[Editor’s note: This story is the seventh part of the multi-series “Violated,” examining the horrors of sexual assault that began with Issue #1 and concludes in Issue #6. Several staff members took it upon themselves to interview, take photographs, and conduct research. The results of their combined efforts follow.]
[Be advised: The names and places in this story have been changed or generalized to protect the identity of the sexual assault survivor. In order to protect anonymity, the survivor’s name has been changed to Jennifer. This is the first in a two-part story.]
by SARA MARSHALL//Editor-in-Chief
You lay down on your best-friend’s couch to sleep for the night after spending the day with her and her family.
Within moments, you’re soundly asleep, dreaming of the day to come. Suddenly, you’re violently awakened by a familiar face, your best friend’s brother.
He leads you to his room; you sleepily follow him naively. You’re scared. Confused.
His hands exploring. His mouth intruding. Your clothes are being pulled off. You scream “No,” but he doesn’t listen.
“I don’t understand why this is happening to me,” said Jennifer, a South Plains College student, while recalling her horrific ordeal. “Two of the biggest things that have happened in my life, and I can’t tell anyone, because I feel like I can’t. I feel like people would say that it’s my fault. Because that’s what they were making it seem.”
According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, children are most vulnerable to childhood sexual abuse between the ages of 7 and 13.
Jennifer is a survivor of sexual assault twice over. The first incident occurred when she was still a little girl, a 13-year-old, innocent to the world around her.
Falling asleep on the couch after a long summer’s day at her best friend’s house was a normal occurrence in her life.
“They were like my family,” Jennifer said. “I went to church with these people my whole life, and we were best friends. Our families would meet up together after church and go to lunch. It was pretty typical, so it was nothing if I fell asleep on the couch.”
Around 2 a.m., she was awakened by her best friend’s older brother. She had only been asleep for a couple of hours and was understandably confused and tired.
“I was like, ‘What are you doing? Why are you waking me up in the middle of the night?” Jennifer continued.
Believing the innocence of her best friend’s brother, she was then led into his bedroom.
“He said he just wanted to talk to me,” Jennifer recalled. “But then he laid me down. And I just asked, ‘What is going on?’”
It didn’t stop there.
“He got on top of me and started kissing me, and was taking my clothes off,” Jennifer recalls of the traumatic experience. “I kept saying, ‘Stop. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do this. No.’” And he was just like, “It’s OK, it’s OK. Nothing’s going to happen. It’s going to be fine. It’ll be good.”
It wasn’t fine.
He continued undressing her and proceeded to rape his little sister’s 13-year-old best friend.
“I laid there and I cried,” recalls Jennifer. “I didn’t know what to do. Then, at the very end, he said, ‘Don’t tell anyone.’”
The terror didn’t end there.
“It was awful,” Jennifer said. “I was terrified for months that I was pregnant, that I had some sort of STD because this guy had just graduated that year. So if he wants to have sex with a 13-year-old, then how many other people is he going to have sex with if he’s going down that far? I was 13!”
Sadly, three out of four adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well, according to a study conducted by the National Institute of Justice in 2003.
Never telling anyone of the rape, Jennifer continued trying everything to forget about the events that had occurred. Her chosen form of escape was marijuana and alcohol.
“Anything I could do to forget about it, I would do,” Jennifer explained.
One night, while trying to forget, Jennifer had been drinking and a friend confronted her about her changed behavior.
“Basically, she told me I was acting weird,” Jennifer said. “We had known each other in middle school, and I had been super funny, always making jokes [like I still do]. But she was like ‘You’re acting weird, what’s going on?’ And this was like maybe two months after it happened. And I told her, ‘I had sex with someone.’ She asked me what happened, and I was like ‘I was raped by my best friend’s older brother.’ And she was like, ‘I’m just so sorry,’ and then she gave me the fakest pity ever.”
It turns out that, Jennifer’s friend was not the person she thought she was.
“She told everyone that I had had sex before I was in high school,” Jennifer said. “I had gone to a small school, so everyone knew me. They said things like, ‘She’s a slut. She’ll sleep with anybody.’ And I was just like, ‘That’s not who I am.’”
Eventually, Jennifer decided to begin dating, despite everything going on around her.
“I wasn’t going to tell [my boyfriend] about it,” Jennifer said. “But he brought it up one time, and he was like, ‘Why did you have sex so young?’ And I told him, ‘I didn’t choose to.’”
Shortly after she confessed to what had happened, he broke up with her.
“He thought I was a slut,” Jennifer said. “He continued to tell people I was a slut, even more than the other girl was. And I was just like, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ And I got really suicidal.”
Knowing she would never be the same person she was before, she began thinking about ending her life.
“I thought about overdosing,” Jennifer said. “I thought about giving myself alcohol poisoning all the time. He took my virginity in a very, very awful way and impacted my life, with a whole high school calling me a ‘slut.’ And I just didn’t want to live. I couldn’t live with myself if my family found out.”
She didn’t want to live with the possible judgement.
“It was just really bad,” Jennifer said. “I didn’t want my sister to think less of me, or think that I was sleeping around, or that I was trying to be her by sleeping with her ex-boyfriend. And I didn’t want my best friend to judge me, because that’s her brother and the three of us would hang out all the time. I just didn’t want my family to find out. And I didn’t want it to affect our friendship with the family. So I just never said anything. I wish I would have. I wish I would have said something. Because it has altered my life in so many ways. Still to this day.”
To this day, her family has no idea anything happened.
“It’s like a huge elephant in the room,” Jennifer said. “I feel like I have so much hate inside me towards this person, but my family still talks about him highly. Like, he just got married and had a kid. My parents were so excited for him, saying, ‘His life is going so good!’ And I’m just thinking like, ‘I don’t want to hear about his life. I don’t want to hear about all his happiness.’ So, I probably won’t ever tell them.”
If she were to ever talk to anyone, Jennifer said she wishes it could be her sister.
“Right now, I don’t think I’d be able to do that,” Jennifer said. “Especially because she worries about me. So I feel like she would go into some rage and say something to him. That’s definitely what I don’t want. I want him out of my life. And that’s where he is right now, and it’s great, and I don’t want him in it again.”
Reflecting on how her life has changed, she remembered how unaffected her best friend’s brother seemed about the whole situation.
“He treated me completely normal like he had before,” Jennifer said. “Nothing seemed to change for him. Shortly after it happened, I was at church camp with his sister and all of our church friends, and I found out he was a counselor there. We were standing in line for an activity, but that’s where he was. I didn’t want to stand there. I didn’t want to do this unless I’m the first one that goes, so I can just get through it and don’t have to be around him.”
Unfortunately, she was not so lucky.
“But someone cut in front of me in line, so I had to stand there beside him,” Jennifer added. “He kept asking me if I was having fun, if I was excited to go into high school. And it was just like he acted like what he did was OK, acted like nothing had ever happened.”
But Jennifer was different. For her, the incident was constantly replaying in her mind. It didn’t just happen once. Every time she remembered it, it was like it was happening all over again.
“I felt like I was never going to be the same as I was,” she said. “And I really am not completely the same person that I was. I wish that I was. I wish that I was still as carefree. I wish that I still had this great outlook on life. I wish that I still thought highly of people immediately. But you really don’t know what a person has done, their background, their intentions.”
Editor’s Note: The second installment of Jennifer’s struggle with her most recent sexual assault will be published Dec. 5.