© 2018 by Kate Ryan.

I was 15 and my offender was 22.  

He was the son of my mom's boyfriend.

He had been discharged from the Navy six months after we moved in.

He had nowhere to go.

So they let him stay in our basement.  

 

*

 

One day he approached me and kind of started wrestling with me.  

And I was like, ok, that's kind of something big brothers and little sisters do.  

 

He pinned me to the ground, and he just kissed me.  

I was taken aback.  

And he was like "Are you ok?"  

I was like, “No. You're like a brother to me.”

 

He's like, “Ok I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to make it awkward or startle you or make you afraid.”

 

*

 

Everything was fine for maybe a week.  

Then the same thing.  

 

But when he pinned me this time he started taking my clothes off.  

I just remember getting really scared and immediately starting to cry.  

As the last of my clothes were ripped off, we heard his dad's car come down the driveway.  

I just scooped up my clothes and ran up the stairs.

 

*

 

And then it happened again after school.  

I went to run up the stairs again.

I got yanked by my leg down the stairs and was essentially raped at the bottom of the stairs.

That was the first time.

From that day it was at least once a day after school.

 

It became very mentally abusive, physically abusive.  

A lot of being pushed up against walls.  

 

I remember being thrown across the living room one day, bouncing off the wall, hitting the couch, and hitting the floor.  

 

At 15 years old you've got no weight on you.

And we’re talking a big guy, a guy that works out.  

 

*

 

Every time it would happen it would be like, “I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to do that.” 

And then it would flip to, “You can't tell anyone.  

Because no one will believe you.  

Your mom will leave my dad. 

She'll hate you for it.  

I'll just tell people you wanted it.  

Your friends are going to think you're a slut.  

You're never going to get a boyfriend.”

 

*

 

If he had slapped his hand over my face, or we were in a scuffle, I might have marks or a bruise.

So I started learning how to apply makeup.  

It was like putting on a mask.  

 

I want to be that girl that gets up and just rolls out of bed with a ponytail and feels naturally beautiful to walk out the door.  

But it is still part of my every day.  

It's become my security blanket.

 

*

 

The summer was the worst.

 

I remember getting to the point when I would wait until my parents got up and went downstairs, made their breakfast.  

 

I would go into the bathroom, use the bathroom, fill up one of those gas station mugs of water.

I kept food in my room.  

 

The minute they left, I started putting furniture under the door so he couldn't open the door.  

 

If there was a day that I thought I can't hold it anymore, I have to go to the bathroom...the minute he heard that door open he was there.  

 

*

 

I remember towards the middle of the summer just being kind of fed up with it.

His dad got offered a temporary position in North Carolina.  

My mom's working every day, and she's working longer hours.  

 

I called my mom at work, and I was ready to tell her “This is what's been happening.”

And I heard the receiver click on the other end.  

He was listening.  

 

So I just said, "Oh, I called to tell you I'm not really feeling well.  I don't know if maybe you can come home early.  I might need to go to the doctor's.”  

 

‚Äč

His dad wrapped up that position in North Carolina, and my mom flew out to help him move his stuff back.

 

He was supposed to be bartending on block island for the weekend.

So he left that Friday when everyone else left.  

I just felt peace.

 

It was 4th of July.  

My boyfriend and I went for the fireworks.

Came back to the house, and he wasn't there.  

I left my door open.  

 

It was one of those nights in the summer when we would get that dry lightning.  

I love having the windows open.

But my mom has a thing where if it starts raining she comes in and shuts the windows.

 

I woke up.  

I heard footsteps on the carpet.

And I immediately sat up and was like, "Mom, what are you doing?  Leave it open.” 

And then my mind clicked to, “She's not here.”

 

And I remember that being the last assault and the worst assault.

It was hand over my mouth, my arm pinned above my head, his legs holding my legs open.  

 

I remember screaming so loud at one point.

Someone has to hear.  

It's a condo.  

The neighbors have to have heard that.  

 

And him being like, "Wrap your legs around me, tell me you love me."  

 

 

When they got home from North Carolina they decided to call it quits.

I got another job.

I was out of the house as much as possible before we finally moved out.

 

*

 

There was a lot of speculation during that time.  

A 13-year-old had pressed charges against him for assault.  

I can remember the cops coming to our house a couple of times and not knowing what the exchanges were.  

 

We moved probably the week before senior year.

 

I said, "I noticed the cops came a lot for Chris.  I think there's something not right about him.  Maybe you shouldn't give him our number.”

 

*

 

Come October, we get a call.

