“It started as such an innocuous hashtag, something I saw on social media and thought, “Wow, that’s cool.” But here I am, days, months, and now a year after I first dove down the rabbit hole, still sitting and thinking about my own “me too” moments. I’ve had many, but one that stands out above the rest…
I wanted to join the hashtag. I sat here from behind my computer screen and judged celebrities for coming forward but not naming names. I wasn’t such a coward.
And yet the cursor continued to flash on the screen in front of me, and I typed paragraphs and paragraphs but couldn’t bring myself to hit “post.”
My family, my parents, and my abuser are all on Facebook, my Facebook, and I could hear what they would say.
I couldn’t take my family’s pity. I couldn’t take my parents’ criticism. And I couldn’t take his indifference.
We talked after everything that happened. Of course we did. We parted amicably, actually. But while he admitted that what he did was wrong, he never fully acknowledged what he did, because back in high school we were afraid of labels, so we would never label what happened between us as something as severe as “sexual assault.” And now, he has a wife and a baby, and I can’t help but overanalyze every smiling photo they post together, wondering what’s going on behind closed doors, how I could help, or if I could even change anything at all.
How can I save a girl I’ve never met if I couldn’t even save myself?
It started when I was a sophomore in high school, a tomboy nerd who was perpetually body-conscious and bullied for almost all of my school experience. I had had a couple “boyfriends,” but none that were serious. I was looking for love wherever I could get it, even though I was surrounded by loving friends and a very supportive home life. I think that’s why I’m ashamed when I tell this story. I had no drug-addicted mother, no father who walked out on me, no money struggles or real issues other than my own self-esteem. No excuses, no reason other than my own lapse in judgment. I knew better. And yet, I ended up in the same situation millions of women have found themselves in before.
He was a friend first. Growing up, I always thought dumb girls who went to bars and left their drinks unattended or walked down dark alleys alone at night were the ones who got snatched up by these kinds of people. And even as I’m writing this, I don’t picture him as one of “those kinds of people.” It’s crazy.
We met in high school and started spending some more time together. We started going to each other’s houses, mostly his. He quickly became one of my closest friends. And I’ll never forget the night that it started. About 6 months after our friendship began, I was laying on his white, leather L-shaped couch in the living room while he laid across the other half, his head next to mine. South Park was playing absently on the TV. We were half-watching, half-talking. We started discussing past relationships, and I mentioned how I had never even had a “real” kiss. My previous boyfriend nearly 2 years prior and I had tried at homecoming, but it was a peck on the lips that was disastrous, and I broke up with him two days later.
I remember hearing his laugh next to my head, and he started talking about what a shame that was.
Before I knew what happened, he was on top of me. I literally don’t remember how he leapt on top of me so fast, but then there he was. He kissed me forcefully, but I interpreted it as passionately at the time. I remember he had full lips that felt like they swallowed mine, and he tasted like the Fuze he’d been drinking. It lasted maybe ten seconds, and then it was over just as quickly as it had begun. He was back on his side of the sofa in the blink of an eye.
“How was that?”
I swallowed. I wasn’t sure, but I knew I wanted more. I wanted to feel attractive, desired…loved. And that kiss did it for me.
The next 3 years was a personal hell of my own design. I thought you couldn’t get addicted to things other than drugs or alcohol or full-blown sex, but I became addicted to our after-school make-out sessions.
At first, we were just friends. There was such an exhilaration behind our kisses, always surprising and almost forbidden. We weren’t dating, so it seemed unexpected. Then, we got more desperate, happy when his father left to get our pizza so we could sprawl across the couch and tangle up in one another. He was companionship. He was body heat. But he certainly wasn’t love. I knew it even then.
Every now and then there was a moment or a kiss that made my heart skip a beat and put a genuine smile on my face. But so many times, I was focused on doing nothing more than pleasing him. It made me feel like I had a purpose, that I could be used. And I was willing to be used and thrown away like a napkin as long as it meant someone was getting some use out of me. My lack of self-esteem and our mutual desire to be loved, even if it was accompanied by occasional indifference, was a near-fatal combination.
I started feeling like a prostitute, even though the most scandalous thing we had ever done was make out while I straddled him (clothes all on). I would show up in skimpy clothes to give myself the confidence boost I needed to even face him, we would creep closer to each other, tease, kiss. Then I would sneak out after dark, zipping up my hoodie over my deep V blouse, and I would drive back home and play it cool.
“How was it?”
“What did you guys do?”
He was spooning me on the couch while we watched Comedy Central, he ran his hand down my thigh, and then-
“Nothing. Just watched TV.”
