The other day a high school friend of mine posted pictures of the inside of the school before it gets torn down. I smiled as I saw the lockers and the hallways I frequented. I remembered seeing friends and boys I had crushes on. I felt happy.
Then I saw the picture of the black box.
While the picture was 100% black my heart stopped and then started pounding ferociously. I remembered everything in a flash. I remembered the dance. I remembered the dress I wore. The top was luxurious silver lace with a black underlay. The bottom a taffeta bubble that rested just above my knees. I had never felt more pretty in the 14 years of my life. And then there was my date. He was gorgeous and looked older than his 15 years. He was a hockey player and I was smitten.
We arrived at the dance and checked in. We barely started dancing and he suggested we explore the school. He was not a student there. As we made our way through the school he wanted to go in to the black box. There was no one there and we climbed into the small tech area. As I made my way up he started to kiss me. I had not had much experience with boys yet. I was young and had a very long awkward stage. I liked the kissing but as his hand went under my skirt I became scared and I asked him to stop. He tried again and again I asked him to please stop. I was scared. We were in a public place. I was not ready to go to that level. He began to get annoyed with me and then angry.
I honestly can not remember everything that transpired but eventually he called me a tease and insisted that I owed "it" to him. I didn't understand what I owed to him. He pulled out his penis and forced my head down.
I wish I could tell you here that I was strong. That I fought back. That I ran away, or at the very least, bit him, but I did not. I could not. He told me to take it in my mouth and suck and so I did. As he started to ejaculate he pulled out of my mouth and spilled all over my beautiful taffeta skirt. I stared at the white substance and I saw that my dress was ruined. I also knew in that moment that I was ruined.
I had a breakdown the next day. I sat behind the couch in my mother's home and screamed and cried. I told her what had happened and she held my hand. She comforted me. She had her own violent story to tell. She supported me. She loved me. She cried for me. She called his mother. I never saw him again.
This incident shaped me. I could not be intimate with men for many years after that. I developed a very hyper gag reflex and to this day can not swallow pills. I became very leery of men. I did have relationships. Some very nice ones. Each time I became frightened when intimacy began, would I be able to participate? Would I always be afraid?
As I grew, men who had power over me in some way continued to make choices that shaped me. My boss when I was a waitress who said "I'm going to make you wear a sign that says 16 on your breasts so I can remember to keep control of myself when I see them." My work study supervisor in college who rubbed my shoulders a little too often a little too intimately. My board chair in my young adulthood suggesting we have our advisory meeting in a hotel room. And each time I died a little and then grew a little stronger.
Men, I love you. You are half of what makes our humanity continue to exist. Half. As we women are half. To make a whole we must treat each other as whole. We do not owe you. You do not owe us. We owe each other: respect, dignity, care, love. That is all. It takes us both to make the world go round. Let us step back and look anew. Let us teach our sons and daughters what healthy respectful relationships look like by modeling them in every area of our lives. From the school dance to the workplace, let us lead by example.