EDITORS NOTE: This is part two in a series. To start at the beginning, look here. It’s a bit of a personal journey/experiment in writing and self-reflection. All comments are welcome, but please always keep them respectful.
Cal was the closest thing to a first love, but in the midst of that disaster, another one occurred. She reflected on her fleeting experience with “Len.” She met him in one of her classes her freshman year of college. She made friends with a few different people in that class and at one point a small group of them went on a sort of mini-retreat. At the end of that retreat, Len asked her to become a couple with him. She was excited! They both agreed they wanted to take it slow and not be in a hurry. She was 18 at the time, and this was before her intimate experience with Cal.
Despite agreeing to a slower relationship, Len didn’t seem to keep his hands to himself and a lot of making out occurred. She thought it was peculiar but wasn’t alarmed and figured her idea of slow and his simply didn’t match. She thought wrong. The relationship only lasted about two weeks. The breakup was harsh.
The two went to dinner at the University Center. He explained to her the relationship needed to end. He was unhappy with how fast things were going and couldn’t figure out why it had gone that way because he was explicit when he said he wanted to go slowly. When she said she was just as surprised but was following his lead, he told her the reason he initiated everything was because she was the one giving him signals that she wanted to be physical. Confused, she asked him how she did this because she never verbally said any such thing. He couldn’t quite explain it but said an example was how she dressed. He literally blamed her clothing for his hormones. Astounded, and caught off guard, she asked him if he thought she dressed like a hooker? He back peddled and said no, that’s not what he meant but regardless it was over. So be it. It wasn’t until New Year’s Eve so many years later she realized, it was misogyny at it’s finest. Whether it stemmed from his Born Again Christian beliefs or his own ideas, she couldn’t be sure. While she always knew his blaming her for his hormones was wrong, she never really thought about what was really happening. When it occurred to her so many years later, she was shocked. But it was good to finally recognize it for what it was because she could finally label why she’d been so angry and hurt by the entire experience.
It was after that encounter, all her experiences with Cal would take place. What a nightmare! For a time, she dated some. She met some guys who simply weren’t meant to be in a relationship with, some who were nice to her even but weren’t a good fit. There was one guy whom she should’ve allowed to pursue her but the circumstances freaked her out and she pushed away the one guy she never should have. She tries hard to not let it her haunt her but it still provides a slight sting. She hung out with a firefighter while still living in Denver after college a few times. But for whatever reason, he blew her off and instead asked to be set up with the teacher she worked with. That stung particularly because she gave up a great opportunity with a great guy for him! What a fool she’d been! Years later the firefighter apologized profusely to her for his behavior. She was pleasantly surprised but welcomed it. No one else has offered quite that type of apology for her mistreatment. It was nice. Even with some of those ups and downs, she couldn’t foresee what was coming toward her like a speeding train.
A change of jobs and location put her in Salida, Colo., in 2007. And here…she’d face some of her toughest times she recalled. She was much further from her friends and family and while she loved the work, she was feeling pretty isolated. She turned to the Internet to help keep her occupied during her downtime. Something she later wished she hadn’t done. Through the ‘Net is how she met her biggest mistakes. There was “Darrell.” At first, it all seemed great. They spoke via the chatroom, instant messaging and then they talked on the phone…for several hours at a time! He wasn’t close but he wasn’t too far away. They met, there was intimacy, then there was silence. By now, she learned to not trust silence from a guy. So one night, she tried to talk to Darrell about it, simply trying to figure out what he wanted from the “relationship,” but instead she was met by anger. He virtually yelled at her, as the conversation was on the Internet, and was angry that she accused him of using her. She insisted she never said that, because she hadn’t. He never really answered her questions and the answers she did get indicated he didn’t want a committed relationship so she told him they should just be friends and that’s when he became angry. He managed to make her feel like she’d been in the wrong. He belittled her. She cried…so hard. In thinking back on it, she couldn’t figure out how he could be so verbally abusive of her; she was confounded by his emotional immaturity. All she tried to do was have an adult conversation about a relationship and somehow she was made the bad guy.
That wouldn’t be the last time Darrell did that to her. Eventually, they all but quit talking so she thought it was over. In some ways, she thought it for the best. She ended up meeting a guy named “Shane.” In her gut, she knew it was a bad idea to meet him, have him come over to her place because of the stories he told of his family, of how he talked about having enough control to stop at any time but then hesitating, changing his mind repeatedly, etc., but because he was in the military and about to deploy, she thought okay. She would just have rules. She made it clear she didn’t want anything to happen, that they would only hang out, but that’s not what happened. He did come over. They talked and then the making out started. She was fine with that but as it became heated and clothes removed, she had second thoughts. This wasn’t in the rules she told him about. She told him, “I don’t think we should do this,” and repeated herself. She felt she was being clear enough to stop but apparently not. There came that moment just before, she got a bit scared and instead of doing something, anything, she just let it happen. While she didn’t think he’d hurt her, she was afraid to find out. She is utterly afraid of conflict. She wouldn’t realize until years later that that was the case.
When all was said and done, she put her underwear back on, curled into a little ball and immediately thought…”did he just rape me?” But that word…that four letter word was too scary to think about. Besides, she had let him get her naked, she invited him over. She never clearly said no right? It wasn’t rape, it was just regret because she had rules and she broke them by letting him get too far. He had told her on the phone that he did reach moments when he couldn’t hold back so it’s her fault. It was fine. But it wasn’t fine. She felt dirty. She even told him, that sex wasn’t supposed to happen. He just looked at her. They finished talking and he left. Every day after that she spend trying to convince herself it had been welcomed; that she even enjoyed it, but she hadn’t.
The sad part is, she thought as she reflected back on those times, was it was supposed to be over either way. It wasn’t. More hurt, more pain was to come. There would be consequences. She still feels them – still blames herself, still struggles with accepting it was rape..date rape, consensual rape, whatever you choose to call it…that’s what it was but still…she struggles to accept even years later.
*NOTE: This is by Lady Gaga and written by her and Dianne Warren; a little something to keep in mind. Sexual assault/rape is personal! It doesn’t always happen like it does in this video. Most don’t understand until someone they know has experienced it or they have. “Til It Happens to You”