During orientation, A.T. walked over to my parents and introduced himself to us. I didn’t immediately become friends with him, but for whatever reason, he always made a point to come over and speak to my parents whenever they visited for school functions. Once he even commented to my parents that he had really enjoyed getting to know me since my arrival at our school. Though I was very flattered, I did think it was rather odd considering our interactions had been minimal at that point. My parents were completely won over by his handsome, clean-cut appearance and flawless, politician charm.
The following year during our winter trimester, I began dating A.T. after we hung out one night at a school dance. During the course of our very short relationship, A.T. suggested that we take walks on the golf course, a popular place of escape for couples due to our school’s strict stipulations on guy-girl visitation. During these walks, A.T. would constantly try to push my sexual boundaries, which at that point in my life excluded anything below the waist. Despite his nods of acknowledgment in response to my constant reminders that it wasn’t in the cards, A.T. would try again only moments later. It was annoying, but I was completely infatuated with him.
During our two-month relationship, I never wavered in my affirmation that nothing else was going to happen sexually between us. When I called A.T. following a weeklong break from school, A.T. claimed that we had “grown apart.” Because we had never really “grown together,” it was apparent that we were breaking up because I wasn’t putting out sexually. I didn’t think too much of it though; my thoughts were that high school guys were too hormonal and immature to take seriously anyway. My Southern parents had stressed to me growing up that “guys [were] only after one thing” so our breakup did not strike me as a heartbreaking shocker.
Although the breakup came as no surprise, I did find it strange that I had never learned anything about A.T. on a personal level. In fact, I knew him no better at the end of those two months than I had at the beginning of our relationship. I remember talking with one of my best friends about something being a little different about A.T., but that it was hard to pinpoint. On another occasion, I remember his best friend telling me, completely unsolicited, that although he considered A.T. his best friend, he did not feel like he really knew him. At this point in my life, I would recognize these observations as red flags, warning me of someone’s narcissistic and sociopathic tendencies; however, back then, if anything, it added to his allure.
Throughout the remainder of high school, A.T. and I remained friendly, but we never sought out each other’s company or developed a close friendship. He continued his niceties with my parents, causing my mom to adore him. After our graduation ceremony, A.T.’s parents approached me and asked if they could get a picture of me with him. His father motioned for us to stand close together and commented that we “make such a cute couple.” I remember finding the interaction kind, but rather bizarre. After all, we had been broken up for well over a year, and his parents were acting as though we were still an item, and A.T. was doing nothing to dispute their comments.
A few weeks following graduation, I received a congratulatory present in the mail from A.T. (obviously sent from his parents). This, too, struck me as a kind, but rather odd gesture. It would have never crossed my mind to send A.T. a graduation present had he not sent me one – after all, we had hung out for only a two-month period, and based on the impersonal nature of our relationship, I was surprised that my name was even mentioned during any conversations regarding the selection of recipients for graduation presents.
Summer came to an end, and I went off to college in the state of Virginia. I quickly realized that I wanted to attend an urban school with more diversity and a stronger emphasis on foreign language; however, I decided to remain the entire year in Virginia before transferring so that I would have more options.
After my freshman year of college, I transferred to a school in Washington, D.C. where over 40 students had attended the same boarding school I had for high school. A.T. happened to be among those students, and by that December, we would casually begin dating again. I never once thought we were in love, but I did really like him, and I was once again flattered to have caught his attention.
To my former naïve self, A.T. appeared more mature now that we were in college. I, too, was different; I had started drinking alcohol, and I was less inhibited in my sexuality. However, with that being said, I was still very much a virgin and committed to waiting until marriage. This commitment was no secret. I was not embarrassed that I was waiting until marriage (in fact, I was quite proud), and I didn’t “beat around the bush” in verbally stating to guys that sex was not in the picture.
At least to me, A.T. seemed to be pursuing me this time around because he was genuinely interested in a relationship with me; however, he did once again test my sexual boundaries. As I had done before in high school, I put up the big red stop sign, stating very clearly that this aspect of myself had not changed. Yes, I liked to party, and yes, he was in my room alone with me, but no, sex was not in the cards – nor would it be. Because. I. Was. Still. Waiting. Until. Marriage.
