,” I thought, before I drifted off to sleep. I was too high to stay up and too annoyed to even try.
I woke up at 5:30AM, thirsty. I was naked, waist down. My Spongebob shorts were lying at the foot of the bed. My shirt, which I’ve never unbuttoned because it is loose enough to be pulled on like a tee, was completely open, right from the top button to the last one. I was partially covered with a sheet. I felt some odd pain in my knees and thighs, like I’d done some strange exercise, or hadn’t slept right. All the signs were there. I touched my vagina and smelled it. It smelled foreign and dirty.
I looked for him. He was gone. I checked the house, almost scared to find him. But he was gone, having left the main door unlocked, leaving me vulnerable to all kinds of unimaginable things that lurk outside that door.
Unsure about what to do next, I call a friend and narrate everything. He tells me to stay put and call A.
“What do I ask him?” I ask, completely disoriented. “Just ask him what happened,” he said.
I call him. A answers, mumbling something about if whether I had locked the door.
“Yes. I’ve locked it,” I said, before asking, “But tell me, what happened here?”
“I tried to wake you up. I thought you were responding.”
“You thought I was responding, or was I responding?”
“I don’t know. I thought.”
“Why are my shorts off. Did you penetrate me?”
“I tried. It didn’t really work because you didn’t wake up. I ejaculated in the bathroom.”
“I was responding and I was asleep? Do you KNOW what this is?”
He gets apologetic all of a sudden. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. I thought you were in it.”
“You don’t understand shit, do you?” I asked. “Tell you what. Fuck you.” And I hung up.
I didn’t press charges. I wasn’t ready to face everyone’s questions. We live in a world where people find a way to blame the victim even when there’s nothing to pick on. In my case, as far as the police and law goes, everything works against me. I called him home; I got high with him; He has been a sexual partner in the past; I live alone; I wasn’t dressed appropriately; I slept in his presence; There was no use of force; etc, etc.
But I was more troubled about the reminder that my family and friends hated him. Everyone told me to not reconnect with him. And I did. I felt sympathy, maybe pity for this man. And I invited him over.
We were in a relationship for almost five years. We had known each other for about 3-4 year prior to that. After the break up, we’d been in touch on and off for another five years. And in an instant, that mutual respect, if nothing else, was gone.
“Do you want to go to the doctor or wash up?” my friend asked. “I think I’ll wash up,” I whispered, scared that my years of being a feminist were being challenged by my decision; scared that I was now just another unreported case; scared that my decision would grant him the freedom to do this again.
I’ve had two days to think. Two days without work to distract me. Two sleepless, disturbing, difficult days where I’ve looked through his Facebook to find one sign of distress. And I have found none.
I don’t think he knows he has done any wrong. His ‘ideal son’ tag has conditioned him to believe that he is always right. And like a large number of the Indian male population, he too feels entitled to a vagina. And an ex-girlfriend’s vagina is always open.
I want this to reach the women out there, so that they identify him and the likes of him and don’t lower their guard like I did. I want this to reach the men out there so that they know that they’re capable of causing harm, but can choose to not do so. I want to use social media to make sure this reaches people who think it is always the victim’s fault.
I want this to reach A, so that he knows whose feathers he has ruffled. I want this to reach every individual who will disown me after reading this. Because I can really do without you guys, thanks.
Shame the perpetrator. Not the victim.