TW: Mentions of rape and sexual assault
I was raped when I was 15. It’s still hard to even type the word or say the word four years later at 19. It was my first experience with sex and any sort of sex life I have encountered since and for the rest of my life will be tainted by this event. I don’t think it’s necessary to talk about the exact actions that transpired mainly because I don’t think I’m ready yet. I felt nothing that night. I didn’t understand completely what happened so I went home, took a shower, went to bed like every other day, and then I woke up the next morning, got ready for school, and went to my sophomore biology class. I started to feel something I’d never felt before, a surge of panic, nausea, and difficulty breathing what I now know is a panic attack. Long story short, the school called my parents to pick me up and I fell crying into my dad’s arms because the pain was so heavy I couldn’t stand anymore. They called the police who made me relive the events in a way almost as traumatizing as the event itself, belittling every feeling I had, and questioning every detail like I was the criminal. They told my parents that they thought I was lying. So, a couple of months ago while on a plane, the man next to me repeatedly grabbed my leg with his hand. I felt like I did as a 15-year-old and I didn’t know what to do or say. When I told the flight attendant with tears in my eyes I felt such a rush of relief when they believed me. I was moved away from him up to business class where I sobbed the rest of the flight.
I’ve had two relationships since sophomore year and some weird flings in between. The first was about eight months later when I was still 15. We were on the swim team together and he was a friend, a sweet guy. I like to tell people I lost half my virginity to him, the consenting half because I joke as a coping mechanism. It hurts to hear stories from friends about their first time having sex talking about how awkward it was but how it brought them closer to their partners, how they laughed when they couldn’t figure it out, or another awkward anecdote. I am happy for them but I wish I had that. I wish I could remember my first time with sex and laugh at how awkward it was and not feel gross and betrayed. I know virginity is a social construct anyways but it still was my first sexual experience and before he who shall not be named, I had only just had my first kiss.
The first relationship after what happened was a very normal high school relationship. I liked him a lot. I am 90 percent sure he liked me a lot too. It lasted four to six months, I don’t remember. In total, I think we had sex three times, each painfully weird and uncomfortable. I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was and I wasn’t healed enough to know that I didn’t owe him sex. I cried in the bathroom after each time and thought that it was always gonna be this way. He came over to my house one day to break up with me and my first thought was, “wow, that was so normal.” It was my first heartbreak and I thought the definition of love was finding a guy that was just nice and who didn’t take advantage of me. I know now that we would have been better off as friends because there was not a single ounce of chemistry between us. It was a normal type of pain in mourning the loss of a relationship. It took an unreasonably long amount of time for me to get over this man, but it was nice just to have had a normal relationship and a normal sexual experience, and a normal breakup.
Throughout the rest of high school I had a couple of little flings with a couple of people but nothing really serious. But the word about what happened had gotten around school and I still get messages from his friends saying that I am a lying whore. I tried not to tell a lot of people because people told me not to share my story. It was too taboo, too much information people didn’t need to know about what had happened to me. It would be too much for people to hear. He was still at school for the rest of that year as I was a sophomore and he was a senior. My friends warned me that people wouldn’t believe me and that I should just keep it to myself. Some pressured me to press charges, some told me I shouldn’t. I don’t have any remorse for how I handled it, I was a child. It wasn’t my mistake to clean up and an adult should have done something. I lost friends from this and in the end, I’m so glad I am no longer friends with those people.
The funny thing is, they did accept the fact that I told him no but didn’t accept the fact that I meant it. They would say my “no” meant nothing and that I wanted it. They didn’t want me to ruin the reputation of a young man with so many aspirations and so much potential. But now I have to grieve the loss of the person I would have been if this never happened to me. I lost my childhood that day. I wonder if I would have as bad anxiety and depression issues as I have now if this never happened and I will never know the person I was supposed to become. For “everything happens for a reason” people and “this only made me stronger” people that’s fucking bullshit. I am in no way better off because of this, it should have never happened and has only made my life worse.
