It took me 6 years to let myself start to believe that what I experienced was sexual assault. It took me 7 years to understand that even though I thought I was cognitively putting myself in that situation, and I thought I wanted to be there, I had in fact been groomed, taken advantage of, manipulated and raped. It took me 8 years to begin to sift the blame from myself, to him. I was always a bit different from everyone else my age growing up. From borrowing my intermediate teachers music collection to having bright orange mohawk haircuts to choosing to stay in class and play on the computers at break times meant I was somewhat of a social outcast but this never bothered me because I was undeniably me. Then came puberty, the acne, the braces, the confusion around sexual orientation, the high school, and the bullying. All of a sudden the things I loved the most about myself are now the things everyone else was telling me I should hate.
High school became a miserable time for me, everything in me wanted to express who I was on the inside but the constant fear of my peers meant there was a constant battle inside, who am I? Where do I belong? Will anyone ever like who I really am? Will I ever find friends like me? Then ‘he’ showed up, and everything changed. I was 15 by this stage and still trying to find myself, and I guess in some respects be found. Anew student teacher started showing up in my school, someone I knew in the LBGTQIA community introduced him to me. He told me he was doing a paper on gay students in our school and asked me if he could ask me some questions, and for the first time in a long time I felt like someone was interested in what I had to say. We sat at a picnic table and he asked me questions during a study period when nobody was around to hear my answers. Looking back on it now it was all so obvious what he was doing but I was blinded by my need for attention.
We exchanged numbers, he used the excuse of offering support and guidance navigating the school environment being queer. We sent text messages back and forth and built what I thought was a friendship. He invited me to his home on the weekend. He told me he would get in trouble from the school for having students at his house so I couldn't tell anyone, so I rode my bmx 25km to his house and told my mum I was going to the skate park with a friend. This was the first of many visits to his house, I remember being shocked at the excessive amount of black and white nude male images framed in the lounge room, but he explained they were artistic and helped me appreciate them. He also had a housemate who was away for the weekend and I didn't think anything of that either. He made me feel safe, cared about, gave me someone to talk to, at a point in my life when he knew damn well I had no one and this helped me ignore the many red flags with the situation.Slowly as I began to relax more and more the conversation began to get more and more sexual, but after all, that was what his paper was about right? Once he found out that I was a virgin with both males and females he took it upon himself to introduce me to all kinds of gay porn, starting with Japanese cartoon Henti porn and slowly working up to more extreme films pushing the boundaries more and more. As any 15 year old would watching porn I started to get aroused and he offered to “teach” me how to give a blowjob.
After much hesitation on my part and much persuasion on his I performed oral on him for the very first time, But of course this wouldn't be the last.
As the weeks went past he showered me with gifts, gave me notes at school and became less and less of a teacher and more and more of a friend, funnily enough he wasn't working at our school for very long but I never did find out why. It was around this time he asked me to be his boyfriend but of course this had to be kept secret, I mean what 28yr old would want his friends finding out he was dating a 15yr old anyway? He got me a sex toy without me asking, so I could practice before we had sex. The sex... the sex hurt... I hated it... but at least I was getting it right? At least I was making him happy?
Our ‘relationship’ lasted a few months. I can't remember exactly how long, or even how it ended, but what I do remember were all the strange things that didn't seem strange at the time but are now burnt into my memory. Like the way he would circle on his calendar the days he got to see me, but only a half circle if we didn't have sex. The computer he had full of nude photos of other boys my age, some of which I knew. They were, of course, all just ‘modelling’ for his photography, but when he took photos of me it was just on a cheap camera. The way I never met any of his friends, never got invited to any of the theatre shows he was involved with, in fact I didn't know a single thing about his life outside of his time with me, it was all about me.
This so called relationship left me with many mental health issues, depression, anxiety, abandonment issues, issues trusting men, self worth issues, but none of which I attributed to this abusive time in my life, and I probably never would have made the connection if it wasn't for my next run in with him 6 years later. I was working for a production company on a theatre show that he had a role in, unbeknown to me until we locked eyes. Him on stage, me at front of house. I remained cold and professional towards him, but his old ways shone through, and I was not blind to it this time round. At the next night's rehearsal he handed me a print of a naked portrait of me he had painted at some point after our relationship ended. After closing night of the show and a late night packing down I left the theatre into the dark empty car park to find him waiting at my car.
Positioned in a way so I could not walk away nor get into my car, he forced me to hug him and he tried to tell me he still loved me, even though we had not seen each other or spoken for all those years. Only after some stern words could I get him to let me go and let me leave. I quickly drove away, taking off my shirt that now stunk of him. Bringing everything back to the surface my brain starting to finally process this experience. It was on this cold drive home that I finally admitted to myself that I had been raped.
Now that I knew what he had done was rape, I now needed him to realise it too. So I confronted him via Facebook. It was apparent that he thought that his little car park stunt had worked as he immediately engaged in conversation in a friendly manner. I needed him to say it, I needed for him to admit what he did to me was rape, so I pressed and I pressed and it wasn't long before there it was on my computer screen in plain text next to his name: “It was Manipulation and rape, for you emotionally and for me legally”.
I still have the screenshots of that message on my computer, unsure of what to do with them, every now and then I look at them to remind myself that although I have all this work to do on myself, it's not my fault, it's his. Despite how much he fucked me up I still have a loving wife, great friends, a better understanding of people. He's not in control anymore.
I've never spoken publicly about this before, in fact, more or less no one other then my wife knows about this chapter of my life. But when Megan reached out for this project I felt my story was important to show that rape isn't always about a physical struggle or the removal of consent. I consented to everything that happened to me, but what took me so many years to understand is that 15yr old me didn't have any consent to give, and 28 yr old him, as admitted years later, knew this all along.