Something I only briefly discussed in my book, Dissed & Pissed, was an assault I experienced. This is the story in its entirety.
When I was a junior in high school, I worked with a guy who was a senior. My coworkers (also mostly teens) and I never knew what to expect from him, because his behavior was sometimes strange, but we figured he did it for attention. Other times, he was a super asshole; and other times, he was extra nice and very charming. At our employee Christmas party, he arrived drunk and acted like a bumbling fool. He laughed so hard, he puked on the floor, and while it was gross, it was funny to a group of teenagers. After that, he seemed to loosen up. (I will call him Joker.)
Joker begged me to date him over the course of the school year, but I wasn’t interested. Besides his mood swings, I didn’t find him physically attractive. He started being nicer and offered to do special favors at work or give me rides home, so I started trusting him. I’d never actually dated anyone one-on-one before. Since I lived with my strict grandparents, I’d only “dated” by hanging around a group of people with an interest in one of them.
Persistent, charming, and showing me what he nice guy he was, Joker’s manipulation won me over by the end of my junior year. Although we were still only friends, we flirted at work. We also spent time together outside of work, and eventually, we became more than friends.
We’d take long drives through winding roads with overhanging trees, looking for a place to park and make out. Over time, we started ”having sex” – except I learned we weren’t really having intercourse. All the times I thought we were having intercourse, Joker wasn’t actually inside of me.
Soon after, I noticed my feelings for Joker were stronger than his for me. How could that be when he’d asked me out for an entire year??? It was as if I was the fish he caught and decided to throw back, and it made me feel uneasy. But I wasn’t sure how to explain what I felt, and I’m sure I reacted like any teenaged girl.
Joker began working at a new place, which meant we saw less of each other. So little of one another, I barely knew I had a boyfriend. He was busy working a lot of double shifts, but he was also acting weird, similarly to the way he used to at work. He acted like he didn’t want to see me, but he didn’t break up with me, either. Still, I didn’t like the feeling in my gut.
One night, I was staying at the house where I babysat. Joker came over after work while the other occupants slept. He acted rude and standoffish, but I didn’t know why. It was like the same old weird Joker from work the year prior came back. I must have thought that physical affection would make things better, and we started making out on the living room floor. Suddenly, he was unusually rough and aggressive. I only weighed 105 pounds, he about 155. I was on my back one minute, then he grabbed and flipped me on top of him, and held me down with his strong arms. I couldn’t move my arms, which were bent and pinned between us. Then he shoved himself deep inside of me.
This was the moment I realized he’d never fully penetrated me before. It felt similar to an eraser rubbing back and forth on the skin, except it was on the inside, burning in pain. Pushing myself off of Joker was impossible, and squirming only made him hold me tighter. Saying, “Ouch,” and telling him, “You’re hurting me,” and “Stop,” didn’t work. He wouldn’t stop or slow down. I didn’t want to scream, so I bit him on the shoulder. It was the only defense I had.
Joker hit me, called me a bitch and literally threw me next to him onto the floor. Then he rolled over and ignored me. I was crying and tried explaining he hurt me really badly, that he wouldn’t stop, and it felt like I was being stabbed with a hot poker. His face remained angry, and he cussed at me that I didn’t have to bite him. How else could I get him to stop hurting me?
When I went to use the bathroom, blood dripped down my leg. No wonder I never bled before, because he’d never penetrated me. No one was up at that hour to talk to, so I had to suffer through a sleepless night with someone I thought I loved lying next to me, who just assaulted me. The next morning, Joker got up for work, but he didn’t speak to me at all. He walked out – leaving me more confused than ever!! All I could ask myself was, what did I do wrong? How could I love a person who just hurt me in the worst possible way?
I went about working, getting ready for my senior year, and doing things with friends for the next couple of weeks. That’s when I found out Joker had been lying to me during the last several weeks of our relationship. A birthday party invitation from a childhood friend introduced me to one of the girls who worked with Joker at his new job. She told me they’d gone on a date once, but she thought he was weird (and single). No one knew a thing about me, and he was taking out another girl that works with them! He hadn’t been working those double shifts.
Another close friend informed me that Joker had also asked her out after dropping me off at my house, before taking her to her house a few blocks away. When she asked about me, he fell silent. All of this information was like being unexpectedly punched dead center in the face. I felt used, abused, and confused.
Not only did he cheat on me, Joker ghosted me before ghosted became a word, because we never officially broke up. Instead of looking out for myself, I was concerned about his feelings. I didn’t want to say too many things to make him mad and hate me. Besides, I loved him, and in my stupid little 17-year-old mind, I thought maybe he will come around. We just need to talk. And 1000 other ridiculous excuses I made for love instead of seeing the troll for who he was. Gag.
“You’re breaking up with him now!” My tall friend grabbed the phone from the wall and shoved the receiver connected with a long twisted cord at me. But I didn’t take it. She stood with one hand on her hip, the other still holding the phone.
“Just do it, Susanna!” The two chanted in the same living room where I babysat. “Do it! Do it! Dump the asshole!!!”
