“I am not a child and I have learned that when I’ve spoken in anger, I usually regret the way I express myself.”
Those were the words Uma Thurman said when asked about the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault allegations back in October.
On Thanksgiving, Thurman posted to Instagram saying, “I said I was angry recently, and I have a few reasons, #metoo, in case you couldn’t tell by the look on my face.”
To date, movie producer Harvey Weinstein has been accused of sexual misconduct by 57 women. Since the news of this dropped, many other famous men–including comedian Louis C.K–have been accused of (and in the case of C.K, even admitted to) sexual harassment/assault.
Sexual assault and harassment are pervasive and long-standing issues, despite only being brought into the mainstream media spotlight the last few months.
I could use this essay to talk more about how for centuries, women have been raped and abused at the hands of men. How catcalling is a daily form of sexual objectification women and femme-presenting people often face.
But I’m going to talk about my own experiences with sexual assault. Like Thurman, I haven’t spoken about this publicly before. I was too mad, too hurt, too ashamed. But it’s been a few years, so I think it’s time.
There have probably been other times in my life, like when I was a teenager and feminism hadn’t yet dawned on me, where I have been in dubious situations with boys. Coerced, you might say. But I’m going to focus on the two most recent, most harrowing times.
The first time was a day after my 20th birthday– December 27th, 2013.
I went to hang out at my friend’s house. I hadn’t known him that long, only since September 2013. But he lived in the area and we had similar interests, so he seemed like a cool person to pal around with.
We’ll call him friend A.
A had admitted to me before that he was attracted to me, and asked on multiple occasions if I wanted to be hook-up buddies or friends with benefits. I declined, because I wasn’t into him like that, but still wanted to stay friends.
Then one time, A and I fooled around. Nothing serious, no sex. And not for long either. This outraged the guy I was sort of seeing at the time– we’ll call him J. Though J and I weren’t exclusive, he didn’t want me seeing A anymore. But A was my friend for longer than I knew J. So I knew I was still going to see him.
On December 27th, I went to A’s house. I told him I felt weird about the fact we had fooled around. That it was a one-time thing and that I didn’t want to do it again.
He complained, because he “really liked” me and thought “we’d be great together.” But then, he seemed to understand… or so I thought.
We smoked weed, ordered Japanese food. Then we were watching South Park, I believe, on his laptop while sitting on his bed.
He started telling me that he was horny and asked if he could masturbate. Before I could even really answer, his dick was out and I was averting my eyes.
I don’t exactly remember what happened then. I was high, it was late, I was tired. I just know at one point I laid down on his bed and he began giving me a back massage. I was fine with that, it felt nice.
Until he started to pull down my pants, then my underwear, and began to finger me despite what I had told him just a couple hours earlier. Despite the fact, that even in my high and tired state, I was saying “no.”
Then he stuck a finger in my ass. “I know you like that,” he said.
I was about to cave, to tell him to just find a condom and get it over with. But luckily, his dad came home, so I was saved.
I scrambled into the bathroom and put my clothes back on.
“You don’t think I raped you, right?” he said as I gathered my belongings, preparing to leave.
I never spoke to A again after this.
I left his apartment in tears, and called J.
J was basically was just like, “I told you so.” Victim blaming, no sympathy.
For months after this, I was afraid to go into the grocery store across the street from my apartment building because A worked there. I was petrified of running into him.
The second time was in January of 2015. I was on vacation with my mom at a resort in the Dominican Republic.
I was actually in a relationship at this time. A self-proclaimed male feminist who ended up being an asshole, as many self-described male feminists do. We’ll call him R.
The resort had an open bar. And because it was still over winter break, there were lots of college-aged kids on vacation with their friends and family.
So while my mom was doing her own thing, I hung out at one of the resort’s bars and socialized with some people.
The two guys I ended up talking to were vastly different. One was super chill– we hung out for the rest of the trip after meeting that night. Let’s call him G. The other, however, was incredibly drunk. It was his last night on vacation.
On the couch in the hotel lobby, the three of us talked and laughed. I was wearing a sundress, and the drunk guy was putting his hand on my leg. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. He was drunk, we were on vacation, why not be a little flirty? C’est la vie!
Then the three of us walked down to the beach and sat on one of those beachside canopy beds they often have at resorts.
I was in the middle of these two guys, G on my right, drunk dude on my left.
Drunk dude was passing me notes typed on his phone about how much he wanted to hook up with me. That it was his last night of vacation and he wanted to do something exciting.
I was hesitant. I told him that I was seeing someone at home I cared about, so that it probably wasn’t a good idea.
Nevertheless, it didn’t stop drunk dude from inching his fingers under my dress, into my panties. On the bed. With G on the other side of me.
I was frozen. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to make a scene. So after a few moments, I just changed how I was sitting so that this guy’s hand would leave my nether regions.
It was getting late, about 3am. The three of us started to walk back to our respective hotel rooms.
G went a different direction at one point, so it was just the drunk dude and me.
He asked if I wanted to go back to the beach and have sex. I said “no.”
He got in front of me and trapped me between his arms. “Can I at least get a kiss?”
I reluctantly gave him a peck so he would let me past him.
I went back to my hotel room and immediately called R. He was less than sympathetic, just like J had been.
“Well why were you hanging out with two guys?” he asked me over the phone, outraged. “Why didn’t you push him away?”
Never mind that a random guy had just touched my vagina without my consent. Or that I had been practically forced to kiss this stranger. Never mind that I was in a different country and was scared of how this man would react. Hindsight is 20-20.
I was crying. R was pretty much blaming me.
I stayed with R until May of 2015. It was a very emotionally abusive, manipulative, and toxic relationship.
Both of these experiences were not only invasive by the perpetrators, but made infinitely worse by the victim blaming that followed from the men I cared about.
So, there it is. The two times I was touched without my consent. Once by a supposed friend, once by a drunk rando. The fingers of these two men were inside of me when I did not want them to be. Even though I expressed hesitation or outright said “no.”
I don’t really know how to conclude this essay, honestly. As probably many victims of sexual assault do, I just feel hollow about the whole thing now. Time healed most of the pain and anger, but I can’t help feeling like I’m going to cry while typing this. As I said earlier, this is an incredibly prevalent problem. I guarantee that most of the women you know have a similar story to tell.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence and are seeking crisis support, you can reach out to:
National Sexual Assault Hotline- Phone: (800) 656-HOPE (4673), Online Chat
National Domestic Violence Hotline- Phone: (800) 799−SAFE (7233), Online Chat
Rafaella Gunz is a graduate of The New School in NYC, where she majored in journalism and minored in gender studies. She’s passionate about feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, combatting online harassment, and ending the stigma of herpes. She lives in New York with her partner and their puppy, Lilith Leia (Lily for short).