Best-selling author Jessica Knoll has revealed she went on a date with one of the boys who sexually assaulted her when she was 15 years old, and that it took years for her to think of herself as a victim because she didn't think she fit the archetype.
The writer, whose attack experienced her debut novel Luckiest Girl Alive, explained in an essay for The Cut how she was assaulted by three boys during a party.
Knoll, 33, has previously disclosed the attack, but she decided to talk about its aftermath in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, which has seen more than 30 women disclose accusations of sexual assault (and, in some cases, rape) against the Hollywood producer.
Speaking out: Best-selling author Jessica Knoll (pictured) has revealed she went on a date with one of the boys who sexually assaulted her when she was 15 years old
'I went on a date with the guy who sexually assaulted me, two years after he sexually assaulted me,' the author wrote.
She then described the horrific attacks, which happened after she drank and became incapacitated.
'I have intermittent memories of each individual attack — there were three — starting with coming to on the floor of a guest bedroom, a boy's head between my knees,' she added.
'The next time I surfaced, I was moaning 'ow' in a bed, and there was a second boy on top of me, penetrating me.
'The last thing I remember of that night is being in another bedroom, in another bed, with a third boy, and a burst of something vile in my mouth. In the morning, I woke next to him laughing about how crazy the party had been.'
Knoll then explained how other women had made her realize it is not uncommon for assault survivors to keep ties to their abuser.
Past: The writer (pictured), whose attack experienced her debut novel Luckiest Girl Alive, explained in a new essay how she was assaulted by three boys during a party
'Asia Argento admitted to growing close to Weinstein in the years after she told the New Yorker he forced oral sex on her in a hotel room, a closeness that included consensual sex,' she wrote, also citing the case of Megyn Kelly, who referred to Ailes as a mentor before accusing him of sexual harassment, and Barbara Bowman, who said she traveled to Atlantic City with Bill Cosby after he drugged and raped her.
'Who would go on a date with her rapist? Let the record show, most of us,' Knoll added. 'That I fraternized with my attackers for the remainder of high school and even into college does not make my account suspect, it makes it textbook.'
But despite how common it is for sexual assault victims to keep a link with their abuser, Knoll said, she still felt that her experience didn't match how a victim 'should' act.
Novel: Luckiest Girl Alive talks about TifAni FaNelli, a magazine writer who remains haunted after being gang-raped
This was reinforced by the fact that most people around her tried to pass off the assaults as consensual sex. When she asked one of the boys if someone had put a substance in her drink, he called her crazy, laughed, and became 'visibly irritated', Knoll said.
'Later, I became so angry I confronted one of my attackers, calling him "RAPIST" to his face. TRASH SLUT appeared on my locker the following Monday, which turned out to be the match-ending blow,' she added.
At that point, the writer was suffering so much she stopped trying to advocate for herself.
'All I wanted was for the torment to stop, to move on, and if that meant people thinking that I'd consented to what happened then so be it,' she said.
She struggled to think of what had happened at the party as an attack, so much so that when her rapist asked her out, two years after the assaults, she felt 'grateful' and thought this was a chance to get 'redemption'.
But when the date ended, she found herself incapable of touching him. A few years later, they kissed at a party, and the experience left her disgusted.
'For a long time after that, I did not refer to what this boy had done to me as assault, even though I knew it was. This was partly because there was very little education for me as a young person about what assault looked like,' Knoll added, explaining that she didn't recognize herself in sexual assault victims portrayed in television.
Context: Knoll (pictured with her pet bulldog, Beatrice) explained how other women had made her realize it is not uncommon for assault survivors to keep ties to their abuser
Message: 'Women who play nice with their abusers are not cowards,' the author wrote. 'We are not opportunistic, and we are not untrustworthy. We are the clear majority'
She then explained she had decided to speak out about the circumstances of the attack, so that other women know what it's actually like to be a victim, and that having social ties to their attackers doesn't mean they weren't abused.
'Women who play nice with their abusers are not cowards,' she wrote. 'We are not opportunistic, and we are not untrustworthy. We are the clear majority.'
Knoll first spoke about the attack last year, in a heart-wrenching essay published in Lena Dunham's newsletter, Lenny Letter, saying that she and the protagonist of Luckiest Girl Alive, Ani, share a similar past.
The book, which came out in May and has since been optioned by Reese Witherspoon, talks about TifAni FaNelli (Ani), a 28-year-old magazine writer who remains haunted after being gang-raped while a freshman in high school.
Knoll, a former editor at Cosmopolitan who was also 28 when she wrote the book, hinted at her past in the book's dedication. It reads: 'To all the TifAni FaNellis of the world, I know.'
Knoll later revealed in Lenny Letter that Ani's fate was not 'inspiration' but had in fact derived from her own past.
In her essay, titled Why I'm Telling The Truth About My Rape, Knoll recalled being raped by three boys at a party, before she was 'old enough to drive'. She said she liked one of them, whom she called A Boy in the essay.
'I know that I went to a party at which the ratio of guys to girls was not in my favor, where I drank, flirted with A Boy, was dazzled by A Boy, drank some more, and slipped away from the waking world,' Knoll wrote.
'I know I came to on the floor of a bedroom, A Different Boy's head between my legs. I remember A Different Boy from a flare of coherence earlier, trying to help me walk when my anesthetized legs failed me.'
Helping: The writer (pictured with her dog) explained she had decided to speak out about the circumstances of the attack, so that other women know what it's actually like to be a victim
She then described waking up in pain later on and seeing A Boy's shoulders 'rising and falling' above her in an 'excruciating rhythm'.
Knoll said she woke up the next morning and saw a bare back, which belonged to a third boy, whom she didn't like.
'He laughed about how hungover he was, how crazy the party had been, how the reason I couldn't find my underwear was because it was downstairs,' she wrote.
She described going to get the morning-after pill and being called 'a slut' by classmates.
Knoll confronted A Boy about her rape once but later apologized to him out of fear the boys would go after her again.
'I apologized to my rapist for calling him a rapist. What a thing to live with,' she wrote.
She said she went into survivor mode and waited until the end of high school to reinvent herself.
But Knoll later came to believe the way to heal is to tell the truth about what happened to her. She had previously disclosed the truth to only one reader, the day she pitched her Lenny Letter essay.
A woman approached Knoll at a book signing in New Jersey, asking if Knoll had interviewed a rape victim as her account of the even felt so real. Knoll told her something similar to Ani's experience had happened to her.
Dozens of readers praised her essay on Twitter, calling it brave, important and breathtaking.
Knoll told one of them: 'I feel proud to talk about this which I never thought I would say.'