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signed up with a fake name, but I am Stephanie.

In 1995, when I was 15, there was an attempted sexual assault on me by some 20-something-ish guy who was a bouncer at a local bar. At the time, my best friend was having sex and knew lots of her older brother’s friends. She was able to get us into the bar. It felt so cool to be doing that at 15.

We were going to hang out with the same bouncer guy, who was friends with her current “boyfriend” the next weekend. I thought it was so neat that a decent looking older guy thought I was pretty and attractive enough to buy drinks for. I was so bloody naive.

It was fall. I remember them picking us up at her house, then driving around to random places (a trailer park somewhere looking for liquor, then someone’s house). We ended up at the local park. It was dark by then. While my friend went off into the dark park to have sex with her boyfriend (just after having an abortion), I was left with this guy who had bought me drinks at the bar the weekend before, who gave me a kiss on the lips, who I thought was cool.

He tried forcefully yanking up my shirt, trying to get my bra off. Kissing me hard. He was scaring the shit out of me and I didn’t know what to do. I think he tried undoing my pants. He kept telling me that I owed it to him. That I was a tease. I remember eventually running a short distance away from the playground equipment to a picnic table, where I told him, terrified, that I was on my period. He was angry and called me a liar. I took an unopened tampon from my pocket and threw it in his direction.

He proceeded to tell me he would hurt my family if I said anything. I had to tell him everyone’s names and where I lived and my phone number. I sat in terror, unsure if he was going to rape me, until I finally heard my friend coming back to where we were. He told me to “walk like you’ve just been fucked.”

I’ll never forget those words. I wish I had stood up to him and told him off. But I was afraid. And had no phone. Wasn’t within walking distance even to a pay phone. I had no ride home. I had no idea what I would say to my parents.

I was a virgin and didn’t even know what that was, so I tried to walk slowly and limp a little while he and his friend snickered on the way back to the truck. I felt humiliated, stupid, foolish, scared. My father was a cop. Why the fuck did I allow myself to be left alone in a dark park at night with a guy I had met once before? I was so stupid. And I felt so exposed, having told him all kinds of details about my family when we were sitting in the park.

I didn’t tell anyone until I told my mother, many months later. I made her promise not to tell my father. I was put on anti-depressants that summer.

On the anniversary of the day, I honestly cut myself to shreds with a razor blade in the shower. I don’t remember what I said, but I remember my father being on duty and having to take me to the emergency room at the hospital in the back of his squad car. I was destroyed. I was a mess. And I managed to humiliate my poor father (and mother) by being taken to the small town hospital like that.

I ended up being admitted and evaluated in the psych. ward for 2 weeks. My first true love, my first real boyfriend, came to visit me. We got caught fooling around in the hospital by my mom. Yet another reason to feel humiliated, dirty and wrong. I was 16.

My boyfriend’s parents were upstanding PTA-type parents who were very cognizant of appearances and perceptions and wanted him to have nothing to do with me. I remember a counselor at the hospital telling me I should break up with him (but I have no idea why… if anything, I was the bad influence). But being in the mental hospital doesn’t make you look that great at 16. I lost the first love of my life because some asshole tried to steal something from me. He didn’t get my virginity, but he took my pride and the majority of my self-worth. I lost my first love, my sense of security, my sense of self-worth, and I humiliated my parents.

Every time I hear “Glycerine”, by the band Bush, I think of my first love, and how I lost him despite pleading on the phone. His parents wouldn’t let me talk to him after that. And “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt. It still makes me tear up now.

While in the hospital, the counselors strongly urged me to press charges. It had been a year since the incident had occurred. My own father was a cop on the force. How ridiculously stupid would I look if I admitted to being in a bar underage the weekend before, then intentionally walking into a dark park with someone who was essentially a stranger? I wasn’t even sure of his last name.

Most of the process was blocked out in my mind, but I will never forget sitting on the witness stand, in front of a room full of people. In front of my mom. And my dad, who looked at the ground the entire time, while the lawyers, officers, and judge all sat there listening to the stupid choices his daughter made, trying to not be a wuss. I remember the female officer who interviewed me was sisters with my co-worker at the mall. I was so afraid people would find out and just assume I was a lying little slut.

When my friend took the stand, she was about 7 months pregnant. When his friend took the stand, he swore under oath and confirmed his birth date (that was incorrect). The asshole never took the stand. But he sat there, and I was scared, while his girlfriend and child sat behind him to support him. In the few instances I met her eyes, she gave me hateful glances and made nasty comments. I felt ill.

Despite the lawyers having their jobs to do, the judge personally grilled me with many many more questions as to how I could be so foolish to do what I did. I wanted to curl up and hide. He kept telling me to raise my voice. He threatened me with something that I don’t remember, if I didn’t keep my voice at a reasonable level. The humiliation never stopped.

From the moment the asshole ripped up my shirt, it felt like the intelligent, wise 15 year old started to die inside. I certainly know things could have ended much much worse. And, in fact, as I type this I am thinking that probably a lot of readers will wonder what the big deal was.

I didn’t go to the sentencing, because I knew my legs would give out and I would give up then and there if he got off free and no one believed me. My parents went and said that the judge praised me for my testimony, being articulate and explaining why an otherwise bright girl would make such poor choices. The asshole got 3 months house arrest. The whole thing was written up in the paper and I was made to look a complete fool.

I remember my father being displeased that the asshole’s lawyer even took the case, since my dad knew the lawyer well. I actually remember my sister being very angry at the way the newspaper portrayed me. That was the last time I remember her caring about that kind of thing.

It was a big deal to me. I lost my first love over the trauma. I was broken at 15, humiliated, embarrassed for my parents, deeply anorexic, depressed and a shadow of the girl I once was. I lost her that day. I wonder who she would be now if that night didn’t happen. Instead, I have me.

I longed for my first love for the rest of my high school days. As we got older, if we ever had a chance to spend time, hang out or be near each other, I always went. My best friend dated him our last year of high school. It crushed me.

Once we went on to college, I had no self-esteem and would actually cave to any booty call from my first boyfriend. I needed his “love” and acceptance so badly, I allowed myself to be treated like dirt. And the worst part? I still feel like I am somehow sub-par without his acceptance. That I was never good enough and will never be, 14 years later. Even though I know that is messed up and I am in a wonderful, healthy long-term relationship with a great guy now.

I remember snippets of all these things, images in my mind and sentences here and there, but the emotion and the fear is still so fresh. The stamp of failure feels firmly affixed to my forehead.

This experience changed me for the worse, and left me feeling helpless, stupid and useless. Then, 6 years later, I was raped. It destroyed the little part of me that I had left.

I am working on that post now.