One of them punched Joker’s number on the push-button phone. My heart raced, and I could barely breathe. When Joker answered, someone coached me, “You’re a fucking jerk and I don’t want to see you anymore! I want to break up!”
“I don’t want to see you, either!” Joker’s voice sounded like a lunatic, unemotional and cold. I couldn’t believe this was the same person who was so nice to me several months prior.
One of the girls grabbed the phone when I choked up and started bawling, and both yelled a bunch of 4-letter-words before hanging up. They tried convincing me I was better off without him, but it didn’t help me understand why it happened.
He ripped my heart out, but I also felt violated, so it was a very confusing time being a teenaged girl. There were no resources in the 1980s or 90s like today. Sex wasn’t something discussed with adults. None of us were supposed to be having sex, so we couldn’t really talk about it. No one called it rape or assault. We didn’t call it anything, because we didn’t know. But we knew it was wrong and deranged. I tried keeping my mind off of things by riding my bike or running the beach. Nothing helped. My stomach was in knots, and I couldn’t sleep or eat. I became underweight, because my appetite was smaller than my metabolism.
Senior year started, and while it was supposed to be the time of my life, I couldn’t focus on anything. Joker didn’t graduate with his class and never completed summer school, which meant he continued school during the first half of my senior year in order to graduate. That also meant I saw him and his new girlfriend together at school a lot. He was such an arrogant asshole, literally prancing by me like a peacock, with his arm around her and nose in the air. I wanted to punch him in the face. Her, too, with her stupid silver braces on her teeth. It was maddening, so I got my schedule changed and skipped my first period weight lifting class for the rest of the year. I didn’t need it, anyway.
Joker easily made enemies, my friends being a few. His workplace had a large parking lot, which made it easy to quickly put a note on someone’s car and never be seen, since there were no cameras in the 1980s. Prior to me getting a car, a couple of my friends took liberty at leaving things at Joker’s car: a black rose on his windshield; another, a condom with a note.
The last incident was with the girl who worked with Joker whom I met at the birthday party. He was a dick to her, too, and we became friends. When I finally had my own car and she had a night off, we took a ride by their job. But this time, his car was parked in front. I was the getaway driver, while she leaned half of her body out of the passenger window with a dozen eggs intended for his brand new white Mustang GT.
Plink! Plink! Plink! Plink!
She only managed to land a portion of the eggs on the rear window, trunk and roof, because we couldn’t stop laughing. We didn’t have time for the full dozen, because an older couple stood and watched us, so I hit the gas. Not only did we think hearing all that plinking was gut-laughing, it was great satisfaction messing up something he loved. We figured it was no harm, since he could wash it off, but we purposely did it early in his shift so he couldn’t wash it off right away. Besides, being underage, we knew nothing would happen to us. Nothing happened, except a customer described my car with two girls. Oops!!!
I took a different job in another city nearby, because Joker kept coming by my work to say hello to other employees and show off. I threw myself into my creative schoolwork and my job, as to avoid running into him at all, which was very difficult in a small town with a smallish high school. I enlisted in the military in November of my senior year, scheduled to leave once I graduated. Then I focused on getting into better physical shape and gaining the weight I’d lost from stress. Staying busy with friends and meeting new boys until I graduated and left for basic training was how I managed the rest.
During my time in the military, I received an unexpected letter from Joker. He didn’t say much, except he hoped I was doing well and he missed me or something romantic and weird, as if we were still friends, or even on friendly terms. He never mentioned how he treated me. The funniest part of his letter was when he said Mariah Carey reminded him of me. It must have been that 80s hair! It was so bizarre, I questioned everything about it, and I decided not to answer him right away.
When I went home on military leave, I showed the letter to Joker’s girlfriend, asking if he really sent it. She said it looked like his handwriting, but they broke up. He’d hit and punched her, and her parents hated him. They broke up, so now he wants to come back to abuse me? No thanks.
About five years later, while attending college back in my hometown, I walked right into Joker. While he did apologize to me at some point for cheating on me and lying, he never brought up the night of the assault. He insisted on taking me out to dinner, but I didn’t want to be alone with him, so I insisted on bringing a friend. I was divorced and hadn’t been dating, and even though I’d been married, I was still very inexperienced. Joker took us to a nice place, where we ordered steak or seafood, or something pricey. She expected him to pay for her as well, and he didn’t seem to like that. But I considered he owed me for having to bring a chaperone.
Twenty years later, Joker found me on Facebook. He was living in South Florida, had a giant bald spot, a wife, and a newborn baby. And there he was – looking me up. Losers never change! Even after so much time had passed, the night of the assault never came up. I never knew how to bring it up, and I didn’t feel comfortable talking about it anyway. I never talked about it much with anyone, because it felt gross and dirty. However, if given the opportunity today, I would definitely confront Joker about his horrific actions that night.
I was consensually having sex with my boyfriend. When he started hurting me and I told him to stop, and he would not, it became non-consensual. In the 1980s, women would be scoffed for reporting this, and the favor would always be in the boyfriend’s. There was no such thing as non-consent if you were in a relationship. No one discussed things the way people do today, but I’m glad that’s changing.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, contact RAINN.