The Untold Life of Girls
No one who helped raised me could have warned me. They had no idea how the world had changed. I guess men used to be ashamed of voicing their perverted thoughts, or maybe they simply used to have respect for women. This is not what I have found. I was only in first grade when boys started trying to look up my skirt, which was so mortifying, I changed schools.
When I was 7, my cousin and I were watching Little House on the Prairie with my mom. One of the characters was raped and got pregnant. I said, “How is she pregnant? She’s not married?” (Ha ha, oh, sweet, naïve, 7-year-old me …) My mom then explained that when a penis goes into a vagina, that’s how you get pregnant. This was basically the extent of my sexual education.
I hit puberty in fifth grade, so I was one of two girls in my class with breasts. The boys would make nasty comments all the time. They would even try to touch them! I was 11!! I had no idea how deal with this, so I just laughed it off. This made other girls think I liked the attention. That awarded me the reputation of a slut. I had never even kissed a boy yet!!
When I was 12, I went to church camp like I did every summer. This time, though, there was a really cute counselor named Carl. Carl was at least 19. There was no pool, just a lake, and I was afraid of snakes and things. No problem! Carl held me the whole time I was in, every day. We swayed back and forth in the water. I remember feeling his penis rubbing against my pelvis. I’m not sure what I was thinking. I wonder what the other kids were thinking. I wonder where all the female counselors and directors were. It looked to me that another counselor was doing the same thing with the other 12-year-old with breasts. On the last day, Carl whispered if I would mind if he kissed me. I said “No!” way too quickly and he never did. I was convinced Carl and I were in love, and I cried myself to sleep for a week when I had to go home.
When I was 13, my best friend (also 13) was raped. For reasons I won’t go into here (long story), I sort of felt responsible for what happened to her. In a way, I felt I deserved for it to happen to me, too. Years later, she and I had a tearful heart to heart where she assured me, nothing I could’ve done differently would have changed what happened to her.
When I was 14, our youth group was caravanning to a weekend retreat. We passed by a strip club in the middle of nowhere, and I was later told that, in the other van, one of the boys said, “I’d like to see Leigh in there.” How embarrassing to know that these boys, with whom I went to church with, were thinking of me in that way.
When I was 16, a friend told me that a boy I knew of at school said that I was hot. I’m a little terrified to admit that that’s all I had to know. His name was Jeremy. He was cute and tall and Italian. He purred into my ear and told me he loved me. He also informed me that if I didn’t “give it up” to him, he’d get it somewhere else. Six months in, I gave my virginity to him. Three months after that, we finally did it again. After that, we were like rabbits.
A year later, his family moved 45 minutes away. I was devastated. Luckily, I had a car and was able to visit him every weekend. Sometimes, I had my doubts about him—little red flags here and there—but ultimately, he convinced me that he was faithful. It wasn’t until my own dad caught him at the mall with another girl that I finally saw through him. My best friend rode with me to exchange our things. I was so broken-hearted I couldn’t even speak, so she was there to give him a piece of her mind for me. I had allowed myself to be vulnerable with this person, and only because I was convinced we were going to be together forever. After that, I decided that I hated sex, and I was never doing it again.
A year later, I was in my first semester of college. My hate of sex was still going strong, and I wasn’t shy about it. I talked to my new friends about it candidly. The night of our Christmas choir concert, I was hanging out with Steve, a fellow choir member. He was older, about 27, and an artist. I can still picture in my head the painting he was working on when I knew him: a beautiful woman with big eyes and tons of long, flowing purple hair. Somehow, Steve convinced me to take a sleeping pill before the concert. I can hear my reasoning now, “OK. It’s probably going to be a boring concert. This will make it more interesting, for sure,” and boy was it! I couldn’t focus my eyes on the lattice on the opposite wall.
After the concert, we stopped for some cheap wine. When we got back to his room, he gave me another sleeping pill. Obviously, I was out of my mind, but also trusting of this person who called himself my friend. I remember us making out. Then he started taking off my pantyhose. I said no, but he did it anyway. I remember him taking off my panties. I said “No, we can’t,” and he said, “But I have to.” That’s the last thing I remember. I suppose I’m one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to relive the image in my head over and over.
I woke up at 5 a.m., naked and throwing up. He was walking back in, wearing a plaid robe. He had just taken a shower. My parents were asleep with no idea I wasn’t home yet. I called and woke them. I said that I’d fallen asleep in Steve’s room, and that I was coming home now. I guess they believed me.
I was confused for a few weeks about what had actually happened. In fact, when I finally told my best friend, I said that I got drunk and slept with my friend, Steve. Talk about denial, eh? I felt I couldn’t live with myself, if I’d actually had sex without a relationship, so I convinced myself we were in one. Steve went to Italy for most of January. When he got back, I met with him in that same room. I even made out with him for a few minutes, but it didn’t take long for me to realize how gross it felt, being there, and being with him, so I said good-bye. I dropped out of college about a month later.
I don’t remember exactly when I came to terms with what had actually happened. It took me seven months to tell my parents, and that was in a letter, while I was 300 miles away working as a camp counselor. I never told the school or the cops. For a while, I decided I would rather be dead.
I started taking laxatives. Every tiny bit of fat on my body had to go. I felt so dirty and disgusting. There are pictures of me looking like a skeleton. Today, I’m hypoglycemic because I did that, and I still have issues with food, just not as extreme.
I started taking scalding hot showers, and I still do that. I felt I could not get clean. I started taking lots of pills. Lortabs were easy enough to get, along with any muscle relaxers. I am extremely fortunate that no one offered me heroin, because I have a feeling I would’ve done it. I just wanted to be numb and not feel anything. As you can imagine, this experience caused me to have trust and intimacy problems that I still deal with 17 years later.
I am hoping that writing all of this down will help me, and help others, too. I’ve been told it can be empowering, to get these stories out of our heads. Am I still ashamed of it, even now? I think so. Yes. But it’s time to let it go. Way past time!
I hope anyone reading this who has gone through something similar, understands that it wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t your fault.
Rise above it. You are a survivor.