Age 16 was a nightmare.
I was a nightmare.
Drinking, Drugs, Sex, Violence. You name it, I did it.
I have a whole month that is one giant black hole. I remember snippets here and there, but they come few and far between. I was a black-out drinker, living with a drug dealer, and every night was a party.
But there’s one flashback I keep getting and I wish I had the rest of the pieces to the puzzle of that night.
I know I was drinking.
I know people kept handing me drinks.
The last thing I remember is waking up naked in a bed with four guys who were not my drug-dealing boyfriend. I remember trying to find my clothes. I remember being scared and not knowing what happened or how I got to be in that situation.
What happened that night?
Even at my drunkest, I still had a sliver of morality. I’d never in a million years consent to something like that.
Here I am, years later, STILL trying to put the pieces together.
Was I raped?
Was I drugged?
I don’t know!
and it kills me.
I’m scared of the truth
I was laying in my bed with him, and we were kissing. It was nice. I was having fun. Then, he put his hand in my pants in a way he’d done before, but this time, I had explicitly asked him not to. After all, my family was home.
I told him to stop. I said no. I said please. He would take his hand out of my pants after several moments of my insistence, but it kept managing to snake it’s way back down there. Every time, it was the same. I would protest and, temporarily, he would grudgingly comply, until he decided again that I didn’t really mean my protestations.
One time, when we were just first dating, he asked me how to know when he should stop. I told him that it he did something I didn’t like or didn’t want him to do, I would tell him. He said okay. But when it came down to it, he didn’t listen.
After it happened, he apologized over text, citing what I had said when we first started dating about letting him know when I was uncomfortable. I felt guilty, and sad, and hollow, and dirty, and I didn’t know why. I think if I had known, I wouldn’t have forgiven him so easily, simply warning him not to do it again.
I didn’t realize what exactly had happened until months after the fact. I was reading Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti (great book) and I came across a definition of sexual assault. I realized that the incident with my ex-boyfriend fit the definition of unwanted sexual contact. More importantly, I realized that the weight on my shoulders and the uneasy feeling in my stomach had a valid reason for plaguing me. I realized I FELT like a victim of sexual assault.
I felt violated, and by someone I had trusted.
We broke up after that happened, but before my epiphany, because he was an unsupportive jerk with the inability to listen. He doesn’t know that I think he’s a predator, a source of fear and anguish. I want him to know, though. I want everyone to know, because it could happen to any girl or woman. After all, it happened to me, and what am I? A well-to-do, privileged, white, cisgendered straight person. I’m not the sort of person people think this happens to. But my gender identity, my sexuality, my race, or socioeconomic class don’t matter. It doesn’t matter that he was my boyfriend, that I had consented in the past or that I would consent again in the future. I said no. And no doesn’t mean anything but NO.
I am a victim of sexual assault. It hurts me. But it is what it is. All I can do is move on, deal with it, and try to help others deal with their experiences as well. I have no animosity towards him. Just sadness. Just a sense of defeat. Just a hollow ache inside of me. I don’t think he realized the severity of his actions, or how they affected me. He didn’t mean any harm. It’s no excuse, but to me, it’s enough reason not to press charges. I hope I can someday have to courage to inform him of what he did to me. To let him know that it was wrong and he should never do it again. Perhaps once I’ve healed a bit. I just hope he doesn’t hurt anyone else in the interim.
We all have letters we’d like to send, but know that we can’t. A letter to someone we no longer have a relationship with, a letter to a family member or friend who has died, a letter to reclaim our power or our voice from an abuser.
Letters where actual contact is just not possible.
Do you have a letter you can’t send?
Why not send it to The Band?
I thought about changing your name for this but then I realized, nope, screw that. You didn’t care about my feelings when you did what you did, why should I protect you?
I was going through a really hard time when you and I met. I had been dealing with infertility and wasn’t taking it well. We weren’t telling anyone we were trying to have a baby yet, so no one knew why I was fighting with depression as much as I was.
We were still fairly new to the area, and I was desparate for friendship. That’s where you came in. Your office was right next to mine, and we both had a lot of down-time with our individual jobs. We had a lot in common, so our friendship came naturally.
We confided in each other. Neither of us was in a stable marriage. Your husband preferred to go hunting rather than spend time with you. My husband liked hanging out with his friends after work instead of coming home.
I didn’t approve when my boss’ marriage started to fall apart and you flirted with him. You were not appropriate with how you handled that situation. But then one of our co-workers started paying attention to me. I won’t lie. I liked the attention. My husband was ignoring me, and this guy was cute.