After Otto Frank read his daughter Anne’s diary, he made a heartbreaking declaration. “Most parents don’t really know their children.” Over the years, I’ve come to see the truth behind his sentiment.
We played it cool at school, too. Sure, some people knew that we were kissing on the weekends, but it was high school, and if there was no sex involved, it certainly wasn’t newsworthy.
I was raised in a conservative Christian household, so while I knew what sex was and had learned from the rest of my classmates the bases in between, I had no idea about what happened when the lines of consent were blurred. I was going to kiss before marriage, but nothing else. I would lose my virginity to my husband on our wedding night, and if anyone else wanted to take it beforehand, I would just say, “No.”
Simple. I would never put myself in one of those situations that D.A.R.E. or my parents had warned me about, and I would never have to worry about someone not taking no for an answer.
How wrong I was.
As the months threatened to turn into years, I began pushing for a formal title for what we were. We saw each other every weekend. We ate dinner together, even though it was always in the confines of the house. He showered me with affection, compliments, and, most importantly, self-esteem boosts. We were, by my definition, “dating.” But he would never hold hands with me at school. In fact, some days he seemed to pretend that he didn’t even know I existed.
And I as continued to pressure him, that’s when his sweet personality began to…shift.
His compliments would be interspersed with comments about my appearance, my weight, and my popularity at school. He knew where I hurt, and he wasn’t afraid to hit me there. Just when I was feeling confident in my own skin (perhaps almost confident enough to search for a real significant other to love me), he would throw in one of his favorite zingers into casual conversation. “Maybe I’d date you if you were 10 pounds lighter.” “Why do you never straighten your hair…it would look so much better!” “It’s not easy being friends with you, because I get teased for it.” These were never even said in anger, because we never really fought. We did try to date once, but he ended that fast. We got together on a Monday, broke up on a Wednesday, and I was kissing him on that same leather sofa on Friday. We were both addicts that needed our fix, and nothing could keep us away. But conflict was still present. I would want more commitment, he would fire back to keep me quiet and content with what I had, and we continued to wallow in our current situation, spinning our wheels for close to two years.
It was during this time that I saw things taking a darker turn but didn’t recognize them for what they were. The first thing I really remember that struck me as odd was on one particularly late night I was over. I had fallen asleep on his shoulder and woke up to find him re-positioning my head on his crotch. I assumed I had just slipped down onto his lap, but the sound of his fly being unzipped and the feeling of his hand on the back of my head guiding me closer made me shoot straight up in my seat. He started laughing and said, “Aww, come on! I was going to wake you with a nice surprise!” I saw his fly was open and one hand was definitely gripping something inside his boxers. He removed his hand and zipped up his pants, but I apparently I still looked uncomfortable because he said, “Relax, it was just a joke. But hey, maybe you’ll find out you like it one day.” And he put his arm around me again, everything back to the way it was.
And yet everything was different somehow. Maybe I knew it deep down, but I was too naïve to understand it or too immature to admit it. I knew that was wrong. But hey, he’s a guy, and I’m denying him something he really wants, almost needs at this age. I can’t blame him, can I? And no harm, no foul, right?
He blew it off, I laughed it off, and that was the end.
My friends didn’t like him. They never did, and he came to one group gathering but left quickly after realizing that he wasn’t wanted. They had no idea what was going on behind closed doors, but they could see enough just from the way he treated me in front of them. But they were busy living their own lives, and I had arms that were always open for me every single weekend, so I kept coming back to him.
As time went on, our kissing sessions would quickly bore him, and he always wanted more. Me, eager to please, would do anything for him – except what he really wanted to do. He’d make a proposition each weekend I came over (“We can go upstairs.” “I’ve got some condoms.” “Trust me, you’ll like it.”), but I always declined, and he’d shrug and go back to kissing me. Like I was taught that it was supposed to work. I say “no,” he says, “okay.”
But one time in particular, we were home alone kissing on the couch. I was kneeling on the cushion next to where he was sitting, so we were face to face. He was shirtless, one hand in my hair, the other nowhere to be found. He was always trying to grab or move or touch something I didn’t want him to, so I didn’t care where his hand was as long as it wasn’t on me. That thought process right there should have told me something was wrong, but I’d heard so many stories of women enduring things for the men in their lives that it didn’t seem so wrong to me at the time. Suddenly, the kiss was interrupted by him moaning into my mouth, and something warm and wet stuck to my arm. I glance down to see what it was and discovered very quickly where his other hand had been.
