I Was Sexually Assaulted by My Best Friend’s Brother

I was 17, and he was my best friend’s brother.

It doesn’t always happen the way we think it will. It’s not a dark alley, and it’s not a stranger or spiked drink. Sometimes it’s the men that share our spaces, our social circles and our Muslim Student Associations (MSAs).

We met in university. I was a first year, and he was a third year.
He wrote poetry, and I performed slam.
At school, he would find me in the library in between classes to bring me coffee, and tell me weird jokes. We weren’t really ever friends.

Even then, I was never able to be completely comfortable around him. He made me nervous, but I didn’t know why. I thought it meant I liked him.

It was winter, a few months after he and I met. He called me late one night, and said that he had been drinking and needed a ride. He lost his wallet and he said that if I couldn’t pick him up he would just drive home.

I’ve gone over this conversation in my head so many times since that day, and asked myself what would have happened if I just said no. No, you made this decision. No, it’s not my responsibility to take care of you. No, I’m sorry it’s late, call your sister.

But I’ve never been the type of person to say no to someone in need. I knew his story.
His dad was a sheikh, and they had a strained relationship. He came from a broken home.
I had a soft spot for him, knowing how insecure he was. I knew he drank, and what made me pick him up that night was knowing how he would feel the next morning.
He and I had done this a few times. He would call me after a night out and cry. He wanted to be better, he just couldn’t. He needed me to not give up on him. I picked him up that night, so that he knew I was there for him. He got into my car and asked me to drive around for a little bit. It was 3 am and I had an 8:30 class. But he said he didn’t want to go home drunk because his dad would kick him out. I listened and we drove. He cried, so I pulled over.
He talked, and I listened.
He told me more about his dad, and how he didn’t know what happiness felt like. How he hated himself but didn’t know how to be better. And then it happened.

I tried to get him to stop. The bruises on my wrist, neck and hips reminded me of that the next morning. My ripped dress reminded me I tried, but there are still days that I feel so sick thinking about it that I can’t look at myself.

The days after were a blur.

My best friends knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t tell them. I knew what our community said about “those girls.”

I can’t even begin to explain the self-hating that began after. I failed two classes that semester. I couldn’t get out of bed because I knew I would see him at school. I dropped out later that year.
The first time I tried telling someone, it was a boy I was madly in love with. I was 20.

We wanted to get married, and I thought I “owed” him my story.  I’ll never forget what he said. “How can something like that happen to a girl like you?” He was angry. And in an awful twisted way that culture shoves down our throat, I thought it was my fault. As if I had taken something from him, when I lived through the worst night of my life.

How could he not tell how afraid I was from how my entire body tensing up anytime he came near me? How could he not tell that even though I loved him, I moved away anytime he got too close to me? Then, he asked me if I was still a virgin. I called off our engagement shortly after.

It’s been eight years.  To this day, I still feel like I can’t tell anyone what happened.

I had bruises for weeks after that night. I still have nightmares, eight years later. But what’s heaviest–and the most nightmarish–is that he’s allowed be normal.
He shows up on my Instagram feed sometimes, where he posts hadiths and pictures of himself at the mosque. He’s never talked to me about that night. I saw him at school the morning after it happened, and he wouldn’t make eye contact with me.
I locked myself in the bathroom that day, and cried until I threw up.
I’ve gone through all the feelings. From doubting my own memories, to not caring, to feeling so numb that I lived the next year in a way that I’m still learning to forgive myself for.

I’ve learned to not think about it now. To smile when I see his wife and pretend. Because he’s married now. He also has a daughter, and it makes me sick to know that a man who could hurt a woman is now a father.  

Some days, I hate myself for not being able to tell anyone.

Believe me, it kills me to know that I’m so afraid of what people would say about me, that I’m terrified to ever tell anyone his name, or what he did.

The day I found out he was getting married, I was a mess. I took a week off work and couldn’t get out of bed. I picked up the phone so many times to call his wife, and tell her.
I owed her, didn’t I? If it were me, I would want to know. But I didn’t, and I don’t know if it’s because I want to think he’s changed, or if I was too afraid to be “that girl.”
Is this what we are becoming as a community?

Instead of teaching rapists not to rape, are we creating spaces that turn victims into lessons, into cautionary tales, for younger girls to not repeat?

If you’re reading this, and you have a survivor story, know that I’m sending you all of my love, and that I believe you.
That you never have to explain to anyone why you “let it” happen to you…because you didn’t.  
That any man in your life who hears your story, and questions you, doesn’t deserve any of the space you hold for him.
That it is not your fault.