Patel: The dangers and reality of ‘hooking up’

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Patel: The dangers and reality of ‘hooking up’

Meera Patel, Columnist

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It’s hard to reconcile the notion that bad things can happen to good people.

The other night, I had dinner with one of my close friends. We were talking about embarrassing things we’d done since coming to college, and she told me about this one time freshman year when she “hooked up” with one of her good friends, even though she told him she didn’t want to.

Wait a second, what?

As a society, we may think of this as a “bad night.” The thing is, this wasn’t just a bad night. It wasn’t just a weird hookup. Something happened between two people, even though one of them was saying “no” and did not want it to happen.

That is assault.

What concerns me is the fact that many girls don’t recognize what has happened to them. My friend didn’t realize that what she did wasn’t her fault, and she had every right to say “no” to what was happening. Just because she was left alone at a party with a boy that she thought was her good friend doesn’t mean he had the right to take advantage of her.

The statistic is that about one in five women are raped or sexually assaulted at least once in their lifetime, according to The New York Times. When I first heard this, I didn’t believe it. Rape was something that happens to people down dark alleys, and I didn’t think it could ever happen to me.

But it did.

I went to a party with my friends one night and ended up alone, upstairs, with a guy I barely knew, and I’ll admit, I was OK with being there. But what I wasn’t OK with was him taking advantage of me, even though I said “no,” and literally having to shove him off of me to get out of there.

When someone says “no,” it means no. If you say “no,” you have every right to have your decision respected.  It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, who said what about this person or if he or she is your best friend; if he or she is not respecting your wishes, you need to get out of there fast.

I know this may seem redundant to some people. But even if you are an expert on sexual violence, you may not recognize it if it happens to you. My friend didn’t recognize what happened to her until she finally told someone (me). We’ve sat through so many presentations, we’ve had so many discussions on safety, we’ve been warned a thousand times about the dangers of rape. Yet she had no idea what had happened to her was categorized as assault. She didn’t understand why she felt terrible for a month after it happened.

I’ve come to think that being alone with someone is a sign of trust. I was terrified for a couple of months afterward of being alone with boys I didn’t know too well. I was constantly worried about what was “safe” and how many people could see me and recognize what I had done. I was convinced it was my doing, that something I was wearing or the way I wore my hair caused this to happen to me.

Your emotions are there for a reason. If you feel bad after a hookup, that’s telling you something. It’s one thing if you think you made bad decisions; in that case, make a conscious effort not to make similar decisions again. But if you remember saying “no,” or having a feeling that something just wasn’t right and didn’t do anything about it, that’s another issue entirely.

Why am I telling you this? Because I think it’s stupid that people brag about how many people they’ve hooked up with. I think that if you like someone, you shouldn’t have to give them a few drinks to get their judgment all mixed up before you try to hook up with them. I think it’s ridiculous that people our age don’t recognize a “no” when they hear it.

The hookup culture at our campus leads people to think that assault is normal. It’s so common to have a “bad hookup” that people don’t recognize when something worse is happening. This needs to change.

Meera Patel is a McCormick junior. She can be reached at meerapatel2015@u.northwestern.edu. If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com.

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