Edited 3/10/15 to add: This post was from September 2013. At the time, I was not publicly naming my rapist. The name below, Brent, is a pseudonym. My rapist's real name is Ben, and I've detailed my experiences with him here.
In my mission to be an authentic blogger and sexuality educator, I’ve focused a great deal on modeling vulnerability. I’ve written about being a sexual assault survivor, living with genital herpes, and my struggle with body confidence. However, one thing I have not discussed yet is my history of being bullied. I think it’s important that I share my experience, because it has had a huge impact on the person I am today. Until I was about 22, I always felt like an outsider. From elementary school until college, I never quite fit in. I had a few friends here and there, but I was teased daily by the rest of my peers. Even now, as I look at how far I’ve come, I still find myself surprised when people want to spend time with me. I’m thrilled, don’t get me wrong. And no one has treated me badly in years. My friends are kind, loyal, supportive, and loving. But there is a part of me that is always afraid that I’ll say or do something to mess it up, or that my beloved sex geek community will suddenly decide that I’m not worthy to be part of the group. That fear stems from old scars. Here’s how I got them.
Square Peg in a Round Hole
It started really young. I didn’t dress like the other kids–my mom preferred to send me to school in skirts and dresses. I also had vastly different interests. I was a bookworm and devoured every book I could find. I was anything but athletic, so I usually spent recess alone, reading. I got along really well with my teachers, so I was quickly deemed a “teacher’s pet” by the other kids. In their eyes, I was a weirdly dressed kid who constantly raised her hand and had no redeeming qualities. By the end of 4th grade, I had no friends and was being teased constantly. I begged my parents to transfer me to another school. The obliged, and I attended Catholic school for 5th grade.
In Catholic school, I learned that uniforms didn’t prevent bullying. Even though we all dressed in identical clothes, people managed to set themselves apart with shoes, jewelry, and accessories. I also didn’t start shaving my legs until the end of 5th grade, and that was only after being teased mercilessly for having blonde hairs sticking out through my knee highs. I was miserable and friendless once again. By the end of 5th grade, I realized I didn’t fit in there, either. I begged my parents to send me back to public school.
The Body Hatred Begins
I hoped that a year away and the combination of three elementary schools to form a middle school would give me a fresh chance at new friends. Then a strange thing happened. I grew boobs. Lucky me, I hit puberty early. True to form, the preteen boys noticed. They started calling me “bouncing Betty” and staring at my chest instead of my face. From the girls, I received disgusted looks and notes passed in homeroom that read “stop sticking your boobs out.” I began to slouch so that I could not be accused of “sticking my boobs out.” I was so ashamed of my body that I started wearing baggier clothes and curling my shoulders forward so that I wouldn’t be teased. I started to feel like my body was betraying me by developing curves.
In February of 6th grade (1998), I found out my parents were getting divorced. By the time the summer rolled around, my mother had moved out and gotten a townhouse a few miles away. My mom’s new neighborhood was also where I met Brent.
The Bad Boy
Brent was 14 and a freshmen in high school when we met. He smoked pot, could play the guitar, and was completely anti-establishment. He was the opposite of every experience I’d had thus far in my life and I was hooked. He was also an outcast, so we had that in common. He was called a “freak” for having long hair and listening to alternative rock. We hung out for the last part of the summer before 7th grade. Brent and I started dating in October. We dated for exactly 7 days before he decided he didn’t want to do the “commitment” thing. He broke up with me on the day my grandfather died. While one might think that would turn me off from him completely, I was desperately clinging to anything I could get my hands on. I quickly agreed that “friends with benefits” was an acceptable substitution for a relationship. That led me down the sexual rabbit hole. He was my the first person to ever touch my chest, the first to go down my pants, and the first to go down on me. I stopped before losing my virginity though. I was convinced that I wanted to wait for the “right” person and definitely not become sexually active at such a young age. He nudged me along the path to sexuality, but at least stopped short of pushing me to have intercourse.
Meanwhile, at school, things continued to get worse. One weekend, I was over at my friend Sandy’s house with some of my classmates, working on a project. She offered to let us stay the night. I saw this as an opportunity to get closer to some of the other girls. After we finished the project, we went outside to Sandy’s trampoline. We were all having a great time, until someone suggested that we push the trampoline over to her tree house and take turns jumping out of the tree house (about 10 feet up) onto the trampoline. I thought this was a perfectly horrible idea and refused.
Later that night, I woke up after having fallen asleep to a face full of shaving cream. Apparently that was my punishment for not jumping off the tree house. I freaked out because I was wearing brand new clothes and the shaving cream had gotten all over my shirt. The girls told me that I was overreacting and that I needed to chill out. I came back after I’d changed clothes and they were standing around the room that held Sandy’s mother’s tanning bed. I thought it was really cool so I asked if I could try it. I laid down in it (with my clothes on) and closed the lid. When I went to open the lid, it was stuck. They locked me in the tanning bed turned it on as they left the room! I was petrified, worried that I wouldn’t be able to get out. I yelled for them to let me out and tried to get the lid open to no avail. I ended up having to climb out the side of the tanning bed because I couldn’t get the lid to open. After I climbed out, I hid behind the door and listened to them talk about me. They were making fun of me for not being able to get out of the tanning bed. Someone said I was too weak to move the lid, that I didn’t have enough “willpower.” I felt awful. I finally came out after they went to bed. I called my dad first thing in the morning and had him pick me up. I hoped the nightmare was over.
It wasn’t. By Monday, everyone had heard about my cowardice in not wanting to jump out of the tree house and my lack of “willpower” that kept me trapped in the tanning bed. I also found out that I had a new nickname: “the blob.” I have no idea where it came from, but since I was considerably heavier than most of the girls in my grade (around a size 11), I assumed it had to do with my weight. I started to hear “the blob” shouted down the hallway after me at school, and heard kids whisper it when I raised my hand in class. I felt powerless, helpless, and utterly defeated.
In the spring of my 8th grade year, at age 13, I was raped. I didn’t realize it at the time. I lacked the basic vocabulary to describe what had happened. All I knew was that one minute Brent had his fingers inside of me, and the next minute it was his penis.
I hated him for what he did to me. How he made me think my body was the only part of me that would ever get a man’s attention. How he made me feel like I was just an object for pleasure. How he made me lose respect for myself. How he told the whole school that he “had sex” with me and earned me the reputation of being a “slut.” The kids at school were cruel. I was called “slut” and “whore” as I walked down the hallways to class. Welcome to high school.