Love & Struggle Note: The following story contains details that some may find triggering.
I know a guy, know his whole family actually… mom, dad, brother and sisters. They all know my family. We had all been acquainted for a couple years. I’m not even sure how old he was, just knew that in my 14-year-old mind, he was old. He was nice enough, but I never really paid that much attention to him. Why would I? One day he, I’ll call him “L”, asked me to babysit so he and his wife could go out that Saturday night. I was busy with school, activities, friends and basically being a kid. But I occasionally had some free time on the weekends. I told him he needed to ask my mom. He did and she said sure, because they were friends of the family. I went to their house that Saturday evening to watch their young son and daughter for a few hours. It was an uneventful evening playing with kids and then putting them to bed. When he and his wife returned home about 12:30 a.m., he said he was going to give me a ride home. Cool… I only lived a couple miles away so it would be a quick care ride.
When I got in the truck it smelled like weed and cigarettes. He lit up a joint and asked me if I wanted a hit. “No, thanks.” I asked if they had a fun night and he said, “yeah.” He started his truck and begin driving in the general direction of my house. Then he said he had to make a quick stop and instead of making a right turn like he should have, he kept straight. He drove about a half a block slowing up at a neighborhood park. “Are you going to the park?” I immediately felt sick to my stomach. He said he wanted to show me something and pulled into the parking lot. The lot and the park was so dark, it seemed extra dark that night. It was late spring, I had on jeans, a t-shirt and sweatshirt. His truck had a bench seat in the front, so there wasn’t really anything separating us like in some vehicles. He turned the car off and looked at me with the strangest grin on his face. He pulled me toward him, he smelled like weed and beer. He tried to kiss me; I turned my head. What are you doing? He didn’t say anything. He pushed the seat back and pushed me down. He said “you a virgin, huh? I know you got a little boyfriend, but you need a man.” He put his hand firmly on my chest near my neck and told me to relax. I couldn’t say anything, I didn’t really know why this was happening. He roughly unbuttoned and pulled down my jeans and underwear. Tears filled my eyes and I tried to hold on to my underwear and jeans. He grabbed my hands and at some point, had unzipped his pants and pulled out his penis. He was pushing me and told me to turn over, got behind and on top of me… It probably lasted no longer than 2 or 3 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity. The pain was overwhelming.
He told me to stop crying and pull up my pants. He drove me to my house. As I was getting out, he grabbed my arm and said, “don’t tell anyone so we can do it again.” I went straight upstairs to my room. Got in the shower and cried. I felt so ashamed, scared, dirty. Why didn’t I say anything? I didn’t scream… didn’t fight… didn’t even try to get out of the truck. Didn’t stand up for myself at all. My body was sore in ways I had never experienced. I didn’t sleep all night. For some reason I decided I could not tell anyone. NOT because I wanted to “do it again” but because I reasoned it must have been my fault and I would get in trouble and I would disappoint everyone. He found ways to get me alone many more times over several months. He did horrible things to me and never pretended to care.
I am an introvert and as a kid I was shy. Although I grew up with four brothers, as the youngest and the only girl it was not unusual for me to spend time by myself doing girly things when I couldn’t or didn’t want to tag along with my brothers. I mention this because I realize that I learned to hide a part of myself from my family and friends during this time. When I wasn’t busy doing things away from home I would often retreat to my room or get lost in a book or writing. My behavior didn’t necessarily seem odd or alarming to anyone, but it was my coping mechanism. A way to hide myself.
It was time to go back to school, I had turned 15 over the summer and I was entering my sophomore year. For some foolish reason this made me think I could finally escape his grip. And then one day I was hanging out after school waiting for practice to start and he pulled up! I couldn’t believe it. I turned and went into the building. Looking back that might have been the beginning of what I’ll call my “awakening.”
