Growing up, Alicia’s biggest fear was being misunderstood. For as long as she could remember, she always tried to play it safe with the people around her. She tried to remain neutral in most conversations and never to give off strong unpopular opinions publicly. Living this way had worked for her, and the one time that she went against her own principle was singlehandedly the day she regretted the most.
Alicia went to the club with her friends one night. It was amazing, and she had managed to let off all the stress that she had bottled up for the last couple of weeks at work. The dancing, screaming, and drinking went a long way in helping her to let off this steam. At the end of the night, one of the guys who they were with insisted that the party had to go on, and so he asked them to go to his house to carry on. This guy, Jacob, was Alicia’s friend. He had been around them for so long that they considered him to be part of the squad. They trusted him, and he was extremely kind-hearted and giving. So when he invited them to their home they were quick to accept the offer.
They were all curled up on the couch when one by one people started to fall asleep. But one of Alicia’s friends, Ashley, had disappeared with one of Jacob’s friends to one of the bedrooms. Later Alicia went to check up on her and Ashley said everything was okay, and so she left it at that.
The next morning, as they were going home, Alicia noticed that she looked extremely sad.
“What’s up, Ashley?” Alicia asked.
“Nothing. I’m good.” She said, but you could tell she wasn’t. She had known Ashley for years, and she could tell that something was completely off.
They didn’t talk again for about two weeks. Alicia was back at work, and this took up most of her time. When she got home in the evening all she could think about was sleeping so that she would have an easy day the following morning. Adulting is one task that no one ever prepares you for, and when it hits you, it hits you hard. But she wasn’t complaining, because at least she had money to spend, and at the moment, that was all that mattered.
One evening a friend randomly called Alicia. Her name was Sasha, and she happened to have been closer to Ashley than she was to her. Alicia didn’t even think she liked her that much, and so it came as a shock that she was actually looking for her.
“Have you noticed Ashley being distant lately?” She asked.
“Well, I’ve been distant. I haven’t really gotten around to talking to her since that night at the club. But I noticed that day that she was a little off. Why? What’s up?” Alicia asked.
“She’s suddenly deleted her social media. I’ve tried texting and calling her but she isn’t picking. I spoke to her brother and he assured me that she’s fine but somehow I just don’t buy that story.”
It was at this point that Alicia actually started to panic. You see, Ashley was an outgoing extrovert. It wasn’t like her to delete her social media or isolate herself in that way. So the next morning Alicia called in sick at work and together with Sasha, they paid Ashley a surprise house visit. They found Ashley decluttering her room and acting as though everything was normal. When they asked her why she had suddenly gone under the radar she broke down.
“I was in a room with one of Jacob’s friends making out. He asked me several times if I was down to have sex with him, and I turned him down. Eventually, we both passed out in the bed. When you came to wake me up, I found my pants were down. I don’t recall what happened, but at that moment I was so terrified that my first instinct was to get away from him and forget about what happened. But when I got home I realised that I was broken. I couldn’t think about anything else, and I haven’t been able to ever since.”
Ashley didn’t have to finish her story before tears started to roll down Alicia’s eyes. But beyond the tears, she was angry. She was so consumed by her own bitterness that even as they comforted her she knew exactly what she would do next. Alicia and Sasha tried to convince her to report the incident to the authorities but she refused profusely.
That night, when Alicia got home she was angry at the world for allowing this to happen to her friend, and without even thinking twice, she took her phone out, went on social media and put up a post about the whole thing. She tagged him and all his friends that she knew. She wanted to scream to the whole world that he was a rapist. If she could, she would kill him. But since that wasn’t legal, telling the story of what he had done would do.
She put her phone aside, put it on silent and got back to work. She had a load of things to do, and by the time she was done, she jumped into bed without thinking twice. The next morning when she woke up her phone was blowing up with notifications. Her heart started racing immediately. She saw that Ashley had been trying to call her.
“What’s wrong with you? Why would you put up that post?” She asked angrily.
“Well, whatever you thought was wrong. Because now everyone hates us. They think we fabricated the whole story to get some online attention…” She said, and then she hung up.
Alicia went on social media and found very hurting comments on the posts she had done. People called them sluts and said they were liars. Others threatened to take her to the police for making up the story. She wanted to delete the post, but by this time the story was already trending on Twitter. Sasha left a message saying she didn’t want to be associated with her any longer, and Alicia wondered why. She said that she should have consulted them before putting it up. Jacob said that he thought she was better than that.
Alicia felt lonely. All her friends had ganged up against her and were calling her a liar for speaking up for what she believed in. She wanted to run and start a new life. But above this, she wanted to run away from her phone because the notifications and the messages just kept coming in. She wondered why they couldn’t see that she had good intentions.
People dug up pictures from her past. They revealed posts from ten years earlier and said all sorts of things. Some said that she had bleached her face, and others blatantly called her ugly. For some reason, she actually believed them, and especially at that moment.
She wanted to put it all behind her, but how could she do that when everything about her life had gone sour? Alicia went to work the following Monday and right from the gate she could see people pointing fingers at her. They were gossiping so openly and she couldn’t take it. That evening she tended her resignation without even knowing the way forward. She got home, and all she wanted to do was isolate herself forever. She got into bed, and for the next two days even getting out of bed seemed like a hardcore task.
Eventually, Alicia was diagnosed with depression. It all stemmed from that one incident. She was trying to work on herself, but she believed fully that the world needed some deep introspection. Before people started insulting or bashing people online, they should know that sometimes people take years to grow out of it.
It didn’t make sense to her why her friends hated her so much for telling the truth, but she was done trying to make meaning out of it. She was just trying to help a friend by telling her story and also to warn other women about a man who was a predator. She regretted losing out on a great friendship. She realized that she had violated a boundary that she shouldn’t have. It was not her story to tell and she should not have outed her friends’s rape without consulting her first. But now the damage was done, her and her friend were bullied online and the guy got to get away with what he had done.
She wondered if she would ever speak out again if something happened to somebody she knew. She was not sure she would. Not if she would be bullied the same way she had been bullied this time. People were so quick to side with the rapist and many of them did not even give her or her friend a chance to tell their story. This silencing of rape victims is something that happens all the time and it discourages other women from telling their stories which was really unfair.
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