When I was 15 my parents forced me to participate in a student exchange program. The town I grew up in in the Bay Area had a sister-city and they wanted me to make them proud by being an ambassador for my city and my high school.
I wasn’t interested in spending 6 weeks away from home and away from my family but my mother insisted I do it. A few years before my older brother had applied and failed to get accepted and it had left her feeling embarrassed. She wanted me to make her proud.
Not wanting to disappoint my family, I applied and was accepted to participate. Most applicants were 16 and 17 and I was the first student to participate at just 15. Of the 5 American students selected to travel to Mexico and live with families, I was the only female student who had a brother. Because of this reason, the committee paired me with a family that had 3 boys. All of the American students were female, so they chose me to live with this family because at least I’d had the experience of living with a teenaged boy.
About a week into the exchange, I was alone in my room in this house and the eldest son (18) crept in while I was asleep and climbed into the bed. He raped me as I held my PJ top shut. He’d unbuttoned the buttons and tried to expose my breasts as he pinned me to the bed. I remember having an out of body experience and looking down at him as I wiggled beneath. I must’ve said “no” 10 times but each time my voice felt softer. Almost as if I was thinking no instead of saying it. Why wasn’t he stopping? I gave many excuses to which he always had an answer.
“But, I’m a virgin” I said. “So am I.”
“It hurts. Please, stop for a second.” To which he said, “It’s hurting me too.”
Nothing worked. I was afraid to yell and scream but I remembered that I had my period and was using a tampon. This was my best excuse. I asked him to let me go to the bathroom to remove it. When I did, I locked myself in there and waited for his mother to come back from the grocery store. She left at the same time every day to do a shop and he had timed it so he could rape me while she was gone for an hour or so.
During breakfast I held my head low and avoided eye contact. He didn’t try to assault me again, but I slept in fear every night/morning that he’d come back. He later told me that he did it because he couldn’t help himself. He was falling in love with me and when a woman arouses a man, he can’t stop himself. He told me it had hurt him too and that he was also a virgin. He told me that my beauty had brought this on me. I tried to understand because he was older and wiser and I had no experience. He was 18 so he must be right.
It wasn’t until years later that I had discovered that he wasn’t a virgin. He had made a bet with friends at his school that he was going to bed the girl that stayed at their house that summer.
That was 17 years ago, and I have never been able to tell my parents what happened.