Trigger Warning: This story includes content that may be triggering for some, including sexual assault.
In the past, The Festival Voice has shared guest articles from our readers about sexual assault. One of our readers shared this after hearing about sexual assault in the media as well as our last guest contributor’s article.
Note: This is a GUEST contributor to The Festival Voice. One of our followers reached out to us and asked to tell their story, anonymously. A few grammatical edits have been made for posting purposes, but the content remains the same. Reminder: This is a story about sexual assault. If you are uncomfortable reading about sexual assault, please discontinue reading this article.
It took me a while to write this. Not because I needed to build up the courage but because in comparison to many others’ experiences, it doesn’t seem particularly traumatic. I do feel triggered when thinking about this, and it was very unpleasant, but it wasn’t necessarily violent by societal standards of assault. It took me a while because I don’t know how this will be received. My friends who are women obviously understand and support me, but the men I have told about this did not really understand why this was considered assault. But sexual assault doesn’t look the same every time. It isn’t always the same story, and oftentimes it takes a long time to process. In my case, I didn’t even recognize it as assault until over a month later. Some of you who are less understanding are probably going to disagree with me that it was even assault. If that’s the case, let this be a lesson about the importance of consent.
It was my first time at Electric Forest. I was new in the EDM scene, and I was still new to navigating the shows and the people. I went there with some friends I had met at a festival a few months ago and arrived early on Wednesday. We drank a little that night, but I mostly stayed sober. It was such a new experience for me seeing all the flow artists and the DJ’s on the buses. I had never been to anything like this before. On Thursday — the first real day of the festival — I was in awe: all of the art, all the people, it was all so exciting. The people I went into the festival with that day felt more comfortable with hard substances than I did. They were using a lot of LSD combined with some other substances, and I was sober. Some of them got pretty spun pretty quickly, so the group wound up getting split up towards the beginning of the day as people trailed off. I was fine by myself, though; I was content wandering around the forest getting lost.
I remember going to some sets deep in the forest with these European techno artists and wandering around the vendor booths. I had no commitments except for an acquaintance who was playing a midnight set near the buses. On my way there, I ran into this woman raver I knew from a Facebook group. I invited her to join me for the midnight set, and she agreed. She asked what I was on, and I told her I was sober. She offered me some of her MDMA, and I took a finger dip because why not? I was inclined to trust a woman. We ended up splitting up when she got a text from some friends to meet them at a party. I continued making my way to the buses and by the time I got there I was rolling. It was a Silent Disco with four DJ’s — two dubstep artists who were collabing and two techno artists. I was getting down to both sets, and I started dancing with this woman. I was very social (I mean, I was on molly), so this girl and I started chatting. Her name was Fish, and she told me she was totally sober aside from Adderall to help her stay awake. She said she doesn’t use drugs or alcohol because “Life is like a steak, and you don’t need to put steak sauce on a good steak, right?” She and I were dancing together when I noticed this dude behind me. He had long hair and was pretty handsome and introduced himself as Jason. The three of us started dancing together, all vibing to this set when Jason and I started kissing on and off. I was still rolling when the set ended. I can’t distinctly remember what substances Jason was on; it was either LSD, MDMA or a combination of both. The three of us decided to keep the party going, and we went to another bus set. Vibes were up, and we met another raver, aptly named Ravyn. Now it’s the four of us, bumping and having a blast. The bus set ends around 4 a.m. Someone suggests having a sleepover in Jason’s tent, which we all think is a great idea. We each go around to our tents to grab our stuff, then meet back at his.
At the sleepover, it was the four of us and a friend of Jason’s that was part of the group he came with. I was planning on sleeping between Fish and Jason, but I was the last one in the tent. The only place left for me to sleep was on the end next to Jason, which I now realize was intentional. I get into the tent and say goodnight to everyone then roll on my side to sleep. Soon enough, Jason started groping my chest and kissing my neck. This was making me uncomfortable because of the three other people in the tent who can clearly tell what’s going on. However, I didn’t say anything or stop him because it didn’t seem that different from what we were doing at the bus sets. The flowy pants I had on made it easy for Jason to reach over and start fingering me. I didn’t stop him, even though I didn’t want him to do this. I think some of you who have been in unwanted sexual situations can relate to that feeling. As women, it often feels like we can’t say no, that we have to go along with what the man wants. After maybe fifteen seconds, he put his penis inside me. I was really not okay with this. But again, I didn’t verbally tell him to stop despite being very uncomfortable. Not only was Jason violating my consent by not asking for verbal confirmation that any of this was okay, we both were violating the consent of the other people in the tent by involving them in a sexual situation they never agreed to. I didn’t move, didn’t do anything while he was inside me. This lasted for no more than a minute, and he didn’t finish. After that, we fell asleep.
