Trigger Warning: Details and discussion about sexual assault
Junior year of high school, a friend set me up with a boy from a different school. He was a senior, a football player, and quite popular. We spent hours on the phone, did a few group dates to the movies, were at a few of the same parties but never had a solo date. He called me up one Saturday and asked if I was free that evening. He came over to my house with a pizza and a movie. My parents upstairs letting us have some privacy for our date, he popped in the tape. The movie was Caligula.
I was extremely uncomfortable but didn’t want to look uncool and ask him to turn it off. We started kissing, and soon he was on top of me. He tried to put his hands down my pants but my high waisted guess jeans made it difficult. I asked him to stop. He unzipped my jeans and began to pull them down. I said it more forcefully, but I still said please because I was a good girl and that's what good girls did. Please STOP. Please NO. He took the palm of his large hand and pressed it down between my breasts, showing his strength as he pinned me to the couch. He looked me in the eye and smiled. “What are you going to do, scream?” He didn’t know me well enough to know that I had a close and trusting relationship with my parents. I told him I would scream and my dad would come down and take care of him. “I’m not scared to scream,” I said, hyperventilating but trying to sound confident. What if my parents didn’t hear me? What if he covered my mouth? But he didn’t.
He got up, grabbed his movie, called me a frigid bitch and left.
He told his friends he slept with me. Friends who didn’t go to my school, who didn’t know me. Friends who believed him and when I went to a party they were at snickered and pointed and coughed while saying “slut” when I walked by. Friends who were just a couple months from graduating and I’d never have to see again.
I was so very lucky. It could have gone a different way so very easily. So often it does.
I haven’t forgotten that football player from the other school. We have mutual friends on Facebook. He has a wife and kids, went to good schools, and now has an impressive job. Scroll through his account, and he looks like an upstanding individual. He is a coach for his kid’s team, goes to church, hosts barbecues in his backyard. But I see in his photos that same person who smashed his hand down on my chest with all his might and looked at me with such a devilish grin it looked ripped off a Disney villain. He may have only been 17 but he knew exactly what he was doing.
I never told my friend who set us up what happened. I didn’t tell my parents. I didn’t tell my friends. Nothing happened, right? He didn't actually do anything to me, maybe I was being overdramatic. Maybe I was a frigid bitch and other girls wouldn't have been upset with the situation. I just wanted to put it behind me. But clearly, 27 years later still occasionally looking him up on Facebook I haven’t put it behind me. And with what is going on in the news I can’t stop thinking about it.
When I went to college the biggest shock to me was how many strong, smart, fantastic women I befriended were raped or sexually assaulted. Women who came from all sorts of families, economic levels, cultures, religions, communities, prep schools and public schools. Women who were hurt by friends, family, and leaders in their community. Women who attended the same exact frat party I did wearing that same J. Crew rollneck sweater but their night took a different turn. Women who told no one because they were scared. Scared of not being believed, scared of being blamed, scared of being shunned, scared of being kicked out of their school or their family, scared of far more than some exiting seniors calling them “slut” under their breath.
If someone at age 17 is found to be torturing cats in the neighborhood, would you just give them a slap on the wrists or would you put them in jail? What if that 17-year-old broke into a home, tied up the owners and stole their jewelry? Would you want a person who did either of these acts to be in a position of power? Why are women respected less than cats and jewelry?
That football player was popular, a good student, well-liked. He volunteered for charities, went to church, was the kind of kid you’d think you’d want your daughter to date. Ask a hundred people who knew him then, they’d say he was never the type to do such a thing. But he did.