My jaw dropped and I stared at him in shock. He had touched himself once or twice through his boxers before, but then would go to the bathroom and do what he “needed to do” since he knew how I felt. But there he was, dick in hand and cum shot all the way across his naked torso and onto my arm. I rapidly looked away from my arm to focus on his face, my look of horror begging for some kind of explanation, but he was in no hurry to end his pleasure due to my distress. When his eyes finally rolled back to the front of his head, he saw my face but shrugged.
“I’m sorry…I didn’t think I was going to cum. But damn, I needed to.”
I didn’t respond, just ran to the bathroom. Washing my arm off in the sink, I was literally shaking with emotion, but with what emotions I still have no idea.
Wash it off. I was a tease. He’d said it himself many times.
Get the soap. I wasn’t hurt. He didn’t make me do anything I didn’t want to do.
Wipe it dry. It was just an accident, another awkward high school moment I’d laugh about years later.
Well, now it’s “years later,” but I’m not laughing.
Every weekend, it was the same. He’d ask for sex, I’d say, “No.” I’d ask for a boyfriend, he’d say, “We’ll see.” We were both left unsatisfied but still happy enough to continue playing our game.
Looking back on it, I realize that he was likely waiting for me to give in to having sex with him and was dangling the promise of a formal relationship like a carrot in front of a horse. To this day, I’m not sure if he is even capable of this kind of manipulation and calculation. I hate to think so, but I also can’t deny that it makes the most sense. (Even 7 years later, the blinders are still in the process of coming off.)
Strike 3 came on a cold day after school. I can’t remember the season, but I remember that it was cold because walking back to my car that night was one of the loneliest treks I have ever made. It was Friday, and we carpooled straight back to his house after the final bell rang. We got some chips and he got his Fuze (I HATE the taste of Fuze forever), and turned on Comedy Central in the living room. We were on a different sofa, a smaller one, so we laid down to spoon so we could both fit. No one was home, but that wasn’t an issue for us. There had been so many other chances, other opportunities if something were to go wrong, so why would it be today?
He started kissing my neck, and I began to relax. Then, he was on top of me just as suddenly as he had been two years prior, and he was kissing me just as forcefully. He was pressing me into the soft fabric of the couch, and I felt like it was swallowing me. He began to kiss his way down my body and tried to pull my tank top down to expose my bra. I laughed and playfully pushed him away. He went back to kissing my lips, and I relaxed again.
That’s when I felt his fingers playing with the button at the top of my jeans. I broke away from his kiss, but I couldn’t think of anything to say over the sound of his heavy breathing. His kisses against my neck became almost aggressive, and he unzipped my jeans.
“Hey, what are you doing?”
If he heard me, he didn’t respond. He grabbed the waist of my jeans and yanked them hard, pulling them all the way to my knees.
I yelled his name in shock and horror, but he pinned me down.
“What are you doing? Stop!”
“You’ll like it.”
“Like what? What are you talking about?”
In between kisses on my neck, he said, “I know how you feel about this stuff, but trust me, once we get going, you’ll get into it. I know you will.”
My stomach sank further than my body was pressed into the sofa.
“What are you saying? I already-”
He wrapped one hand around my neck, not too hard but hard enough to cut off my speech. His other hand worked my jeans even further down my kicking feet. “Just try to relax, trust me, it hurts less if you relax…It’ll be tight the first time, but that will change over time. Just trust me, okay?”
I remember the smell of his cologne. I remember the pinching pressure of his weight on my hips. And I remember the warmth of his body, the warmth I once longed for, as he crushed me beneath the weight of his desires.
Still, it wasn’t real to me how much danger I was in until I felt his fingers jab into my underwear to feel me, then around it to slip inside…
To this day, I’m not sure if he just touched the outer edge, or if he actually got a finger or two inside of me. I think I’ve honestly blocked it out. All I know was that that was the switch that I needed to realize that this wasn’t funny anymore. And it actually never was.
I freed one arm to slap his hand away, but he took the hand off my throat and used it to pin me to the couch. My other arm was wedged tightly between my body and the back of the sofa. I remember he was laughing while I was thrashing around beneath him, like he was still thinking that this was just some kind of foreplay. I used to like to think of myself as being too big and too strong to be taken advantage of like my smaller female companions, but I will tell you that in that moment, I felt nothing short of helpless.
One of his hands held mine while the other aggressively pulled one of my breasts out from beneath my tank top and bra. I kept pleading with him to stop while he undid his belt and fly. All the while, he was still kissing me and complimenting me and reassuring me that everything would be alright. I wasn’t crying, wasn’t screaming, but I was telling him, “No.”
