You were my best friend, and I was yours.. Until that day.
When you pushed me to the ground, I thought it was just part of our playful roughhousing. When you climbed on top of me and pinned my shoulders to the ground, I was laughing. “Stop, stop, stop!” I jokingly cried. But when I felt the cold steel of your knife against my neck, I knew that it wasn’t a joke. Sometimes, I still remember how your hot breath felt as you whispered your threat into my ear: “I’ll slit your throat if you don’t let me fuck you.” That was the moment I knew nothing would be the same again. That was the moment our relationship changed forever, from best friends to abuser and victim.
Mercifully, your brother walked into the room just in time. I faked a smile and waved; you laughed and moved away. Remembering the gratitude that I felt towards him in that moment is overwhelming, although in hindsight, his unwitting rescue just delayed the inevitable.
I was so young; we both were. But you had so much power over me. We were co- everything: co-presidents, co-chairs, co-captains. A formidable leadership team by all accounts. But you were always the dominant one, the one who got all the credit and made all the connections. You’re a man, and the misogyny runs deep in this small Southern town. I’ve played second fiddle to you since we were children, constantly working behind-the-scenes to clean up the messes in the wake your rash decisions and now, struggling to hide the marks you leave on my skin. But we were best friends; I trusted you. You know all my darkest secrets, and when I deny you sex (or try to, rather), you never hesitate to publicly humiliate me. Not only did you steal my body and my freedom, you also stole my faith.
We sit on committees together; we lead bible studies together; we are the co-presidents of the goddamn youth group. We are together in public constantly, and the only thing they suspect is that we are dating in secret. In some ways, they are right. You like to label our secret relationship “friends with benefits”, but in reality it is so much more complicated than that. Can you imagine how our friends and family, our church community, would react if they knew? I can, and it is the only reason I have stayed quiet these three years..
In less than a month, I leaving for college in a far off state, running as fast and as hard as I can from you. You’ll be living here at home, attending community college. I wish I could honestly say that I will never see you again, but that is a lie. We live in a small, small world and an even smaller town. I hope that one day this town will begin to suffocate you as you did me, that it will begin to imprison you as you did me. We’ll be seeing each other again, I’m sure. But next time? Next time, I’ll be free.
Girls (and boys, because boys get raped too): Please be careful.
Most rape victims were raped by people they knew personally. In many ways, this can make it even harder to stand up for yourself, fight back, or file charges more so in cases like mine where I was close to the perpetrator and his family. Among the many reasons I never spoke up are that I know and love his parents, that I fear that I won’t be believed making such an accusation about another respected member of my community, and that I feel guilty and ashamed that I ‘allowed’ this to happen to me. (I didn’t. No rape victim did. But lots of us including me feel this way.) If you find yourself in a situation where you are being abused PLEASE find one adult that you trust to talk to. (The same goes for those of you who are adults. Find someone wise, whether that be a good friend or an elder.)