Don’t get me wrong, it was not that I didn’t want to have sex or that I was asexual, or anything of that nature; in all honestly, it was an effort to wait. But it was an effort I felt worth it. I had consistently dated from seventh grade onward. More specifically, I had been in two long-term relationships, both of which had lasted well over a year, and I had never had sex with either of those boyfriends. Waiting was really important to me. I considered it the ultimate giving of oneself to another (not taking of oneself from another). It was something to be valued and cherished, and of course, given – deliberately and consensually.
Despite my reaffirmation of my sexual boundaries following his initial attempts to go further, A.T. continued to press for more. Was he deaf? Dumb? What? I responded by going through everything yet again, including that sex was not in the picture, but I was growing increasingly annoyed. A.T. apologized and commented that it was just because he didn’t really understand why I wanted to wait until marriage.
If I had only known that the very next weekend, in that very bed that we were laying in, he was going to rape me, I would’ve ended things right then. But instead, I bluntly restated everything yet again, this time adding that he didn’t have to understand or agree with my decision to wait until marriage – he only had to respect it. He said “okay” and we remained in my bed talking until approximately 10 am the next day. It was nice.
At one point during the conversation that night, I even felt compelled and comfortable enough to ask why people commented that it was hard to get to know him (during the first few weeks of college at my new school, another mutual friend had referenced this observation in my presence). A.T. did not seem phased by my question; in fact, quite the opposite. He responded that he didn’t know why it was a problem, but that it was something of which he was aware because others had brought it to his attention. His response took me by surprise; I guess I had anticipated that he would deny it was problem. I felt honored that A.T. was opening up to me, like I was one of the few people who had witnessed his seemingly personable side. I even stuck up for him when another friend commented later that week that he was kind of weird. You could even say that a part of me felt sorry for him.
By the time A.T. left the next morning, I felt good about my relationship with him; honestly, I felt better than I had ever felt about it. I acknowledged to myself that there was a chance that he had lost interest in dating me since he knew that I was not budging on the whole no-sex-before-marriage thing, but I truly thought that he respected me, even if that meant just remaining friends because he couldn't handle my no-sex policy. We had had a moment, right?
At the time, I thought that I had gotten a unique, genuine glimpse into his mind; however, now I view his behavior that night as a portrayal of sensitivity achieved through calculated responses to my questions, in order to create a false sense of caring and intimacy. Perhaps I’m reading too much into our exchange that night, but when I view it within the broader context of what transpired the next weekend, I cannot help but think that I was already being manipulated to some degree. It’s difficult to analyze his behavior because even during the times when A.T. was being rude or disrespectful (e.g., when trying physical stuff despite my verbal and physical proclamation of my boundaries), he still managed to pull off “charming.”
The following week A.T. called to invite me to join he and his friends at the movies. I was excited because I took it as an indication that he was still interested in me. I was a little perturbed when he put me next to the smelly guy no one wanted to sit next to, but I brushed it aside. For the most part, I had a nice time at the movie (although now I cringe anytime I see anything about “Analyze That”); he came across as very attentive, and then following the movie, he took me to get ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s.
I was taken off guard when he didn’t walk me home at the end of the night. It was well known that it was unsafe to walk around our urban campus at night, especially as late as midnight. People frequently got held up at gunpoint for muggings. He really should have walked me home.
If I am honest, my being perturbed was not entirely due to safety issues. I’m from the South, and things like holding the door open, getting walked home, etc. really stand out to me as a big deal – especially given that A.T. “knew better,” being that he was from the South himself. I decided to not go out of my way to interact with him and to just see how our relationship panned out.
Lesson learned too late, but now I wouldn’t give him the time of day. His B.S. would seem more obvious to me now, but back then, I trusted easily and forgave even more easily.
I never anticipated that my parents’ lesson that “guys are only after one thing” would take on a completely new meaning the next weekend. A new meaning that would rattle the very core of my sense of self, safety, and trust, infiltrating my mind for years to come.