I can still see the yellow-ish orange haze of light when I close my eyes, the bookshelf dividing the room.
It was December 31 and I was seventeen.
Hours before I had been standing in the dining room of the guy I had been dating’s house, watching him across the room with his new girlfriend, smiling, laughing and enjoying the moment. There I stood watching her smile, surrounded by people both older and younger than me, wondering what I was doing there, wondering why I had declined The O.C. Marathon New Year’s Eve party to come to this. I had been invited though, people told me I should be there, that I shouldn’t miss it… the boy with glasses had invited me, yet he was nowhere to be found.
So there I stood for hours, as people brushed passed me. For hours I stood with a drink in hand, watching the TV, the countdown clock and waiting for my phone to do anything. Finally midnight grew closer, still standing in the same spot, the boy I had been dating’s mom walked up handing out flutes of champagne.
“What the hell,” I thought, “It’s New Year’s Eve.”
I was seventeen when the ball dropped and I stood there watching everyone else kiss and cheer. I took a sip of my champagne, set down the flute and wondered off to my car. I felt like a fool, all night I had stood there waiting of the guy with glasses and he never came. Tears falling from my eyes, I sat in my car feeling ashamed, stupid and embarrassed. I couldn’t go home because it meant facing the fact that I probably wasn’t were I said I would be, I couldn’t go to the party I declined. It was midnight and I was seventeen, so legally I couldn’t go anywhere.
Mid tearful story to the big brother figure, who was far from that, I had an incoming call. It was the boy with glasses. I took a deep breath and answered the phone like nothing had been wrong. His drunken slur apologized, it told me how he had gotten caught up at another party and, again, I should totally come. Hopeless, I drove. I drove to a house I had never been to before, to meet the boy with glasses, who I hardly knew.
Curled up on the couch in the arms of the boy with glasses, I was like a fish out of water. I declined the beer offer as the boy with glasses whispered drunken sweet nothings in my ear. I was putty in is hand, in the mist of all his friends, he asked me if I wanted to get out of there and I nodded yes.
We ended up in my car, we kissed, things heated up we moved to the back seat & soon he asked me if I wanted to go back to his place. I smiled, agreed and climbed back up front. We wondered down the backside of the townhouses and slipped in the backdoor. Before I knew it we were in his unmade bed. I don’t remember uttering much of anything once we got into his house. I just remember it happening. I remember it being short, quick, unsatisfying and before I really knew what was happening – over. The boy with glasses didn’t say anything; I am pretty sure he pulled on his shorts & laid down with his back to me. I pulled my underwear on, laid down and whispered, “I love you,” because, that’s what I thought you were supposed to do. I rolled over, my back to his and lay awake in the bed, wondering what had just happened.
Morning finally came; the light shinned through the back door. The boy with glasses was still asleep in bed while his parents moved around upstairs getting ready for the first day in the New Year. I pulled my clothes on & slipped out the backdoor because I wasn’t sure what else to do.
I went to work that afternoon, excited that in his drunken slur the night before the boy with the glasses had told me how amazing I was, how the whole time I was with the boy I had been dating he watched from afar wishing he was with me. My mind wondered as I waited for him to walk through the door of Starbucks like he had promised that he would. I ignored what had happened the night before, assuming it meant we sealed the deal, that we were “official” and that when it happened again, it would be better.
My break came and went. Before I knew it I felt sick, that excited high was gone. He was gone. I had waited all day and nothing; he didn’t even answer my calls.
The next few days were a blur; I was confused, upset and slowly realizing I had never said, “yes.” I felt betrayed, hurt, broken and discarded. Before long my parents caught on and I must have finally spilled the beans. They were stuck walking a thin line of being irrationally mad at me and providing me with the support I needed after being tossed aside.
“It’s called rape!” I remember my Mom yelling, “its date rape and against the law. You have been raped Heather.”
Raped, me? I had never said yes, but I had also never said no. I had been a sucker for his sweet, drunken slurs. I had fallen for his lies, his unclear thoughts; I had laid there and let him have me, then toss me aside. My Mom’s word rang in my head and before I knew it there was an officer sitting across the table from me.
Sitting there, my parents along side of me, sitting there at the age of seventeen I had to tell the officer everything. I remember staring at his notebook, wanting to tell him that I had two just like it upstairs, alongside my Explorers uniform. I couldn’t believe it was me sitting there at the table, I was better than that.
I finally told the officer what happened, I told him who the boy with glasses was and how to get to his house. I remember, despite everything, still being convinced that the boy with the glasses and I were “something.” I remember telling the officer that I hadn’t said no. At some point the officer looked at me and told me the boy with glasses was 20 years old. My face fell into my hands, I explained that I didn’t know that and hadn’t thought he was… as if that made it all better.
The officer looked at my parents and explained that my Mother was right, that it was date rape and that even if I had said yes, it was rape since I was a minor. There, a member of the law stood telling me I had been raped. The officer knew all the details, including my sip of champagne, my after crew drive and that I had been surrounded by alcohol. He knew that the boy with glasses had been drinking & told my family that he would go talk to the boy with glasses next.
The officer came back, stood in our dining room again and told me that the boy with glasses has confirmed every part of my story, but that because I had slipped in and out of the backdoor, that because no one but the boy with glasses saw me, that because I didn’t go upstairs and say hi to the parents I didn’t know in the morning that he couldn’t press any charges, that it would all be some big miss understanding.
I remember my Mom rushing me to the OBGYN. I felt like I had just smashed her greatest piece of China on the ground and done a crummy job gluing it back together. I felt like an object that needed repair. I was embarrassed and felt like everyone was judging me, like it was punishment for what had been done. I remember realizing that it had all been so quick that I didn’t even know if he had put a condom on. I was seventeen sitting in the doctor’s office feeling exposed and embarrassed.
The test all came back negative and that was the last anyone really spoke of it.
The boy with glasses never called & I was left with my Mom’s voice playing a constant reminder in my head… “You were raped.” I was left knowing that the officer said there was nothing he could do because I used the backdoor. I was seventeen and that was my first time.
A few months later, the boy with glasses showed up where I was working. Still embarrassed about everything, I hid in the backroom watching out the small window on the door waiting for the boy with glasses to leave.
Only a few people knew about New Year’s Eve when I was seventeen. And then a few months later, Jared’s singer was off to join the military, the band was in search for a new singer and the boy with glasses came highly recommended by Jared’s current singer. There it was, this big secret, this still sore wound was coming right back into my life, it was like what had just started to heal was being ripped open again. I was embarrassed about everything that had happened and blamed myself. I was embarrassed that my parents had gotten the police involved, that the police had gone to the boy with glasses’ house and that nothing had been done. Jared, knowing who the boy with glasses, was refused to let it happen, he told me he pulled his leaving singer off to the side and explained to him why it just wouldn’t work. The boy with glasses denied ever having known me and said Jared had mad the whole thing up, according to the singer that was leaving.
I had been seventeen and they told me I had been raped. I was seventeen and they told me there was nothing they could do about it and walked away. I was seventeen and it all got swept under the rug like nothing happened. I was seventeen and left feeling confused, embarrassed and broken. Then there I was, probably coming up on being twenty feeling not only embarrassed, but like a liar too. I was seventeen and that was my first time.Rape isn’t some joke. My heart and thoughts go out to the Steubenville, Ohio victim and I hope that she knows that there are people out there that support her; I hope that her road to recovery isn’t agonizing. It is a terrible thing what happened, but only you can make it something more, you have the power to decide what is next and how this even will shape you going forward in life. Let this tragic event make you a stronger woman and know that you are never alone.