As I sit here, watching the black line blinking, waiting for my brain to conjure up the words to say what I feel needs to be said, I feel an urge to say what is right, a strange calm, and at the same time I feel fear. Fear of telling my story yet again, calmness at knowing the relief telling it brings, if only briefly, and I know I must write and share it again and again until someone hears the message. I know people I've told have listened, though I'm not sure I feel they've all heard the message. This is wrong, it shouldn't happen to anyone, and if we're going to fix it, silence and shaming and blaming isn't the answer. Screaming our stories from the rooftops, correct education about sex and consent, and everyone being taught to treat other people as they should be treated, like human beings, is at least part of the answer. So, this is my story, told in its entirety for only the second or third time, and it's for all those who were too young to understand what happened to them at first, and to those who, like so many, repressed their memories for as long as they could and didn't know what to do when they resurfaced. I am so sorry it's so long though and I apologise if it's too much information and triggers anyone at all, in any way, shape or form, I truly don't intend to be the cause of any more pain.
I guess I should just start from the beginning, right? I hadn't long moved to the town, from a village about 30 minutes away. I had finished the last seven months of my final year in primary school in the new town and had only been in secondary school for a few months when my story truly began.
Minor background details—I had met this guy at the primary school I'd moved to. I was always being told the same one or two stories about him when we were in primary school together. A story about how he had gotten aroused while in class the day I visited the school before I moved there, a story about how every time he went to the bathroom when I was in the class it was so he could relieve his arousal, silly things really. Things you hear when you're 12 and ignore because you're too innocent and naive and you honestly think people are messing around, you don't expect people to talk about things like that when you're only 12 and from a small village. Maybe these stories were nothing, maybe they weren't, who knows?
We started secondary school together. Our friend groups couldn't have been more separate. Then one day, I forget how, but I guess he asked me if I would go out with him and I said yes. I won't lie, I had a crush on him at the time. So that was that and all the sudden we were boyfriend and girlfriend, in as much as you could say two 13 year old kids could be boyfriend and girlfriend. We held hands and lightly kissed and that was it for about a month or so. We hadn't even been on a date. October comes and we have a two week holiday from school. He says we should do something, but that he's away the first week.
The second week rolls around and he asks me out on that Sunday, the day before we go back to school. We meet in town, wander around the few shops there and go to play pool. I was flirting with him most of the day and for years I blamed myself for leading him on by flirting with him but it wasn't my fault, I know that now. At the end of the day we walk back to his house to make it easier for my parents to pick me up when I text and ask. He goes in first and tells me to be quiet because his mum is asleep on the couch and ill. We head upstairs to his room so we don't disturb her. He closes the door and sits down next to me on his bed, and we put the TV on and quietly sit and watch some nature documentary. I should say, it took me a couple of years to piece everything together from the flashes I remembered so it may seem a little disjointed after the next three lines or so.
As we're sitting there he starts stroking my leg, that's fine it's just leg stroking, until he asks to play with my breasts. I was dating my crush, I didn't want to disappoint him and logically in my head I thought I could just tell him to stop if I didn't like it. I agree and he only starts playing with one, groping, tugging and then he started sucking with his mouth. I asked him to stop and he did for a while until I leaned over to grab my phone off the bedside table to text my parents to ask them to pick me up. He grabbed onto my chest, started groping hard, I remember him getting frustrated that he couldn't find my nipple because of the bra. Somehow I convinced him to let me go to the bathroom, my text still hadn't sent because of the bad signal when I returned.
I don't quite remember how but we wound up laying down on his bed, him on top of me, pinning my left leg between the wall and his right leg, one arm holding my arms above my head, one roaming around my exposed chest, he'd pushed my bra and shirt up. I remember pleading with him to stop, him laughing at me, telling me he knew what he was doing, to trust him, then him pulling down my tights and pushing up my skirt. He let one of my hands go so he could make me rub his bulge through his jeans, which I immediately tried to pull my hand away from. I remember him touching me through my panties and I guess my brain couldn't handle it anymore, the only thing I remember seeing after that is the penguins on the TV. I could still hear and feel everything he was doing, but my brain had decided not to let me watch anymore. The last thing I remember of that ordeal was hearing him unzip his jeans and then hearing my text notification go off. It was my parents, just in the nick of time, who were waiting outside in the car.
