By an anonymous contributor
I don’t like to tell people how I met my boyfriend, and neither does he.
The reason? Harv (Names have been changed) and I had never met until the night of his ‘initiation’ into a gang. The ‘initiation’ consisted of finding a girl and raping her. Harv, being eighteen at the time, wanted to get into the gang; he needed the money that would come from sex trafficking.
I didn’t get raped far from home: I was walking home after I finished babysitting my best friend’s kid, as he was out with his wife. His house was not far from mine, a mere mile. The night was warm, and I decided to walk home. I was seventeen at the time.
Between my street and my best friend’s was a school and a field. I took a shortcut across the field.
There was a group of young men huddled around a bench. Some of them called to me, varying from “Hey, sexy,” to “Nice tits.” I knew I was relatively attractive, and I fit the description of a Disney princess well – blonde, slim, doe-eyed, and was used to thins kind of thing. I ignored the men and kept walking, at least until one of them pushed another towards me.
This guy, to put it simply, was hot and strong. The Ken doll to my Barbie looks. Except, my prince wasn’t charming. My fairy tale was a horror story. I jogged to stay away from him, but eventually he caught up to me. His first words were, “Hey, babe, I don’t bite.” He caught me by the shoulders and pushed me down to the grass, earning cheers of approval from the other men.
When I screamed, he covered my mouth and handcuffed me, then proceeded to pull down my pants, then his, and rape me. When he was done, he left me lying on the field and walked away, not looking at me twice.
I got home in two hours. I knew it was not my fault, and that I was not guilty. That night, I called the police and reported being raped. Coincidentally, in a week, there was a night that the local college was open to anyone who wanted to speak up against sexual assault. I signed up, and my name and picture were put on the website advertising the event. I wrote a letter to my attacker, referring to him as ‘you’.
On the night of my speech, I waited backstage anxiously, listening to other men and women speak up against rape. Before I went on the stage, the guy who had been on before me gave me a hug and told me it felt awesome to speak up. Empowered by his bravery and happiness, I climbed up on stage.
I scanned the full room, looking for my friends. Finally, my eyes landed on the front row. He was there. My rapist. Instead of running out like I felt doing, I smiled at the audience and read my letter. More than once, I locked eyes with him, and every time, a new rush of energy overcame me. Every time, he got redder and redder. FINALLY, he could see what he had done.
I marched off that stage with my head held high. At the end of the night, the person in charge offered the mike to anyone in the audience to speak. To my greatest astonishment , my rapist stood up. He walked up on the stage, in his leather jacket and jeans, and confessed to what he had done. Though he didn’t mention me by name, his eyes never left mine. Here’s an excerpt from his speech:
“I am a rapist. I’m sure nobody expected that tonight, someone in the audience would be one of the attackers mentioned. I have no excuse for what I did, and I will never have an excuse. But – there’s two sides to every story. No, I haven’t turned myself in, and no, I don’t plan on it. I’m not proud of what I did, but being around certain people made me feel powerful, and this was my way of showing it.”
I knew he was lying; he had been pressured into it. After the night was over, at the refreshment table, Harv approached me, reeking of alcohol, and said, “Hey, you recognize me, right?” Like he was a celebrity I should know. I slapped him and walked out.
Fast forward five years, and we met again by chance. Harv confessed to what he had done, and strangely, I felt better, too. I told him my side of the story, and he told me his. He’s now off drugs, sober, and out of the gang. A month ago was the first time I visited his apartment, after dating him for a year. No matter what people tell me, I love him, and the feeling is mutual. He is not the person he used to be, and I’m proud he changed. Everyone makes mistakes, it’s just important to acknowledge them.