I know I’ve written about what has happened to me before. But I left a lot out of that post, partially because it was the first time writing down what had happened to me, and partially because I don’t think I could figure out how to put into words what I experienced. It wasn’t until recently, when my roommate told me her story of sexual assault, that I said out loud what had happened to me- not just physically, but psychologically as well.
It was June of 2006. My first boyfriend was 3 years older than me, had just graduated high school, and was preparing to ship off for Marine Corps boot camp later that summer. I was best friends with his younger sister for over a year before I ever met him, on a family vacation she invited me to. We spent a week in the Outer Banks in North Carolina that June. Her brother and his friend met the rest of us at the beach house a day after we arrived, and it was either that first or second night with them there that the four of us got into the beer stash after the parents had gone to bed. I remember he and his friend putting on a show to that song, “Barbie Girl”, and the two of us girls giggling nonstop. I remember sitting on the kitchen counter, while he handed me a Miller Lite- I’d never drank beer before, and even though it tasted like shit to me, I drank it to seem “cool”. I remember downing my first one to get it over with, and then he handed me a second, and then a third.
I remember sitting in this oversized chair in the living room, the room spinning slightly- but in the got-a-good-buzz-on-way. I remember him squeezing into the same chair next to me. He was massive compared to my 15-year-old self- 5’10”, maybe 190lbs. He was a football player in high school, and he was built like one. I was 5’2″ and barely 120lbs, and officially drunk after finishing my third Miller Lite. I don’t remember talking to him, but I remember him kissing me. I remember thinking while he was kissing me, “so this is what this feels like”– I had never really kissed a boy, I’d only played spin the bottle at birthday parties where you peck each other on the lips. This was real kissing, I thought. I remember my face getting raw where his stubble rubbed against it; I remember liking the way it felt to kiss him. But I also remember being nervous, feeling like I was doing something I wasn’t exactly ready for. I remember this feeling in my gut that I couldn’t name until recently- I was scared. I just didn’t know why.
The rest of that week was a blur. I remember laying with him on the top bunk in the room he shared with his friend, making out until the sun came up and sneaking back into the room I shared with his sister before the parents woke up. I remember he tried to touch me in places no one had touched before, and I remember telling him no. I remember him respecting that- at least that week. I remember watching the movie Jarhead with him, his friend, and mine in the living room. I remember the four of us getting ice cream, and the two of us walking under the pier and making out. I remember holding hands when no one was looking, and quick secretive kisses. I remember calling my friends back home, and telling them my exciting news. I remember thinking how completely perfect the week was, how they could make a movie out of us. It was all very romantic for me, a girl who’d never been pursued by a boy like that before that week.
I remember getting home from that vacation and aching to be with him. I knew I couldn’t tell my parents, or his, because of our age difference. I remember going to their parents’ boat the next weekend, and he met us down there. I remember him trying to touch me, I remember moving his hand from under my shirt to over it. I remember moving his hand from under my pants to hold mine instead. I remember the pressure I felt to move faster than I wanted. But I didn’t realize that wasn’t normal, that that wasn’t okay. I thought that’s just what boyfriends did. I’d had no other experience to tell me otherwise.
Eventually, just before he left for boot camp, his parents found out- by catching us making out in his room. His mom had the talk with us- had we had sex? (no- me saying I definitely was not ready for that), do my parents know? (absolutely not), etc. She promised not to tell my mother, and for that I was grateful (at the time). I made it clear that I wasn’t thinking about having sex any time soon, and he made it clear that he really liked me.
It’s been ten years and three months since I met him and it all started, so my memory is a little fuzzy- from time and from not wanting to remember, I suppose. But I am almost sure that the following events happened before he left for boot camp (but quite possibly could have happened once he got back);
#1. We were in his basement, with my friends, watching a movie. We were sharing a blanket. He put his fingers inside of me. It hurt, and I did not like it. He thought the quiet noises I was making were of pleasure- they were not. That was the first time he penetrated me digitally.
