Your Body

Wait. Was I Sexually Assaulted As A Teenager?

By January 6, 2016 2

The first time I got called a whore, I was 11.

I was one of the first girls at school to get boobs — when I was a pre-teen I basically looked like I was 25 — and it turned the boys into complete animals around me. At the time, I didn’t know what a “whore” was.  The older kids yelling it at me from across the hallway laughed hysterically in my face while one of them had to explain, condescendingly, that it meant that I “liked to have sex” with a lot of people.

I didn’t know what that meant, either.

By the time I graduated middle school — a different one than the one I started in; I transferred halfway through 7th grade because the name calling had gotten so bad, but it didn’t help— I had been called a bitch, a whore, a slut and dozens of other iterations of those words, reserved exclusively for women, that shattered me.

So I started to do what people expected me to.

I gave my first blow job when I was a freshman in high school, to a guy who snuck into my basement and pushed my head down into his lap. I didn’t want to do it, but I didn’t want to be rude and I wanted him to like me, so I did. He finished, left without kissing me goodbye, and ignored me the next day at school.

All through high school I would go to parties, drink cheap vodka out of unmarked water bottles and let older boys lay on top of me and breathe their hot beer breath into my face and put their hands down my pants in the backseat of their cars. Every once in a while they would try their luck and push my head into their laps, and I would oblige because I didn’t want to be rude. Then they would drop me off on the corner in front of my best friends’ house so I could wait for my mom to pick me up.

As I got older, the heavy petting sometimes turned into full-blown sex, with me lying  drunk and limp on a threadbare basement couch while someone thrust on top of me. Usually, they didn’t even bother to take off my shirt. I would wake up hours later, half dressed and unable to say for sure if the whole thing had really happened or if it was just a painful dream.

I know, I know– why the fuck didn’t I just say “no?”

I never said “no” because I didn’t really think that saying “no” was an option. I was young, drunk and scared. I thought if I let boys do whatever they wanted to me, they would like me.

And the most fucked up part? I’m not the only one.

A few months ago, when a freshman girl at an elite boarding school accused Owen Labrie, a senior boy, of rape, she testified that she didn’t say “no” because she “didn’t want to come off as bitchy.” People were critical of the way she handled the situation, and asked “if she wanted to say no, why didn’t she just say no?”

Let me tell you, people: when you’re 15 and afraid and want people to like you, saying “no” isn’t all that easy. I know it sounds insane, but sometimes it’s easier just to close your eyes and wait until it’s over. That’s what I did, every time.

Labrie was sentenced to a year in prison for sexual assault. When I heard the verdict, I went into a bathroom stall and cried.

If what happened to this girl was sexual assault, what, exactly, would you call what happened to me throughout high school? Would all of the 17-year-old guys who’d taken advantage me so many years ago now be registered as sex offenders like Owen Labrie?

The thing is, though, I know that this girl and I aren’t the only two people in the world to have ever been taken advantage of by an older boy — She’s just the only one who’s been brave enough to call him on it.

There are girls out there who are too young and get too drunk and who really, truly don’t know how to say “no.” Girls who think that saying, or at least implying, “yes” will make boys like them; will make them cooler/hotter/more popular. They don’t say “no” because they don’t think “no” is an option.

Why aren’t we talking about this? Why aren’t we telling boys that it’s not OK (like not even a little bit ok) to give girls water bottles filled with vodka and pressure them to hookup? That its not OK to take a blacked out “yes,” or even passive silence, as a form of consent? That it’s most DEFINITELY not OK to make a girl feel like she needs to have sex to get a guy to like her?

Most importantly, though, why aren’t we teaching girls that “no” is absolutely, 10,000% ALWAYS an option? That, under no circumstance, do they need to say “yes” to be cool?

I find myself thinking back to those nights when my mom  would pick me up on (ironically enough) a street corner and spend the 20-minute car ride home asking me polite questions about my night. “It was fine,” I would tell her, all the while hating myself. I wonder if I had taken a moment to step back from my self-loathing and told her what was going on, I would have been just like Owen Labrie’s accuser — the catalyst of a conversation about rape and sexual assault among high school students — 10 years earlier.

Comments

  • degree180

    incredible incredible work Zoe!

  • Brittany Davis

    Thank you so much for sharing. I myself have experienced something similar.