Time’s Up


In a #MeToo era, where men and women are extended an olive branch to share their stories of sexual abuse, I still felt like mine wasn’t “bad enough,”… like I shouldn’t have let it rock me the way it did because it could’ve been worse – I could’ve been younger, he could’ve been older, I could’ve been strangled… the list goes on. Over the last several weeks, though, I’ve read traumatic story after traumatic story, and although each writer explains their distinct, unique experience, they’ve all been extraordinarily unifying, reminding me of the cathartic benefits of simply sharing.

So, with that, here’s my story.

My bare back was pressed firmly against the white sheet as his hands drove my legs apart with force, pressing down harder when I resisted. I noticed the dimpled pattern on the ceiling before I summoned the courage for one feeble attempt to prevent… it… from happening.

“I’m a virgin,” I muttered in shame.

“I know,” his response was cold as he scanned my body; his once sparkling eyes now looked desolate and determined.

My brain didn’t have the capacity to engage with the rest of my body to fight; I had to accept what was about to happen and try to compartmentalize, which is quite the arduous task when you’ve never actually experienced sex before.

His hands felt like stone as they weighed down on my thighs; my feet were struggling on either side of the bed, desperately wanting to join back together. Within seconds, he forced himself inside of me without restraint and I felt myself rip open; my vision started to blur from the heavy tears forming, or perhaps the nerves in my body worked to shield my eyes from watching his torso thrust towards me with such ferocity.

I wondered how this could’ve been the same person I met that bright sunny day in the school parking lot.

Summer 2005… I was 14 and it was important I was noticed; I won’t go into the psychology of these desires, but your speculation that it could be traced back to a very young age would be correct.

The jock of all popular jocks brought back a friend he’d met during his Freshman year at ASU and he might’ve been the most beautiful person I’d ever seen. I wasn’t sure if he competed in a collegiate sport but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the model for Speedo’s next big ad campaign. His silky, rich brown eyes sat symmetrically on his chiseled face, which was speckled evenly with a light stubble that he might’ve borrowed from Charlie Hunnam. And then he smiled, showing the world he was blessed with perfect alignment, or a dentist that should be highly sought after. The sharp rays from the sun caught his neat sandy blonde hair, reminding me there was yet another of his attributes to swoon over.

I’d never felt such a visceral reaction to someone’s appearance, outside of Louis Durante in the movie JACK when I was seven; my Grandma had to let me down, reminding me he was an actor that I’d likely never meet in person, let alone marry.

I remember leaving history class and walking through the parking lot (yes, a history class was aimlessly plopped right next to student parking), seeing a hefty array of Hilary Duff posters on windshields…can you imagine that conversation? “Hey, are we doing the Hilary posters all week or just Monday and Tuesday?”

My heart raced, turning the palms of my hands to soup as my friend and I were introduced to him; they came by the high school on our last day of school to “see everyone.”

This beautiful man… yes, a man – at 19, would be staying all summer, which meant I would see him plenty. We were in a small town and every weekend, it seemed, someone’s parents were on vacation.

Over the next few weeks, I’d eyeball him at parties but I didn’t go out of my way to engage… in fact, I’d make it a point to talk with everyone else, showing him what he was missing – a boundless amount of charm from an immature 14 year old wearing two lacy Hollister tank tops at the same time.

But, lady luck hit towards the end of June, or so I thought… we happened to find ourselves across from each other in a game of flip cup. He smiled at me and I melted again, just like the first time I saw him. I wondered if he applied a Crest white-strip every night, or if he just never ate anything that would stain his teeth.

After a few rounds of gulping, spilling and flipping Boone’s Farm, my dream boy went off to flirt with the older girls. I felt small because I couldn’t hold his attention – even smaller that I cared so much. To my surprise, though, around 12am, he asked if I wanted to go over to his friend’s house – he said a few people would be coming through. I knew he liked me, I convinced myself, agreeing (too quickly) to join him.

My single memory of the car ride leaving the party was hearing Wiz Khalifa’s ‘Say Yeah’… not only does the title seem ironic, but one of the first lyrics is “them bitches hit the ground.”

That said, it’s still a catchy song…

“Who else is coming over?” I remember asking as we walked in the two story house.

“Oh, yeah, they had to bail,” he said unconvincingly, “looks like it’s just gonna be us.” He wrapped his arm around my neck which made me feel like a child.

I asked him about… we’ll call him John Doe… I asked him where John was, considering we were in his house.

“Oh, he said he was going to stay at the party for a bit.”

I wished I was drunk; I felt a chill spark through my spine; I knew something was off, but I kept trying to convince myself I was fine – that I wanted the attention from him. And the truth is, I did want the attention, but I didn’t want what would befall me as a result of the attention and I sure as shit didn’t have any tools to help me navigate this anxiety-laden situation.

So we went up the wooden stairs as I looked at family pictures framed against the egg-shell colored wall. I offered a witty comment about a young John Doe that was quickly dismissed by him, taking my hand and pulling me into a room with a queen sized bed which was held by a tan frame; a thick brown comforter never looked so formidable.

He drew it down and climbed into bed, pulling me in next to him before wrenching my clothes off, throwing them on the wood floor next to the end table. The air from the ceiling fan nipped at my skin, practically taunting my discomfort, forcing the acid in my stomach to build. Within seconds, his clothes joined mine on the floor; I sunk deeper into the sheets, feeling the heat behind my eyes – I wished I was anywhere else.

