He was mean to you?
It’s just because he likes you.
He cat called you?
It’s just harmless fun.
He pinched your bum?
It’s just boys being boys.
He spiked your drink?
You should watch your drink more carefully.
He harassed you?
You shouldn’t dress like that then.
He hit you?
You shouldn’t have made him angry.
He sexually assaulted you?
You shouldn’t have drank so much.
He murdered you?
Well, you shouldn’t walk home alone.
Why We Need Better Education Surrounding Consent
TW: sexual assault
I’m sure we’ve all seen countless “not all men” posts flying about the internet and while yes, not all men harass women the sad truth is that many do and many don’t even realise they’ve done anything wrong. I’m going to highlight this to you with a personal experience that in all honesty has been really hard to write. It’s hard to write for many reasons, for one I still haven’t fully accepted what happened and two the person who done it is someone I would still regard as a close friend, someone that I still care for.
I was out in town with a friend at a bar called “Please Don’t Tell” very aptly named as it turns out, we were doing what everyone does on nights out, we were drinking and dancing and having a laugh. At some point in the evening, unbeknownst to me, the bar man slipped drugs into my drink. A lot happened after this, my friend left me because I was behaving erratically, a man followed me as I attempted to walk home, a second man approached me and tried to touch me; I reacted violently at which point a third man got involved. This man phoned my then boyfriend to come and get me. I don’t remember any of this happening, I only know what I was told by others and what could be seen on CCTV. I have a vague recollection of driving home with my boyfriend but after that everything is completely blank.
I woke up the next morning with my boyfriend beside me, I felt lower than I had ever felt in my life and had no idea what had happened the night before. I panicked when I realised I didn’t have my jeans or bra on anymore and my boyfriend was completely naked; I was on my period and never have sex on it because it’s painful. But then I realised I still had my period pad attached to my underwear and thought “good we didn’t do anything”. When my boyfriend woke up he was instantly annoyed, he filled me in on the phone call from the stranger and told me about the other two men, he then told me how he thought I was just wasted but quickly realised that something else was wrong. When he suggested I might have been drugged I was horrified. I started panicking when I realised I had no idea what had happened to me, I ran to the mirror to inspect myself, I seemed fine apart from a pain and some bruising on my back. I asked my boyfriend if I had fallen, he said I was all over the place the whole night, stumbling and falling over. He didn’t stay long, he was annoyed and tired from getting up in the middle of the night to come get me. I remember feeling empty, everyone was mad at me for the way I behaved and I couldn’t even remember what I’d done, my friend from the night before eventually spoke to me; when she told me how I was acting I was sure that I had been spiked. I contacted the police and then phoned my boyfriend to see what he knew from that night.
He told me he didn’t know much, the man who phoned him had told him I seemed to be fighting with a man but he wasn’t sure why, my boyfriend said that when he arrived I was agitated but otherwise seemed alright. I told him I was going to the police as I was certain my drink had been spiked and was worried something had happened. He got a bit quiet and then told me that we had had sex when we got home so I should probably tell the police that. I was shocked, I had no memory of it at all. I thought back to the morning when I had felt relief when I thought that I couldn’t possibly have slept with him because I hated doing it on my period. I had been so thankful that we hadn’t had sex. I asked him to tell me what happened because I couldn’t remember. A horrible twisting feeling started in my stomach as he told me some of the things we’d done that night. I felt sick. They were things that normally I would never do, things that made my insides curl to think about doing. My heart sank as he said “I know you don’t normally like that but you didn’t object, if you hadn’t wanted to do it you would’ve told me”. I didn’t know how to feel, he was my boyfriend, I hadn’t said no, so surely what had happened wasn’t wrong. It felt so strange, knowing someone had touched me that way but not being able to remember it happening. I convinced myself that it wasn’t a big deal, he was my boyfriend, I must’ve been ok with it at the time and just not remember now. Everything was fine.
It took me a very long time to realise that what he done wasn’t ok. For months I told myself it was fine, that I must have wanted it to happen, that I consented. But the truth is I couldn’t have consented, I had been drugged and was therefore incapable of consenting, I wasn’t in control of my actions. He had noticed something was wrong, he knew I was acting strangely and suspected I might have been spiked but he decided to have sex with me regardless, decided to do things that he knew I usually didn’t want or enjoy. This man who was meant to have taken me away from danger, this man I trusted more than anyone; he done the exact thing he was meant to be protecting me from. We sat one day and I told him how I felt, I told him the relief I felt when I thought we hadn’t had sex, I told him I couldn’t remember anything, that I felt upset thinking about it. He said he felt confused because I had kissed him, because I never said to stop, because we always had sex when I was drunk. He got upset and told me he would never do anything like that, that he couldn’t believe I would think he was like that. I instantly felt guilty. I apologised, told him I didn’t think badly of him, that he was right, he wasn’t like that. After that, we never spoke about it again.
What shocks me about this is that he genuinely doesn’t believe he done anything wrong and I believed that too for a while. He doesn’t see that I was in no fit state to consent to sex, he thinks what he done was alright because I never said no but then he’ll tell me how out of it I was, how my eyes were rolling around, I didn’t say no because I didn’t have the capacity to do anything. But to him this absence of “no” is consent and I think a lot of men would agree with him. A lot of people don’t genuinely understand consent, don’t understand that if someone is under the influence of drugs that they can’t consent because they don’t have the capacity to. In his eyes, he’s the hero in my story, the one that came and swooped me up and took me away from the bad men. This is why I believe a huge part of the problem is education, or lack thereof. Everyone needs to be taught consent and not just yes and no because it’s more than that, it’s body language, it’s physical and mental state. Consent should never be assumed, if you’re unsure don’t do it, if the consent isn’t enthusiastic, don’t do it, if you have to ask multiple times before they eventually say yes, don’t do it.
I’m not sure how I feel about my situation, angry maybe? Confused and upset. I’ve accepted now that what happened wasn’t ok, that he shouldn’t have done it, that he did things to me that night that I didn’t consent to. I’ll probably never call it what it is but at least I’ve acknowledged that it’s not alright and that I’m not to blame. Sadly though, I don’t think he’ll ever accept that his actions were wrong.