I remember our first interaction. He was tall and a bit chubby. He wore oversized clothes and was average at best. I walked into church, and like a moth to a flame he zoned in. He was a youth leader in the youth group. “You should come to youth group” I remember feeling like he might be interested in me but brushed him off, so he found some common ground: our mutual faith in God. Slowly he began to earn my trust. He paid attention to the issues I had with my mom. She was overprotective, and I was extremely sheltered. I was trying to break free. Things between my mother and I rapidly went downhill. We were constantly fighting. I was 16. He was almost 21.
At 16 I thought that living in NYC had prepared me for the world. I was stubborn and strong-willed. My mother tried to warn me about him, but there were times he had us both fooled. He was worldly and streetsmart and had come from a rough upbringing. A past riddled with substance abuse and failure. He had found the church and seemed to be overcoming his circumstances. He appeared steadfast in his faith, and that’s how I began to trust him.
We seemed to share a bond, he would always tell me how mature I was. He made me feel unique and valued. We continued our friendship until it began to develop into something more. I started sneaking behind my mothers back to see him. I was adamant about waiting until I was married to have sex and would make this clear often. In my immaturity, I thought I had control of the situation. He agreed to help me wait, I felt safe and understood. I had established a boundary and felt at ease, so much so that I had complete and utter trust. I was in control of the relationship or so I thought. The relationship between my mother and I continued to worsen, he was the first one I would call, and in a way, he turned into an escape.
He caught me in my most vulnerable state. There was never a conversation of consent, it just happened, and as I realized what was happening, I left my body. I was too immobilized to say no until it was too late. There was a mirror in the room, and I remember immediately crying while catching my reflection. In a state of shock, I left not remembering how I got home. As soon as I arrived my mother knew something was wrong. I waited until she was gone to lay on the floor and cry. I felt worthless. My reality crumbled. My sense of self was destroyed.
I went back again. I couldn’t process my pain. I had lost everything. It was as if the veil had lifted and it was the first time I could see him clearly for who he was. Someone who had manipulated, groomed me, taken advantage of my naivety. Someone who did not honor my word. He had stolen the most important thing to me. I broke up with him and told him I wasn’t ready for the type of relationship he wanted, but truthfully I knew that if I remained there, it would lead to years of abuse and mistreatment. He had succeeded in breaking me down and even at the age of 16 I knew this was a dangerous place to be.
He would see me at church and try to approach me, and every time he would get near me I would get visibly upset. It wasn’t long until my mother asked if something had happened between us. She almost fainted when I told her, and in this state went to talk to the youth pastor who brushed her off. She felt utterly alone and unsupported. She would often shift from blaming herself to blaming me. She wanted to get the police involved, but like many victims, I felt shame and even some responsibility for what happened. If I hadn’t trusted him if I hadn’t put myself in that situation if I hadn’t been dumb enough to believe him this wouldn’t have happened. How can I trust anyone? Who will love me? These are the things I told myself for years.
“1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact at some point in their lives. Statistics underestimate the problem because many victims do not tell the police, family, or friends about the violence.”
I spent years hating myself. I had associated my worth and beauty to how pure I was, and once that was gone, I felt like I had nothing left. I had this incessant need to have to prove to him that he had not broken me. I kept in touch, wanting to show that I had survived and was thriving. Countless times I reached out to him. I needed my truth to be heard. He was in denial and would often say “They tore us apart, I loved you so much.” Never admitting what he had done.
“Sexual violence (SV) is a significant problem in the United States. SV refers to sexual activity when consent is not obtained or not given freely. Anyone can experience SV, but most victims are female. The person responsible for the violence is typically male and usually someone known to the victim. The person can be but is not limited to, a friend, intimate partner, coworker, neighbor, or family member.”
Recently I was looking back at our old messages. I was able to see my growth and remember how far I’ve come. I saw the 21-year-old year who was still hurt and looking for an apology, then the 25-year-old who was pretending to be happy and finally one of our last conversations. I was 29 and newly engaged. I felt that through it all I had finally found happiness and for the first time he didn’t respond.
Sprinkled in our conversations was the reality of what happened, I would tell him how he had taken advantage of me and how wrong it was but could never say the words “I was raped,” and that I was a victim of sexual violence. He never acknowledged what I was saying instead he would say “I’m sorry you feel as if I hurt you, that was never my intent.” He would try to suck me in by telling me about his life. In the 16 years since, I failed to pay attention to all of the shitty things that happened in his life. No matter how hard he tried his life was always a disaster and he seemed to always blame his circumstances, even despite his near death experiences.
I accidentally gave the conversation a thumbs up. I quickly deleted it, but as fate would have it, he responded. He began to tell me what a mess his life was and the current “hoe” he had dated and how he keeps attracting the crazies. He was precisely the same person he had always been, but I wasn’t the same. He viewed himself as a victim and for years I had too. He mentioned that I had walked away unscathed. This triggered me. In an instant, he dismissed all of the years of hurt, the abuse he had done, the impact he had. I’ve made peace with the fact that I will never receive the apology I deserve.
It’s taken me years to feel whole again. For far too long he was a ghost in my life, ever present in the choices I made and the way I felt about myself. It’s been a long road to recovery with many years of healing but I’ve learned to forgive myself and most importatly to love myself again.
This was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever written about but in light of what’s been happening I felt compelled to share my story. It’s time we begin to speak freely because this is the only way we can change things.
If you’re reading this and you’ve had something similar happen to you know that you’re not alone.
Sending you love, light and healing energy xoxox
Are you or someone you know a victim?
Rape, Abuse and Incest National Hotline
1.800.656.HOPE | www.rainn.org
National Domestic Violence Hotline