I let the tears trickle down my temples as he broke me, in every sense of the word; I felt myself rip open and clenched my knees in, which he pushed down angrily. I heard myself whimper as I felt a warm pool start forming underneath me.

“I’m bleeding!” I shouted, not knowing that was “supposed” to happen when you lost your virginity… your innocence.

“It’s okay, just enjoy it,” he grabbed my hips and started thrusting harder as my pain and tears grew heavier.

I’m not sure if five minutes went by or if he continued for another 30, but the shock I felt throughout my body is something I will never forget. I was dirty and the circle of blood on the bed offered a palpable level of degradation.

I rolled off and slowly limped my way to the bathroom. I used sink water and the rest of the toilet paper to remove the red stains from my skin, then I sat on the toilet, wincing as I wiped my vagina, realizing I was still bleeding; I cried some more.

“Do you need me to take you home?” he asked.

Surely I couldn’t call my parents to pick me up, so I agreed, staggering back to collect the clothes I wore before I was defiled… what’s worse, I appreciated that tiny fucking gesture. In that moment, I convinced myself he didn’t mean to hurt me… look, he was offering to take me home, I thought – maybe this is how it was supposed to be.

We sat in the car as John Doe’s mixed CD hummed in the background.

“You know you can’t tell anyone, right? If it’s taken out of context, I could get in trouble and you wouldn’t want that, would you?”

“No, of course not. I won’t say anything,” I obliged, staring straight ahead at the street lights; the glaze over my eyes making them sprout bright limbs.

“It’s this one on the right,” I pointed to the beige house that looked so peaceful.

He pulled to a slow break.

“I’ll talk to you soon,” he touched my arm, quickly removing it to grab his buzzing phone.

I couldn’t fall asleep that night, and for the next several days, I flinched every time I had to pee.

I still wanted his approval and the next weekend was the rodeo dance where I’d hoped he would tell me he missed me – that he was sorry, even. Instead, I heard a group of senior girls talking about they’d hooked up with him and I wished I could disappear. I got drunk and buried my pain, not understanding until much, much later, how much it all impacted me. Not just the forced sex, but being dismissed – ignored, feeling small, feeling dirty, feeling alone.

Seven years later, I would be assaulted again. This time, I had the guile to call my mom; we drove to the hospital together, where I was met with an unenthusiastic administration, telling me “these things are hard to prove.” In truth, although I felt stifled, I was also grateful for the out – I didn’t want to rehash what happened; I didn’t want to talk to strangers about rape. I wanted to forget, and I wanted to take the pain away from my parents. I’m not a mother yet, but I can’t imagine learning your child has been abused, knowing there’s nothing you can do to take away the suffering they endured.

So with that, I want to be clear in my intention; although writing this all out was a lustral release, I want to raise awareness – to remind society we can do better. I recently listened to best-selling author Dan Heath talk about how a system is designed to “give you the outcomes you get”… sounds simple, but it really resonated. If you’re consistently not seeing the results you desire, the system is broken… when a gymnastics trainer can get away with sexual assault against hundreds of athletes for decades, it’s clear our system is broken.

Talk to your children and do everything in your power to give them the tools they need to stand up for themselves – to remove themselves from an unwanted situation, and especially, how safe it is to come forward and talk to you about any experience.

That’s not to say my parents didn’t talk to me – my mom was, and still is, my best friend, but I still didn’t feel comfortable coming to her. I thought she would demand me to tell her who it was so she could press charges, so I let that fear outweigh the need to be consoled.

With that, I’m grateful I live in an era where easily accessible platforms exist to help navigate through trauma, and as much as I want to roll my eyes at the next person who talks about meditation, I can’t… because I’ve never been able to properly roll my eyes. No… I can’t, because meditation has been the only thing to truly help me rewire the programming in my brain that looped the 2005 shit show… or more accurately, blood show.

To conclude, I’d like to take this opportunity and share a few quotes from the courageous people that have opened up about their experiences. Not to scare you, but to enlighten you… and also, to unify us all.

“I was molested many times between 4-11 years old. Two of them were teenagers from church. They took me to their tree house, duct taped my mouth shut and legs apart. They stuck tree branches, sticks, and their fingers inside of me; once, their mom came in, looked at me, back at them, and then left. The others put their penises in my mouth and said if I told anyone, they would hurt my brother.” Anonymous Female

“I felt like a fraud because I had let something like this happen to me. I was terrified that I would lose my job if I told someone in the office about what was going on.” Anonymous Female

“I was 7. It was a family friend. I still haven’t told my parents.” Anonymous Female

“My brother was a few years older than me; he touched me and made me touch him… for years. I’ve never told anyone.” Anonymous Male

“I was 6 or 7. Our neighbor was babysitting. He told me to put lotion on my hands and touch his penis, then he made me stick a plastic object in my vagina.” Anonymous Female

“He’d made it clear — if I wasn’t willing to progress to oral sex in our relationship, then he would leave me.” Gillian S.

“I was 7. He went down on me and said if I didn’t do the same back to him, he would tell my mom I did something bad. I didn’t want to get in trouble, so I did it.” Anonymous Female

“I was 4 in my first memory of abuse. I had no idea what was going on. I thought it was just another weird thing adults did.” — Toni C.

“My dad told me if I didn’t play along, he would hurt my sister.” Anonymous Female

Sending you all every bit of love.

Devon Herrera