I got picked on a lot in my formative years for one thing or another, simply because children are ruthless. I was a good kid, I didn’t hurt anyone, and my heart was and still is enormous. But kids don’t see that, they see whatever they imagine. So I made friends in different cliques and tried to stay under the radar. In seventh grade boys weren’t terribly interested in girls yet – and only the popular ones if they were – so I had very platonic interactions with them, if that.
One in particular seemed to enjoy harassing me, especially if he was in front of other people. He really was just that piece of shit, asshole kid who isn’t popular but acts like a dick to be noticed. He never had anything nice to say to me, so I pretty much avoided him.
One day after school, I was at the town library just a few hundred yards away doing research for a report until my sister picked me up because my parents were out of town. She was only going to be about an hour, so I started grabbing some books to get some information from. Suddenly, the asshole kid in my class walked through the door alone, and I ignored him. After a few minutes, he came over and started talking to me. I’m not rude, so I talked to him back. Then he asked me to grab a book waaaaay up on the top shelf, and when I did I realized he had crouched down on his knees and was trying to look up my shirt. I was kind of flattered, but I was mostly confused – why was he being nice to me when he’s usually a prick? I didn’t know, but I appreciated him being civil for once.
He followed me over to the table I had brought my books to and sat next to me. Disturbed by his extreme change in behavior toward me, I asked him why he’s being so nice to me. He told me he knows he’s been a jerk and wants to apologize. Then he asked if I’d meet him across the street at the park so he could explain himself. I was still close to my school and just feet from the library where I said I’d meet my sister, so I agreed and headed over. For some reason he didn’t walk with me, but showed up a few minutes later.
I don’t remember much about what happened when he finally sat next to me under that tree, or what we first started talking about. My memory only returns when his left hand ended up on my right thigh. It made me uncomfortable, but it seemed harmless enough. Until his hand slid up my thigh a few inches, then under my shorts, then up a few more inches, until his fingertips made contact with my panties and I pushed his hand away.
He calmed down for a minute, then somehow his hand found its way back to my thigh again. He told me to kiss him, but I shied away from him. I was only 12, I’d never kissed a boy in my entire life. But he insisted. And I told him no. So he gave me an ultimatum.
“You can either kiss me, or let me go up your shirt.”
I didn’t know what was happening to me, how to get out of it, or if it was my own fault; all I knew is that I certainly didn’t want my first kiss to be like this, or with this guy. With his hand firmly on my thigh I only had one choice. I would sacrifice my body to not have to live with this image of my first kiss engraved in my mind for the rest of my life. So I told him I’m not kissing him.
I had made my choice, and subsequently received my punishment. He picked up the bottom hem of my shirt with one hand to make room for the other to reach up under my shirt. His hand grazed up my stomach making my skin crawl, until he found a breast tucked away in my bra. He squeezed one, then the other while he stuffed his free hand between my thighs again. None of it felt right, I didn’t want any of it – so I pushed him away and told him to stop.
Suddenly enraged, he jumped up and started calling me names. He told me he was playing me the whole time and meant nothing he had said earlier. Then he walked away and left me there under the tree alone.
I couldn’t put a name to what had just happened to me, but I knew it wasn’t right or consensual. And I had no idea how to talk about it, but I felt a responsibility to. I knew enough to understand that what happened to me shouldn’t happen to other girls, and this guy needed to be stopped.
I was in shock and didn’t think that I’d be able to talk about what happened, so I decided to write my sister a letter instead. I wrote about what happened, where he touched me, and how I was feeling. She picked me up and knew I was acting weird, and as soon as we got home I locked myself in the upstairs bathroom. When I was ready, I called her up there. Standing on the other side of the locked door asking me what was wrong, I slipped her the letter under the door.
After two never-ending minutes of silence, I heard my sister begin to weep, then softly ask me to please open the door. She came in, embraced me, and we both burst into tears. Of course she felt responsible for letting me go to the library, but I did my best to convince her that none of it was her fault. She called my parents, they came home immediately, and we reported it to the police.
The following events felt just as bad as his hands did on me.
The town Police Department sent our D.A.R.E. instructor out to my house because I was familiar with him, along with my school counselor for support. My parents and I sat down with them and the officer asked me to explain, in my own time, every single detail of what had happened. What time it was, where we were, where he touched me, what he said, etc. I was forced to relive the entire scene again in front of my parents so the Police could have a case against him. I found the strength to prosecute so he couldn’t do this to anyone else.
I had to switch some classes and change my homeroom so I’d never be in the same class with him, but I saw him in the halls, yard, bus, and lunchroom every single day at school. He typically kept his distance, but that didn’t stop the occasional glare I’d get from him. I’m sure people talked, and I imagine he had his own ‘version’ of the story, but I stayed strong and tried to not let it affect me. I could have changed schools or demanded to be home-schooled, but I refused to let him ruin or alter my life. I heard there was another girl before me that he did it to, also.
My case never made it to a judge, he opted to do some kind of “therapy” in lieu of going to court. It saved me from having to testify and relive it all over again, but I’m not sure what he learned from the whole ordeal. He never had to live through the embarrassment of facing what he put me through, or explaining himself to someone who would judge his fate. He wasn’t condemned to community service or volunteering to make up for the wrong he did, all he had to do was talk and listen. Then he was free to roam around the same streets and halls as me. We even ended up at the same high school together too, so I endured four more years of seeing his face and watching him slither all over girls.
While I was able to save and cherish my first kiss for when I had more say in it, unfortunately my mental health was mildly affected by the incident. For the next year, I’d flinch any time a male would touch me – even my own father. Of course my father has never been inappropriate with me, but my instinct was to be afraid any time I was touched. Thankfully those feelings eventually went away, and I don’t think I’ve suffered any long-term effects except the contribution to my depression. I know that the situation could have been a lot worse for me, I was actually pretty lucky. I also don’t think I desire or dislike anything specific because of what happened to me; I definitely don’t have any “rape fantasies” like what can sometimes happen with sexual abuse victims. I’m obviously an extremely sexual person, but I’m certainly not giving him credit for that.
I grew up in that town, my parents still live there, and it will always be home to me, so I’ve passed by that tree thousands of times. I don’t think of what happened there every time, but many times I do. I’m at peace with what happened, and it taught me to be more cautious, trust my instincts, and that I’m strong enough to get through anything – and that’s not even the worst thing I’ve been through. I was somewhat tearful reliving this to write about it, but it made me realize this –
Part of being a writer is reliving our darkest times when we write about them, because they are the moments that shaped us.
So no matter what has happened to you or what you’re going through, you can get through it. If a 12 year old girl can speak up and survive this humiliation, there’s nothing that you and I can’t do.