#2. Weeks after #1 happened, we were at a party at his friend’s house. My friends were there. He took me up to a bedroom, and forced me to give him head. That was the first time I’d ever done that. That was also the first time he told me he loved me- while his dick was in my mouth.
I think all of that happened so fast, I wasn’t able to process what happened or how I felt about it. I was also blinded by the fact that someone loved me, a boy- or rather, a man since he was 18- really loved me. I was the girl in middle school who’d never had someone crush on her, who’d never had a middle school boyfriend, who’d confessed my feelings to a boy I liked just for him to “date” another girl. So to have this older, attractive, Marine say he loved me- I fell for it, hard.
He left for boot camp towards the end of July, with promises of writing me letters. He kept his promise, and for thirteen weeks I wrote him dozens and dozens of letters- during class, before going to bed, after dinner when I should have been doing my homework. It was a fairytale romance (in my head). When it came close to his boot camp graduation, I convinced my parents to let me go with my friend and her parents to Paris Island, SC to see it. They agreed, but a week later my mother found out why I was actually going. The mother of a girl I played basketball with, who knew my boyfriend, had outed us to my mom during a run-in at the grocery store. I remember her being mad, but she still let me go. I think she figured if she tried to make me stop seeing him, I would just want to see him more. I think she thought she was doing the right thing- and it made sense. I probably would have rebelled if she had banned me from seeing him. My parents had been divorced for quite a while at this point, so I knew she wouldn’t tell my dad if I asked her not to. She didn’t. (My older brother, however, did later…)
When he got back from boot camp, he was different. Distant, and acting strangely the entire time we were in South Carolina. I thought everything was fine once we got on the plane, and I fell asleep with my head on his shoulder. Everything felt like it was going to be okay.
He was home for about a week before he had to go to a base in North Carolina to start his job training (extra training marines receive after boot specifically in what their military job is). It was during that week that I witnessed him being irrationally volatile. I remember I was sitting in a recliner in his parents’ living room, and he was arguing with his father. His mother was in the kitchen, drunk (but that was typical). I can’t remember what the fight was about, but I remember watching him shove his dad to the ground. I’d known his parents longer than I’d known him, and I loved them. I think I sat in shock for a minute, unable to move or say anything. He didn’t move after his dad fell- and then he crumpled, a heap of a man, crying on the floor. Something had triggered a lot of emotions in him, and I wish I could remember what the fight was about, to know what. I remember feeling like I needed to save him, needed to comfort him. I remember feeling sad for him…
A few days after that incident, was my sophomore Homecoming dance. He was not going to be my date, we (or he?) decided. I was going to have dinner with my group of friends, and he was going to drive me to the dance after. He had dinner with a group of seniors he was friends with. I remember this made me feel unimportant, and like he had to hide me. I remember getting into an argument with him that night about it. I know we made up later that night, but I don’t remember what he did or said to make me feel better.
The night before he was going to leave for training, we went to dinner with his friends. I remember ending up at one of the girls’ houses afterwards, and being totally ignored. I remember him asking for one of the girls’ phone numbers, right in front of me. I think it was then that he knew he had me, and he knew I wouldn’t stand up for myself.
He left for training, and we resorted to phone calls at night, and texts any chance we got. We would argue a lot- about him being jealous, or hearing things about who I was hanging out with. Most of it was stupid little stuff.
The next time he was home was the week of Thanksgiving. My brother, mother, and I were heading to Cancun for vacation the morning after he flew in. I begged my mom to let me spend time with him, and she agreed. He picked me up from my house after he got home, and we may have gone to dinner, but all I remember is being at his house, in his room. We were messing around, and my shirt had come off at some point. I’d missed him and couldn’t get enough of him. But he’d asked if he could “put it in” (insert eye roll here) and I’d told him no, more than once- probably five or six times. We kept making out, and he was fingering me, and I was okay with that. But then, without any warning at all, he was inside of me. I remember laying there, in shock, not sure what to do or what to say or how to react. I had told him no, hadn’t I? I’d made it clear what I was comfortable with, right? Did I give him some kind of signal that I wanted that? Am I supposed to do this because I’m his girlfriend? If he loves me, this is okay, right? But I told him no…..
