In other countries, no one listens - not the parents, not the police, and not the government. In some countries, when the story is told, the survivor (I can't stand the word "victim") is the one who is punished. In Morocco, only recently have they begun to reverse laws requiring survivors to marry the men who accosted them. In India, survivors are sometimes pressured for out-of-court settlements that favor the criminals. Even in our beautiful country, there is a stigma of shame, as if the survivor did something to invite this behavior.
I'm talking about rape. This word is harsh. It tastes wrong on your tongue; bitter and ugly. It is especially hard to say it for a survivor. Telling the police means you'll have to face your attacker at some point. Telling your parents means that you will break their heart. But TELLING is important. It is critical.
As I post my friend's story, she is nervous and biting her nails right this moment as I share this on her behalf, even as she knows the importance of this message. Please honor her bravery and read it; there are important lessons at the end for parents.
"I wish I had told my parents."
Her story begins...
I met him when I was 14, and we started dating when I was 15. We dated for about seven months. The entire time he continuously tried to pressure me into sex. Finally, after about six months I gave in; I lost my virginity to him. I hated it, I cried the whole time and afterward I said I still really wasn't ready. He continued to pressure me even more, and we had sex one more time. The condom broke, and I freaked out, afraid that I was going to get pregnant. I just really was not at all ready for any of this, so at seven months I broke it off.
A couple months later he apologized, supposedly realized the error in his ways, blah blah blah. He said he missed me and wanted to at least be friends. I was naïve; I believed him and it was okay for about a month and then he started pushing for us to get back together, and I wasn't going there. One night we had gone to the mall and grabbed dinner, and it was a very awkward evening. He gave me a card at dinner that said he loved me and all that, gave me a mix tape, and begged to get back together; and I still said no. He was pissed, demanded we leave the restaurant before we even finished our meals, and said he was taking me home.
Not a word was spoken during the 20-mile ride home. Then we drove past the turnoff for my house. I wasn't afraid of him, but I no longer trusted him. I wasn't panicked - yet. Then he drove to this housing development that was under construction right by my neighborhood and against the interstate - no finished houses, no people living there, just all these dirt lots and skeleton houses. That's when he started to force himself on me. I screamed, I fought - I punched, I kicked, I pinched, I scratched, I gouged - I did everything I possibly could. I couldn't open my door – that’s when I realized he must have set the child locks when he closed my door as we left the restaurant - I don't know how I didn't notice. It was the most awful experience of my life.
Once I could get a hold of his exposed penis, I grabbed with one hand and squeezed, twisted, and pulled with every ounce of strength I had and the other hand kept trying to push his face and chest away. Honestly, I feel fortunate that I was an athlete - strong and in shape - I think this was my saving grace in that the strength coupled with the fight or flight adrenaline rush helped me fight him off before he ever got a chance to get inside. He eventually passed out from the pain. I crawled over him, opened his door, fell out of the car, and sprinted home - sobbing, bleeding, clothes torn, and horrified.
I was about a mile from my house, and when I got there my parents had already gone to bed - I was able to sneak inside, shower, and hide my clothes (which I later took to school in my backpack and threw them in the trash in the locker room). I cried myself to sleep that night not knowing what to do, who to tell, or if I should report the attempt. To this day, my parents still don't know - in fact, very few people know. I had to see him at school only two days later and for the remaining five or six weeks of the school year . . . and then one more year until he graduated.
I started dating someone that summer – I’ll call him Mark - just a couple months after the attempt - he was the first person I told what had happened - and for about six years he (and eventually his mom) were the only ones that knew. I worked at a little mom and pop store. A few times a week for about four months following the attempt, I would look out the store window and see my attacker parked at a far corner of the parking lot - watching, possibly waiting - I don't know. I walked out each night with one of the pharmacists and often Mark would simply drop me off and pick me up when I had to work - and usually by closing his car was gone anyway.
Mark left for his first year of college at the end of that summer - I was terrified about his heading off to school and I was feeling unprotected again, but he apparently had told his mom, who then insisted on taking on the role of at least making sure I made it home okay every night I had to close. It was only about two months after that that my attacker finally started dating someone and left me alone - he started dating a girl in my class who had actually made him aware of her feelings for him when he and I were dating . . . I suspect she didn't have any problem giving him what he wanted but she would often look at me as if she knew what had happened and she also tried to befriend me - it was all very weird.
After graduation, I went off to college elsewhere for a year and then came back and went to community college for a semester - one day around the middle of the semester I saw him there - he was with the same girlfriend - they approached me in the library - they were all nicey-nice, trying to pretend that nothing happened or maybe he thought that enough time had passed and since I clearly never reported him that maybe I had forgiven him. I didn't say a word. I merely packed up my things and immediately left the grounds. The very next week, I joined the service, headed to boot camp at the end of that semester, and got the hell out of that town for good.
I joined the service for lots of reasons - this was one of them. It was an escape from all of this; a way to reset my life. It’s not for everyone, but it ended up being the best decision I've ever made.
What did I learn?
First, I wish I had stuck to my first instincts - there was a reason why I didn't want to lose my virginity to this guy in the first place. I should have realized that by giving in once the pressure would only get worse.
Second, I'm glad I fought back. I fought with every ounce of my strength and I got away.
Third, I wish I had told my parents and reported him - I hate knowing I basically gave him a "pass" and he was never held accountable so who knows if he would try or has tried something like that again. Seeing him at school that whole next year - it was evident that he knew he had done something wrong - he wouldn't look me in the eye, ever - not until that day in the library at college, but he never apologized. Not that I would have forgiven him if he had, but he should have.
The reason I didn't tell my parents is because I didn't feel comfortable in knowing that in telling them I would have to reveal that I had lost my virginity, which was really taboo in my household and I was embarrassed that it happened at 15 - so young! Also, I feared that if I told them they likely wouldn't let me continue to date, they wouldn't have let me go anywhere alone, if they did let me continue to date they would have likely ensured that all dates took place at the house or with friends or a chaperone nearby. I know they would have trusted ME but they would have been so freaked out that they would have gone into overprotective mode.
I guess the message here is to parents - be open enough with your kids so that they will feel comfortable in coming to you with such a serious situation, and assure your child that you won't shut down their social life because of it, or they won't come to you.
* * *
This is the end of the story; she has grown into a beautiful, smart, and vibrant young woman, but this experience will stay with her for the rest of her life. I know. I wish I had told someone too; it took me more than 20 years to say the word out loud. Do the best you can to ensure your child is not silent.