My first week of college, I was coerced into drinking at an off campus house party.
And I’m sure you’re thinking, “How could you be coerced? You’re the one who drinks it!” Allow me to explain.
Before I came to Indiana University, I made a rule for myself that I wouldn’t drink until I was 21. I had over $40,000 in scholarships coming my way, which completely covered my tuition, and I didn’t want to screw it up with an underage drinking citation or charge.
While I had resigned myself to waiting two more years to drink, I wasn’t completely opposed to being around others who drank; so long as they weren’t stupid about it.
I explained to my friends I didn’t want to drink, and everyone was extremely understanding of that decision.
My first week of school, an upperclassman I knew invited me to a house party their neighbor was throwing. It should be noted, that to my naïve freshman self, I thought a house party would have maybe 20 people tops who were chilling and drinking cheap light beer. With this notion, I agreed to go and invited a few friends to accompany me, including two of my best guy friends from high school.
When we go to the party, I was quickly introduced to the typical college house party.
A ridiculous amount of people packed into a tiny house so tight you couldn’t even walk through it. Music so loud you couldn’t hear anyone. Bottles and cups and cans strewn about the lawn, floor – anywhere they could leave one.
As we walked in, my upperclassmen friend decided to look for the keg so she could get a drink. We followed her to the basement and discovered it was already dry, so we followed her back upstairs so she could try to find a mixed drink. We all quickly realized they were completely out of alcohol and the people who were there were extremely intoxicated, so we made the decision to leave and go back to her place for the house party experience I was expecting.
As we were leaving, we walked through what I presume was the dining room where people were doing body shots off each other. The guys in the room were singling out girls and shouting, “Body shot off this girl!”. The girl would then jump up on the table and some random guy in a plain white football helmet, would pour a shot of liquor (maybe, vodka?) onto her belly button. Then, another guy would come up and suck the liquor out of her stomach. After that happened, the whole room, would yell “reciprocate!” and the girl would do a body shot off the guy.
We were trying so hard to get out of the dining room, but there were close to 30 people crammed into the tiny space trying to witness the glorious body shots.
Suddenly, the crowd swarmed on me.
“Body shots off this girl! Body shots off this girl!”
So many voices and so many people pointing at me. I tried to continue on like I didn’t hear them, and then started shaking my head no and saying no. But then my path was blocked, and the voices started to get faster and louder and drunker and angrier.
I was overwhelmed. I was a 5’4” 125 lb girl who was two weeks away from her 19th birthday surrounded by towering junior and senior men, easily twice my size. My friends, to their credit, tried to help me out of the situation, but I quickly realized it could turn into a brawl between my overprotective friends and the drunken crowd.
So I relented.
It all happened so quickly that most of it is honestly a blur.
A guy I didn’t know grabbed my arm and walked me three steps over to the table and I laid down while people still kept shouting, “Body shots off this girl!”
The same guy yanked up my shirt – and would have exposed my bra had I not thrown my hands up and stopped him – and poured the liquor until it filled up my belly button.
Another random guy came over and sucked the liquor off me, which I don’t even remember because I was more focused on the ceiling and congratulating myself for not letting the first guy pull my shirt up over my bra.
It was over in a blink of an eye.
I could jump off the table to leave.
I was done.
But then I wasn’t.
How was I going to get out of this now? I couldn’t.
I relented. Again.
My first ever drink was from a man’s belly button. I don’t know who he was. I don’t know what I drank.
All I know was, he had a hairy stomach.
But I was done for real this time.
The drunk crowd had moved on from me and turned their sights on another young blonde girl, who had the same deer in headlights terrified look I’m sure I had.
But she wasn’t my problem.
So my group left.
My friends asked if I was okay, and of course I said yes and joked about the hairy stomach.
As we walked back to my dorm, I was panicking.
What if we come across a cop. He’ll smell the alcohol on my breath. I’ll lose my scholarships. I’ll be such a disappointment to my family and myself all because of some stupid body shot. How is the alcohol affecting me? What did I even drink? Do I appear to be walking correctly or do I just think I am?
I was so anxious the entire walk home and then relieved when I finally made it.
I understand that this isn’t the worst possible thing that could have happened to me, and thank goodness it wasn’t. I understand that some people will say, “Well you could have just left and not gone through with it if you wanted.”
I have absolutely no doubt that I could do that now. But for 18-year-old me, there was no way. I saw no way out of the situation and didn’t know how handle it. They don’t teach you that in school.
I knew alcohol was illegal for those under 21.
I knew if I messed up I could lose my scholarships.
I knew I was doing the right things by having close friends around me, not drinking, and definitely not accepting drinks from strangers.
I knew I was making the right decision by leaving.
But then my education failed me.
In school, they tell you to “just say no.”
I tried that.
It didn’t work.
I didn’t know what to do when someone didn’t respect my “no”.
I didn’t know how to deescalate the situation.
I didn’t know how to push people out of my way.
I didn’t know the house party would be like that.
I didn’t know people forced other people to do body shots and that they singled out young girls.
I didn’t know.
But now I do.