I regret that I flirted with him.
Unlike you, I kept my flirtation to just at work. There was nothing more to it than two people who were attracted to each other who talked and flirted at work. I didn’t take breaks with him. I didn’t go anywhere alone with him. Did you know that when I took my breaks, I was in my office working on a Christmas gift for my husband?
You, on the other hand, took my boss out for lunch, just the two of you. You even went so far as to throw a party when your husband was out of town and invited a bunch of guys (and only one girl) from work to the party. There was drinking and craziness, and you admitted to groping my boss. I knew he was too emotionally distraught to return your inappropriate behavior, but I was less than impressed with what you were doing.
Then came that horrible night when my husband confronted me about my supposed affair. He repeated things back to me that I had told you in confidence. My words had been twisted to sound like I was guilty of much more than a mild flirtation. He accused me of a full-blown affair and implied that I was using this other guy to try to get pregnant. He said that I had been seen leaving with this other guy and we had been seen holding hands and kissing. You know as well as I do that that never happened.
He had his mind set that I was cheating on him and anything I said was a lie. I wish I could say I was 100% innocent, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.
We were leaving the next day on vacation. We still went. We talked through things and eventually he said he believed me that I hadn’t cheated.
What I couldn’t figure out was how he’d found out the specific things I had said. I had trusted you. Your sister-in-law also worked for the same company we all worked for. I figured you’d blabbed to her and things got back to him through the company grapevine.
We returned from vacation, and I went back to work. I still considered you my friend, but I was much more careful about what I said to you because clearly you couldn’t keep your mouth shut. I completely severed any friendship with our co-worker as soon as I returned. I requested a transfer to a different location, so my husband wouldn’t have to worry about me being around our co-worker.
A few years passed. I found out that the whole time my husband had been “hanging out with friends” after work, he had actually been having multiple affairs. While he never admitted to anything, I had learned to read between the lines to figure out what was going on. One day, he let enough information slip that I figured out you two were sleeping together. All that time I thought I could trust you, not only were you having sex with him, you were reporting back to him everything I said – twisting it to sound like I was mocking my marriage.
I looked you up online recently. I was happy to see your first husband divorced you. I wonder how much of his not being around you was caused by his knowledge of your behavior.
I’m still very angry. I’m angry at all of the women who knew my now-ex-husband was married and chose to have sex with him anyway. I’m angry with the people who knew about his cheating and didn’t tell me. I’m especially angry with you for pretending to be my friend while betraying me in the worst way possible. I don’t want to be angry anymore. The fact is, you’re not worth my anger.
I’ve moved on. I haven’t had any contact with my ex in years. I’m happily married and busy raising my kids. I don’t need to hold on to the past. I’m hoping that writing this letter and releasing it out to the world will help me to forgive you for your actions.
So I’m going to say it, even though I don’t feel it yet, in hopes that I’ll feel it soon.
I forgive you.
5 years ago I finally was able to get myself and my two children out of an emotionally abusive relationship. It wasn’t easy, and definitely took a toll on all of us. However, the kids and I WERE able to move on, and although life isn’t perfect (is it ever?), it’s decidedly BETTER.
Today, I find myself in a non-abusive relationship with a really great man. He takes care of me and my children and is wonderful in so many ways. Yet he can’t seem to understand why I am often sad and moody, sometimes depressed, and why I am constantly asking for him to validate me, our relationship, and his love for me. I sometimes feel so overwhelmed that I can’t even explain to him how I am feeling or why.
Sometimes I cry for no reason, or get overly upset. I find myself not trusting that he REALLY loves me and fearing that he will leave me. He doesn’t understand my behavior, and sometimes, neither do I. It frustrates me because I feel like something is wrong with me. It frustrates him because he doesn’t understand what is making me act this way.
My behavior is ruining the only stable relationship that I’ve had since my divorce. Does emotional abuse really do this? Is this why I can’t figure out how to function normally? I feel so lost. I want to be “normal”. I want to trust that this man will love and care for me. But I CAN’T. I feel like I don’t know how to act, and I’m afraid to do or say the wrong thing. It’s awful feeling this way. I know in my head that this man is great & supportive, but I can’t control the negative thoughts and feelings that I am having.
Has this happened to anyone else? Is there any kind of support group or information for someone who is in a relationship with someone who was previously verbally abused? I want so badly to help him understand me. And I want to be able to trust someone again.
