My first sexual experience wasn’t one I wanted. I was fourteen, and friends with a guy two years older than me who thought he knew everything. He was messed up, manipulative, unhappy, and I couldn’t see that my friendship with him was leading in a troubling direction. My friends started to become worried when they noticed that I was getting quieter and quieter and didn’t really talk about anyone or anything except him. I seemed unhappy, they said, but I ignored them, thinking that they just didn’t understand.
He used to tell me details about his sex life that obviously freaked me out – when I looked uncomfortable, he laughed, and told me how he wanted to do the same to me. Throughout our friendship he would tell me off for doing things to ‘turn him on’, things that I’d had no idea I’d done. I felt confused and unhappy, thinking that I was giving him the wrong signals by accident. I told him he was making me uncomfortable, but he ignored me. If someone continues to treat you badly even when you’ve asked them to stop, you should walk away. It’s a sign that they might not listen about more important things.
One afternoon, we were alone in the house. He asked me to give him a back rub and, although I wasn’t really keen on the idea, he insisted, so I did. He turned round and started kissing my neck and face, running his hands over my body and holding my arms pinned at the wrist so I couldn’t push him away. I tried to ask him to stop, but he only said that he was ‘evil’ and I shouldn’t be ‘letting’ him do it. He carried on, even when I’d made it clear I wasn’t happy with it. That’s not consent. I’d never had a relationship, never had a healthy, happy sexual experience, so I didn’t know that what was happening to me was wrong.
All he did that evening was kiss me (never on the lips, not that first time; you only kiss people properly if you really love them, he said). He kissed my face, my neck, my ears. My breasts, through my hoody. He ran his hands over my body, over my clothes. That was all. But after he left, I threw up. I couldn’t eat properly for days.
I felt guilty, sick, and ashamed. He said he couldn’t ever see me again, as he couldn’t trust me not to ‘make’ him do it again. You can’t ‘make’ someone do that to you; it’s always their decision. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, my family, my friends, about it – when I tried, people at school said I was a slut, because he wasn’t my ‘boyfriend’. I stopped trying to talk about it.
I thought he’d disappeared for good. Every few days, however, I’d get a text from him or a message on msn, telling me about what he was doing with and to other girls I knew. I knew he’d told them about the things he’d done with me, which I hadn’t wanted him to, because he didn’t like secrets.
The worst and last occasion was three weeks afterwards. I hadn’t seen him for a fortnight. He came to my house when no-one was in. I’d tried to get hold of a friend to come round and spend the afternoon with me as well so that there was someone there, but my phone wasn’t working. I ran upstairs to charge it – while I waited, I went to the door of my room to call down to him (believing he was still downstairs) to tell him I wouldn’t be a second. He was standing at the top of the stairs. He followed me into my room, and half-shut the door.
Before I knew what was happening, really, he was kissing me again, pinning my arms behind my back so that again I couldn’t really do anything. He pushed me onto the bed so that he was on top of me. I kept saying “we shouldn’t be doing this,” and he kept replying “no, we shouldn’t, you shouldn’t let me do this to you” but didn’t stop. He put his hand inside my shirt and tried to undo my bra, but stopped. He touched me elsewhere, as well. I tried to turn away from him, but he’d still got hold of my arms so I couldn’t really get away. In the end, I just lay very still.
He took one of my hands and pulled it down, trying to push my hand inside his pants. I didn’t let him, and froze, trying to resist. He kept asking me, telling me I’d led him on and had been messing him around, and I owed him this. I probably would have given in, except then I heard the front door opening and my parents were home.
Over the next few days, he repeatedly told me I was a slut and a whore, and had just been using him for sex. This, I know now, is not true. I still feel bad about it, and struggle to talk about it. This is the first time I’ve really put it into words. It happened seven years ago. He never put his hands inside my clothes; there was never skin-to-skin contact. It took me years to accept that this doesn’t mean that it was minor, what happened, and that I am allowed to be traumatised by it.
I cried about it for the first time last week. It came out of nowhere, almost. I don’t remember what words triggered the flood but suddenly I was shaking and screaming and really, really feeling it. Maybe this is a sign I can move on.
Having had happier, healthier sexual experiences since then, I know what it feels like when it’s right, and when you’ve given your consent. What he did was to ignore the fact that I was obviously uncomfortable and unhappy – in fact, sometimes it seemed that the more uncomfortable I was, the more he wanted to push me. I wish I’d had enough confidence in myself to fight back, to struggle, to listen to the warning voice in the back of my head that said I didn’t want to be alone with him that day. I was proved right.
If someone is treating you in a way that repeatedly makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t spend time with them. Try not to be alone with them at all, if you can avoid it. I know from personal experience that it’s so much easier said than done to walk away from someone who’s hurting you, but there is no-one in the world who is worth suffering like this for.
If there’s someone you trust, talk to them about it – if they don’t understand, keep talking to people until someone hears what you’re saying and takes you seriously. There are so many people out there who care, and who don’t want you to be hurt. Just try and reach out.