Crossing a Fine Line into Dangerous Territory

“I’m sorry. I can’t meet you for breakfast. My fiancé found out and now she’s mad at me.”

That was the turning point. That was the moment when everything started to fall into place and I started to put together exactly what my relationship with Lennon had really been about. There had been red flags before that but something in that moment – that moment that came after weeks of hashing and re-hashing my feelings for Micah – caused it all to suddenly become as clear as it could have ever been.

I need to take a step away from the narrative for a moment to inject a warning: The rest of this post touches on the subject of emotional and sexual abuse. Please be advised.

I’ve had some time to chew on that moment and all that came before it. And I’m still not sure what to call whatever it was.

My gut reaction is to call it emotionally or (and) psychologically abusive. Gaslighting? Manipulative, at the very least. I had a dream, at one point, where I was telling someone about it and they told me (read: my subconscious used someone else’s face to tell me…), “an ‘unhealthy’ relationship becomes abusive when you are made to feel like you don’t deserve any other option.”

I had other options. I had Cameron. I had David. I took the Israel option. And that wasn’t even the half of it. Several of David’s friends would have jumped at any chance I offered them; a couple of them told me as much. And there were a few in the circle of friends I shared with Cameron, too.

I had other options. But even though I knew I could find … literally, anyone else who would treat me better than Lennon did, I couldn’t walk away. I don’t know that I thought I deserved his treatment, but at the same time, I’m not sure, in the moment, I thought it was bad. Hindsight is, after all, 20/20. And I think I thought I loved him.

It was little things. A lot of little things that added up to a much larger picture. It was him telling me that I might find a real boyfriend, if I’d stop screwing him, while I was on my knees in front of him. It was him lying on top of me, in nothing but a t-shirt, asking me how things were “coming along with Cameron.” It was him wrapping his arm around me and sniffing my hair while I told him about my plans to spend a week with Israel’s family over our Winter break.

It was the day he picked me up from my apartment and took me back to his. We kissed, rounded third base and started toward home plate where he turned on a video game and ignored the half-naked woman in his living room. And not only once.

It was the times he used location to control the situation, refusing to ever use my bed, even when I lived alone and he had roommates.

It was when he told me he wouldn’t touch me again unless I had sex with his neighbor. His female neighbor who was in an “open” marriage (I refused and he eventually gave up the quest…or she did).

It was when he contacted me when he wanted to (cyber) cheat on the girlfriend he had followed to another state.

And it was when he thought an invitation to meet for breakfast was code for something else entirely (that likely also started with a “b”), knowing that I was 100% invested in Micah.

It was an unhealthy situation, without question. But was it abusive? Was it emotionally abusive? Was it sexually abusive even though he always had my consent? My residual reactions leave me wondering. And I’ll probably never, fully, resolve it. It will probably never be more than just another, less-than-sunny chapter in my sexual and romantic history.

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One Billion Rising

One in three women across the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. That’s ONE BILLION WOMEN AND GIRLS. On Saturday, February 18, 2017, women around the world will stand up for their sisters. To recognize their sisters and say you are not alone and this is not okay. I am sharing my stories for them.

1. My fifth grade class was performing Peter Pan in the spring. The false walls of the set concealed the beds that made up the Darling children’s bedroom. I did not have a part acting in the play and was instead put in charge of sets.

Because I wasn’t needed on stage, I was waiting on one of the beds until the next set change. My classmates milled about the stage area, waiting for their scenes or their cues.

He pushed me onto my back on the bed, behind the false wall that separated us from our classmates, and pinned my arms above my head. He was a year older and he was bigger than I was and stronger and he kicked my feet apart, pushing himself between my legs.

I could feel his erection through his pants as he pressed his weight against me, holding me down. He hovered above me, watching me, waiting to find out what I would do next. I lay still beneath him and looked away from his face, waiting to find out what he would do next.

He held me there for an eternity before pushing back away from me and leaving me alone with a moment I would eventually forget until a day when I suddenly remembered it again.

Not a full decade later, I would have buried that memory beneath what had become a close, seemingly honest friendship. I would find myself on his couch in his apartment, opposite him as he blamed me for the way I was dressed (in a tank top and jeans). I still wouldn’t remember fifth grade but I would wonder what was stopping him now from doing whatever he wanted. He was still bigger than I was, and stronger, and now more experienced. “I’ve liked you for years but you were always too good for me,” he would tell me, as if the confession would be enough to change my mind, to make me submit to his desires.

2. I was 16. He was a pathological liar. We lived in neighboring towns and he came to spend a rainy, gloomy day with me. We used my best friend as a cover so I didn’t have to tell my parents. We left her house and went for a walk. We found a secluded area and kissed. He unfastened my jeans and started pulling them off. I pulled them back up and continued kissing him because I was satisfied with what we were doing in that moment. He unfastened his jeans and stripped himself to his ankles. I pushed him away and started back toward my friend’s house. He pulled his pants back up but left them undone to chase after me. When he grabbed me, I told him he needed to go home.

3. I climbed on the hood of his car because we were 18 and stupid and he drove away from our friends with me sitting on the hood. At the end of the street, he told me to get in and he’d drive me back to the group. But he kept driving in the opposite direction. A mile, two, three, five miles out of town, he stopped.

“If you blow me, I’ll take you back.”

I never considered walking back. He pushed me away and back into my own seat, climbing on top of me, his erection still exposed. I let him do what he wanted to do, not because I wanted him to, but because I didn’t not want him to.

I got out of the car and he drove away and people were angry. Everyone assumed they knew what had happened. Everyone assumed I needed defended. Monday, back at school, my honor, that didn’t need defending, was defended.

Years later, I have revisited each of these moments with each of these boys/men/males, and I have wondered, what made me the lucky one? Four times in the years before I was even 20 years old, I found myself facing a rapist, four times, I walked away from it. I am the lucky minority. I have revisited each of those moments and I have wondered what if he had made a different decision in that moment.

In the clearing in the woods behind my friend’s house, alone in his apartment, in his car five miles from town, there wouldn’t have been anyone to stop him, anyone to catch him, my word against his. I have revisited each of those moments and I have wondered what made each of them stop. I have revisited each of those moments and I have wondered why I am not one in one billion.