My name is Megan and I was sexually assaulted. It feels unreal to write these words as I have been in denial and misunderstanding about the event for 17 years. I was 15 when it happened. I was a child, even though -ager was the suffix to my age. I had only been a teenager for 2 years. I couldn’t drive and had only finished one year of high school.
I was assaulted by someone I trusted, someone in a position of leadership and authority over me, and someone whose attention I enjoyed. I was away at a youth camp and Youth Leader was always there, always around, and even though I had a boyfriend at home, who was a jerk, this guy seemed like a real person of faith who valued me. Even though he was a college leader on a high school camp trip and 5 years older than me. A big gap when those 5 years are 15 and 20.
He would secretly show me his attention which was somewhat confusing, but I guess I understood the secrecy since he was a “leader”? I am a romantic at heart and was even then. I have also always struggled with my value and my physical appearance. I was at camp with a bunch of beach blonde beauties and I always felt inferior to them. What guy would like me?
So when someone showed me attention instead of them and I kinda liked it. Because I kinda liked his attention I thought what happened was a result of me liking it, and therefore I was deserving of it. Or maybe I deserved it because I wasn’t a valuable person. Or because my dress was too tight…
My interactions with Youth Leader at camp were relatively elementary. He was always around talking and flirting, secretly holding my hand sometimes. Like on the bus ride home.
When camp was over I don’t remember if we talked anymore. It was 1999 and there was no texting and he definitely didn’t like me enough to call me.
Weeks, a month later, I am not sure, but Youth Leader was back in town from college for some reason. He came to our Youth Group Meeting and in my blurry memories of 17 years ago he picked me up from my house (along with another one of my guy friends) and drove me to the meeting.
That weekend he also came to our church group. We used to all go out for bagels afterwards and he came along. We were sitting at a table with OTHER people. In a booth I still walk by weekly because I still live in the same area of the same town and go to the same damn bagel place. Underneath the table he started touching me under my dress. I don’t know what I thought. This is weird? He must really like me? Why do guys always want to touch me down there? I guess its ok since he’s a christian and he’s a leader…maybe this isn’t wrong like I always thought it was?
Somehow, I used to think because I was an idiot, but the real reason is probably because I was a naive 15 year old, I let him drive me, alone, to where my parents were having lunch at their club. He stopped the car off to the side of the parking lot. And he took that opportunity in that parking lot of the place where I still go to eat with my parents, where I had my wedding reception, where my kids love to go and look at boats, where I spent every summer after that working out like a crazed athlete, laying by the pool eating pineapple and nothing else, trying to get tanner and skinner by the minute…
In that parking lot is where he assaulted me. No asking, no romantic gestures, no gentleness, or “I really like you”, just full on aggressive painful touching and “kissing”. I say “kissing” because I felt like he was going to bite my face off. I am pretty sure I tasted blood. And it hurt. A kiss that hurts??? I don’t think that is actually a kiss.
And then the other stuff, which I felt like I brought on bc of the strange touching in the bagel place. Which makes me feel sick to talk about and remember. I could throw up right now. But full on aggressive down the underwear “object penetration” (a new legal phrase I have learned) painful touching.
I remember it hurt, I wanted it to be over, and when I got of of the car I felt nasty. Scared my parents would be able to tell.
I also thought later that night…”that felt so wrong and bad but maybe it was ok because he is a good person. He was my Youth Leader”. But the shame was so heavy, I had no way to deal with it, I was too scared to talk about it, so I just minimized it, denied it, ignored it. For years. We never talked again, he never looked me in the eye when I ran into him at church. Which led to me feeling even more shame. He called once not long after the apologize and though it’s very blurry I have some memory of him asking me not to tell anyone. I had no plans to tell because I felt like it made me look bad I didn’t even think about how royally he had fucked up. I also remember the realization of “Wow, he really didn’t like me. He didn’t do that because he liked me or wanted to be close to me.” Which in turn led to even deeper shame and struggle with my value. Someone took something from me and he acted like it was because he liked me, but he didn’t.
It took my (other) youth leader being indicted for doing something similar 15 years ago to my friend for me to realize this was actually a big deal. Also talking to my friend who was worked with victims of assault and very educated on how often people minimize or don’t understand their own assault. And now, 17 years later, I am processing both events at the same time. The denial, anger, rage, depression all balled into one are not easy to work through. But it has given me a new passion for this epidemic in our country and our world and especially within the Church.
I ask God why he let it happen, but I already know. He can use my story. He can use my righteous anger. Even if it’s just in educating my own children and being aware of the victims all around me, he can use it. He can come into these wounds and heal them, redeem this story, and maybe I can help at least one other person.