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When I was growing up, my parents were part of a group of couples who were all really close. They did everything together –- vacations, church choir, community theatre.
Accordingly, they all had kids around the same time too. My brothers and I therefore grew up with built in best friends. In theory, this sounds great, and it was -- for a while. Until I realized that one of my “friends” -- someone I thought of as a brother -- was sexually harassing me.
It sounds crazy to say that –- realized he was harassing me? How could I not know? But the truth is, it went on for as long as I could remember. I can’t recall the first time he touched me inappropriately, but so many things stand out in my mind, from all ages of my childhood.
Playing hide and seek at his house, around age 6 or 7. Him finding me hiding in the closet in their basement and instead of calling me out, crawling into the closet with me, shutting the door behind him, and pushing his body on top of mine while I frantically tried to get out.
Or swinging on his neighbor’s backyard tire swing, around age 10. Him coming up behind me and instead of giving me a push on my back or shoulders, placing both of his hands squarely on my butt while I desperately tried to right the tire swing around so I could push him off with my feet.
Or finding a memory card from his parent’s camcorder at my family’s lake house when I was around 13 or 14. Sliding the memory card into the camcorder to make a music video with my girlfriends (my best friend in the world was his sister, a year younger than us) and instead seeing still after still of zoomed-in shots of my breasts and butt from when I was sunbathing.
It’s truly remarkable that not a soul caught on to this behavior, though I think people wanted to see what they wanted to see. He was like a brother to all of us. I had literally known him since I was a week old. Being best friends with his sister, I spent more nights than I could count sleeping over at his house. I vacationed with his family, camping and to Puerto Rico and Disney World.
Yet, every opportunity he had, he used it to somehow touch me. Passing each other in a hallway? He would push his body up against mine, pinning me. Playing in someone’s backyard? He would run up behind me and squeeze my butt, or run by and “accidentally” graze my breasts. Lining up for recess? He would snap my bra straps, or try to slide his hand up my school uniform skirt.
It was sick, and it made me feel dirty, but I didn’t know to stop it. It had been going on for what felt like my whole life. I would push him away, kick him, give him dirty looks, but it didn’t stop. Then he tried to rape me.
I was 15, he had recently turned 16. He and his mom dropped by our house. I was upstairs, in my brother’s bedroom, setting up a new stereo. He walked into the room and wordlessly walked over to me, sitting on the bed. Literally without even saying a thing he climbed on top of me, pinned me to the bed, and with one hand yanked my sweatpants down around my ankles.
To this day I still don’t know how, but I found some inner strength and managed to shove him off me. Then I yanked my pants back up and ran to the safety of my bedroom and locked my door, chest heaving and tears running down my face.
I called my other best friend, who freaked out. She demanded that I tell someone, like my parents. But I was ashamed and terrified of how they would react. After all, our parents were best friends. So we decided to write a note to our mutual best friend, his sister. I am not sure why we thought this would be a good idea, but we were 15.
Needless to say the note didn’t go over too well. Rather than apologize to me, or confront him, or tell her parents, my friend basically did nothing. Our friendship was never the same after that. I felt totally lost, and so angry. I had to keep seeing him -– at dinners out, at birthday parties, on holidays. Finally, I had to tell my parents.
Telling my mom was without a doubt the most awkward thing I have ever had to do. I was absolutely mortified. I could barely get the words out, but eventually all the truth came spilling out. She was silent, stunned. I couldn’t tell my dad, so my mom did. Their idea on how to make it right? Take his parents out to dinner to confront them!
I don’t really know how that dinner went down. Did my parents gloss over the gory attempted-rape details? Because no one’s reaction was appropriate.
His parents told my parents that he would write me a letter of apology. Seriously. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. While certainly a letter would never in a million years make things right, I would like to point out it’s been about 10 years and I have not received any letter. Or any acknowledgement whatsoever, from anyone, that what happened was wrong.
The worst part of all this is that I still have to see him. Our parents are nowhere near as close as they once were -– no vacations, no weekends away at the lake house, no dinners out. But they still run in the same circle, and so they see each other, often. I try to avoid him at all costs -- we aren’t even Facebook friends -– but it’s hard because we have so many mutual friends.
And those mutual friends either don’t get it, or don’t care, about what happened to me. I get comments sometimes –- “Why isn’t he invited to your party?” they ask. Or, “You’re seriously not coming just because he’s going to be there?” They make me feel like a drama queen, or a troublemaker. Their reactions make me want to scream, or cry, or both.
Most of them know why I feel the way I do, but it makes things awkward for them so they would prefer I get over it. And those who don’t know the whole story –- clearly something is off, so why wouldn’t you just ask me about it?
I think most people feel that what happened was over 10 years ago, and I should just get over it, forgive and forget, and move on. And yes, my life would be a whole lot easier if I did. But I can’t, and I think it’s mainly because no one will acknowledge what happened.
He and his clueless parents like to act as though nothing is wrong and we’re all still such good friends. How can I move on when I feel like no one even cared, or cares, about what happened to me? How can I move on when my parents still invite him to brunch at their home on Christmas Eve? How can I move on when my family actually feels bad that I wouldn’t invite him to my wedding? It makes me feel like no one believes me. The more everyone around me ignores what happened the more I dig in my heels.
So that’s why I’m writing this. Maybe this will be my catharsis. Maybe this will help me to move on. Not forgive. Not forget. But move on.