Today I am going to write about something very personal and of a very sensitive nature.
This post was inspired by watching the first three episodes of “Jessica Jones” on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, the premise is that JJ is a PI and has super natural strength. Like most main characters, she has a troubled past. Only hers seem to hit a nerve as she was once abducted by a man who had a super natural power to control her mind and her actions even though she really didn’t want to do any of those things.
Watching this made me think of my past, and of the men that have had this power over me. For the record, I don’t think that this kind of manipulation is confined to male behaviour. It just so happens that my personal experience involves men.
The first time this happened to me I was 14. I attended my family church’s youth meetings/events. I was quite mature for most 14 year olds having already fully developed curves etc, whilst most of my friends wouldnt need to buy bras for another year or so. One of the youth leaders stood out to me, the only thing I knew about him was that he was really clever and that he hung around with the popular kids, and although I am ashamed to admitt it, I had a slight crush on him.
I can’t remember exactly how it happened, but I know that some how he added me on Skype and we began talking online. Over a few months he gained my trust and I shared with him things I would never had talked about face-to-face but some how online, he made me feel safe and it felt good to share my troubles with someone who appeared to have my best interest at heart and he was 3 years older than me so he knew more about the world. Eventually he started to flirt with me, and being 14 I didn’t know any better. He then started to twist my words and make me feel guilty about not agreeing to go on a date with him. But at that point he had me, I had become dependent on our conversations and although we argued about dating etc. he always managed to reel me back in changing the conversation topic, biding his time untill the next time he broched the topic of a date. This went on for a few months, and eventually I tried to not speak to him online, but he would send messages to make me feel guilty and I always ended up oversharing with him. The day I realised how wrong it was I was confiding in a female youth leader (face-to-face) and although I didn’t share any of the deep personal things I had shared with this guy, I admitted to her how vulrable he had made me feel.
She then told me how he had done the same thing to her and a few of her friends. I think that was the first time his spell was truely broken, alongside my heart.
The second time this happened to me I was four years older, 18 and working at a bar at the airport. It was the first job I actually enjoyed. Even though I stopped going to church, I was enjoying the social aspect as well as the customer service element of the job. Then a new team leader joined and nothing was ever the same. At first he appeared charismatic and an opportunity for career development. He taught me new things and gave me “special treatment” he soon became my work friend. He would schedule our breaks together so that he could join me and spend some quality time getting to know me. He would message me on my days off to see how I was doing. Then he started to pick me up and drop me home after shift. He made my life a lot easier and I wasn’t complaining.
He then started to push the boundaries. On a night out he took advantage of how drunk I was, and kissed me. He then got into a fight over another guy who was giving me some unwanted attention and I stayed behind from the rest of the group to make sure he was ok. Looking back I’m not sure if that was just a move to get me alone or what it was. He then started to play the “lets see how many times I can unhook Beth’s bra strap (over her clothes) at the most inappropriate moments” game. And would take me down to the cellar to “teach me how to change a barrell” whilst taking the opportuity to try to kiss me.
One afternoon I was walking home from the train station after having a few drinks with my best work friend at the time. As always he was texting me, only this time he managed to catch me when I was too tipsy to be on my guard. I told him where I had been and that I was heading home. Ten minutes later his car pulled up and he told me to get in so he would drop me home claiming it was “unsafe” for a women to walk home at that time of night. But then he drove past my house and kept driving. I asked where he was taking me but he wouldn’t answer.
He took me to an abanded car park at the back of the train station, no one was around and it was getting dark. We talked for about an hour. He told me he knew I was a virgin and that I should trust him to solve that “problem”. I said that I wasn’t interested and he persisted. Thats when he ran his hand up my thigh and told me it was natural to be nervous.
I’ve never been more scared than I was in that moment. I had heard and read stories about rape but I never thought it would happen to me. So I got out the car and I ran. I never saw him again. Long story short, I eventually told my manager, he got fired and I quit.
Four years later, I still fear running into either of these men. I still have nightmares involving them. I hate that I allow them to have that power over me. I was one of the lucky ones, no actual crime was commited that night. Yet I still have a voice in my head that tells me both incidents were my fault.
The reason I wrote this blog is to try and release the power they still have over me. I told myself that if I am ready to tell my story to the world, it means I am ready to forgive myself and gain back some of that power I lost.
If you, or someone you know has gone through anything like this before, or are currently going through it now, I urge you to speak up. No matter how much you tell yourself its your fault. Please tell someone you trust whats going on, before its too late.