I was 14, going into Sophomore year. He was 17 and a senior with a cool car, a perfect transcript, and a sports and voice state title. He was smooth talking and charming and sweet and cute and polite and incredibly complimentary and had a commanding presence. We could talk forever. He was my first kiss. We were the perfect couple. He told me he loved me really early. He understood me so well. It was all supposed to work out. Except that pretty story, the one that his friends believed, and the one that I tried to convince people of, was so far from the truth it was astounding. I think it was what I wanted our relationship to be. It was what we told each other it was sometimes. It’s what I really believed it could be. It just wasn’t real.
When we met, I was the ultimate virgin. I’d never even kissed anyone. Those first few dates, he seemed like the perfect person. I was so young, still young enough to believe that I could meet someone when I was 14 and want to spend my life with them. It seemed so perfect. A couple people warned me that he was a jerk, but I didn’t listen because I couldn’t believe that the sweet, wonderful, considerate soul that I’d agreed to go out with could be anything like they described. He told me he loved me one week into our relationship and two weeks into knowing each other, which I knew seemed fast, but we were spending all of our time together, and I thought it was just different for us. I’d heard so many stories that said that when you knew you met your person, you knew right away, so I dismissed that sign too.
Then the same week after my first kiss, the same week of my first “I love you,” I wore a skirt when he came over to my house. We were up in the loft of my house, late at night, the lights were out. My parents were in their pajamas downstairs and my sister was asleep. We started making out, then his hands started to drop, and I pressed myself close, praying he didn’t want anything more. It was so early in the relationship. He either didn’t notice at that point or didn’t care, because he stuck his hand up under my skirt anyway. I froze. Anxiety jumped up inside me, with an intense ferocity I’ve only felt a couple of times. I had no idea what to do. I just kind of stopped moving for I don’t know how long. And he was on top of me, pinning me down, and I started to squirm away, unable to get his mouth off of mine or his hands away from me. It was sheer terror. I started crying more and more desperate as invaded my personal space more and more. Finally I got my back up over the arm of the chair and got out from under him. It haunted me for so long, why didn’t he stop when he noticed me crying? How do you not notice someone pushing you away? How do you not notice someone fighting to say no?
By the time I got myself free though, he sure as hell noticed. He kept asking me what was wrong, and I couldn’t speak through my tears. It was one of the most intense panic attacks I’d ever had. Finally once I got up the courage to tell him what was going on, and that I wasn’t interested in sex. He immediately laid on the guilt. “Well if you really loved me, you’d do it.” “It’s an expression of my love.” “You don’t need to be scared.” “I’m helping you get over your fear.” “It’s not like I can do it with anyone else so you might as well put out.” “There’s ways to get around the ‘no sex’ thing… there’s other things we can do.” “Now you’re making me feel bad. Now you’re making me feel like I did something wrong. I’m not doing anything.”
And he manipulated me enough that night to feel like it wasn’t what I thought it was, like I was in the wrong, like there was something broken with me not to want him. I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone. I felt like there wasn’t anything to tell, so I went to my room, took a shower and cried until I fell asleep, and didn’t break up with him. He was something special right? Besides it was my problem anyway. It was my fault. That’s what he said.
I did everything I could for the next two weeks before school started to keep him from touching me, even hugging me or kissing me. He noticed. Sometimes he’d be “sweet” about and tell me that we’d talk about it and just make out instead. Most of the time though, he’d push me to talk about sex in general and manipulate me with the same awful arguments until I was nearly in a panic attack and then “go for it” then, when I’d be too upset to fight hard. I felt like it was wrong to fight. I was supposed to love him. He told me it was wrong to fight. He told me there was something wrong with me and that he was the only one who’d understand. So many times I tried to just bear it. Other times I’d tell him no, but he’d grab me and physically push me, then tell me not to talk about it with other people. He was manipulative, wildly controlling, and abusive in other ways of life too, but he’d always come crawling back, apologizing and assuring me that he loved me and that it was just a rough patch and that we were working through it and meant to be together. Sometimes we had an amazing time together.
After three months though, I was at the edge of death. My depression and suicidal tendencies from my early adolescence had resurfaced after 6 months and I was having panic attacks on the daily. He pushed me more and more each day, making me feel ashamed and making me hate myself and any time I’d lash out at him, I’d face pretty awful punishment.
One day, my mother told me she needed to talk, and rather than screaming at me like I’d expected her to for spending too much time with my boyfriend, she asked me if I was okay. And everything just broke and I told her almost all of it, avoiding the whole issue. He’d gotten so wrapped into my mind that I still believed it was my fault. My mom helped me so much to sort out the actual relationship portion of it, and realize he was abusive, even though he hid it well in public. I broke up with him the next day.
He proceeded to contact all of our mutual friends to try to get them to take his side, spinning more insane stories than I could keep up with. Other than that first talk with my mother, I didn’t tell anyone anything. He sexually harassed me at school, so I went to a counselor. I’d been tossing the idea of rape around in my mind because it seemed to fit, but I still felt like it was my fault and I didn’t know who to ask for help sorting it all out. The whole thing was so traumatizing. After a month, I went to my ethics teacher, a woman I trusted and admired, to try to stop the harassment specifically and I told her I though I might have been raped. She told me that there was nothing I could do about either thing, and that I should really reevaluate the serious allegation I was imposing upon a guy she though was a model student. She told me that I was confused and making up the story to get back at him for other things. So I shut up about it and pushed all of that down. My mother stepped in and told the administration about the harassment and got him suspended, and she asked if I wanted him expelled. I told them no, too afraid of what he’d do to me or say if I even tried.
My panic attacks worsened as other people started showing up, telling me stories of all the things he was still saying about me and informing me of several girls he’d cheated on me with during our short relationship. He stalked me for the next six months. I had to see him at school every day and watch him looking at me and laughing and tormenting me. Finally, my lawyer father threatened a restraining order, and after graduation he disappeared. Still no one knew anything other than what he’d spread about me, including my best friends. I think they sensed something worse happened than just a break up, but none of them pushed me.
I kept everything pressed inside me out of shame. I was supposed to have loved him. Why didn’t I want it? Was there something wrong with me? I was a black belt. I felt like I should not have been anxious, like I shouldn’t have frozen all of those times. Like I should have beaten him up. I blamed myself for so long. I felt like maybe somewhere I deserved it. I had nightmares, flashbacks, and panic attacks upon the slightest of triggers, like seeing a blonde guy with a buzz cut. In the June after I graduated, I wrote a short story about our relationship and what happened and really did revisit the idea of sexual assault and rape. After nearly a year, I was finally able to admit what happened to me. The first person I told was my best friend. She was amazing. Another three months later I was able to come clean to my mother and school counselor to get me some support at home and at school. I’ve started meditating and doing very deep psychological and emotional work, and as of right now, I haven’t had a panic attack in three months.
Still, there are only three people in the world that really know what happened. And I’m okay with that now. It’s taken me two years, but I’ve finally realized that it wasn’t about me and that it wasn’t my fault. I looked again at our relationship and was able to forgive him. I understood that it would never be okay what he’d done, but he was truly ignorant and it would only continue to hurt me. Today, I genuinely wish him nothing but the best as long as he’s far away from me. As of this year, I was able to date again. I’m finally dating a really nice guy. I love myself now in a way that I never did before. Most of all, I’m glad he’s out of my life, and I want to fight for other girls and guys in the same situation, because I’ve seen so many. It’s un-fucking-acceptable and I will fight to educate the world and I will fight for all of the victims because there are few situations harder than that. Most of all, I will fight to help everyone I meet to find their value, because no one should feel like they deserve anything less than absolute kindness.