When I was twelve I met him. He was tall, dark and handsome; a senior at my first high school dance. We danced, we shared my first kiss and he quickly took my number.
After begging my mom to let us hang out, she finally agreed. She spoke with his mom and I headed to his house—excited, but also nervous. What was it that boys and girls did when they hung out?
After a short tour of his house, we landed in his bedroom and within minutes he was forcing himself upon me.
With every ounce of prayer I could muster, I willed his mom to come downstairs, to stop what I couldn’t seem to halt on my own.
As he held me down and unbuttoned my jeans, I remember wondering where his mom was and why she would allow teenagers to be in a room alone, closed doors and all.
Closed doors. Now that’s a joke. His room was simply separated by a thin curtain, drawn across the centre by a clothes line, his sister listening on the other side.
In a quiet voice, I can vaguely remember her telling him to stop. Or was that part a dream?
My memory was closed off to the experience for more than a decade and I always secretly hoped I would forget. Certain parts are burned into my brain, while others leave me asking, did this really happen? Did I make it up?
To be honest, I’ve spent years avoiding the subject. I’ve allowed shame to lock the box of darkness that holds my first sexual encounter.
Why? Because in the end, I felt like I allowed it.
I didn’t fight it very hard. I didn’t scream out from the top of my lungs for someone to save me. But my mind did. Inside, every piece of me was raging, throwing fists in protest. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.
But, if my mom allowed me to come here and his mom wasn’t coming downstairs, then shouldn’t I be safe? This mustn’t be anything that bad, right?
That afternoon, what was left of a bruised adolescence shattered into a million pieces. Without a conscious thought, I would come to believe that this was all sex was—what I was. Shameful.
Dirty. Forced-upon. An object. Entertainment.
For years, I’ve told myself it was my fault; that I have no right to talk about it, feel sorry for myself or desire comfort. I should have stopped it. I could have, but I didn’t.
Whore. Desperate. Filthy girl, now woman.
Then I read the story of Dinah, the only girl born to Jacob, amongst a roster of sons. You’d think she’d be a prize possession—the apple of Daddy’s eye. Anything but.
It appears no one really cared about her, not paying her much attention until she wanders off into a new city and catches the eye of a foreigner.
And then he takes her and rapes her.
The Bible doesn’t give details on whether or not Dinah struggled or whether she tried to stop it, but my guess is she didn’t. Not for long, anyway.
I’m guessing she felt scared, lonely, slighted, with a deep desire to feel special—to be loved, cared for and treated like gold. And so she gave in, hoping that this man would love her unconditionally and take care of her.
And in the commentary, I read what my heart has longed to voice but couldn’t form …
“In all of this, the victim was overlooked. Dinah was neither comforted nor consulted. Instead, she was treated with almost as much disrespect by her family as she was by the one whom raped her.”
Instead of outrage, her father keeps quiet when he hears what happens and eventually gives Dinah to Shechem in marriage—the man who raped her! He leaves justice to her brothers, who end up repaying evil for evil; all the while, dragging Dinah along for the ride like a commodity or possession worthy of “keeps,” rather than a woman equal to man, made in the image of her Father and his precious Son, whom he loves more than anything!
The commentary continues..
“Dinah’s brothers profited from the revenge they took on Shechem, while Jacob may have been angry but did nothing. All the while, Dinah slips back into oblivion. Her story reminds us of the tragedy that occurs when family members are careless with each other. Someone ends up paying a high price.”
And there it was: My past, the hurts of a 12-year-old girl, staring me in the face.
Why hadn’t someone cared enough to stop this? To save me from myself? To teach me how a woman should be treated?
I would go on to sleep with every boy I ever dated, hoping desperately that this time he would stay and think I was someone special. And when each boy left as the one before, the adolescent child in me would cry, “Mommy, stop this. Daddy, tell me this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. Someone, tell me I’m special and worth fighting for… for the wait. Tell me I don’t need to give myself away to be loved!”
While I cringe in recounting my story, I know I’m not alone. The more I share, the deeper my heart breaks. There are daughters who do not know their worth and live bound to the lie that they aren’t worthy of unconditional love apart from their appearance, from their entertainment value and sexual performance.
Thirteen years have passed and I can now hear the quiet whisper of My Father—the only one who can truly heal my broken adolescence and comfort the child in me who still cries.
“Hush child and come to me. Even when everyone else forgets, I don’t. When no one seems to notice you, I do. When no one appears to care, I desperately do. And when you feel alone, you’re not. When you see the shadows of a single pair of feet it’s me, carrying you.
And when it feels dark, it’s because I’ve got you in the cleft of the rock. I’m passing by you, preparing a way.”
Praise be to the one who saves and heals and whispers away every tear.
[ Names and identifying details have been changed. ]
This story is part of our Stop the Silence, Start the Healing initiative. Each month we feature the story of one person who has never had the chance to tell her story, without fear, in a safe space. We honor these women who are speaking up.
Do you think you may be on the receiving end of abuse? Please visit our resource page for more information on what it is.
Image credit: Ryan M.