It had been my goal for three years to join the yachting industry, but I had to finish college and then graduate school first. Finally, in May, I was free to pursue my passion of living life on the sea. I took the expensive required courses, and the day after graduation, I was offered a job on a classic yacht based on an island off the New England coast. We were to be a crew of three: me as the stewardess, a first mate, and the captain. I joined the captain alone for about two weeks, and everything was going great. Captain left for the island, leaving me to move onto the boat, and to pick up the First Mate he had just hired from the airport. FM and I hit it off; he was friendly and very easy to be around.
I was not attracted to him, and in any case, I had a long distance boyfriend with whom I was very taken. About a week later, the captain returns and he wants the three of us to bond and takes us for an evening at a brewery and a couple bars. I start to notice that when he drinks, FM goes a bit overboard and becomes belligerent and a bit of a liar. That night, he shows me his dick as if that would entice me to sleep with him, and all I can do is laugh.
My boyfriend and I talk the next day, and I don’t mention anything about the night before because it honestly doesn’t matter to me. I’m a big girl, I can take care of myself; nothing really bad has happened to me before. The boyfriend also works on yachts and his boat is leaving for a crossing of the Atlantic. I won’t hear from him for two weeks. FM hears me telling the boyfriend that I love him and he berates me for the rest of the day because I don’t know what love is.
That night, Captain takes us drinking again, and back on the boat FM corners me. I’m drunk and he kisses me. It’s easier to just kiss back and hope that he’ll be satisfied with that and leave me alone. Although I try to go back to my cabin, he’s very pushy and I’m too drunk. I end up sleeping with him, although I’m saying no the whole time. Because I’ve slept with him now, I decide to continue sleeping with him. That gives me more power in my mind because I’ve now made it my decision. FM tells me everyday to break up with my boyfriend. FM tells me everyday that if I love my boyfriend, then I must also love him.
I’m ashamed, and when I do get in contact with my boyfriend again, it’s only to end things. I don’t want to be a cheater, I don’t want to admit what I’ve done. I desperately want to stay in contact with him, but I don’t talk to him for the rest of the summer. Time goes on: we arrive to the island, Captain moves off the boat to live with his family for two months. It’s only me and FM on the boat, spending all our time together. I never go anywhere without him, I don’t make friends without him. I wake up and he is there. I do my work and he is there. He’s always there. My computer breaks. My phone falls overboard. I’m now out of contact with anyone off the island.
FM lets me use his phone to contact my parents and to let me sign into Facebook. After I get a new phone a month later, I thought I had signed out of Facebook. I hadn’t. A couple weeks go by, and everyday FM confronts me about something I said to someone before we even met. I don’t know how this is happening. My message thread with my ex-boyfriend disappears. I finally realize FM is logged into my Facebook account.
I choose to confront him at the worst possible moment. We finally have a day off. I sleep in and by 11am, FM is already drunk. I confront him about looking through my messages and being signed on still on his phone. He blows up at me, yelling about how he doesn’t trust me, although I had never been anywhere without him all summer. I’m crying and overwhelmed from the stress of this being turned around on me and being convinced I’m in the wrong. I decide to leave the boat. All I wanted to do that day was go to the bookstore, and spend the rainy day in a coffee shop, reading. He asks if I want him to come with. I say he can if he wants, but that’s not a good enough answer. He’s upset and says he won’t come with me, but as soon as I leave the boat, I’m sent a barrage of text messages. He threatens to quit and find a new boat. He says he’ll be gone by the time I come back. It will be my fault that the program is ruined. He threatens to kill or hurt himself. I come back to the boat, and instead of packing, he’s on the couch, drinking his third Bloody Mary. I leave again. I spend the day walking in the rain. I spend an hour in a church, praying that I’ll have the strength to deal with this.
I get back to the boat that evening. FM is still drunk and impossible to talk to. I try to stay out of his way, but there are only so many places to go on the boat and we share a cabin. He yells at me. Calls me a whore. Tells me that I’ll only be hired because the captain wants to sleep with me, and I’ll do it because I’m such a whore. I’m exhausted. All I want to do is sleep. I go to bed at 7 and I’m kept up until midnight because he continues to yell at me.
A few weeks later and things have calmed down. We generally work for a few hours in the morning, take a 2 hour break for lunch, and then work for the rest of the day when guests come on board for trips. These are long days and on this day I’m looking forward to taking a nap during my break. FM insists that we have sex. I don’t want to. He convinces me that all he wants to do is get me off and then he’ll leave me alone. I relent. He fingers me until I get off quickly and I put my pants back on and lay on my bunk to nap. He says he wants sex. I say no. I say later, after work. He starts to take my clothes off. I try to fight against him and continue to say no. We have a safe word and I don’t use it. I had already used it that morning to stop him, and he almost didn’t stop. I’m afraid that if I say the safe word and he doesn’t stop now, I will lose all power and dignity. This will be a rape. I try to say the word and it refuses to come out of my mouth. But I’m still struggling and I’m still saying no, and he’s too strong. He pushes me down and enters me. I freeze and look away into the distance. He doesn’t notice that I’m not responding.
My body does something that to this day I can’t understand. Although I’m not moving, although I don’t want it, my body betrays me and I have an orgasm. I’m disgusted with myself. He finishes. I just lay there, silent. Finally I put my clothes on and get up to go back to work. He asks if he just raped me, and I say yes. He looks horrified, “why didn’t you say the safe word?” I try to explain that I couldn’t, I wouldn’t let myself, I had already said it that day.
I go back to work and every time he comes near me, my heart starts beating so fast and I can feel myself panicking. I had never felt this reaction to anyone before. I make myself sit with him and talk with him until I stop having a physical reaction to him. I tell him I don’t want to have sex with him again. Every day I say this for a week. Every day he says he’s sorry, but becomes a little more pushy about it. A week later, I relent because he’s easier to work with if I just give him what he wants.
We have another month on the boat. Finally I drop him off at the airport. He’s crying. He says he loves me, that he’ll miss me so much. I just can’t wait until he’s gone.
Why didn’t I quit that boat? Why didn’t I tell anyone?
Yachting is an unforgiving industry. If I had been the cause of a problem on my very first boat, then where would I go? This was the perfect first boat for me with a relatively easy program and people who were willing to teach me the ropes. If you turn out to be a hassle, there are countless people who will take your place. I can only hope that my next boat will be better. It’s been about two months since he raped me. Only yesterday was I able to admit to myself that it was, in fact, rape. I have nightmares. I can’t stop thinking about it. I don’t want an apology from him, I want it to have never happened.