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The summer after I graduated high school was memorable. Lots of things happened. I hung out with my friends, packed for college, went to the beach and probably ate some pizza. I also was raped.
It might be startling to see the word rape all cozied-up next to the words beach and pizza, but sometimes having someone violently force themselves inside of you is felt as casually as any other memory, especially if the beach was pleasant and the pizza was particularly good.
Since it was our last summer together, my girlfriends and I decided to spend all of our time having adventures. One of these adventures was a trip to Montauk. Montauk was a very familiar and safe place for us. We spent many summers there as kids, so for our last hurrah we really wanted to live it up. I just turned 17 a few weeks after graduating high school and Iwas feeling very ready to live my fabulous new life as a university-bound adult.
So out east we went. We went to beach parties. We went to house parties. The hotel parties in Montauk were always pretty fun, and that’s where Imet Nate. Nate was tall with sandy blonde hair, blue eyes and had the friendliest smile I’d ever seen. He was one of the boys working in Montauk for the summer and he was living in the same makeshift dorm-like hotel as some of my friends from high school.
“Well aren’t you a pretty little hippie chick?”
He had a syrupy drawl. I would later learn he was from Maine, but southern-boy charm was apparently part of his shtick.
I’m not usually a sucker for flattery and find blatant flirtation a bit gross. I’m more into subtlety. However, on that humid, sticky night I hadn’t brushed my hair and I was wearing a loose shapeless dress with sandals--possibly even Birkenstocks--so the compliment about my relaxed look was nice. Eventually someone suggested we go to a bar, and since we all had fake ID’s it wasn’t an issue that we were all underage. At the time I saw the legal drinking age as more of a mere suggestion than an actual law.
While at the bar we did some shots, but I don’t remember being particularly drunk. I do remember Nate being by my side all night. He was attentive, smart and very willing to show immediate affection. He hugged me a lot. Put his arm around me. Made me laugh. He told me he was a school teacher and had been in the Marines. He told me his dad was some big deal in the military and wanted him to pursue a more competitive life path, but he just wanted to teach kids.
What a nice guy.
He kissed me. It was nice. He held my hand on the rainy walk home. Iwasn’t weirded out about going home with him because his “home” was the same place my friends and I were all staying. Nothing dangerous can happen when 10 people are all sleeping in the same crowded room. There were legit bunk beds in there. Except when we got back, no one else had yet returned home.
It started to rain harder, and then booming thunder and lightning exploded all around us. He held my hand tighter. I thought this was all very romantic.
When we got back to the room he began to kiss me. I joked about the fact that we needed to keep it PG. When it came to sex, I was not a shy girl. Despite being only 17 I had good sexual experiences at that point, and they were all on what I felt like were my (or mutual) terms. I had no reason to expect this would be any different, especially when our friends were in such close proximity. We made out a little more and he became increasingly aggressive. I told him I was into making out as long as he chilled a little. He apologized but at the same time became more physically aggressive. He was on top of me, grinding against me and trying to pull down my underwear. It was still dark and the storm was thunderously loud. I tried to push him away and began trying to kick him and hit him. Unfazed, he pushed my underwear aside.
Oh my God, this man is inside of me.
I started to scream, yell and flail my limbs but he kept going. I always thought I was pretty tough, but this dude was tougher. No matter what Idid I could not get him off of me. He kept going. It felt like I weighed a feather and he weighed a boulder. It went on forever, or at least until we heard the voices. Our friends were back. They were right outside the door. He looked displeased, but not panicked. I pushed him off of me and curled into a ball. I did not get up. I did not run outside screaming. I curled up in the fetal position. I stayed in his bed and didn’t speak or move until I fell asleep.
When I woke up the next morning I saw him outside, waiting for me by my friend’s car. He was smiling. He told me he had such a nice time and asked me to stay in Montauk. I called him an asshole. Then he said “I LOVE YOU.”
The guy who raped me while I screamed and kicked just told me that he loves me. I was now dealing with another level of crazy. Did he even know what he did?
I waited until we got back home to tell the girls what happened. My closest friend was very supportive. The other two actually asked me if I was “sure” it really happened, and kept asking why I didn’t say anything that night. They were pretty much accusing me of making everything up solely based on the fact that I was so calm about it. Truth is, I was upset, but I was not hysterical. I was more rattled by the “I love you.” I started to wonder--isrape not rape if you are not hysterical after it? Was I less raped because Ido not feel completely destroyed?
I felt like if my friends didn’t believe me, nobody would. I decided not to make a thing of it and not to tell anyone else. It is not rape if you are not destroyed. It is not rape if you are not destroyed. It is not rape if…oops...
Nate did it again.
This time he did it to a girl who did get hysterical. He tried to attack her while she was sleeping in the hotel room. She screamed and people rushed into the room. For some reason he was not arrested that night. I heard there was some hoopla, and he might have even been fired from his job and forced to return to Maine but I didn’t pay too much attention. I just wanted to get away from the situation. I probably was just really sad that my friends didn’t believe me until it happened to another girl.
After she was attacked, some friends did encourage me to tell my story to the Montauk police. I declined. I was leaving for college in a few weeks and I didn’t want his actions to ruin my life. I was told I would probably have to stay home from school, go to trial, testify and basically make one awful night the focus of my entire existence. No thanks. How could I just forget about the whole thing and go away to college? Easily.
What happened in Montauk has not really shaped or affected my life in any meaningful way. I think about it from time to time, but being raped doesn’t define me any more than any other negative or tough experience in my life. I don’t believe rape has to be a defining thing. A terrible and traumatic thing, yes. Defining, no. Why would I let someone else define me? I’m not going to carry this guy for the rest of my life. He doesn’t deserve that.
I saw Nate in my hometown once after that summer. We didn’t acknowledge anything. It’s a thing that happened, but then again so did going to the beach and eating pizza.