(The Root) —
"Got drunk with co-workers after work one night. One guy, whom I trust and have built a friendship with, took me home. I woke up naked in his bed, vaguely remembering kisses. I've always turned him down in the past. What do I do?" —R.G.
Unfortunately, you don't know what happened, and you're not likely to find out unless you get the police involved, and/or your co-workers mimicked the Steubenville, Ohio, football players and their friends by documenting the night with texts, tweets and YouTube videos. More than likely sex did occur, since you "vaguely" remember kisses, and you know for sure that you woke up naked in your co-worker's bed.
Like you, I can't be sure what occurred based on the information you have, but if you were drunk, then you were not able to consent to any sexual acts that may have taken place. This would mean you were raped. I suggest that you report what information you have to the police and let them do their job of figuring out what, if any, crime took place.
That suggestion isn't going to go over so well, and I understand why. It may seem unfair to go to the police, accusing your co-worker of a crime when you aren't entirely sure if one was committed. But you're pretty sure something happened, and it's absolute that you were not able to consent to it.
You could go ask your co-workers what happened, and they might have some ideas to an extent. You could ask your friend, too, but you're not likely to get straight answers, especially since you woke up in his bed and seem to regret it.
This is why I'm sending you to the authorities, who can get answers you're not able to. Finding out what happened to you that night is much more important than ticking off your colleague because the co-worker is asked a few questions or even charged with a crime that he actually committed.
Also, your male friend was likely drunk, too, meaning that his judgment was probably impaired as well. But that doesn't let him off the hook for likely engaging in sex acts with you when you were unable to consent. People are held accountable all the time for crimes committed while they were impaired — drunk driving, murder, theft, among others. Rape should be no different.
Finally, despite the prevalence of acquaintance rape — when both the victim and accused know each other prior to the incident — many people still think of rape as a wild male stranger jumping out of the bushes and dragging a woman into an alley. The truth is, four in five women know their attackers, according to the Network of Victim Assistance.
Often those women's stories are similar to yours in that there was liquor involved. One study of college students who reported sexual assault by an acquaintance found that 75 percent of men and 50 percent of women had been drinking when the incident occurred. Unfortunately, your story isn't far-fetched or unfamiliar.
Read carefully what I'm about to write. Being intoxicated does not make you any less of a victim. And in no way did you "ask for" what happened because you were drunk.
In a perfect world, women would be able to drink whatever they wanted and however much of it they desired, and they wouldn't be bothered, because every man would operate with the understanding that "drunk women are off-limits because they cannot consent." However, that is not the world in which we live (see Steubenville and thousands of other places), as much as I wish it were.
It's your body to do with what you want, but as a society we have not progressed to the point where women are safe from harm when they are so intoxicated that they can't make it home alone. You need to take better care of yourself by watching how much you drink or stopping altogether. You need to remain in a position where you know what's going on around you and what is happening to you at all times.
If it sounds as if I'm giving you advice on getting better odds on not being raped, it's because I am. Until more parents step up to raise their sons not to rape, their daughters are left with no choice but to stand guard as best they can to try to avoid it.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.