We talk a lot about the fun in sex… and partying and losing your inhibitions. It’s true- sometimes you need to abandon the Persian traditions that we were born into and just let your hair down.
But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences ready to kick your ass at any unexpected moment.
Because the harsh fact is:
No matter how much sex you have or how responsible you are – you can’t always guarantee success/safety.
While we advocate for being true to yourself and open to new experiences, it took us a long time to get there.
And not just because our parents said it was wrong to have premarital sex or because our friends were saving themselves for something serious. But because, we suffered from a lot of trial and error before understanding what it really meant to be sexual and safe.
I grew up pretty sheltered. The few high school parties I actually attended, I never took a sip of alcohol. In fact, throughout most of my high school career, I spent weekend nights blasting Britney Spears with my friends and dancing around my room, pigging out on whatever plate of goodies my mom prepared for us.
My freshman year of college, I finally had my first real drunken experience. I partied and went out with my friends about three to four times a week. I went from being shy with alcohol to learning how much to drink to blackout. And when I couldn’t remember what happened the night before, my friends and I just spent the next day laughing about it.
I didn’t understand the severity and danger of what it meant to drink so much that you couldn’t remember how you got home.
But all of that changed one night after I had just turned 21.
My friends and I went out one night with a group of frat boys who lived across the street. We started pre gaming with shots of vodka and spent the rest of the night drinking numerous Red Bull/Vodkas. One of the frat boys out with us that night, I had hung out with in the past — he had a reputation of being quite the plaaaayer so I never let him get anywhere with me.
He was hanging around me the entire night, buying me drinks, dancing with me, the usual sleazebagness that occurs at a club when you’re too young to understand that there might be consequences.
I woke up the next morning, disoriented — confused about where I was, and naked… in his bed. I jumped up, grabbed my clothes and tried opening his bedroom door, but it wouldn’t open. I woke him up and he said, “Can you stop trying to leave and just fucking lay down?”
I made an excuse about having to work so he would get up and open the damn door, and I ran home. Throughout the next day, I started having flashbacks from the night before. Him carrying me home… to his home. I was so drunk, I couldn’t even walk. Getting in his bed. Him on top of me.
I remember enjoying making out with him. And as the clothes started coming off, I remember repeatedly saying no. I remember trying to leave and him not letting me.
And when I looked down “there” the next morning, I was bruised everywhere. I immediately made an appointment with my doctor to make sure that everything was okay. Who knows what people have these days.
She examined me the next morning and said, “Something happened here and it was forced. Do you want to press charges?”
I said no and made six appointments for the next six months to make sure nothing shows up in my system (it didn’t… but I got lucky because he was caring enough to at least use a condom).
I didn’t report this not because I was a drunk girl who went to some guy’s house where things went too far. I didn’t report this not because I thought I had encouraged it — by kissing him and running my fingers through his hair. I didn’t report this not just because I thought I didn’t have a case.
I didn’t report this because how could I ever face my family and the Iranian community when word leaked out what had happened to me.
I was too embarrassed about how to tell my parents that I had “allowed” for something like this to happen (which is how I felt they would see it).
I haven’t blacked out since that night.
This was a life-changing experience and at the time, I felt like both parties were responsible. There are many people who have been sexually abused — but I didn’t want to be that person.
I refused to be the girl who would always be uncomfortable with sex because a guy took advantage of me years ago. I decided from the moment I chose not to press charges that I would never put myself in a situation where an “experience” like that could ever happen again (I was naive enough to believe I could actually control it). I don’t view this as a defining factor in my personality, but it has taught me to be careful.
I love sex because I learned how to enjoy it. I don’t regret the decisions I’ve made and I don’t let the bad define me.
But you see, I was stupid. I was stupid because I believed that I didn’t have a case. You always have a case because no matter what state of mind you’re in, no means no.
Having an experience like this doesn’t automatically “explain” my sexual history– it doesn’t target me as “promiscuous” because frankly, that’s an incredibly ignorant “observation” to make about anyone. And that’s something YOU should remember. Because no matter what anyone says– only you can do something to change your circumstances– your outcome.
