Read by Lindsay Acker

When I was 18 I lost my virginity to someone I hardly knew in college. He was a senior and my boss. He was so infatuated with me, which at first was exciting and comforting in part because I had just gotten out of a partial hospitalization program for my bulimic anorexia. Within two weeks we were in a relationship. I didn’t know what to expect because I had never slept with someone before, but we would have sex 5 times a day. I thought it was weird but that it was just what people did. I felt as though I needed to do it for him so I hid my feelings for months.

Things got worse when we moved in together. Every night, sometimes multiple times a night, he would rub himself up against me and try to get me to have sex with him. I would have to push him off of me to get him to stop. The sex got more rough and I was often in pain after, sometimes for multiple hours or even days. He would also try to choke me or restrain my hands. I always tried to push his hands away when he did that, but he was so much stronger than me. Sometimes he would get angry. He kicked the dog off the bed a couple times. I feared him. He would completely ignore me saying no. He didn’t hit me so I didn’t think I was being abused, and he was my boyfriend so I didn’t think it was sexual assault.

When I finally confronted him he started yelling. When I brought up how he ignored my resistance he said “but it’s so hot when you say no to me.” He also said he “couldn’t help it.” He said I was so good looking he couldn’t control himself and that he “was just a guy.” He also said he hoped that when I gained back the weight I had lost from starving myself that it would go to my boobs because he liked large chested women. I slept on the couch for three months after he moved out because I couldn’t sleep in the bed. When I closed my eyes I would see him choking me. I had to paint my room and move all the furniture around before I was able to sleep there again.

When I tried to tell my story, I sugar coated it because it was so uncomfortable to share. Many people thought he “didn’t mean it” and he was “just immature,” because a lot of my friends and family liked him. I realized I was telling some people my story just to prove to them that it wasn’t my fault, which only made me feel worse and let people know things I didn’t feel comfortable with them knowing.

He had gone to church with me while we were dating. The pastor said how he was just as much a member there as me, even though I had grown up there and he had only gone with me for six months. He decided on his own to leave the church, but my pastor called him and asked if he could work there for a few months and film a church video. I didn’t step foot in the church for four months. I had told my pastor that he was forceful with me sexually. When I confronted her again about the job, I gave her more details and she said “well I didn’t know it was that bad. You should have told me.” I still think what I said was enough and that I should not have had to go into detail for someone to take me seriously.

I have been assaulted multiple times though. When I was in kindergarten, a little boy next to me looked me right in the eyes and pulled the strap of my tank top down. I was very freaked out and that fear lasted for quite a while. Someone trying to take your clothes off when you don’t want them to is traumatizing at any age.

When I was in 8th grade my first ever boyfriend came back to town and I was very excited. We went for a walk and then we came back to my house and he insisted on going upstairs. In the hallway he told me how much he loved me and started to kiss me. I felt uncomfortable but loved hearing someone say they loved me. Then we went into my room and he kissed me on the bed. I said I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea, but he pinned me down on the bed and tried to put his hand down my pants. For a while I didn’t move because I was so afraid, but I eventually was able to grab my phone and he stopped in fear I would call for help. My dad drove him home with me in the car. I missed him for years after that and blamed it all on myself. I only told one person at the time, and they completely blamed it on me too. It took me years to understand what happened. I felt for years like I should’ve fought harder to get away.

When I was 16 I went on a picnic with someone I was interested in from my church camp. It was at night. He started kissing me, then touching me. It was painful and I got scared and didn’t know what to do. I told him we need to stop and he got mad at me. He wanted me to touch him and kept begging to go in the car and have sex. I stood my ground. I tried multiple times to contact him after, afraid that he would hate me. I felt guilty and like I should have done more.

When I was 20 a coworker started showing interest in me. He was 40 years older than me. I was unsure of what to do. He was texting me about my body and how he was so depressed and wanted to kill himself. I felt like I couldn’t escape because he was so depressed. I finally told someone, but my work didn’t take it seriously. They said that’s how he always was and told me to ignore it, so I did. A couple weeks later he cornered me in the back kitchen as my manager watched and did nothing. He eventually went away when I threatened to get my store manager.  I cried in the work freezer for 30 minutes. I eventually quit the job.

When I was 22 a different coworker helped me with my car one day and when I hugged him goodbye he grabbed my ass. We had had many conversations before about how people should respect women. I still can’t look his girlfriend in the eye and I didn’t hug another coworker for months after. I also felt sick to my stomach every time he talked to me at work until he was fired for other reasons.

The worst part of all of these situations for me was how dirty I felt after. A disgust that no shower could wash away. My initial reaction was always to be even nicer to the abuser, as if it were my fault it was happening and that if I could please them in other ways they would stop. As if I deserved what they did because I wasn’t good enough to be treated a better way. Time helped. It showed me I could survive whatever I went through and that each day I separated myself from it, it defined me less and less.