“He was grooming me. He groomed me for years.”
I mentioned in my first post “Beginnings.” that some of my stories would make you cringe. I feel a moral obligation to offer a clear warning that this post will do just that. You will not laugh. A smile will not creep across your face – as there will be no whitty insertions of humor. The following series of entries will be serious, they will be sad, they will be frightening, and they will be raw. If you have any sensitivities to crimes against women or if you know me on a personal level and think this will be too hard to experience, I invite you to please stop reading. As I will not censor nor leave out the graphic moments of my story. My story. My darkest story.
This is a story I wish I didn’t have to write. It is a story I know will be extremely painful to my loved ones to read. I hate that for them. I hate that my hurt radiates and impacts those around me. These will not be easy words to type, they will not be easy words to read.
But they are necessary. They need to be shared. They need to be expressed. As Katie said to me today, “It’s amazing how much beauty in this world is borne from darkness.” And she couldn’t be more right. This is something so much bigger than me.
I feel like I need to lock myself in a dark room to write this story. Where there are no lights, no sounds, no feelings. Just emptiness. Coldness. Darkness. A room so quiet it’s painful. I wish I had a room like that for this story. This story elevates every sensation my body is capable of feeling. While at the same time it leaves me numb. Dead. Empty. This is going to be my hardest story to write. Yet it is quite possibly, my most important story to share.
Similar to my previous posts, I’m finding myself in a familiar place of wondering where to start – as my darkest story is not just one story – it is a collection of stories. A collection of experiences occurring in various manifestations throughout my life. The last chapter of this collection, however, is the darkest of all. And how I pray to the Universe it is the final chapter. The terrifying truth, however, is that it may not be. The reality of this world, the reality of sexual predation is that it is an ever-looming threat. An ever-looming possibility.
I’ve always referred to myself as a magnet. I’ve been a magnet for unwanted, unwarranted sexual advances my entire life. As I sit here typing this, I am saddened by the fact that I am not alone in this. Not even close. I am surrounded by a world full of both women and men – where this is their truth too. Going back as far as I can remember, I’ve been the victim of unwanted touches, words, and looks. More times than I can count.
My gymnastics coach was arrested by the FBI for obtaining and distributing child pornography. I didn’t find this out until it made the news in my mid-20’s. My entire young adult life, I had this inexplicable sensation, inexplicable looming intuition that he was a predator. This truth that I’m about to speak, I’ve never told anyone before – as it is something I’m terribly embarrassed by. But the biggest warning sign, the biggest red flag, was my intense attraction to him. Even as the years passed after quitting gymnastics, I would find myself dreaming of him, wanting him, missing him. As a young gay woman – this was especially confounding at the time. It was my biggest red flag.
The moment I saw the story broadcast on the evening news, is a moment I will never forget. I froze, both hands over my mouth, eyes as wide as they could stretch. All of those years I was right. I knew it. I knew it.
The thing is, as a child you don’t know if what’s happening to you is wrong. You’re not jaded enough by the cruelty of the world. You’re not wise to the world’s evil.
Did he ever touch me?
He touched me all of the time. As gymnasts we were constantly physically manipulated by our coaches. As a young child, how would I have known if his hand slipping to my private parts was wrong? We were constantly stretched, pulled, and pushed on physically by our coaches. And we trusted them. As a competitive gymnast, I spent more time in the gym than out of it. My teammates and coaches were family.
As I search my brain for memories of whether or not Paul ever touched me, I am left with nothing but my intuition. My red flags. Again, I will never have any answers. Aside from the fact that my soul screamed at me my entire life that something was wrong. Something was off.
The sad reality is – he probably did. The sad reality is – I have to spend my life wondering if he did.
In my early teenage years, my church gained two new members. They were born-again-Christians from California who had moved to Maryland. Kevin and his wife, Deb. Kevin immediately seemed to “click” with the younger church members. He was this cool, Harley Davidson riding, smooth talking dude with a streak of badass. We were all enamored.
Kevin became our Youth Group Leader. Kevin adored me. He praised the ground I walked on. He told me constantly how beautiful I was. Constantly. As a young teenage girl, that meant everything to me and my vulnerable, developing self-esteem. He would hold doors for me, make sure we had alone time together. He would divulge his life stories, give me cigarettes. This badass of a guy was into me. And I soaked up every moment of it.
He was grooming me. He groomed me for years.
As the years progressed, Kevin and I became inseparable. He would invite me to his house where we would drink and smoke weed. He would take me on long rides on the back of his Harley. He even bought me my own leather outfit and helmet. He’d take me to bars – where astonishingly I would be served as a 16 year old.
“You have the pinkest pussy I’ve ever seen,” he said one afternoon after pulling my bathing suit bottoms off. We had spent the afternoon washing his motorcycle.
“You don’t want it?” Deb asked me after drunkenly leaning in to kiss me. “Come on, it would be so hot for me to watch,” Kevin would comment.
When I left for college, Kevin moved back to California. Kevin was arrested for raping his nephew and his nephew’s friend. They were both under age. Kevin is now serving jail time.
The sad reality is – I thought I was a badass with Kevin. The sad reality is – I could have reported it and I didn’t. I could have prevented those boys from living a now ruined life.
All the rest.
Before I begin the next section of this story – part two – the darkest of my life’s chapters. I want to take a moment to talk about the rest. I have been touched, cornered, scared, pressured … in predatory ways countless times in my life. Countless. If I kept a book of all of the incidents where my sexual boundaries have been crossed, it would be an extensive read.
This is not ok. The acceptance of this behavior that is ever-so-deeply ingrained in our culture, is not ok. The victim blaming, is not ok.
No matter what a woman is wearing, how she walks, how she talks – NOTHING warrants unwanted sexual advances.
It is time for change. By sharing this story, if nothing else, I hope one person can relate. I hope one person will change.
Part two … deep breath, Kelly.