Trigger Warning: Rape, Sexual Assault
I guess you could say I am one of those girls who ‘deserved’ to get raped. That’s right, ME…your buddy, your friend from high school, that cool chick you met…all of that. Every time you speak about rape and the girls who ‘should have known better‘ you are talking about me. I haven’t talked about this publicly but now is the time.
When I was in high school, I was not a happy teenager. I didn’t realize it at the time as I thought I was the most awkward person in the world but I now know, I was pretty awesome in all my lameness. I was goofy, lonely and at odds with the way my body was developing. I was nerdy and had a hard time making friends. I wore thick glasses and my hair was always a ruin of an experiment. My clothes were rarely trendy. I was terribly insecure. Not cute (in my mind) and not one of the popular girls. I’d been raised in an extremely rigid religious family and there seemed to be more things that I couldn’t do then things I could. My religion wasn’t mainstream and NO ONE could ever understand why at sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday I literally fell off the face of the planet. I remember feeling weird and lonely through most of my high school years.
An older male teenager I knew from church who was already out of high school told me he had a new room mate and he wanted to introduce me to him. I had a twinge that something seemed off about this but I was very happy to have someone to talk to on the phone. The room mate was a medical student at Duke in his 20’s. As a 40+ year old woman today, some things now occur to me that my 15 year old self didn’t know. As an adult, I listen to that little creepy gut feeling that tells me to move in the other direction. As a 15 year old, I hadn’t refined my spidey sense yet. But according to several of my Facebook friends, I should have known better. I used to talk to this man on the phone secretly when my mother wasn’t around because I wasn’t allowed to talk to boys on the phone yet. Again, my Facebook friends would say, “See, you knew you were doing something wrong.” I did and that wrong thing was disobeying my mother. Shame on me. I know, I was the only teenage girl to ever do this so I guess I had to accept it.
In truth, I was happy and excited. A guy had shown interest in me. A college student. A MEDICAL student at Duke for God’s sake. I was enamored with the idea that me, the weird geeky one, could hold his attention. That he kept calling me and eventually that he wanted to meet up with me sent my heart soaring. No one knew I was talking to him and he would periodically and as time passed, emphatically state that he wanted to see me in person, that he needed to see me. He told me how mature I was for being able to keep our friendship from my high school friends. None of our conversations were sexual or even close. He asked about my day, my parents, my life. He affirmed me and made me feel like he cared about me. I felt safe. I was wrong.
Not too long after this began, I developed bronchitis. I was at home for about a week from school. Towards the end of my illness I resumed talking on the phone to my friend. He mentioned that since he was in med school he would be happy to drop by and check in on me. I declined. He persisted. I told him flat out I could not have company and reminded him that he knew I wasn’t even supposed to be talking to him on the phone. He said, “But don’t you trust me? I thought we were friends. Maybe I was wrong about us.” This bombshell hit me like a ton of bricks. Us? There was an us? God knows I didn’t want to lose my friend. I thought fast. “Okay, you can come over but it has to be before my mom gets home because I will get into trouble“. He assured me he would be in and out. He didn’t lie about that.
He came over, performed a fake ass physical that ended with him on top of me ignoring my heartbroken and confused cries to stop. Eventually, I said nothing. He told me that if I didn’t want it, I wouldn’t have let him come over. I felt ashamed. I felt guilty and dirty. I felt stupid and embarrassed. He got up, looked at me coldly and told me to clean myself up before my mom got home. And he left. I sat on the couch and cried. I got up, showered and tried to find a way to act normal before my mother got home. I folded in on myself.
When I got to church the next week I told the friend who had introduced me to him what happened and he said “oh I didn’t know y’all got down like that already”. There was a nasty little smirk on his face. I was confused and I was shocked. What did he mean? Clearly, he thought this was some kind of progression. I realized that he wasn’t my friend either. He had set me up and he knew what the end result was going to be.
In my mind, I settled on the thought that it was all my fault, I am sure my Facebook friends will be glad to know. I shouldn’t have been talking to a boy on the phone. (But he was a grown ass man who had no business preying on a naive barely teenage girl my mind screams today) I shouldn’t have let him come to my house. (He knew exactly what he was doing by coming to my house. He had a condom.)
And yes, it has taken me almost 30 years to talk about it. I am sure he successfully completed medical school and that he is somewhere living happily as a well-to-do doctor. I bet he is active with young people in his community. I am sure that if I were to publicly call him out, try to involve the police, my dear opinionated Facebook friends would tell me I just wanted his money at this late date. How could I destroy a respectable Black man who is someone for other young Black men to look up to? Why now after all these years? (Why anyone would want to keep a rapist as a young person’s hero is beyond me, but I digress.)
In hindsight, writing this out, I can see that as a HUGE turning point in my life and because it felt like a dirty secret I was responsible for, my life took a trajectory that truly I as a child did not deserve. It has influenced every single relationship I have been in since. It morphed my lack of confidence into an ugly belief that I was tainted, small and undeserving. And my Facebook friends think I deserved it.
All I can say at this late date is, I hope he isn’t your daughter’s doctor, or your neighbor or your church’s Youth Group leader or a coach. But if he turns up in your neck of the woods and happens to turn his gaze on one of yours, dear Facebook friends, I am sure you will support and embrace him. After all, I am sure if he does rape someone, according to you she probably deserved it.