I couldn't have been happier to hear my phone go off than I was in that moment. He let me go after failing to convince me we should send them away for an hour or two, fixed my clothes, grabbed my bag and phone and ran downstairs and into the car. I didn't say anything about it. I just asked what we were having for dinner and decided I just wanted to forget about it. Well, I guess my brain agreed with me about forgetting it, other than searching the internet to see what I could even say had happened to me, and crying myself to sleep that night I forgot about it, after I tried telling someone, other than my parents, about it the first day back at school.
I still can't wrap my head around the fact that the next part of the story truly happened. It seems completely insane to even think about, never mind tell people about. The next day was the first day back at school and I decided to go see my pupil support tutor about it. I didn't know how to explain it or what word was even right to use. I think I just said he was doing things to me I didn't want him to do. Her first response, though at first it reads caring, wasn't even expressed in any sort of tone that would suggest kindness or understanding, not even cautiously. "Do I need to take you to the hospital?" And in response to my confused face, "There are tests they can do to prove if you're lying." Yet again I can't believe I've had to explain that this conversation happened at all. This isn't even the worst of it though, this conversation wasn't over, and she would prove to be just as unkind in the future too, but we'll get to that in a while. After a little talking she says "Right. Well I'll just disrupt his class and ask him to come up here and we'll see what he has to say about it." She does so, because my saying no convinces her further that I'm lying, and he appears at the door two minutes later. Bear in mind this is an open plan office and, though it's fairly empty, there's still five or six people in there at the time. She looks at me, my watery eyes move down to look at the floor, I'm shaking with fear, and she asks, "Have you done anything to her she didn't want?" His response was obviously no, which she took as a signal that I was lying and immediately dismissed him. What followed was a rather loud chastisement of how I shouldn't lie about stuff like that because it could have ruined his life and it's people like me who make it difficult for real victims to come forward. I didn't go back to class that morning, I left in tears and wound up sat in an empty classroom with a teacher who I knew of but had never been taught by, crying my eyes out. I couldn't tell her what had happened, I was too afraid she wouldn't believe me either, so I told her it was just a misunderstanding. I forgot about it after that.
I didn't talk to him for a week or two but I'm still ashamed to say I never broke it off with him for another four months. That was one of the biggest mistakes though. Once we started talking again he started asking for nudes, that quickly progressed to him threatening me if I didn't send them, then threatening me if I didn't perform webcam "shows" for him. He claimed it was just him watching but not long after it started I could always tell it wasn't just him there, he had friends around.
If you're asking yourself why would I do that, don't worry, I asked myself the same thing regularly. He started threatening me not long after he started asking for nudes because I'd refuse to send them to him. I don't remember exactly what he would say to threaten me every time, though when you're a 13 year old from a small village someone threatening to "knock you out" or something similar would have you scared. At least once he threatened me in person, in school, nearly hit me too and that cemented the fear. Eventually we broke up and I just stopped doing the "shows." He would continue to threaten me but I didn't give in, and nothing happened to me. I felt kind of stupid for being so naive as to believe he could actually harm me when he'd been threatening me before.
Two or three years later he starts talking to me again, just random, "Hey, how are you?" messages. Then one day he asked to meet me to go for a walk and a chat so I agreed but asked some friends to follow behind us, I never told them why, and I don't think I even really knew at the time why I felt like someone else should be there. We met and we started walking back towards his house, which took us past the front gate of the school. As we got closer to the school I realized my friends had fallen way back and he hadn't said or done anything wrong, so I figured it wasn't that bad. He must have also noticed my friends had fallen back and he started grabbing my bum while we walked. I told him to stop or we wouldn't be talking again, and he apologized and stopped. Only for a minute though because we had reached the school gate.
We slowed down our walking pace and next thing I knew I was being pushed against the gates, his mouth was on mine, his hands undoing my jeans. I was shocked and froze for a split second. I tried to push him away and he put one hand inside my panties then a finger or two inside me so I slapped him somewhere, I'm not sure where, and he stopped kissing me and took his fingers out of me. He looked furious when he pulled his body away from me, I pushed him again and told him I never wanted to talk to him again as I did up my jeans again and I ran off back to my friends as I heard his friends, who had climbed trees around the gate, laughing and wolf-whistling.
I was 15 and had only a slightly better understanding of what he'd done to me this time. Again I went to my pupil support tutor. Again I got a negative response from her, more chastising, this time she didn't even let me say what happened, all I had to say was his name and she immediately jumped to "I don't want to hear any more lies from you." When I told her what he'd done she said "Even if that's true I can't do anything because it was outside school hours." Clearly that isn't true, if someone discloses to you that they were assaulted you have to do something about it, even if it's call someone who can actually deal with it. I decided I was done going to her after that.
