That’s not your name, but I’ll spare you the blushes. I do remember your name, it will be forever emblazoned in my mind along with your face, forever frozen at 16. Eternally youthful.
I bet I’ve not crossed your mind even once since that weekend but I want to tell you that your actions have had an impact on every inch of my life. Even if you never read this, I need to get this off my chest.
Your decision to carry on that night will affect me always. A ripple across a still pond, stretching out forever and ever. An endless echo that you can’t hear.
I couldn’t believe it when geeky, shy me – recently reinvented with contact lenses, heavy eyeliner and black lipstick, my frizzy hair tamed into their natural, sleek curls – had caught your eye. You were gorgeous – lip ring and tattoos, seemingly indifferent to my presence until your beautiful mouth said my name and I was under your spell. I couldn’t believe you had acknowledged me! A boy! Not just any boy, but a dark, edgy angel of death metal.
My life had always been secure, comfortable and loving. Yours, I learned quite quickly on that New Year’s Eve night, had always been the polar opposite. The oldest of your siblings, you had never felt loved; locked horns with your mother and her boyfriend and moved out to lodge with a family friend. My little bubble-world of adolescence had just expanded. I had recently started college, met new friends – hence the new look. Yours had popped entirely. You had a job! You paid rent! And, Oh. My. God. You had a moped! Was it any wonder that 16 year old me fell deeply and utterly under your spell?
My mum was recovering from the most intense treatment for ‘incurable’ lung cancer (she pulled through that time and made it another 19 years, thanks for asking. It was the bladder cancer that got her in the end.) You attention was a welcome distraction and I remember clinging to your back with euphoria as you drove me home in the dark illegally because the L plates still clung to your bumper. Eternal bad boy.
We spent many nights in your room, listening to music, talking about bands, films, tattoos and hopes. Dreams. You knew about my painful lack of experience with boys. We laughed about your awkward encounters with girls, which I didn’t quite believe because I had seen the way other girls looked at you. I knew your ex girlfriend.
So when you asked me to stay over, I thought nothing of it. The fact you only had a double bed was not an issue for me. I had told you of my want to ‘save myself’ for the right person. Marriage if it came down to it. What a laughable phrase. But you hadn’t laughed, you seemed impressed and admired my decision. You made me feel safe.
In my PJ’s – actual, real pajamas because that’s how comfortable you made me – I slipped into bed beside you and froze. You were half naked, only wearing boxers! You grinned at me and cupped my face, your lips gentle on mine, smiling against my surprised mouth as you kissed me for the first time. It was sweet and wonderful and it made me feel good, which is why, Ron, I blamed myself all those years ago for what came next.
But I said no and that should have counted for something.
Your hand slipped between my legs and despite the flip my tummy gave, I pushed you away.
“No,” I said.
You kissed me again in an effort to relax me, I guess and I didn’t mind that – kissing I could do! I relaxed again until you moved on top of me, your legs between mine so I couldn’t press them closed.
“No!” But you carried on, Ron. In case you are unsure of what that meant I want to let you know now that it was me withdrawing my consent. But. You. Carried. On.
“You’ll like it,” you said.
“Stop. I want to stop. I don’t want to do this,” had been my reply.
“It’s only sex,” you answered, nonchalantly.
“It hurts,” I whimpered in the dark and I could see your white teeth gleaming as you smiled proudly.
“That’ll stop soon.”
Then it was over. A mere few minutes was all it took for you to satisfy your itch, to get your rocks off.
To rape me.
I can say that now, Ron, because I can see it for what it was. But then I couldn’t.
I had agreed to stay the night with you, a boy! I had brought this upon myself. I had even agreed to stay in the same bed as you, a boy! What comeback could I have? I couldn’t tell anyone. As a good Catholic girl something like that wasn’t something I could talk to anyone about.
My cheeks burned with shame when I saw the blood. I had no pads with me to stem the flow and almost cried when I had to stuff toilet roll in my pants, but I still bled through onto your sheets. I stayed the night. What else could I do?
This couldn’t have been rape! Who stays with their rapist?
I know the answer to that now, Ron.
A confused, frightened 16 year old girl.
You had already turned over, facing away from me. I reached out to touch your shoulder, seeking some kind of acknowledgment, some reassurance from you but you swatted me away. “Go to sleep,” you had mumbled.
Sleep didn’t come for me for a few more hours because I was trying to process how it had come to this. Had I not been clear in my intentions? Had I led you on in some way? It was my fault by default right, because I’m female and shared a bed with you? Wrong, Ron. You’re damned wrong.
I said no.
But I couldn’t understand that then. I see it clearly now.
I can see it as clearly as I could see the bite marks you had left on my arms, my shoulders – the ones that caused the duty nurse to raise her eyebrows and grin, “good night I see,” when I plucked up the courage the next day to get the morning after pill, telling her my long-term boyfriend’s condom had split. I had nodded mutely through her ‘safe sex’ lecture and promised to make an appointment with my doctor to get prescribed the pill.
I never did. Sex would never cross my mind again for another 3 years, until I met the man that would become my husband. You broke me in more ways than one that night and I just hope that one day your eyes somehow wander across this and my face might flash through your mind’s eye.
Would you even know who I am, I wonder? Have you ever given me a second thought? No is my bet.
I’m not that bothered really, just getting this out in the open is enough.
Ron, your cheap thrills took so much from me for so long – even now. My virginity, my self worth, my confidence. My choice.
But you gave me one thing, Ron.
You taught me that a predator doesn’t always stalk dark streets, prowling round corners and hiding behind lampposts. A predator is someone that hears you say no and carries on anyway.
It’s a lesson I will teach my daughters. I hope you will teach yours the same.
In a world of hashtags, I don’t want them to become another #metoo