Tonight I witnessed a man choking his girlfriend. I will get back to this in a moment, but first I want to share a really personal story.
I was a victim of a sexual assault. I have been reluctant to say those words out loud because of the technicalities around the situation. Few have heard this story. I cringe whenever I talk about it.
I can’t remember the exact date, nor can I remember many details. But I do remember so much of that night.
A little backstory:
There was a boy I was severely infatuated with for nearly 2 years. I was a few months shy of 14, he was 17. He was deceivingly charming, the kind of sweet that the devil himself played on Eve. He was the first boy I talked to in the small town we had just moved to; he was my first kiss. That summer, we dated for 2 whole weeks. After 2 weeks of telling my parents I was going over to hang out with him and his kid sister, when really we were sneaking kisses alone (at one point he was trying to stick his hands up my shirt–which should have given me clues), he made up a really lousy excuse to break up with me. I hated him. I dated other boys. I liked him. I hated him. I dated other boys. I liked him. I moved back to the city during that time, but we casually kept in touch.
Fast forward almost 2 years and several boyfriends later. He had just broken up with another girl (who was a previous friend of mine from the small town), he was going to be in the city visiting cousins and wanted to hang out. I remember it was a chilly night in the fall. He was now almost 19 and a month away from going on a mission for the church (ironically). I was 15 and now a sophomore in high school. I lied to my parents, saying I was going to go to a football game with a friend, but instead this friend and I snuck off with these boys. I remember walking through the Chandler mall, feeling his hand squeeze my butt several times (what a great way to say hello after not seeing each other for about a year *eye roll*). I was uncomfortable, but part of me liked the attention.
We left the mall and headed on the road to his cousin’s house where no adults were present. I remember being on the freeway, inches from colliding with another car, wondering how I would have explained the whole situation to my parents. Had I known what was coming in the next hour, I would have preferred the car accident.
Much of that night was a blur because this boy I liked so much was actually giving me all of his attention; that is a brain-fogging situation for a boy-crazy teenager. However, the painful moments I do remember were of laying with him alone on his cousin’s trampoline, under blankets. He had his hand down my pants and I reluctantly laid there, awkwardly kissing, while simultaneously crying and shaking like a leaf. When he had finished getting whatever sort of pleasure he was after, he took me home. He proceeded to half-heartedly apologize, using some really stupid analogy about a rope that made no sense whatsoever. All I could think was, “please stop talking and drive faster so I can get away from you.”
A month later, like nothing had happened, he had left for his mission to spread the message of our Savior’s atonement and God’s love… I had found out shortly after he left that he was again dating the previously mentioned girl and she was exclusively his girlfriend until he came home from serving the Lord. I couldn’t stand back and let her be deceived by him so I recounted that awful night’s event to her. She was smart and left him and I have felt no remorse for his loss.
I have always felt uncomfortable even thinking that I was a victim of a sexual assault. There have always been thoughts in the back of my mind, “maybe I brought it upon myself by lying to my parents and sneaking off with a boy. Maybe I asked for it rhetorically through my actions that night.”
Regardless of technicalities, I am lucky enough to not be the victim of a full-on, violent rape, but I will forever dread these memories. I have always thought, “why did I have to go through that?”
And tonight I think I may have found my answer.
I was on my way home and was about to turn a corner when I noticed a man and woman standing in the street, facing away from my vehicle. It almost looked as though he were hugging her around her neck. He towered over her with a hint of dominance in his stance; something told me to stop. I rolled down my window, they were still ignoring the fact that I stopped. I yelled out my window from 30 feet away, “Hey! Is everything okay?” He let go of her and started walking away. I could hear her gasping for air. “Do I need to call someone?”
The woman, who couldn’t have been much older than I, held back sobs, “No, we’re fine,” with what I imagine was almost a plea in her voice. They started walking back towards their apartment building, separately. I called Nic, asking what I should do, his own patrol vehicle’s sirens blaring in the background, “call the police, now!”
As I hung up with the 911 operator after giving her all of the information I could, I began to cry for this woman I knew nothing about.
I wondered, will this woman hate me for calling if her boyfriend is found and arrested, or will she feel relief? Does he support her financially? Was she afraid to get out of this relationship? Will she have anywhere to go? Does she know there are resources for those leaving abusive relationships?
How does my previous experience compare to the one tonight? Sometimes we feel forced into things we don’t feel comfortable with by people we thought we trusted. And while these two instances are not exactly the same, I’m still left with a deeper understanding and an answer to another question I have been asking myself.
“Why?” What is the why behind my intentions of building a business? I knew my generic why’s: to be able to buy organic groceries for my family and not worry about the cost, to not have to fret over every single dollar spent. But now my deeper why: To help those in any situation of abuse, get out of it. I’ve decided that whatever monetary benefits I receive, I want someone in need to receive also. I’m still developing the storefront of my business, however, a portion of every future purchase I want to go towards a foundation that helps victims of abuse.
I still don’t know if the officers found the couple or if anything resulted from my phone call to the police, but I do know that I don’t want my experience tonight and the life of this woman and all women in abusive relationships to go unnoticed.