I didn't even see her when he started messaging again when I was 17 and asking to talk to me again. Yet again, talking turned into something else, this time it was playing truth or dare. He would never let me take a truth and his dares would almost always involve showing him something or letting him touch something. I knew there was no point arguing about it if previous experiences were anything to go by. I'd say no but he'd eventually coerce his way into seeing or touching what he had asked to see or touch. He even asked me if he could take my virginity if I was still a virgin at 18, even though I said no repeatedly and insistently, he heard yes. Luckily he left school before then and I haven't spoken with him since.
I guess that's my story. I saw him a few times again in school and he kept coming into my work with his friends when I was 18, they'd make rude comments, humping motions, call me names, threaten me, etc. Somehow he managed to make it onto my Facebook friends list even though I didn't add him. When I was 17 I finally got the courage to tell my new pupil support tutor and year head, she was very understanding and caring and actually said if there was anything she could ever do for me I was welcome to ask her for help. Other than her, there's only one other person who knows my entire story, my current boyfriend. He's been so sweet, caring, loving, and understanding. I could never bring myself to tell my parents for many reasons that I won't bore you with now. I tried to tell his girlfriend of the moment, a friend of mine, when we were 17 but she then asked him and his family about it one night and the next day verbally attacked me in front of our entire year and many of the other pupils coming in to school. That was the day I spoke to the new pupil support tutor.
I said this was for those who were too young to understand and for those who repressed the memories and didn't know what to do when they resurfaced. That's still true and my story about the resurfacing of the memories isn't that long. One night between Christmas and New Year 2010 I was trying to work out what had gone wrong in my life and made me so angry, what had made me slowly but surely develop a drinking problem at 14 that I'd had to drop cold turkey at 15 when I realised, after getting home from a day at school where I'd been drinking vodka and coke in class and had somehow not been caught, that I had a real problem. I was just laying there and it was as if my brain just decided now is the right time. I had a flashback, I felt like I was back in his bedroom again, I could feel the fear, smell him, feel his body on top of mine. Then as quickly as it had come, it had gone and I was left with this residual fear.
I cried that night, and many nights after. I couldn't work out what to do but I knew I couldn't tell my parents. I don't know why but that was the one overriding thing I knew for definite. Over the next few months I became severely depressed and began planning to take my life. I was convinced there was nothing worth living for, nobody would miss me if I was gone, and I had too much baggage for even myself to carry. I didn't in the end and that was quite truly down to me deciding to watch a TV show that had been recommended to me months before. This show quite literally saved my life. Even though I'd read about how people move on and how they live normal lives after sexual assault, I didn't fully believe it until this show proved to me that there is a life after. I will forever be grateful to the cast of the very first episode I ever watched for showing me the light. Funny isn't it? How it can be something as simple as a TV show that can save your life. It almost makes it sound like I wasn't 100% decided on my plan but I was, I had written the note, planned the day, everything had been considered and carefully planned. Then in the space of 45 minutes, I'm still depressed but no longer planning anything because I've been shown there is hope.
For anyone who was too young to understand it at first the only thing I can say that truly helped me understand it was researching everything about rape and sexual assault. I spent hours researching, partly because I couldn't decide which term actually related to my situation. There were terms for rape and assault in every situation imaginable except if you were a teen who had been attacked by another teen the same age. The general terms rape and sexual assault always sounded as though they were only applicable to adults but I eventually just settled on sexual assault to describe my experiences. That helped me, I don't know if it will help anyone else. Just know if you report or not, if you tell someone or not, whatever you decide to do has to be your decision and you have to be comfortable with it, don't let anyone try to force you to do something about it. For anyone who repressed memories, I completely understand the difficulty in getting people to believe your story. Too many people are convinced if you say you repressed something you really mean you made it up and forgot the story you were going to tell.
I'm here to say I believe you all, I'm sorry it happened to you, and I hope you can find some way to move forward and heal. I personally never sought professional help, I probably should have done at some point, but I haven't ever. That was the right choice for me. I just want every survivor to make the right decisions for themselves. Please know your healing won't be a straight line. You may frequently begin to question your reasons for certain decisions or you'll have intrusive memories or flashbacks from time to time, you may even fall back into blaming yourself for it. Lord knows I frequently go back and forth between feeling this way and feeling healed, though maybe that's because I tend to feel some of my story is at least partly my fault, and it's been nine years since this started happening to me. Please know it's OK for you to not be healed right away, just surround yourself with a good support system, whether online or in person, it will really help when the bad days come knocking. And know there are entire communities of people who believe you and want to support you in any way they can. Stay Strong, Be Well.