I have no idea how he got our number.  

And he's like, “I want to see you.”

But I don't want to see you.

So I hang up on him.  

 

I go to my friend's house for a Halloween party, and I sleep over.  

I get back the next day.  

There's a Hershey kiss lying on my bed.  

And I'm pulling back the covers and there's Hershey kisses everywhere.  

 

So I'm like, “Mom what happened?”  

And she finally said, "While you were away, Chris came over.  

He was really upset and he needed someone to talk to.  

I let him in, and he just started pushing me down the hallway. 

And he pushed me down on the bed.

I grabbed the ceramic cup that you had them in and hit him over the head.

And he left.”  

 

She started explaining to me that there's a lot of sexual assault charges against him.  

“Did he do anything to you while he lived there?”  

 

And I said, “No, not at all.”

 

*

 

He ended up going to court.  

He had three charges of sexual assault against him.

And they sentenced him to 40 years, 14 to serve.  

 

I had signed up for the VINE Network, just so I could keep tabs on where he was.  

I was at URI {University of Rhode Island} at this point.  

I could tell that was affecting my relationships.  

I didn't like anyone coming up behind me or being alone with people that I wasn't familiar with.  

I didn't like being in the dark.  

 

I started going through counseling.

 

And she recommended, “It's probably good if you start slowly opening up and telling people.  If you’re not comfortable face to face with your mom yet, just write her a letter.” 

 

So I sat down and wrote her a two-page letter.

 

She called me and she said, “I just wish you had said something.  I would have taken you out of that situation immediately.”

 

I remember calling her back and saying, “There's no blame on your part.  

There's no blame on my part. 

This is on him.”

 

*

 

He was released after 7 years.  

And he assaulted his daughter's babysitter and went back in for 3 months.

And then he was released and went back in for a domestic B&E {breaking and entering}.

 

I ran into him at the gas station.  

Luckily he was getting into his car, so I just kind of stayed in my car.  

 

I'll go places, and I'll see people that look like him.

And I'll just end up staring for a while.

Because you're not sure if that’s really him.  

 

*

 

We set ourselves up thinking, “I have 14 years to get the help I need to hopefully move away from here, so that when that individual moves out (because we know they're not going to have anywhere to go other than family), I'll be perfectly prepared for it.”  

 

When they release them early, it completely catches you off guard.  

 

I would like to see this crime taken more seriously and punished more seriously.  

 

*

 

I always tell my husband if he goes out with his friends and he's drinking, “You have to take a shower.  You have to remove the smell before you get in our bed.” 

Because it's a trigger for me.  

I can remember the smell of alcohol, being 15, and being like, “I don't know what that smell is, but it's awful.”  

It stays with you.

 

Most of the other triggers I think we've kind of moved beyond at this point.  

There were certain ways people touched me or put me in a certain position if we were being intimate that made a lot of it come back.

 

I had to get to that very self-reflective point of, “We've been in this relationship and this marriage for 10 years, and there's still stuff that I'm letting it affect. And I cannot continue to let him affect my life, control my life.”  

 

You have to take that back.

 

*

 

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I kept saying "It's a boy.  It's a boy." 

I had a nursery picked out for a boy and a name picked out for a boy.  

 

And then we found out it was a girl I was a little bit devastated.

“If I have a girl it's going to happen to her.”

 

Once I got ok with the idea, I was like, “We're just going to teach her self-defense, and we're going to talk to her.”  

 

We just had the conversation the other morning about internet safety.  

We've obviously had the conversation about where no one is allowed to touch you.

She has karate after school today, which I'm all for.  

 

And my second one is a girl.  

 

The one thing my husband and I agree on is being very open with them.

They will sit down and watch every one of these documentaries that I show in class.  

They will hear my story.  

It's an awkward conversation, but I'd rather have it now then have them come to me and tell me they were assaulted.

 

I try to take everything I wish I'd had as a child and make sure they have it.  

Make sure we have that relationship where they feel like they can come to me with anything.

 

*

 

I teach criminal justice.  

 

There has to be a program in k-12 education that has appropriate discussions.  

 

We take health class and we talk about menstruation and genitalia, but we don't really talk about what's acceptable and unacceptable and if you're at a party and you're drinking and you black out and you're not sure what happened…

 

I just took another advocacy training to get more enlightened on what’s happening on college campuses.  

I get involved with the rape crisis events around here.  

 

It's part of my identity.  

It's part of the person I've become today.

The more and more I do it, the more it becomes part of my healing process.

 

-Nicole