My boyfriend at the time was a senior and we had been a couple since the middle of my freshman year. He was a nice guy and respectful. We only kissed and held hands, never even talked about having sex. We went to all the school dances together and we were going to the homecoming dance soon. That night after the homecoming dance we were parked somewhere, in the backseat kissing… and he decided to take it further. I wasn’t ready, I didn’t expect him to do this. When he reached under my dress between my legs, I told him to stop and I pushed him away. He looked so hurt and confused. He asked me if there was someone else. I said no, but he didn’t believe me. I wanted to tell him what was going on, but I was scared. What would he think of me? It was the perfect opportunity to tell someone and get some help, but I didn’t. How was it possible that I could tell the boy I liked that I didn’t want to have sex, but I couldn’t stop the man I hated from touching me? I was so ashamed and now I had hurt someone that cared about me and that I cared about. He broke up with me. Not because I wouldn’t have sex with him, but because he really thought I wanted to be with someone else. I couldn’t be mad at him, but I was mad at myself.
The following might be one of the most fucked up situations that came out of all of this, and that is saying a lot. This man had become so comfortable in what he was doing to me that he told his brother about it. His brother propositioned me… like I was a prostitute! I told him no, and his brother lied and told “L” that I had sex with him. Apparently, this made “L” angry. He told me I was not allowed to have sex with anyone else and that he needed to “hurt me.” He tried…
This was the last time he raped me… I finally decided it was enough, I couldn’t let it continue! I hated him so much that my fear turned to anger. I still hadn’t told anyone, but I stood up for myself and told him I was telling everyone what he was doing to me, that he was raping me. It stopped. I’m not even sure why. I have always had a feeling that his wife became suspicious and maybe she stepped in, but I don’t know what changed and it didn’t matter. I was just so tired of hiding and hurting.
The truth is that I didn’t tell anyone, I kept this secret for almost 25 years. I have never told my parents, there is still a small part of me that feels I was responsible for letting it happen. I finally told a couple of my brothers and they tried to find him, but he had moved to another state. He eventually returned; I have seen him. He looks at me, I do not allow any conversation. I always hope that no one has done what he did to me to his children or grandchildren…
To be clear rape is assault. In my case it was sexual intercourse forced upon me. There was never any consent. It was violent and abusive. As I read about the current legislation that seeks to abolish Roe v. Wade and restrict abortion in any form it sickens me. No matter where you fall on the ethical debate about abortion, I can’t believe anyone doesn’t feel this extreme position is gross and outrageous! I won’t even weigh in on all the political and social aspects that involve sexism, race and racism because there are far smarter people that have made those salient points. I can best speak to my personal experience knowing that if I would have been forced to have a child at the age of 14 or 15 with someone that I hated and that clearly hated me, I’m not sure who or what I would be today. And suggesting that someone, in particular a child, carry and birth a baby using adoption as the solution is cruel physical and psychological punishment. I understand that teenage girls get pregnant and have children all of the time. Some from the horrible acts of rape and incest, others from consenting relationships but perhaps lack of planning. There are plenty of young moms that make a way and certainly love their children. My own mother had her first child when she was 17. It helps when there is a partner and/or family to help provide support and love to the mother and child. Let’s just be real, being a parent is not easy no matter how prepared or mature or in love you may believe yourself to be. To be sure, I am not judging the decisions that females make, I am arguing that those decisions should be ours to make.
I’m not sure how I managed to maneuver through that time in my life on my own. Other than lots of prayer. I also know that the healthy love and attention that my father, brothers, grandfathers and other men in my life gave me as I was growing up allowed me to develop a sense of self-worth and understand how I should expect to be valued by men. Living in a society that often finds little worth in Black girls and women, I know that I have unconditional love from them. I don’t hate men; I hate that man! I love and support Black men. As an adult, I eventually sought out therapy and while I have things to address, I understand and accept that I am simply a work in progress. As I experience this life, the good the bad and the heartbreak I try to show gratitude and love. I believe part of my purpose is to bring happiness and love to others so I try very hard to keep my light bright, for myself and others.
Thank you for reading my story without judgment or pity.