And over again.
Finally, I got my hand free that had been pinned between my body and the sofa and grabbed him by the shoulders, bracing myself against him and rolling over, throwing him off of me and to the floor at the foot of the couch. Panting, I sat up and quickly readjusted my clothes back into their proper place. Not even looking back at him, I grabbed my purse of the table, threw my car keys inside, and started power-walking toward the door. Not running, because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
This was just another one of his honest mistakes.
I didn’t know the full story.
What else did I expect from a 17 year-old-boy who had been denied sex for two years?
“Where are you going?”
I turn around to see him buttoning his pants and running after me. At the time, I think he’s concerned and he wants to apologize. Now, I realize he was worried he had gone too far, and that I would refuse to be his plaything anymore.
“Home.” I whipped around to leave.
“No, you’re not! Get back here!”
A hand, his hand, caught me by the wrist. A hand that had once held mine, wiped away my tears, gently stroked a strand of my hair while I fell asleep. And the hand jerked me backwards, back towards him, with so much force that I nursed a hidden shoulder injury for nearly a month afterward. I fell to the ground with a sickening “thud,” my head glancing off the linoleum floor of the kitchen as I came crashing down.
And after the crash, there was silence. Five solid seconds of silence as I lay there, a lone tear streaming down my cheek, and he stands there, finally appearing to become aware of what he’s done.
He knelt down beside me and then continuously talked. For the next ten minutes, all he did was talk. There were tears. There were apologies. And he continued to ask if I was okay from the fall…but never from what happened before.
My friends know a much more heavily edited version of this story…and most versions end with me storming out the door and refusing to come back until I fell back into old habits a couple months later. I tell it that way because I like that ending better.
What really happened was that I silently nodded to every apology and promise he made. I shakily rose and set my purse back down on the table, and I sat back on the exact same sofa with him to finish our show. I ate dinner with him, chatted with him, and even kissed him goodnight on the way home. I walked alone to the car, shivering in my skimpy attire, and rode home in silence.
That’s not the kind of happy ending people are looking for, but it’s the truth.
Even after all of this happened, it took me another year to formally end our little rendezvous (we used to still meet up when I was home on break from college), and I could write a whole essay on just the mental and emotional abuse he put me through during that time. But I could also write an essay just as long on the good times, the happy memories, and the love and laughter we shared together.
The thing is, it’s never as cut and dry as people who have never been in the situation make it out to be.
I wish it was.
It sounds terrible, and I know it is, but I wish he had been a masked man in an alley that groped me before I escaped. That would have made it easier for me to cope with. And some days, I even wish I was raped. As horrible as that sounds. Because then I would feel justified somehow – I wouldn’t feel guilty for feeling as strongly as I do, for still being so emotionally affected by this. I always find someone whose story is worse and leaves me feeling guilty for drowning in the tide of emotions that overwhelm me sometimes.
It took me 3 years to begin to process everything that had happened, even after the last time we saw one another. It took me a few months after that to actually say out loud that I am a victim of sexual assault. And now, 7 years later, I can finally put into words and admit all that happened. Both what he did wrong and what I did. I think I’m able to say it now because I realize that although our relationship was toxic from both sides, it’s not an excuse for what he did to me.
We’re still Facebook friends…and I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s just a morbid curiosity to see how his life unfolds. Maybe deep down I want him to see I’m beautiful and successful despite of those nasty words he once hurled at me. But I doubt he even remembers them anymore…
And I think that’s what hurts so much. I will carry this with me for the rest of my life. Constantly debating telling my friends, my parents, my boyfriend about what “really” happened over the course of those 3 years…
And I don’t know if our “dates” ever even cross his mind these days.
Maybe one day I’ll reach out to him. A part of me wants to send this to him, but another part of me is ashamed of what I’ve confessed to here, what I’ve written, and that dark voice in the back of my mind still wonders if I’ve made something out of nothing and if all of this was just an unhappy accident.
As tears stream down my face while I spend hours writing this, I fear sending it to him because I don’t want to cause him any pain.
I hope I publish this someday, although probably not under my name. But to you, dear reader, if anyone is reading this, this is my real, unedited experience. Do with it what you will. If you are looking for comfort or a kindred spirit, I hope you found it. If you are looking for something that makes sense of what you’ve seen in the news lately, here’s the simple, true story of a nobody. And if you’re here to criticize, go right ahead. My story warrants criticism, and there’s nothing you can say that I haven’t whispered to myself as I cry myself to sleep.
Stand up. Speak out. Be heard.”
– Abby –