My story is a bit different than most, in that it has a relatively happy ending.
In October 2015, when I was 15 years old, I was raped. Orally raped, technically, but given that rape is any form of nonconsensual penetration, I don’t feel that I owe specific details to anyone. So I just say I was raped, because really, it doesn’t make a difference where my body was violated.
It happened at a church youth group. I had been going for about 2 years, since I was in the 7th or 8th grade (I was a sophomore in HS at the time of the assault). That’s where I met Jackson. I never paid him much attention; he was a run-of-the-mill jock who always caused trouble but never did anything bad.
In March 2015, at a youth group outing, we started flirting. I thought I had a “crush” on him. About a month later, he asked for my number. When he spelled his name in my phone, he wrote Jaxson, which I thought was badass and intriguing. I was excited that a popular football player was paying attention to me.
We didn’t really talk after that until a night in May when he texted me out of the blue. He told me that he had always thought I was pretty, and he’d wanted to tell me before, but he’d bailed out. He asked me if I had ever hooked up with someone. When I told him I hadn’t, he asked me if I’d want to hook up with him, or if I “wasn’t like that”. I said “sure” and we made plans to meet in a park the next day.
May 4, 2015. I met him in the park. We made out. He wanted to go further; I said no. He would stop (trying to grope and finger me) when I said no, but he would start up again less than a minute later. He was like an octopus - his hands where always somewhere, and the second I would pull one out, another one would go in somewhere else. This being my first sexual interaction ever, I had no idea that this wasn’t okay. Besides, it’s not like he forced me. He was just so into me that he couldn’t control himself, I told myself. He’s just a teenage boy. He really wanted me.
Later I found out he had hooked up with 4 other girls (my best friend’s friends) that same week. We all made a group chat to gossip about him and kind of cut him off.
October 25, 2015. I went to youth group that Sunday. I was never very religious, but my mom made me go, and since it wasn’t a very religious group anyways, I didn’t mind. Jaxson was there, and it was only the second time since I’d seen him since May. We went to go get pizza. Everyone piled into the car - I was on the left in the back seat; he was in the middle, and the youth group leader drove us. On the way back to the youth group center, he started touching my leg. Soon he was prying my legs open and trying to finger me - in a car full of people. I was shocked and terrified, but I didn’t say a word, for fear that someone would notice.
When we arrived back at the youth group, Jaxson told me to meet him in the bathroom. The center used to be a priest’s house, so the bathroom was a house bathroom - co-ed, that is. I complied, thinking we’d maybe kiss, which I was fine with doing.
When I got to the bathroom, Jaxson told me to go wash my hands. I did. When I came out, he was standing in the doorway with his pants down. He told me to “blow him”. I said no, not right now, not like this, I don’t want to, maybe later, I’m not sure, there’s not enough time, people are going to come. I was scared. Once I realized that he wouldn’t take no for an answer, I started doing what he said. About 5 seconds into it, I tried to stop, and that’s when it happened. He pushed my head down forcefully with his hands, making me choke and gag. I couldn’t breathe. I was trying to pull away, but every time I tried, be pushed my head down harder and said “don’t stop” and “keep going”. I held my breath and willed myself to not pass out. I don’t know why I didn’t bite down - I froze. Finally he finished, and I got up and left, without a word.
November 22, 2015. My dad drove me to the local police station at 10 pm. I was ready to report; after spending a month consulting friends and online resources, I had decided that what happened to me was, indeed, assault. I had no idea how terribly sexual assault cases are handled in the justice system, and if I had known, I would likely not have reported. I am so, so very glad that I did. I met with a female detective and a two hour long interview. She was so kind and I felt incredibly safe. At one point she asked me what I was wearing, but she prefaced it by telling me that it really didn’t matter, and it was only protocol.
Two days later I came back to do a pretext phone call (recorded call) with Jackson, where the police got a recorded confession from him saying that yes, I had said no, and yes, he had ignored me, and “fuck, sorry”.
Months went by. I called the police officer to check back in. She directed me to probation. I started getting generic letters from the courts saying that my case had an official case number now.
July 2016. I received notice that my case had been taken up by a prosecutor in juvenile court! My DA became my idol. She was young, friendly, she listened to me, and she was dedicated to my case. I attended every hearing between then and November.
On November 17, the case was set to close. Jackson had been charged with two felonies - oral copulation with a minor, and oral copulation by force or fear. He was going to plea to the first count, which was a lesser charge that could be sealed from his record when he turned 18 (a year from now). I had expressed my displeasure of this outcome to the DA prior, but she reminded me that juvenile court was intended for rehabilitation an not punishment, so a plea was totally acceptable.
So on November 17, I showed up to court ready for the case to close. Instead, the DA informed me that things had changed, and another girl had reported him for rape. The DA felt that unless he was punished, Jaxson would do this again, and she wanted to take the case to trial to get a sex offense on his permanent record.
I cried when she told me. This was such a blessing. Not that he had assaulted someone else, but that now there was a chance at justice.
The case went to trial in mid December, right during finals week. I enjoyed the direct exam quite a bit, actually. Cross exam went pretty badly, but I did well. At one point, I answered a question in a way that shifted the blame right back on to Jackson, and it stunned the defense attorney into silence for a moment. Good.
Jackson cried during the trial, which made me happy. During multiple occasions, I made eye contact with him and his mother.
So anyways, Jackson was found guilty of one felony count of oral copulation by force or fear. California law deems that a 707(b) felony offense, which means that even though it’s in juvenile court, the offense is so serious that it stays on his permanent record. Other examples of 707(b) offenses are arsony and murder. That made me feel validated, that my assault really was that bad.
During sentencing, I read an 11 page long victim impact statement. I grilled Jackson. I grilled the defense attorney. I grilled his parents. It was so fucking powerful. I had been warned in advance that this judge was incredibly unsympathetic to victims and would likely try to cut me off, but she didn’t, not even once.
My statement made the DA choke up. It made Jackson put his head between his knees in shame. It compelled the Judge to admonish him for 15 minutes after I was done. The DA later told me that in her entire time working with this judge, never once had she seen her admonish a juvenile during sentencing. Not once. One line that the judge said to Jackson that really stood out to me was “Young man, this type of behavior is not going to be tolerated. Not now, not in the “real world”. If you are still doing this by the time you get to college, you will be back here.“
He only got probation and sex offender counseling, but it is still on his permanent record. That’s not enough for me, but it’s more than I ever expected.
So here I am, a year later. How am I doing? Depends on the day. Sometimes the flashbacks torment me and eat me alive. Sometimes I am doing just fine. But there hasn’t been a single day, with the exception of one, where I haven’t thought about it.
The thing is, if I had the chance to go back and undo my assault, I would not. As horrible as it was, I feel that it has made me a better, braver, fiercer, stronger person. Because of the assault, I am now an activist. Because of the assault, I now know that I want to become a district attorney, and pursue justice for people like me.
Sorry for the rant. That’s my story I guess. There’s no real ending because it’s still in progress.