Health Class Didn't Teach Me About Rape
It was over a year later that I realized what had happened. It may sound strange to you that I didn’t know it had. Wouldn’t you know if that kind of thing had happened to you? I wasn’t unconscious or inebriated. I remembered that evening, those moments in that room, but I didn’t realize it had happened. Because it wasn’t the kind of thing I was taught about in health class. Instead, I was taught about herpes and genital warts and obesity. There was no talk of assault or harassment. I wasn’t taught what to do if my boyfriend tried to have a threesome with my best friend and me. There was no health class lesson plan for that. There was no birds and the bees kind of conversation with my parents that covered that. So what do you do when you’re fifteen and that happens? How do you process it? Define it? How are you supposed to know it was not okay? I mean you thought it wasn’t, you felt ashamed, dirty, tainted somehow, but you believed you had no choice.
At the time you didn’t necessarily feel as though he had done something to you because you didn’t know, no one had ever told you, that that wasn’t okay. That as a woman you can say no. That it doesn’t matter how old you are or if he’s your boyfriend or a stranger or your very best friend. That it’s not okay. It’s not your fault that you stayed. What else were you supposed to do? No one had ever taught you. No one had ever explained how to handle that kind of situation. No one had given you defenses to combat it. And let’s be real, at fifteen, you are defenseless. Just a child.
Puberty may have come early for you and sexuality may have bloomed quickly into a flower, a deep, red rose blossoming and blooming, petal by petal, but that doesn’t mean you asked for it. And that doesn’t mean it’s okay. And that doesn’t mean it wasn’t rape. Because that’s what it was. That’s how it should be defined. It took over a year for a Sixteen-year-old girl I confided in during a sleepover to say, “That was rape. He raped you,” for it to start to click, to be put together like a jigsaw puzzle of what had happened to me that night in June after my sophomore year of high school.
Over ten years later, I still struggle to put together the pieces of that puzzle. I trusted someone who did that to me. He never admitted that he raped me and he certainly never apologized for it. He, at twenty years old, didn’t think he’d done anything wrong when he pinned a fifteen-year-old girl and her sixteen-year-old best friend down and said they had two options: either they both had sex with him or the best friend had to leave so he could have sex with his underaged girlfriend. To him this was normal, expected, a fun way to end the evening. It wasn’t rape.
Rape was never mentioned in health class, or any class, for that matter. I wasn’t taught how to handle a situation like the one I found myself in at fifteen. I wasn’t taught how to say no, or to say that I was leaving, or how to physically get up and leave. I wasn’t taught how to tell someone what happened to me or that I should report it. I wish someone had told me, I wish someone had helped me, had made me see earlier because those moments in that room under him will never go away. Even though I have fit the puzzle pieces together, trying to make sense of it, there is no peace, no relief. It is just a blemish, a black hole, on my memories, sexuality, and identity.
Christina Rosso is a red-headed siren and bookstore owner living in South Philadelphia with her bearded husband and two rescue pups. Her work has been featured in Twisted Sister Lit Mag, Across the Margin, FIVE:2:ONE Magazine, and more. Visit https://christinarosso.wordpress.com/ or find her on Twitter @Rosso_Christina.