One year ago, you invited me to your room to hang out. Despite our misunderstandings, I thought this would be a good chance to start over. Over the two weeks prior, you’d sent me uncomfortable messages in an attempt to flirt. I recognized this and told you I wasn’t interested. You apologized and asked if we could be friends. I thought that that was a great response. I thought you must have misinterpreted my first-year friendliness as something more. After correcting that impression, I thought that we could move on to being friends.
That night, we shared a few shots of Fireball, the burning cinnamon alcohol freeing up our conversation. The night started out fine. We talked about your goals of being a politician, laughed about some posts on “Overheard@Yale” and snacked on some Durfee’s mochi. But then things changed. The talking became creepy comments about my body. My laughs became a clenched jaw preparing for the next word you’d say about my legs or hips or genitals. You set your melting mochi down and moved your hands to me, grabbing me through the fabric of my pants. My fear left me frozen. I had just come out only a few weeks before. Romance and sex were foreign to me. You knew this. You took my inexperience as an opportunity to grope me and talk about what you wanted to do to me. If it weren’t for my suitemate coming into the room and pulling me out of the situation, who knows what else you would’ve done with my frozen-solid body.
Instead of reporting you, I chose to avoid you. Instead of making a scene, I discussed the impact this had on me with my therapist behind closed doors. Instead of coming out and telling others, I stayed quiet.
But now, a year later, you decided to reach out to me. When I first saw the subject line of your email scroll across my computer screen — “checking in / semi-awkward email” — I tensed up instantly. My now-stronger self reverted back to its Camp Yale version: unshielded and vulnerable. I was overwhelmed with the same feelings I’d felt a year ago. Your subject line seemed concerned, and I was hopeful that this was just an apology. Nevertheless, the body of your email proved otherwise. Not only did you write that you decided to send me this “in the context of all the Kavanaugh stuff,” only “trying to fulfill an ethical obligation,” but your timing was uncanny. Your email had interrupted me reading a New York Times article about the Kavanaugh hearing in two days.
What about “this Kavanaugh stuff” made you decide to write this email? Was it to clear your conscience? Or was it to protect yourself when you run for office? You wrote that you didn’t know what happened that night and wanted to know why I’d stopped talking to you, noting that you would “never do any of that stuff.” What stuff? The stuff you said you didn’t know about? The stuff you conveniently never addressed nor apologized for, which I can only assume you failed to do to ensure you didn’t admit fault in writing? In your email, you blame me for your lack of memory. You said I shouldn’t have drank as I did because I “was a heavy-weight” and you weren’t. Maybe you “don’t remember,” but I never once made you drink. You know what you did, and you know why you sent that email.
You might have thought, by sending that email, that you were giving me a place to let my voice be heard. In your eyes, you might think of yourself as a benevolent captor who chose to let my words be free. Nevertheless, your email did quite the opposite. The space you created for me to speak was just that: a private space you created, governed by your laws and your goals. That space does not free me nor free my story to be heard; it silences me by putting my story into a box constructed from your words. And so, instead of replying to you directly — injecting my words into your tightly controlled space — I wrote my response publicly. This puts the power of my story back where it belongs: in my hands. Your attempt to take any shred of power that I had left after that assault failed because of this platform I have available to me. Your looming presence on campus and your stifling words might have made me, like other assault victims, feel as if my mouth were taped shut and that you were the only one who could rip it off to let me speak. I’m here to tell you you’re not. These stories are our stories, not yours. You will not claim them, and you will not censor them.
That night, assaulter, was not the worst thing to ever happen to me. But that night left me with problems I still deal with today. Because of that night and other similar nights, I find it difficult to trust possible sexual partners. I sometimes find it difficult to grapple with my sexuality. I often find it hard to imagine sex as anything more than an impersonal and emotionally detached activity. Like many others, I still carry the weight of your actions. So, no: An email to save your own career will not fix it, will not undo it and will not prevent it from happening in the future. Your email was only a failed attempt at silencing me. You can try to take me down, put me in your box, and exert your power over me, but you can never — and will never — take my voice away.
Andre Faria is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College. Contact him at email@example.com .