But it was only two weeks ago that I told my mom because I knew this episode was coming up and I didn’t want her to find out on TV. I think, as a mother, it was hard for her to feel like she couldn’t be there for me or that she didn’t feel like a safe space for me. A lot of parents, I think, are uncomfortable talking about sexual experiences with their teenagers; and if you don’t, then you’re going to have problems going forward.
Did you feel better having told her?
It’s a weird thing to navigate because it happened so long ago, so there’s nothing we can do to resolve it. We just talked about it. But that allowed her to open up about her experiences growing up. I think what’s going to happen with this episode is so many people are going to come forward with their own stories. Hopefully we can all learn from it and just be better as individuals when it comes to consent and sexual experiences.
You mentioned in the episode that you tried to form a relationship with this individual around the time that the encounter happened. Some people may not understand why, but what have you learned about that?
I think people don’t want to fail, so they do what they can to feel like they did not fail in whatever way that is. For me, in that moment, I felt like I had failed in protecting myself and in standing up for myself. I wanted to make it feel like it wasn’t a failure. I wanted to make it feel like it was intentional. Like, ‘Yeah, we both wanted this because we were heading into a relationship.’ So you try and cope and make it feel like it was okay. It’s unfortunate that was how I was trying to cope.
It’s a survival instinct. You also mentioned you were drinking, which made you feel like you were also to blame. Why was that important for you to share?
It was hard. In the beginning, I did feel responsible because I had been drinking and we were in a situation where we weren’t in a bed together, but there was never the conversation about birth control, condoms, our relationship status. My underwear remained on. That’s the biggest thing where it’s so obvious looking back that that was not okay.
Verbal consent is so important. Even if you’re giving consent while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it’s probably not actually consent. That’s the thing that people need to learn and be respectful of.
What advice do you have on how to talk about consent when you are in the moment?
What people need to remember is that if you’re uncomfortable having that conversation, then you’re probably not ready to be having sex with that person to begin with. If you have a good relationship with this person where, even if it’s casual, romantic, whatever, you should be comfortable to say, “Are you okay having sex? Do you want to have sex? Should we have sex?” Then the conversation of, “Should we use a condom? Do you have a condom?” If you’re not having those conversations or you don’t feel comfortable doing that, then how are you comfortable having sex with this person?
What do you credit for your being able have this perspective now?
I didn’t go to therapy. I wish I did. I think I could have recovered a lot sooner. It took me years of self-reflection. I had failed relationship after failed relationship from that incident and finally realized what was the problem. A lot of it was rooted in sex and not having a healthy relationship with sex or communicating about sex. The older I got and the more failed relationships I had, I thought, What am I doing wrong? How can I fix this?