I Was Sexually Assaulted at a Friend’s Party
It’s just another Saturday night. We’re sitting around the firepit in my friend’s backyard – 20 or so of us; some friends, some strangers. Drinking, smoking, talking shit, enjoying one another’s company.
My friend’s gone all out for this party – there’s glass jars filled with different concoctions of juice and liquor, a snack table with homemade hummus and other delectables, a basket full of foil-wrapped potatoes to be cooked on the fire, and enough side-of-the-road couches to seat everyone comfortably. Soft indie tunes drift out into the yard and glimmering fairy lights line the grass, creating a damn lovely ambience.
Halfway through the night, my housemate and I decide to take on the role of potato-cookers. We’re sitting close to the fire, digging the little foil packages into the coals and handing out spuds crisped-to-perfection to those in need of a carb load.
I’ve just leaned forward to get a potato out of the pit when I hear a whisper from behind me.
“Damn – that’s one way to make a man hard. Jesus Christ!”
I don’t react. He’s probably talking shit about something on his phone screen.
“Oi you, stop teasing me,” comes a slightly louder whisper.
I turn around. A guy has pulled up his seat right behind me. The blaze of the fire provides enough light to see his face; not someone I’ve been introduced to yet. He does a sloppy wink when my eyeline meets his.
“Sorry, what did you say?” I ask.
“You heard me.”
I brush it off as a joke, forging a brief laugh before turning back towards the fire. My housemate’s gotten chatting with her boyfriend and a few others next to him. I watch the flames dance circles in front of my eyes.
“So what’s your name anyway?”
I pretend not to hear him. I don’t feel like engaging in this kind of conversation tonight, I just want to cook my potatoes, drink my juice and be merry.
I feel a hand on my lower back.
“Hey, what is your name?”
I lean forward so his hand is no longer touching, politely mutter my name, and turn back again.
“I just want to have a chat, Jesus” he says.
My amiable nature has me feeling kinda bad, so I turn and mumble something about being mesmerised by the fire and not feeling up to conversation. Fair enough reason, I figure.
Or maybe not. The hand’s back again. This time lower than last, and the words that accompany more inappropriate.
“Tell me, when was the last time you had a really good fuck?”
“Okay fine, just a kiss then, when was the last time someone showed you how kissing is meant to be done?”
The hand moves up my side. I shake it off and edge my body further out of reach.
“Come on, just one kiss. I’ll make it worth your while.”
My frazzled mind resorts to the shitty, cliche line people feel pressured to use when “not interested” is not enough.
“I have a boyfriend – can you please stop touching me!”
“HA!” he laughs. “As if you have a boyfriend – look at the way you’re dressed. And wearing glitter on your eyes like you’re trying to attract the attention of every guy. Fuck me.”
I gaze down at my black stockings, shorts and woollen jumper combo. The knitted fox-eared beanie on my head doesn’t seem so innocent anymore.
“You look like you could suck a fat cock,” he pokes my waist and laughs.
I finally decide that this dude is interrupting my peace enough to seek assistance, so I turn to my housemate and her boyfriend and fill them in. Naturally, they ask why I didn’t say something sooner. I tell them I didn’t want to cause a scene, plus thought he’d get the hint and fuck off eventually.
I guess my naive state also had me believe that despite the darkness and noise level acting as a blockade, there were other people around, so nothing really bad could happen.
My housemate’s boyfriend gets up to swap seats with me and tell the guy he’s being a jerk, which really riles him up. He starts swearing and saying he hasn’t done anything wrong, along with a slur of other derogatory terms. My friend who’s hosting the party tries to talk him down, to no prevail. Eventually, a couple sitting over the other side of the fire stand up and walk over, telling him it’s time to leave. Obviously a plus one of theirs.
“Sorry about him. He gets like that when he drinks,” the girl murmurs as they half-drag him away from the party.
My housemate and I share a glance. Ah, ye old justification of inappropriate behaviour.
The party reconvenes. A few people come ask if we’re alright, mention that he seemed like a bit of a dick. One guy says how shit it is that he ruined my night like that, then seems particularly taken aback when I utter that it’s not the first time and most likely won’t be the last.
Because the reality is that this story is no different to the one you heard your friend telling last week. No different to the one your little sister nervously shared with your mum after months of keeping it a secret. No different to the one you told yourself was no big deal, not worth a second thought, to just forget about.
I can say with certainty that there would be a very small percentage of adolescent females out there (and no doubt many males as well) who haven’t experienced a similar situation; whether longer, shorter, less intense or far worse.
Again comes the question of where do we draw the line? At what point does a flirtatious act turn into sexual assault? And when no doesn’t mean no, what do you do?
I definitely should have stood up for myself sooner with this guy, and if I was sober I’ve no doubt I would have. But that’s the thing, nobody gets to choose when or how these situations happen, nor to what extent*. All we can do is continue to speak out about them, and stand up against the grimy perpetrators when we see someone in need of help.
Authors Note: This was indeed a minor case in the spectrum; however, what I experienced is still a form of sexual assault. If you’ve been a victim of any form of assault and haven’t yet spoken to somebody about it, please do. Nothing is too small of an issue when it comes to this bullshit.
Cover by Mike Erskine