I loved to read. I still do. My parents encouraged this, but I knew they didn’t realize what I read. In my younger years, Mom checked over my book orders from the Weekly Reader book offers I got in school. Sometimes she vetoed a book due to its subject matter, but when I reached my mid-teens, she didn’t follow up on what I was reading as much. I know she trusted me to make good decisions, and I knew some of the books I read were not appropriate. How was she to know the young adult section of the book store offered stories with explicit sex, drugs, alcohol, and violence?
Relationships in these books were dysfunctional, but I didn’t know that. I saw cool kids accepting nerdy kids if they participated in the wrong behaviors. I thought, since I wasn’t one of the cool kids, that it must be that way.
Is it any surprise, then, that when faced with my first relationship dilemma I chose poorly?
I dated very little. A date here, a date there. Never a second date. I had a steady “visiting” relationship with a college sophomore during my senior year of high school, but he never kissed me or asked me out on an official date. We unofficially dated, I guess, but that was it. Looking back, he chose the higher road and didn’t take advantage of my naiveté. Too bad, the next guy to show any interest didn’t have the same manners.
At seventeen, I met him. I thought he was cute and good-looking, and he was interested in me. I didn’t understand his quick attachment, but that’s how it happened in the books. Couples met and fell in love within a few pages. I swooned over the idea that someone finally saw me as beautiful and desirable.
He pushed early for something more, for sex. I refused, stressing I wanted to wait for marriage. He kept pushing. In my innocence, no one prepared me for the flood of feelings welling up in me. No one told me how hard it was to say no. I knew to say no, but it got harder and harder to refuse him.
Then came the day I gave in. We made plans. He tried to make it special, but what I imagined and what he created didn’t match up. We were alone, far from others, in the woods, a long trek from the car. I changed my mind…and he didn’t care. I threatened to scream, and he told me hunters would respond and see me naked. I couldn’t find the car, I didn’t have the keys.
Years later, I told a counselor he forced me, and the counselor’s response stunned me. He asked why I didn’t use the words date rape. I blinked in surprise at the thought. That term surfaced in our culture later, so it never occurred to me to use it.
I was date-raped.
So what? I knew of other girls who, while dating a guy, ended up in the same situation. It happened in the books I read all of the time. The couples stayed together. I didn’t leave him. He took what I held for my future husband. I was damaged goods.
Today, I look back at that scared girl and know how confused and wrong she was. Unprepared for the realities of the world, sheltered by her parents, she didn’t know what to do. In some way, she blamed herself. In other ways, she wanted out. It took a few years before she realized that when she said no, he should have stopped.
This begins my journey–a rough and difficult road. A road that altered my life’s trajectory in ways I couldn’t fathom. It’s part of who I became instead of who I wanted to be.
It’s not what God chose for me, but he did find ways to use this experience to help others, later. For that, I’m thankful.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28
Don’t misunderstand this verse. No matter what happens, what bad choices we, or someone else, makes God can find a way to use it for good. Over this series, you will follow my journey along this trajectory, and I hope you will see a greater good at work. Yes, I went through horrible, dark times in the process, but, ultimately, good came of it. That’s what I want others to see. If you’ve experienced a violation like this, it doesn’t have to define you. You can walk away and turn toward good and help others.
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