I’d been traveling in Nepal for a few months; I felt a great amount love toward so many people I’d met. Their openness and kindness astounded me. I’d met so many people I could trust, and when I met one I couldn’t, I wasn’t expecting it. We met in a mundane way, an interaction like dozens of others – just small talk. He suggested we go get coffee and I agreed. He reminded me of a friend from home, thoughtful … if maybe a bit dark. We spoke about our lives, about our families, our schools, our hopes for the future.
The months leading up to the trip had been the most magical of my short, sweet life. I’d gradually become closer to a old friend, Elijah. He’s the best person I’ve ever met, yet I pushed him away for years. He persisted, waited, he wrote songs, traveled far to see me. Finally, I stopped pushing him away. He’d sing me to sleep, then drive half an hour back home. We took walks late at night while the fireflies buzzed around. We took out the canoe we’d bought the year before onto the lake in the moonlight. We went to a contra dance for his birthday – he wore a floral skirt, we went to New York with a friend and rode the ferry until 4 in the morning. I slept on the floor of the subway in his arms while the sun came up.
Throughout our courtship, I’d been breaking up with a crappy, shitty, obnoxious fucking relationship. I dragged out because I didn’t want to hurt anyone. Unfortunately it hurt quite a few people, Elijah included. He supported me though this, gave me advice and waited until I was ready to end it. When I did, our time together truly started. We lived in his house together for several incredible days. We cried together after watching Babe, we went to the river, we walked his dog. He drove me to and from work– half an hour each way. We were really in love, completely committed to each other.
I’d never felt more comfortable, more myself.
I carried the feeling of love and peace with me as I left for my four-month trip. It was so hard being so far from him – I felt I was spread too far. I wanted to be more present in Nepal, but I missed Elijah so much. I had pretend conversations with him, wrote him letters I never sent. We communicated less and less, but I never lost the feeling of love and closeness.
Near the end of my trip, months later, I was drinking horrible coffee with a person I was getting to know. He suggested that we go play pool and drink beer and I, feeling confident about my ability to travel alone, agreed. I don’t ever drink and I don’t know why I did. I went along with something I’m against and I don’t know why. Maybe I was trying to break out of self-imposed restrictions. Maybe I was trying to be like all the friends I had lost. Maybe I was being reckless.
I lost control. I drank until I couldn’t walk straight. We left and went outside – I was ready to return to my room a few miles away. He kissed me but it felt like an attack – so aggressive, so forceful. I said that I wanted to leave, my head was spinning; everything was spinning. He drove me back to my room. When I expected him to leave, he stayed.
My memory has so many gaps I can barely piece together what happened.
I remember telling him to stop, I remember the pain of him biting my breasts. I remember it stopped for a minute. I remember him saying it was okay, we didn’t need to do that, we could just talk. I remember him entering me and every time I think of that there is nowhere to run.
I’m so furious at myself for not fighting, I can’t understand why I was so paralyzed. My head was spinning, I was far from reality, but still, I could’ve fought him. This was my greatest fear – I had nightmares of being chased in a glass house by two men trying to rape me. Elijah had made me a dream catcher and they stopped. I don’t have those dreams anymore – they became my reality.
Afterward, I lied to myself, I couldn’t understand or face what had happened. I’d died inside, lost myself, I was less than a shell of a person.
It happened the next morning – I can’t remember it, but I know it happened. He raped me the next night, too. I was dragged around, like meat on a hook, my life no longer my own. I was so far away from Elijah, from my family, from everything I’ve ever loved. I was a walking, breathing scar. I left that town and felt the most incredible relief. We met up again and it was the same feeling of complete loss of self; I felt disgusting and alone and dirty. He left. Again the relief.
I went back to the family I’d lived with for over a month, their love was the most wonderful, healing thing. My love for them was so powerful. I felt good again, temporarily able to forget the rape.
I continued lying to myself, and the lies, after I’d told them long enough, were difficult to disprove. I told myself that this was what I’d always wanted – to be traveling and wanted, to be pretty enough for people to want me. I covered up the assault with this bullshit façade I clung to it for dear life. I couldn’t possibly be so alone, so afraid to face the truth: I was raped. I held onto these lies when I left Nepal and flew home to meet Elijah who’d driven 3,000 miles across the country to meet me.
I was so happy to see him but something was … wrong. We felt distant, we couldn’t connect. I’d promised I would be honest and so I told him that I’d had sex with someone else. That was the worst lie I’ve ever told. I slept, but he was up all night; he drove to Washington and cried for hours.
