This is my story. I own it. And I remind myself every day that nobody has a right to tell me that I didn’t live my story or that it didn’t matter. It has been 40 years since the day it happened. I was in 7th grade-that awkward place between starting to become aware that I was entering puberty and yet still wanting to hold on to the tomboy part of my childhood. I went to my neighbor’s tree house. It was a Thursday and a Fall day-chilly and the leaves were starting to turn. My friend Sean and I liked to go up in the tree house to talk about things. On that day while I was in the tree house, some older boys from the neighborhood decided to come up in the tree house. I sort of had a crush on the one but in a very innocent way. They made Sean go down from the tree house for some reason when all of a sudden, they slammed the trap door. One of the boys held it closed so that Sean couldn’t get back in. Then, two of them held me down while the other two sodomized me and started to penetrate me. I was screaming and one of them kept covering my mouth. Sean was banging on the trap door. It was dark inside because there were no windows and I couldn’t tell who exactly was doing what but I will never forget the disgusting and vulgar statements made about my body. Then when they were done, they left but I don’t remember what was except I remember looking at Sean and him warning me not to tell anybody because he didn’t want to get in trouble for what happened. When I got home, I was late for dinner-and although I looked very disheveled and obviously had been crying, my mother was more consumed with yelling at me for being late. I knew she wouldn’t believe me and would have blamed me. And I thought it was my fault-I shouldn’t have been in the tree house. I shouldn’t have been friends with a boy, Sean. I should have screamed louder, fought harder, done something…anything different-because if I had, I wouldn’t have been raped. My mother decided to call the one oldest boys parents and let them know she didn’t appreciate their son making me late for dinner. The next day I went to school and when I got to my locker, somebody wrote “SLUT”with a marker. My perpetrators had all gotten together to protect themselves and discredit me. I had to be taken out of school for a couple weeks. I became depressed and it was the first time I experienced what it feels like to be suicidal. Forty years later and I still experience PTSD. I still have difficulty relating to my husband in a sexual way. And some days, I may even still blame myself. It has gotten easier over the years-but a little piece of that day will remain with me forever. Thank you Linor for fighting this fight for all of us survivors.
— Karen Mendenhall, age 53