I’m not married to the father of my kid, but we live together. It’s unconventional, I know, and everyone’s got an opinion about it, but we get along great. In spite of falling out of love with each other, we remain close. Recently he shared his disappointment about getting TAD (temporary duty assignment) orders out of San Diego. I tried not to show it, but my heart sank.
You see, there was one thing I had never told him and was still not ready to share: I was date raped by someone I thought was my friend. And last I heard, he was living in San Diego.
The rational side of me knew that San Diego was a large place and the chances of him even being within a mile of my daughter were slim to none, but it wasn’t something I wanted to risk. So I gathered information on him the only way I knew how: I Facebook stalked him.
If the panic of merely imagining my daughter being in the city with my rapist was enough to send me into a panic, then imagine how much worse I felt when I saw that not only had he moved from across the country, but was living a 30-minute drive away. He was attending the college I was looking into for my PharmD – the one a mile away from my daughter’s Kindermusik class.
My chest constricted so tightly, it felt like I was drowning. I hadn’t seen this guy in years and all of a sudden I was pulled back in time: lying under him, dizzy, waiting for him to finish.
I met him during our time in the military. (Let’s call him GR.) He was a friend of a mutual friend, but I was a dumb 19-year-old who had been heavily sheltered most of my life, so I thought it was cool to have guy friends. In the beginning, I never really had any other opinion of him other than, at over 6 feet and 190-plus pounds of pure muscle, he was handsome with a very obvious zest for life. He never made a secret of his love of sex and drinking, even when we first met.
Even so, the more we got to know each other, the more I felt uncomfortable around him when we were alone. He would talk about my breasts a lot, even steering random conversations to talk about how I should wear low-cut V-necks more often. He would make inappropriate comments all the time either about other women or, occasionally, children. At one point, he showed me a picture of a chubby baby, making an unnecessary comment about how it looked like she had cleavage and getting mad when I called him out on how creepy that sounded. Not even family was off limits. He would describe his sister as being sexy enough to be a Victoria’s Secret model, as though there was nothing else to her. But he never said those things in front of those who were brave enough to say or do anything about it.
I was young and stupid, trying to fit in with the military mindset of not letting things get to you when people just want to see you fall apart, so I denied how uncomfortable I was around him. It didn’t help that our “friends” would make it seem as though any concerns I had were completely irrational, or that our command saw him as their golden boy for his accomplishments in rugby, his grades during training, and his bachelor degree in psychology. After all, this was a guy I had to work with. He had so many friends that would make my life hell if I ever did anything. So I continued letting him and those “friends” disrespect any boundaries I had, convinced I was happy to be part of a group.
It just kept snowballing until it got closer to his 25th birthday when a mutual “friend” warned me that GR had told him he would allow him to double-team me. I was pissed. I never expressed consent, verbal or otherwise to this nor had I ever expressed interest in having sex with him. When I confronted him, he hastily denied saying that. Later I would get an earful from that “friend” about how GR angrily confronted him about spilling these things to me as though I was the one who betrayed the trust. I tried to back out of going to his party, but other “friends” brought up that I had already agreed to be the designated driver for the group, so I went.
It was a standard birthday party for a guy like him, I guess. We went to a strip club and wound up ending the night at his friend’s apartment. It went fine for the most part until everything began to quiet down. He waited until almost everyone was asleep to sneak into my sleeping spot and started molesting me. He roughly grabbed my breasts and tried to get his hands under my clothes. I kept pushing him away, but he’d just try again, rougher each time. Eventually, I darted away and hid in another room, but he followed me. Thankfully, he stopped his pursuits for the night when he realized another man was sleeping in the room.
The next morning, I dreaded leaving the room I was in and thought about taking off, but I knew that if I did, I would get in trouble with the command for backing out of my role as the designated driver if an alcohol-related incident occurred. Reluctantly, I tried waking him up, naively thinking it was the alcohol that impaired his judgment. With pretty much everyone else gone, he tried again, grabbing me and holding my body against him. I was 5’1″, 112 pounds and exhausted from the night before, so I gave in reluctantly to his grabbing. I guess I thought that if he got what he wanted he would leave me alone. He did, but only for a little while.
A few months later, after the group of “friends” I had been hanging out with had stopped speaking to me after I had sex with one of them, he contacted me and asked to go out. I made it clear that I didn’t want anything physical to happen and so he promised we would just catch up. He even promised that the guy I had sex with would be there so we could make up. We went out to a club that was popular for the Navy personnel from the bases nearby. When we got there, I realized GR had lied, and we were alone. I kept stressing that I wanted to leave early, but he offered me shots, using my stresses from classes and the sadness of a lost friendship as an excuse to drink. Eventually, we did leave, but he kept vocally refusing to go back to his dorm on base, insisting on spending the night at my apartment. I don’t recall how we got there, but all I remember is us having sex on top of my bed.
The next morning while I was still hungover, he made me promise not to say anything to anyone. He told me I’d get in trouble because of my underage drinking and everyone would think I was a slut for sleeping with him. So I didn’t. Not even when I tested positive for chlamydia. I hated myself for a long time afterward. I genuinely believed that I somehow led him on. I found excuses for a man several years older with much more real-world experience. After all, I had known what type of person he was. What did I think was going to happen?
The depression from his betrayal and harm of my spirit still haunts me. It echoed in every doubt I had in the relationships that followed. Now it plagues me when I think about my young daughter’s future. How can I prevent her from experiencing what he put me through?
I scrolled through his page, thinking “Maybe he’d changed? Five years can change a person, right?” No. Even in his 30’s, he’s still posting videos of him getting belligerently drunk with his rugby buddies — the same guys I remember trying to drunkenly corner me and propositioning me for sex when I was younger. The only real change I could see was his posts. He now had links to the charity runs he organizes. His education status proudly displays his pursuit of his master’s in physical therapy. If I had never known him as I did, he’d seem like such a great guy. Should I tell people what happened? Would anyone believe me?
I began writing an anonymous letter addressed to his program head. I briefly thought of Larry Nassar and how silence allowed him to do what he did for as long as he did. I was so proud when I finished that I wasn’t going to be another silent victim. But when I proofread it, doubt began to seep into my soul. These weren’t the words of a crusader for justice. These were words from an embittered, wronged woman. On top of that, I left so many identifiers that I knew if the program head decided to show him the letter, he’d figure out who I was. I knew GR wasn’t above suing me for defamation of character. While South Carolina does not have a statute of limitations on sexual violence, it had been five years. There wasn’t any more proof it had ever happened. The physical evidence had long disappeared, the club we went to had been closed for two years now, my old apartment didn’t have surveillance when I lived there, and my phone number had been changed four years ago. I knew we couldn’t survive the lawsuit, and if he won, I was so worried what it would do to our daughter.
I looked up what would happen if I sent the letter, hoping for advice and maybe some justification to mail it anyways. That’s when I stumbled upon a Reddit thread made by someone who underwent the same dilemma. A reply to the post stated, “You are not looking for justice; you want revenge.” And they were right. I was angry. I could never forgive this man for what he did, but it still felt like doing nothing was wrong. I’m still not sure what to do, because what do you do when your rapist lives so close to home?
To be honest, I’m not sure why I’ve shared my story. I don’t know if it was for peace of mind or forgiveness. If I were actually acting for the safety others, then I would brave the consequences. But I’m not. I’m a coward. All I can think about is my little girl and all I can do is warn her father to stay as far away from this man as possible, even if I’m not ready to share why.
What else can I do?