That night started a cycle of emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse. Not only did he have sex with some other girl once I had left for vacation, but he’d denied it- after his friend who had witnessed it told me. I dreaded every weekend that he came home. He would pressure me into sex, even after I said no. He’d continue to have sex with me, even after I told him it hurt and I wanted to stop, because he “had to finish”. He’d make me go down on him when I was on my period, because “it was the least I could do”.
Over winter break, he had brought me to a New Years Eve party after somehow managing to get permission from my mother for me to stay over. I’d been drinking smirnoff ice with his sister in her room, sneaking it away from the parents- and I’m pretty sure we were doing shots of vodka in between swigs. He and I walked to his friends’ house- ruining my brand new Uggs because the grass was soaked- where a bunch of kids who’d graduated with him the spring before were. I knew one kid in that house, because he was in my grade. But he was fucked up when we got there, and we weren’t really friends anyways. I remember he left me with his friends and a beer, while he “made the rounds” at the party. I was painfully shy, and didn’t want to talk to anyone except his friends. I kept drinking, and got drunk. He or his friend (not sure) cut me off, but his other friend kept sneaking me beers. I don’t remember walking back to his house, or what time that was. But I remember being in his bed, naked, and he was having sex with me. I remember stopping him- I wasn’t feeling good, but I had never gotten sick from drinking and didn’t know the signs of immenent puke. Needless to say, I threw up all over myself and his bed. He was pissed. His parents were still awake when this happened, and his mom helped him clean up. I somehow got cleaned and in his shorts and a t-shirt, and put in the guest bedroom with his two friends who were sharing the king sized bed in there. I remember him coming in, throwing my rings I’d been wearing at me, and yelling. I instinctively turned into his friend, we’ll call him B, and hid my face in his arm. That pissed him off even more. I remember more yelling, and eventually passing out. I was still only 15 at the time.
After that night, I knew I had to break up with him. But I was terrified. Terrified of his reaction, and how he would handle it. I’d never broken up with anyone before, but I knew he scared me. And I knew he could hurt me if he wanted to.
I didn’t break up with him then, and I let him go back to base in NC thinking everything was fine. I had met another guy, a senior at my school, months prior and felt myself falling for him. I’d even kissed him once, before my boyfriend had come home for Christmas. I remember wishing he could save me from him.
It took me two days and half a dozen phone calls to break up with him. He cried, he pleaded, he threatened suicide, cried some more… it was all very dramatic. Looking back, it’s easy to see how manipulative he had been. But in the moment, I blamed myself. I felt guilty for kissing that other guy. I FELT GUILTY AND HE HAD RAPED ME (but I didn’t realize that’s what he did, until years later). There’s this vivid memory I have, of being in Spanish class- where cell phones were absolutely not allowed- and he was texting me that he was going to kill himself. I remember going to the bathroom, and calling his friend who was stationed with him, and telling him what he said. He was put on a 72-hour suicide watch that day. I felt guilty over that for weeks afterwards.
After we’d broken up, things got worse. He hacked into my instant messenger and read every conversation I was having. He hacked into my Myspace messages. He went off base without permission- essentially going AWOL- multiple times. Once, to crash a party I was going to with the senior guy that I liked. Another, to come home on a weekend night that I was having a sleepover with his sister- waking me up at 5am and making me have sex with him in their basement. He scared me, but I didn’t know who to tell and I didn’t know if I was overreacting or not. So I stayed silent.
This went on for months after we broke up in January of 2007. On my birthday weekend, at the end of May, his friend B had a party at his townhouse, where his mother was out of town. My ex was there, and so were a couple of his marine friends. They were wasted by the time we snuck out of my house to get to the party, and his friend Tommy kept hitting on me. At some point, Tommy and I had snuck away and started kissing. My friend was supposed to call me if my ex was heading upstairs, but failed. He caught us, and then tried to throw himself off of B’s back deck. His friends caught him, and he was fine, but that’s when I realized how crazy he actually was.
