I was back in my home town for a visit and went to a party that I thought would be full of old friends, but there weren’t many people there that I recognized.

It was kind of like this.

It was kind of like this.

I did finally spot a couple of old friends sitting on the couch and talking. We hadn’t been super close but they recognized me and made room for me. I was surprised to hear that their topic of conversation was rape: specifically, the man had recently been accused of rape and was processing his feelings about it, and the woman was being a supportive listener. This is someone I would not have expected to be a rapist – he’s well-liked, charismatic, and professional, and we had had some flirtatious moments back when I was local. While of course it was extremely unlikely that this was a false accusation, I thought that he might be able to apologize, learn from his mistake, and repair some of the damage to the community. So I stayed and joined their conversation, trying to strike a balance between hearing his side and not discrediting the fact that there was another side that I wasn’t able to hear.

Over the course of the next year, it became as clear as these situations get that he had, in fact, raped someone. There was mediation; it sounds like it didn’t go well. Opinions about the incident and the people involved continue to split this group of friends. But I didn’t know that at the time.

After the conversation, we went our separate ways but reconnected later in the party. We danced, and again had strong chemistry. As I had mentioned before, I was still lonely at the party and grateful for the attention. At the end of the dance, he kissed me, and it was nice. But I had decided before leaving on this trip that there would be no casual hookups, because I wanted to focus my energy on my relationships with folks back home. So when he asked if I wanted to come home with him, I said no thanks.

AND HE HASSLED ME FOR IT. I couldn’t believe it. After talking all evening about what he was learning about consent, he tried several times to talk me out of that “no.”  I had been giving him endless benefit of the doubt because of the way he had been treating me, and our prior history, but as soon as the situation turned sexual, BAM. I met the rapist. My original reason for saying no was completely of my own making; I could have changed my mind and looked him up while I was still in town. But after he made it clear that this experience hadn’t taught him to respect a “no, thank you,” my response became a “HELL no.” He eventually got the message, and I went home, disappointed that he really was capable of what he had been accused of.

The incident left me mystified as to what his motivations were — like, was a one night stand RIGHT THEN so important that it didn’t matter to him what I wanted? Or did he not have enough confidence in his own attractiveness to think that someone would want to be sexual with him, without coercion? Or did he just want to see what kind of power he had over me? It’s sad that even an accusation involving law enforcement and lots and lots of input from his community wasn’t enough to overcome this attitude towards sex, whatever the cause. He is, in many ways, a good guy, but will be remembered by many, including me, for being a rapist – because he didn’t learn, change, and try to atone for his actions.

I tell this story because this is how the message that a rapist could be someone you know and love was really driven home to me.  A rapist doesn’t have to be someone who can only get sex by force, or who rapes every time. It’s hard to believe that your friends or your lovers could be capable of something like that. I was fortunate to have enough internal conviction to eventually convince him that I meant my “no” (and that this happened in a public place, where I had my own ride home, and in many ways retained a lot of physical power over the situation)– but it scares me to think how I might once have taken pressure to have sex as being par for the course, and been an easier target.

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