In the morning, he had gotten us breakfast and we left. We spent the next 10 months not leaving each other’s side no matter that we were both so damaged, something so wrong. I blamed him for reminding me that I’d “cheated” on him and begged him to forget about it. He couldn’t believe it was the truth. We fought for all those months – horrible, confusing fights. During them, I was so removed, almost apathetic.
We decided to take a trip to South America to truly commit to each other. After a few days there, the truth came out. Seated under a tree I told him the truth, about how I had said “no” but it happened anyway, how I’d been dead inside. It wasn’t an easy truth to hear.
After all those lies, he can’t always trust me. Sometimes he does, sometimes he wants to, and sometimes he wants me to suffer all the pain I’ve caused him. Sometimes he doesn’t believe me. He tries to understand why I didn’t fight back, why I let it happen several times after the first attack. I feel this foul, consuming darkness. I feel this love was ripped away from me, his trust ripped away. I need him to believe me, to forgive me. I love him. I don’t want to pressure him but he blames me. He gets mad at me and believes first lie sometimes. He’s never laid a hand on me but sometimes I wonder how we can be together if he doesn’t believe me.
He’s the only person I’ve told of my attack, I trust him and love him more than I can even understand, but this has made it really difficult for me to heal. I feel I’ll never have my life back, when I’m alone, I get so scared. My fists clench. Waiting for a sound of someone coming near.
The dentist said that I can’t make irreversible mistakes, he had no idea what that meant to me. I smiled. I know that this is irreversible, I just hope wherever it takes me, I’ll be all right. An old friend said that I looked as though I’ve really experienced things. He, too, had no idea what that meant.
My life is changed forever I think. I don’t think it has to be for the worse. It certainly has been, but I have hope. I have hope that someday when my eyes are open they see the bright blue of Elijah’s eyes, and when they are closed, they see the calmness of the night sky.
I’m a teenage sexual assault victim.
This is my story:
When I was sixteen years old, I was sent abroad to study and work. I was on my own – no family, no friends, and no jobs. And as I was underage, it was quite hard to get a job.
Finally, a nice man with a family – his lovely wife pregnant with his second, a son about a year old – agreed to allow me to work at his store without a contract.
I trusted him. His family allowed me stay overnight, cooked me meals, as his house was nearer to my school. It was nice. One night we decided to have a party. We all drank.
He took advantage of me while his family was upstairs.
Desperately, I tried to run away. As his family was upstairs, he followed me downstairs and locked the door and pushed me down onto the floor. I tried to pull away, but he had a hold of both my hands and legs.
He stole my first time; my only chance to make it special. He stole my carefree teenage years, my childhood, my lively personality.
After he was done raping me, I ran for the door and escaped to home. I was scared – I couldn’t understand what had happened; what was going on. I lost all sense.
The next few days, I spent alone in my room, staring at nothing, not talking, not doing anything. My friends reported me missing – eventually they came to my house and found me in this state.
But they didn’t know what happened. I was in denial; pretending I didn’t know what’d happened. They knew something was up.
I quit my job.
I cut all connections with everyone in that city and moved away. I changed schools, took medicine to quell my anxiety, I started (and stopped) therapy sessions as I didn’t want to open up to the therapist. I didn’t want to. I pretended nothing had happened to me – as long as I believed nothing had happened, I’d be fine.
Dose after dose, I took the medication until I became addicted. I’m addicted to drugs and alcohol – they make me forget what happened. They allow me to feel happy again. I can live my life without caring about anything. I started doing dangerous things and harming myself, hoping that if one of my “adventures” goes terribly wrong, I can finally die.
I considered killing him, but decided that was a bad idea.
I lost my connections, my friendships with other people – become antisocial. It’s extremely hard for me to make friends because I just don’t want to talk or share my story with others. I close up and let nobody in.
They think I’m weird, snobby.
I lost interest in everyone – especially men. I fell apart without my family, I’m depressed and anxious; I cannot sleep without drinking alcohol. I suffer nightmares; I’m extremely jumpy – especially in my sleep. I hit people or shout at them if they touch me, even if it’s a friendly touch. Suddenly, I’ll wake wake up crying without remembering what I’m crying about. I drove everyone away from me – in order to find joy and safety alone
At age twenty, I got into university and am doing a bit better. I managed to make new friends – even if they think I’m odd.
I was doing okay. Until recently.
Finally, it hit me that what happened wasn’t a bad dream. I was actually raped. I’m on the verge of breaking down again… just as I’m trying to start a new life.
I can’t let this happen again.
That’s why I’m here, The Band: to share and hear about others, to find comfort in stories that help me find the light again.
I’m hoping that by writing this, by letting it all out, I can start new again.
It’s never too late.