As most Persian girls (and like Farrah), I grew up sheltered– with traditional and religious parents. I’ve written about how I was very rigid and judgmental when it came to sex and partying. It wasn’t my thing for awhile, and I really felt that abstaining would mean I would be rewarded in some other way. Like, not having a boyfriend or having sex, meant that some great guy was going to come swoop me up. Because Purity entitles you to Privileges.
Then I turned 18. And I went off to school, away from the nest, where my parents entrusted me to a family friend– you know as Persians do “movazebesh bash” (look after her). They would invite me to dinners every few weeks for a Persian home-cooked meal, and oftentimes their son would pick me up from my dorm and take me back to their house for these gatherings.
On one specific occasion, I got an invitation from him to join the family for a BBQ on a random Sunday evening– I initially hesitated because I had a Calculus midterm the next day, but he assured me that he could help tutor me on some problems I was having. I packed my books and left –
When we got to his place, no one was home– he told me that I was mistaken, he had said his mom was out of town, and he had just offered to hang out. I felt stupid, maybe I really had misunderstood…?
He drank a few beers, as I sat and studied at the kitchen table, his “tutoring” was overpowered by his beer breath. When it started getting late, I asked him to drive me back to campus… he went upstairs to get his jacket… but he never came down.
I went upstairs looking for him, and ended up getting trapped in his room.
Instinct is a funny thing because for years I hated myself for relying on the instinct to survive, instead of fighting him off. I tried to push him away, but I knew that if he wanted to he could really hurt me and I didn’t want to make him angry enough to do that.
So after some initial scuffling, I just laid there and let him do what he wanted.
I felt like shit, I felt weak, and all I thought about was the minute the sun would go up so I could somehow leave.
I didn’t sleep that night, while he snored away. And in the morning, he left, without a word, and I was left with a phone with no battery, and no transportation to get back.
When I got back to my dorm room, there was a post-it on my desk, “OMG WHERE WERE YOU? WE WERE SO WORRIED -XOX.”
I kept the post-it, but I buried my secret.
For a few years, I pretended like it never happened. I could never tell my parents, my friends– what would they think? How would they treat me? I wanted to be seen as the same girl, I liked to do the same things as before– I didn’t want to wear a red R forever. I thought if you deny something long enough, it’ll become your reality… And then it caught up to me.
I was a virgin when I was raped, and it forced me to reflect on what it meant to be a virgin, a woman, and sexually active.
There’s a lot more that went on in my recovery process, it took me years before I could forgive him and all MEN, for the physical betrayal. I was 20, and I was scared to be alone with a guy because I thought he’d punch me unconscious or something– this paranoia that really shouldn’t have followed for that long– dogged me for a long, long time.
Now, I’m at peace with what happened to me, but you know–
I will never forgive him for taking an 18 year old and turning her excitement for new experiences into a plaguing fear. Into someone who believed people were bad until proven decent. And into a woman who blamed herself for it all.
I didn’t go to the authorities, because I was selfish. I didn’t want anyone to know, I didn’t want to be a victim. But I pay for that mistake– I live with the guilt that there are other girls who maybe suffered the same fate, at the hands of the same guy, and I could’ve stopped that.
So if there’s anything I learned–
Tell someone. Scream about it. Wear it proudly.
Because, guess what– you ARE a victim, but like Farrah said– it doesn’t define you. A car accident may injure you, but you’ll eventually start driving again. Be an ambassador for a cause that goes so unnoticed because people, like me, choose to be silent. I assure you it has happened to SO many people that you may know, and you may not know–
There is no shame in falling victim to circumstance, there is shame in letting your community stop you from helping yourself.
Sometimes we forget that we are not alone. No matter what your circumstances are, there will always be someone there for you to talk to– you just have to be brave enough to open up.
80 percent of rape victims are under the age of 30. Every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted in the United States (and that’s NOT including countries like Iran, Sudan, Egypt, etc.). There are about 207,754 cases of sexual assault a year in the U.S. 54 percent of sexual assault cases are never reported the police and 97 percent of rapists never see the inside of a jail cell.
Don’t let these moments define you, but SPEAK UP because only YOU can change your circumstances.