I woke up the next afternoon in his tent. Everyone else was already gone. When I stepped outside, he, his friend and their camp neighbors were just hanging out. Everything seemed normal. At the time, I didn’t really think much of what happened the night before. I was hungover and just wanted to go back to my tent. Jason and I exchanged numbers, and I left to eat breakfast and get ready for the day.
The next evening, he texted wanting to meet up, so I grabbed him, and we met with my group of friends. Everyone was high, and Jason and I eventually split off to do our own thing. I was on MDMA again that night, so I was riding a good vibe. We were going around the forest together catching sets and having fun. While I was rolling, we went to a vendor, and I bought Jason a pendant. It was an opal with a wire-wrapped tree. Whenever I see the pendant now, I shudder. We partied through the night and tried going to some bus sets, but I had misplaced something and needed to go to my tent first. This put Jason in a bad mood. He didn’t want to go to the buses after that, so we hung out with my friends for a bit then went to his tent to sleep. The next morning I woke up and immediately left for my tent. We didn’t see each other for the rest of the festival.
The rest of the festival was a dream: I spent it with my friends having more fun than I ever had before. The kindness I was shown by so many strangers was unbelievable, and the music was stellar. I left that Monday morning for home. About a month and a half later, I was telling a friend of mine about the wonders of Forest. It was at this point that the sexual situation between Jason and I wasn’t sitting well with me, but I chalked it up to just an uncomfortable sexual experience. I told her about what happened on Thursday night. What finally made me recognize that what he did was assault was when I told her, “If he had asked I would’ve said no, but he didn’t ask.” That’s when it finally clicked for me. I easily could’ve gotten pregnant from this or gotten an STD. He didn’t even use protection when he penetrated me nonconsensually, putting my health at risk.
It’s not like I was hysterical while or after it happened, but I did feel my stomach drop. The discomfort of the situation persisted even after it was over, but I couldn’t figure out why. I felt so weird for brushing it off to the point that I even bought him a gift while I was in a drug-induced state. I was friends with Jason on Snapchat after Forest, and every time he would snap me, that same discomfort would trigger inside of me, but I still couldn’t figure out why. I continued to ignore the feeling until talking it out with my friend. I felt violated. I was violated, and I finally understood. He never asked for my consent. He just did what he wanted, what he assumed I wanted. Society has taught women our entire lives to take care of men and make sure they get what they want. Society has even taught us that men know what we want better than we do. Because of this, men believe they can just take what they want without asking. This is an act of force, an act of coercion, and we have taught women that they shouldn’t or aren’t allowed to say no or fight back. I deleted him on Snapchat soon after that, and we now don’t have any contact. I cringe when I think about all of this. Like I said, in comparison to many others’ stories of assault, this case seems mild, but the discomfort — the guilt, the shame, the violation — still plagues me.
Over this past year, through the influence of some very empowering women in my life, I’ve been learning to be more vocal about my boundaries. I’ve been learning to say no and stand firm. It’s still new to me after a lifetime of being subconsciously taught that that’s not an option. Now I know that if I were ever again in that situation, I would act with no remorse or worry for what they would think about me for fighting back. Some of you won’t understand why this is considered assault. It wasn’t overtly violent or aggressive, and I didn’t stop him, but the thing is, I never feel like I even had a choice. It’s assault because there was never consideration for my consent. If I had been asked, I would have said, “No, I do not want to do this,” but that question was never proposed. He easily could have had genital herpes, HIV/AIDS, or other STDs that would have left me with a lifetime of health problems. I mean, I could have had an STD that I passed along to him, but clearly that was not his concern.
Many of us have been in situations where we are not asked for our consent and feel like the lines are blurred because of involvement of the use of substances. But no matter how drunk, high, or messed up someone is, you must always ask for consent. It’s not like we are taught about consent in sex education, so people are often taken advantage of and the person taking advantage doesn’t even think they did anything wrong. That cannot be the standard any longer.
Consent is NECESSARY!
Consent is KEY!
Consent is SEXY!
If it is not a clear YES…
Then it is a NO!
If they are too intoxicated to say YES…
Then it is a NO!
And people — especially my ladies:
NEVER be afraid to say NO.
Peace, Love, Unity and Respect…
Forever and always. Stay safe from sexual assault.