I Am Strong
Trigger warning: how mental and sexual abuse made me stronger.
It was the start of my sophomore year of high school, I was scared and excited. Worried and carefree. I was far from popular but I had friends, lots of them. We were the outcasts, the kids in Japanese culture club. We played Magic the Gathering in study hall, Pokémon on our DS’s walking through the hallway. I was a tough cookie. I joined protests, silent and loud. I protested animal abuse, the firing of the lunch ladies, sexual assault. I wore the teal ribbon in April for all of my friends who had suffered through sexual abuse and assault. I taped over my mouth on the Day of Silence for those who fought depression silently and didn’t win the battle. I was strong in what I believed in and I was even stronger in knowing who I was.
In October I was in “love.” He was freakishly tall and gangly, his hair was long and shapeless, and he loved me. Because he loved me I thought I loved him back. I spend every day after school with him. We went to strategy club and played card games. We were in Japanese culture club where we learned samurai sword fighting, watched anime and made sushi. I spent Friday nights and Sundays with him and his family. His family was perfect. Two parents who loved each other, there was no screaming and fighting. Everyone was always happy. His sister was annoying and acted like a five-year-old at the age of 13. She got everything she wanted and was never told no. But when we were alone things got bad.
His parents would leave us alone to go grocery shopping on Sundays. They would be gone for about two hours. We were normally in his bed most of the time. I was always tired and could never keep my eyes open — I learned later that this was because of a severe vitamin B12 deficiency and depression taking all of my energy. At first, he would sleep too. We would wake up when his mom would honk the horn to tell us to come outside and get groceries. After about six months in, our relationship changed. He stopped napping with me and would just stay up sitting there watching me. It was weird but didn’t signal any red flags. Soon things got worse. He began touching me in my sleep, his hands on my breasts over my shirt and he would touch himself. It escalated quickly from there. He began putting his hands in my pants and lifting up my shirt. I started off by waking up slowly and he would pull his hands away, and pretend he was sleeping, but when he started to go further I stopped “waking up.” I would sit there and let him do it because I was afraid of what would happen. After a year he got worse and worse. It stopped escalating, it plateaued with rape. I don’t take that term lightly, I only use it when I have to, and right now, I have to. He would take the blanket off of me and slide whatever I was wearing on my legs halfway down and would get on top of me. I can't tell you how long it would last each time, I would close my mind and drift away. Sometimes a tear would slip from my eyes, but he would never notice. We never had sex. I wasn’t a virgin, but I wasn’t ready to have sex with him and he never asked. He never made a move on me he never even hinted on it. I know that if he did ask — before all of this — I would have said yes. I thought I loved this boy. This relationship lasted almost three years.
A victim normally blamed themselves like I did. I should have stopped it, I should have broken up with him. How did I let this happen? How can it be rape if he’s your boyfriend? All of these things went through my head. But at that moment, with him on top of me, I was afraid. I was afraid of upsetting him, afraid that if I said no he wouldn’t love me anyone, afraid he would hurt me or leave me like all of the other people in my life. I was broken.
It took almost three years for me to put an end to it. I broke up with him, I never told him why and I never told him that I knew what he did to me. I just ended it.
But it didn’t end there. Two short months later I found myself with my best friend. It wasn’t love and I knew that. It was something to keep my mind occupied. I went off to college and we stayed together. A long-distance relationship was something I actually liked. The touching was at a minimum, but I had someone always there for me. We Snapchatted 24/7 and texted nonstop. We always Skyped before bedtime, we had a routine and I liked it. I was comfortable.