On Guilt, Shame & Getting Over It

I’ve shared a lot of my life on this blog. Some things haven’t been easy to share, much like this post today, which will most likely be my hardest. I’ve kept this experience buried for about three years under thick layers of guilt and shame. I’ve analysed and overanalysed why it is I feel the way I do about it and well, suffice to say, I’m sure a lot of women will relate. And so, in the interests of this blog being a place that hopefully provokes thought, discussion and helps people, I felt it was time to share.
I was living in Toronto at the time. I found it a very difficult place to be. I was lonely, isolated and in the depths of a very down phase. I had made a rare decision to go out with friends (going out had become harder and harder, the more my isolation dragged me into myself). We ended up at a stuck up bar I had no time for. Eventually we left and I was ready to write it off as another failed night out in Toronto.
We sat outside a Jamaican restaurant for a second and could hear all this music inside. Great music. We went in to investigate. There were tons of people in this back room, dancing – the DJ was insane, playing incredible tracks. I think it might have been someone’s birthday party but at this point, I didn’t give a crap, I just crashed it. We went in, bodies crammed everywhere, everyone losing their minds to the beat. It was one of those sticky summer nights, where it’s uncomfortable but it doesn’t seem to matter when all the other factors are right. And for the first time since I’d been in Toronto, all those factors finally seemed right at that moment and I could just dance. Sweat dripped from the ceiling, bodies writhed together, people I didn’t even know smiled at me. I felt like I belonged. After a while, my friend wanted to leave, but there was no way I wanted this moment to end. I let her go and I just stayed, dancing by myself, enjoying these incredible tunes.
A guy started talking to me. We danced a little. He’d been to England a few times, had family there, blah blah. He was nice, charming. After a while, he said ‘let’s get out of here.’ We got in his car – I remember looking at the stars through the sunroof as we drove around the city. I hadn’t even thought to ask where we were going. I’d assumed we would go to an all night diner or another club. Before I knew it, we were back at his condo. He was on the 20something floor of this building right next to the CN Tower. We hung out on his balcony while he smoked weed. I remember the CN Tower being all lit up for something or other. We went inside and he started kissing me.

I thought it’d just stop there. I thought I could stop it at any moment.

He wanted to go further and further and further, I kept saying no, but then at a certain point, no just wasn’t alright anymore. After all, I’d come to his apartment. For some crazy reason, I felt bad. I felt like I couldn’t say no or back out. However uncomfortable I was, I felt obligated. And trapped.

And so…the inevitable happened. I laid awake all night hating myself. I couldn’t wait til he woke up so he could drive me home. I couldn’t even call for a cab because I didn’t know where I was. How bloody stupid was I? Eventually, he woke up, he didn’t even speak to me as he got ready. He didn’t speak to me in the car the whole way to my house. He didn’t even ask for my number. Couldn’t wait for me to get out of the car.
I got straight in the shower and cried. And it wasn’t ’cause he didn’t want anything to do with me – I think that feeling was pretty mutual. I was disgusted with myself. Disgusted that I did something I didn’t want to do, that I didn’t stick to my guns and say no. I had just wanted that feeling I had when I was dancing to go on all night. I just wanted, for one night, to not feel lonely and isolated and sad. I wanted a human connection, rather than being stuck in my head, I wanted intimacy, someone to stroke my hair, kiss my forehead. Instead, I did something stupid, really stupid and the way he treated me when it was all said and done just reaffirmed it.
I don’t remember how the ‘act’ itself actually was. I just remember crying and scrubbing myself in the shower and an overwhelming feeling of shame. I was raised catholic. Good catholic girls just don’t do those things – been engrained in me since I was a kid. I’ve never told anyone for fear of the judgement, because no one will hear all the circumstances that surrounded it, they’ll just focus on the act. But I think I’ve been judging myself enough for everybody. I’ve never made a bigger error of judgement in my life.
So why talk about it now? Recently a young woman came to me relating a similar situation. But she said no and she kicked and screamed and ran. She then confronted the man (with a mediator present) to let him know how the experience made her feel. She told me how she too, felt it was her fault for agreeing to go to his house. I’m not sure she fully understands the magnitude of what she did by speaking out, by confronting him, but hopefully one day she will. I wish I’d had her strength.
I’m sure, sadly, there are plenty of young women who’ve found themselves in these situations and I’m equally sure that the men involved remain clueless as to the effect it has on us. I’m sure the man involved in my incident went on with his life without giving it a second thought. I’ve replayed it a million times, then buried it, learned from it and moved on. I guess I got round to the ‘speaking about it’ part a bit late, but better to deal with it now…
And so, young ladies, if you find ever yourself in this position, please think of the strength of my young friend and stand firm in your choice. Young men (actually, ALL men), please respect our decisions. Your ‘gentle persuasion’ turns into force, turns into something altogether different. Don’t be that guy.

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