I was 17 when I was raped and I’ve never told anyone the full story until now. I met my rapist at orientation at my first job— a department store that closed down during the recession. I worked in the kids section and he was part of security. Ironic, I know. That first day we met, he asked if I wanted to go to lunch with him during our break. I agreed since I didn’t know anyone and he seemed nice. I remember thinking he had sad eyes. I would later learn that had recently left the military, and it was 2002. Maybe he had seen some things. During that coffee he kept talking about how badly he wanted a girlfriend. I didn’t find him attractive, and he was 23— practically ancient to me. I made it clear I wasn’t into him, but I was grateful for the company. It was my first job and I was nervous.
He would often find excuses to come to my department and talk to me during our shifts. I was kind, but would try my best to avoid him. One of my friends at work had recently been fired for suspected shoplifting. My soon-to-be-rapist made sure to tell me he was the one that caught him. It didn’t sit well with me, then. It still doesn’t today.
One day, he handed me a gift bag. “I got you a present,” he said. I opened it up during my break. It was lingerie from the store. It still had its’ price tag on. When I looked up, I saw him watching me, eager for a response. I tried not to give him one. I felt creeped out. When I was about to leave the break room, he pulled me aside. “Since I got you a present, you have to do something for me,” he said. I wasn’t old enough or wise enough to say anything back to him. Instead I asked him what he wanted. “I’m having a party at my place tonight. It’s right after you get off. I invited a bunch of our co-workers. You should come.” I shrugged noncommittally and went back to work.
I don’t know why I didn’t ask anybody if they were going to the party. And I don’t know why I decided to go. But when my shift ended, he gave me his address and I saw he lived close by, I decided I’d go for a bit and then go home.
The minute I got to his place, it felt wrong. No one was there. The apartment was dimly lit with candles. I knew I should’ve left and told him I remembered I had other plans. He assured me other people were coming. He asked if I wanted anything to drink. I asked for water. He handed me a red solo cup and when I took a sip, it was definitely not water but my first sip of Vodka. I still have a hard time drinking vodka, no matter what it’s mixed with. When I spit it out, he laughed at me and told me I was cute. I told him I had to go, but he said I should stay for a bit and really drink some water since now I was probably buzzed. I did feel funny, and I didn’t want to get in trouble for driving drunk, so I reluctantly agreed.
I don’t remember the rest of the details. They don’t really matter. In retrospect, he probably slipped something into my drink. I do remember him asking if I liked my gift. He kept getting me to try it on for him. And then I remember he forced himself on me. And I tried to make my mind as blank as possible. I already felt fuzzy, so that part was easy. Afterwards, he went into his room to sleep and I fell asleep on the couch. I woke up a couple hours later and drove home. I felt dumb and confused. I still do when I think about it.
My parents were both awake when I got home. “How was the party?” they asked. “Fine,” I mumbled. We hung out and watched TV together. I wondered if they could tell something happened. If they did, they never said anything. And neither did I.
I quit my job shortly after that. Seeing him at work went from uncomfortable to unbearable.
I never reported it because I was scared. Because I was 17 and didn’t know better. Because I felt stupid it happened to begin with. Because of multiple reasons that are still too painful to talk about 15 years later. But just because I didn’t report it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.