While it’s a difficult story to tell, Zeller courageously conveys her experience and highlights the problems within rape culture that normalize sexual violence on college campuses. With careful description that carries the audience through Zeller’s thoughts in each moment, the piece addresses the routine dismissal of consent by perpetrators. Zeller’s voice in a chorus of many proves the truth that, despite how society tries to guilt survivors, no one can ever put themselves in a situation that warrants assault.
by Fiona Zeller
I always took notice of him riding his skateboard down Pennsylvania Ave. He had long, greasy black hair, an unkempt beard, a full sleeve on one arm and scattered, smaller tattoos on the other. He was perfectly my type, and to say I was interested would be an understatement. Always flying by on his board, I didn’t get the chance to make casual flirtations or elongated eye contact to show my curiosity. When I walked into my friend Cal’s apartment one Saturday, the last thing I expected was to see him sitting there with Cal. Cue the drawn out stare. His name was Jaxon, Jax for short. We hit it off pretty immediately, exchanged numbers, laughs and drinks and the three of us all planned to get together again later on.
That night, I had gone out to some frat party with my friends I was inevitably going to leave early after drinking their free alcohol and dancing to the one fun song they played all night. Walking back I called Cal to see if they wanted to meet up. He told me he was tired and wanted to stay in for the rest of the night, but that Jax wanted me to meet him. Giddy and moderately buzzed, I felt good about going over to his place alone.
Once I got to his house, he offered me a drink and a joint and we sat down in his living room with his roommates. I felt good and happy to be there. Drinks and pot kept showing up in my hand from anyone and everyone. Jax continued inching toward me on the couch, his knee eventually grazing mine and his arm behind me. In a somewhat unfamiliar part of the city with completely unfamiliar people, and now feeling much more than just tipsy, an uncomfortableness took over my body. I could barely keep my eyes open and Jax became a shadow figure closing in on me. I frantically texted friends, not able to type anything more than “are you up?” or “hey”. No response—it was 3:30 in the morning. I saw Jax nod his roommate away too obviously and he left without a beat.
We were suddenly alone and I wanted to leave, but simply didn’t know how. I was too under the influence to walk home, no one was up, and I was stuck sitting on that dreadful couch. Jax kissed me and I pulled away. “Isn’t this why you’re here?” he asked. He was right. Initially, it was. But it wasn’t anymore and I didn’t know how to tell him that. What were my options?
We had sex that night. I didn’t say no or ask him to stop, I didn’t say anything at all. Some of it I don’t remember much. Some of it is permanently ingrained in my memory. He was rough, aggressive and knew what he was doing far more than I did. I woke up next to him and snuck out while he was still sleeping. Walking home, tears streamed down my face as I pieced together what had happened to me. I felt ashamed for putting myself in that situation, naive for not realizing what was going to happen sooner, and unsure whether I should direct my anger towards myself or him. I was in a depressive episode for weeks as the bruises he gave me healed.
I still feel don’t feel like I have fully reconnected with myself. Jax did not have sex with me, he had sex with my body. He had control over my body. My mind never processed it, never agreed to it, never accepted it. I struggle everyday trying not guilt myself for what happened.
The day after that night, I got a text from Jax. It read: “Last night was fun, let’s do it again sometime.”
Fiona Zeller’s bio: I am a student. I am a writer. I am queer. I am a survivor.