‘I’ll always wonder: If I had not woken up that night would I have even known?’

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I had a group of friends as a teenager that I adored, simply adored. Most of them were males. I felt like an equal among them, a member of our group. I felt respected and safe.

We partied together, drank a lot. Held many gatherings at friends’ houses (you know the ‘party’ that’s not a party).

I had a steady boyfriend, my first real boyfriend. We were the same age, together from 16 years old, madly in love and stayed together for a solid three years – a lifetime for teenagers.

We were always together, would get drunk together with our friends, stay over at friends’ houses, I don’t recall if we passed out often but I’m sure we did. It was safe.

I was 18 when this changed.

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We were at a male friend’s house. We were gathered there, at least a dozen of us. I don’t think it was a real party, possibly just a gathering, our friend’s parents could have been away, I can’t recall. There was probably a bonfire, lots of drinking, laughing, music, joking, having the time of our lives. His parents were always cool with us being there and drinking, so few parents were. We were happy.

That evening my boyfriend and I stayed the night, I assume everyone else made their way home. Possibly walking the streets. We did that a lot. Walked and walked and walked after nights out.

Our friend had a bunk bed, my boyfriend and I cuddled up together on the bottom bunk, our friend in his own bed up top.

I woke up in the middle of the night to a dog nuzzling at my crotch. I pushed the nuzzle away. I expected a wet furry snout. I met human fingers.

I don’t know if I gasped. I know I was shocked, confused, terrified. I pretended to sleep but also tried to look around the room. I could see nothing, it was so dark and I was so scared. After a few moments a shadow moved and then I heard the unmistakable sound of my friend climbing back up into his bed.

I lay there, completely still. My boyfriend was sleeping behind me but I couldn’t wake him. I knew he wouldn’t be sober enough to help.

I was fully clothed. Under covers. His hand was groping me over the covers. I know it could have been so much worse. I think for this reason I always felt I had been less violated.

 I was fully clothed. Under covers. His hand was groping me over the covers. I know it could have been so much worse. I think for this reason I always felt I had been less violated. (Image: iStock)

I had not.

My friend had betrayed us.

I did nothing that night, after a minute or so I moved behind my boyfriend, to the other side of the bed against the wall. I felt somewhat protected by my slumbering, drunken, boyfriend. I waited. I didn’t sleep. When morning arrived my heavily hungover boyfriend and I got up and left. I said nothing to anyone.

I didn’t want that to happen. I didn’t want our group to splinter. I didn’t want to lose my friend.

A week later an emotional conversation with a girlfriend about something completely unrelated sparked me to tell my boyfriend. It didn’t go well. His advice to me was say nothing ‘everyone will hate him if you tell people’.

I was confused, upset, completely unsupported. I didn’t want things to change but I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. I was also alone. My boyfriend felt no betrayal, or showed no sign of it.

Looking back I was just so incredibly young.

Everyone knew something wasn’t right in our group. I didn’t want to be in the same room as this person anymore. I wouldn’t go to his house. I became the difficult one. I didn’t tell everyone but I did tell some friends. Word spread, everyone eventually knew something. It did cause friction in our once happy group and I felt like I was to blame. It felt like everyone thought I should just move on, get over it, it wasn't really that bad.

This happened over 20 years ago and the memory of that night is vivid. Everything that happened afterwards less so.

"This happened over 20 years ago and the memory of that night is vivid." Image via iStock.

My boyfriend and I split up, not straight away, it was a slower process but something changed in me that night, that week. It was a messy break up and I moved on. I left most of this group of friends behind and started again.

This group are still friends today, including my teenage boyfriend and this guy. Some would say I made a smart move, what kind of friends were they anyway? But to this day I still miss some of them greatly.

Questions plagued me for a while. If I had not woken up that night would I have even known? Had it happened before? What else had happened before? Did others know he did this? Did others do this too? Has it happen to other people? Questions without answers.

I didn’t have the words or knowledge or power to explain or understand this all those years ago.

I do now.

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This was sexual assault. I was betrayed. Betrayed by a friend, by my boyfriend, by my friends.

I deserved more.

This happened long before the internet, mobile phones, social media, easy access to pornography. This was a teenage boy taking advantage of a teenage girl. This happened among a group of friends where I would never have thought behaviour like this would be tolerated. It was. I’m sure there are thousands of stories out there and much worse than this. It’s not new.

Have you had a similar experience? Tell us your story in the comments below.

If you or a loved one has been sexually assaulted, Mamamia urges you to contact 1800 RESPECT.

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