I did have some very lovely friends who were more there for me rather than the school or any sort of authority. Some of them ended up not being great people, some I just drifted from them. Some I am still close with but I am eternally grateful to each one of them and what they did for me because they were kids too and they handled it better than the adults in my life. To my best friend at the time who would do everything she could to make sure I didn’t see him around school and to the guy in my English class who would sit with me behind the library when I had panic attacks, thank you.
The school told me there was nothing they could do about it because it wasn’t on the school campus and this seems to be a common theme in schools and universities across the world. They did say that if I wanted to leave my classes five minutes early so I didn’t have to see him in passing, I could. They needed to do more than that and I felt dramatic, that my feelings weren’t valid. I remember one of the school counselors saying girls just do this sometimes and that maybe I just regretted sleeping with him. It was so degrading to tell people you’re supposed to trust and who are supposed to protect you that something bad happened and it just doesn’t matter. And I wonder how many other girls before me and since me have been shamed and belittled for their experience. This isn’t a rare story. Reduced to nothing but a dramatic little girl who just wanted some attention. It’s even more aggravating that this is even an excuse because none of the ‘attention’ I received from this was positive. I am terrified that I am gonna release this and hear the same make-believe narrative that my experience isn’t real.
I don’t remember a lot of high school after this point, I wasn’t really living my life I was spectating. It destroyed every aspect of me mentally and physically. I actually first started being vegetarian afterward as it was something I could control and something that was different from the girl he took advantage of. The person I was then ate meat. The person I am now doesn’t. It seems trivial but I haven’t touched meat since and he never got to touch that part of me. I spontaneously got my nose pierced knowing that I didn’t have a nose ring when he stole my virginity from me and every tattoo on my body is one he’s never seen.
My family regarding this is a touchy subject and one I have argued with my mother about many times. At the time I didn’t feel like they stuck up for me or cared about my experience. My dad never mentioned it and whenever my mom did it made me feel like she didn’t believe me. I adore my parents. They are incredible people. How is one supposed to go about helping their child after an experience like this? The bottom line is, I was a child going through something no one should have to experience and my relationship with them has suffered greatly, especially with my mom. I get why she reacted the way she did and I know she did all she could do and all she knew how to do, but I was forced to be an adult that day and handle this experience practically alone. I didn’t feel safe talking to them about it and so I didn’t talk about it.
I am still trying to figure it all out, which is a hard thing to do because it has so many layers. Nobody told my brother or my nana who now lives with us; we just didn’t talk about it. That made me feel like it was something I couldn’t talk about. I am embarrassed to ask people to read this and to submit this and I feel gross writing about it because somewhere along the way, I listened and began to feel like I was the problem even though logically I know that in no way I was the issue.
Now I have graduated from that school and moved 6000 miles away from my hometown to escape the memories and to be somewhere I know he won’t be able to touch me. Living in a place, having to drive past where it happened, going to the school that he went to, laying on the beach where I met him… leaving made me feel lighter and it’s a clique, but a weight that I had felt the last three years was removed. I felt free, for a while. But as we all discover, you can’t run away from your problems and I see his face in every man that looks at me like an object and hear his voice anytime I get catcalled. It affects all my relationships, platonic and romantic. But, now I am dating someone who, when I told them I was writing this, held my head, wiped the tears, kissed my forehead, and told me how proud he was, with friends who read this and said how powerful and brave it is.
I really want to get this story right and I want to say everything I have to say, but I’m not sure I will ever be able to write something that accurately displays my experience as there are no words strong enough to describe the feelings I felt. The internalized misogyny in me is having such a hard time releasing this. I keep thinking nobody cares and why am I even doing this and I am not really super sure why I am. But another part of me hopes that this makes you uncomfortable and question why and think about ways to prevent this in your life. And as many other survivors, victims, or however you identify, who share their stories, I just hope that this makes you feel less alone and for all the people who can’t relate to this story I hope you listen and know it’s not a rare one but it should be and it’s our collective responsibility to foster an environment where this behavior is no longer tolerated.