Fourth of July, 2007, was one of the worst nights of my life. I had started dating someone new, but long-distance, so he wasn’t in town. B convinced me to go with him to a party at my ex’s parents’ house (they were out of town). I don’t know why, but I agreed, and texted my best friend telling him to keep texting me that night to make sure I was okay. We got there, and as usual I was the youngest person there. My ex had started seeing another girl (with the same name as me), and she was batshit crazy. Her and a couple other girls were there, doing shots, making out with each other- and I was completely out of my comfort zone. B handed me a beer, and I drank it and maybe two others. I wasn’t drinking liquor, or drinking that fast, but I got fucked up (I’m assuming B put something in that first drink). I remember the guys freaking out because two of the girls were in the shower together, and thinking to myself how pathetic it was that they were so starved for attention.
The next thing I knew, I was with my ex in his parents’ bedroom. I was kissing him, and I remember being on top of him. I remember thinking about my boyfriend at the time, and that I shouldn’t be kissing my ex. I remember stopping. I remember him being on top of me suddenly. I remember him forcing himself on and inside of me. I remember crying. And then B was there, in the room with us. I was on the bed, lying there, helpless to do anything but cry- I was way too drunk (or drugged) at this point, and the room was spinning. I can’t remember his exact words, but my ex basically offered me to B. And then it was happening again, except B was on top of me, forcing himself inside of me. I remember laying there, unable to get up. I didn’t scream. I don’t know if that is because I was too scared, or too drunk, or didn’t think anyone would help me. Probably a combination of the three. And my ex watched, the entire time.
I remember leaving that house feeling humiliated, sick to my stomach from the booze and what had happened, and confused. B drove me back to my dad’s house, where I snuck in through our basement door- my dad had no idea I had left the house that night. I don’t remember how I got in without waking anyone up.
The next day, I was working my job at the spa as a spa assistant. My ex must have been texting me that day, because I remember him sending texts saying I liked it, I started it, I wanted what had happened. I remember being so confused- had I wanted that, just because I had kissed him? I didn’t know what to think or how to feel and started blaming myself. I remember he and B were outside of my work when I got off that day. I remember him telling me he was going to tell my boyfriend. I remember thinking, “But I didn’t want that, I didn’t want that!” I remember him telling me again, that I did want it. That I initiated the entire thing. I didn’t remember parts of the night, so I started thinking maybe I had started it, that maybe it was my fault… I thought this way for over five years.
That night was not my fault. That night, my ex and his friend raped me. That night, they took everything I had left from me. That night was not my fault. That night, they were two adult men, who raped a barely-16-year-old girl. That night, they took any innocence I had left. My ex started it, and he let his friend finish it- they destroyed any semblance of a childhood I had left. That night started years of me thinking I was a bad person, I was a slut, I was the problem. That entire year, from the moment I met my ex to the moment that fourth of July night ended, was the beginning of my spiral into depression and extreme anxiety. But that night was NOT my fault.
It took me a very long time to realize what had happened to me was rape. It took me even longer, to realize that I did not deserve that, and that I was absolutely not at fault for what happened to me. It took me almost 7 years to call what happened to me rape. It took me even longer- almost 10 years- to write all of this down. Now I’m hoping to be able to tell this story aloud. But that will come in time, when I am ready. I have learned, from this entire process, that I can’t do something before I am ready. Like with the first post I wrote about my ex, I wasn’t ready to talk about most of what happened. In the last few days of writing this post, I learned that I couldn’t have been ready before- I am at a different place now, in a different space. A lot of that has to do with the recent sexual assault cases in the media, where the offender has gotten off on very little to no time served [i.e. Brock Turner the Rapist]. I need to speak out, if not for myself for other women out there, and for other 15 year old girls who might be in a similar situation. I want to change the way rape is talked about, the way it’s handled, the way society sees its survivors. I need to do something to change someone else’s story- mine will forever be the same, but if I can help one girl understand that her “NO” should be respected, than I will feel that telling my story is worth it.