It was the final month of high school, and my friend set me up with her coworker and friend on a date. I had never really been on a date before. So we went on a couple dates. It wasn’t like the movies, because he would only take me to parks even though I was allergic to mosquito bites. All he wanted to do was walk around private areas. I should have known, but I was a sheltered 18. One night, we had walked along a nature trail and got back in his car. He grabbed the sides of my face and pulled me in. It was scratchy and wet and I did not enjoy it. I panicked after a moment and pushed him away. It was like I couldn’t get my breath and I asked him to take me home. But the problem was me, right? It was just that I was a wuss. So I pasted a fake smile on as I walked through the door and went down to my room.
The next week, he took me out to another park. For stargazing. I really truly thought we’d be looking at the stars and even brought a little map I had printed out. But unsurprisingly, he simply wanted to make out. I felt like I was suffocating. His stubble, his saliva, the pressure of him on top of me. Then I felt it. He had shoved his hand up my bra and was macerating my chest. I told him to slow down, that I didn’t feel ready. He then told me I liked it and held my hands above my head at the wrist with his left hand. I remember feeling dead, heavy, as I stared up at the stars. It was like I was asleep but still painfully awake. I finally managed to squeak out that I needed to go home because I had a curfew. He pinched my breast hard and kissed me sloppily on the mouth before he got up. I wiped my mouth off and straightened my top. Again, when I got home, I pasted a smile on my mouth and pretended to be happy. I felt detached, so it was easy.
I thought that maybe if I talked to him, told him how I felt, that he would understand and stop. I wasn’t even sure I liked him totally like that. So I brought him to the “beach” (it was a lake, but I lived in the Midwest and it was all we had) to talk in a public, casual place about how I just wasn’t ready and I didn’t want him touching me like that and I wasn’t going to do anything sexual with him (even oral, which he had tried to pressure me into) now or at any time. He pretended to understand.
The next day, I went over to his house to play video games. My rule was that I only went over if parents were around, and his were. Until they left. The minute the door slammed, he pushed me down on his bed and began suffocating me with his mouth. His hands held my wrists above my head again because I was trying to wiggle away from him. I jerked my head up and told him to slow down, that I didn’t want to. I only got out one strangled, “No!” before he jerked my head back into place with his other hand. I tried to use my legs to push out from underneath him, but he leaned against them with his weight so I couldn’t. The panic bubbled in my chest as he pushed my bra up exposing me and as a he ripped my pants and underwear down. I heard the tear of fabric at my underwear waistband and froze. His hand was between my legs and it felt red hot, burning. Again, I retreated above me, looking down at the whole experience. I felt dead, I felt cold, and I felt frozen. He pushed his way in, poking and prodding with his fingers. I felt a tear run down my check. Was I crying? He fumbled with his belt while holding my arms and pressing up against my legs. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak. The voice inside me was screaming bloody murder. Move stop tell him no get out get out get out! Then, I heard it. The door slamming upstairs. I snapped back into reality and said, loudly, “I need to GO HOME.” He shot off me like he had been shocked when he heard the door and watched as I put myself together. “I love you,” he said as I picked up my bag. I just started laughing uncontrollably. I can’t remember how I got into my car. I can’t remember the drive home. I do remember the lascivious texts he sent me that evening. How I was his, no one else could have me, and how I was a little slut who liked it rough. I told him I didn’t want to have sex. He told me that if I told anyone what happened, he would come over and cut the lock off my gates and let my three dogs run away. I also have a memory of him telling me that he would come feed them rat poison if I told my dad, but I honestly can’t tell you where that fits in.
My dad took my phone the next day. I can’t remember why. I felt so tired. He found all the disgusting texts from my boyfriend-attacker. And then my worst nightmare started. My parents believed I had slept with him and accused me of being a whore, of being dirty, and told me no other man would every touch me. My dad told me I was a prostitute. When I said he forced me, my mother told me he did not because I didn’t hit him during the attack. She told me that she would have beaten him up. That she would have screamed. That I must open my legs for every guy who showed an interest. I remember the confrontation in fragments, just like the attacks. It was almost worse, the things they said. They told me I was no longer a virgin even though I was. They said I would get STDs in college because I was such a whore. That it was impossible to be assaulted by someone you knew; if you got attacked, you had asked for it by acting flirty and had wanted everything that had happened.
I spent the rest of the summer and the year after feeling like I was so dirty that I could never get clean. I went to college and met my future husband. I slept with him too early and rushed into it because I felt there was no point in waiting, that if he found out what had happened he would dump me. I told him in the beginning that my ex-boyfriend had groped me. I left out the repeated attacks, I left out most of the details. But my ex was following me around campus and I needed my now-husband for strength to get through it. He didn’t react the way I thought he would, the way my parents said he would. He told me how sorry he was I had to go through it and how he would never think any less of me. Over the next few years, I told him the full story. He’s always responded the same – he says how horrible my ex was, how my parents acted reprehensibly, and how much he loves me. After everything that’s happened, after all the blows to my self-image, I’ve finally gotten to a place where I can say it wasn’t my fault. Not even fractionally my fault. I got through it because of some inexplicable inner strength I didn’t know I had and the support of the man I’ve come to value and love beyond measure.
— Survivor, age 22