I watched 13 Reasons Why, it enraged me. I was so angry with Hannah for not trying harder to live. I am still angry with her days after finishing the show, and why? It’s a fictional representation of some girl’s high school experience. Or is it? Because it was real for me. I am angry because it was so close to my own experience and I wish she knew that it would be okay. It might take years, but she would be okay.
I was new to my school system and my freshman year passed in a blink. I played volleyball, I made new friends, my grades were decent. Summer break was fun. I went on a trip with a new friend. Sophomore year started in the fall without hitch. Then one day in late September I had been running errands with my mom and ran into some classmates. They invited me over, my mom said it was fine so I went off with them. We went to one of the guy’s houses. Then it was time to go home, one of the guys, probably the only one who could drive, offered to drive me home. He was popular, a jock, and kind of cute. I was excited he wanted to hang out with me. We left and he decided we should stop at a park on the way home. He parked and he asked me if I’d ever given a guy head before. I hadn’t, the extent of my sexual experience was kissing my ex-boyfriend. And by kiss, I mean a peck, I hadn’t even made out with a boy. He asked if I wanted to, I didn’t. He wouldn’t take me home until I agreed to. Eventually I gave in, because I didn’t know what else I could do. It was humiliating, but I was young and naïve and thought that was how things went with guys. I didn’t tell anyone, but he did. It was a small school, everyone knew what I did within a few days. I became a slut and an easy target. It really hurt me, my confidence took a hit. I know it wasn’t my fault now, and now so do you. I bet it would be different if they knew what HE did, before his happily married with kids wholesome life. I wonder if he did it to other girls.
These experiences are hard to recover from when you’re young, the experience itself and the social stigma. Unfortunately for me it was only the beginning. A few months later I started hanging out with a guy, he had actually shown some interest at the end of freshman year, but I was dating someone. I was happy someone was still interested in me after what had happened, he didn’t think I was a slut. I also made a new friend, she had transferred from another school (she was kicked out actually). She would be part of my undoing. We did things together that I would have never done on my own. She encouraged me to sleep with this guy, he’d been pressuring me. I knew he wanted to, but I wasn’t ready. I finally decided one night that it was going to happen, he liked me, I liked him, my friend promised I’d be okay. We did it. It was so… disappointing. I don’t even know what to say. It wasn’t enjoyable, but it didn’t hurt, and it was over. I didn’t regret it, we were still hanging out. It wasn’t long until he moved on, he wanted to date every girl but me. Though he still wanted to sleep with me, he’d ask to hang out from time to time. It happened once more. I’ll never forgive him for using me, but I guess I’m glad I lost my virginity willingly. It could have been worse.
Another hit to my self-esteem and self-worth. I was reckless. I did stupid things. It wasn’t until the last few years that I honestly believe what was about to happen wasn’t my fault. That friend I talked about, I wish my parents knew and grounded me that whole school year. We decided one weekend that she’d spend the night at my house, and I’d spend the night at her’s. In actuality we had made plans to hang out with a couple boys and one of their older cousins. We had nowhere to go, the guys parents ended up being home. They hatched a similar story and we all went out in the world to find a place to hang out. We ended up with a dirty, grungy room at Motel 8. The cousin was 21, the guys were 17, my friend and I were 16. I should have sensed danger, but I was young and I thought I was with friends. The cousin went to Meijer’s and bought pre-made screwdrivers, vodka and orange juice is still a combination I can’t drink, and a fifth of Jack Daniel’s. I had drank a couple PBRs in my young life, but never hard liquor. I had no idea what my limits were or what a limit even was. I remember all of us taking a shot of Jack Daniel’s to start the party and I remember chugging one of the screwdrivers with my friend because the guys thought it was funny. Then I woke up.
I had never, and would never again feel as miserable as I did when I woke up that next morning. I woke up wrapped like a burrito in the comforter next to my friend and one of the guys. The other two, the cousins were on the other bed. I went to get up, unwrapping myself and realized I was naked. I grabbed my over night bag and slammed the bathroom door behind me. Why was I naked? I had no recollection of taking my clothes off. There was vomit in the bathtub. It made me sick. I felt dirty. I was on my period. I needed to change my tampon, but it wasn’t there. There was blood. I couldn’t imagine not having put a tampon in. Why wasn’t it there? There was an open unused condom on the floor, and not far from it, a used tampon. In that second I knew what happened. I came out of the bathroom, they were all awake, all looking at me. No one had ever looked at me like that. Regret, pain, shame, they all had the same look. I started crying. My friend asked if I was okay, I wasn’t. Why did I wake up naked? I had thrown up on myself, the Chinese buffet, where my aunt had told me to keep my legs so tight together I could hold an aspirin, they put me in the shower to clean up. Nothing else. They just looked at me. Whose condom? Silence. Why didn’t I have a tampon in? My guy friend pushed the other guy, tell her what you did. He wouldn’t speak. Tell her. It was so dramatic. They sat me down in a chair and had me sit face to face with him. He told me. I passed out in the bathroom after throwing up, he came in and locked the door and raped me. He said it. He raped me. He said the word. He took the tampon from my bleeding body and raped me. I tried to break the Jack Daniel’s bottle over his head, I wanted him dead. The other guy caught my arm. Thankfully, would have been a shame for me to go to jail for being raped. I’m still not sure if I’d regret he was dead, I don’t think I would. That’s how I knew. If I hadn’t found my tampon on the floor, I don’t think they would have told me.
My friends didn’t stop it, couldn’t get the door open they told me. He was blocking it with his feet. Bullshit. All of it. I needed to get away. No one was willing to take me home. They dropped my friend off at her house, but they wouldn’t take me home. They didn’t want to get caught. I had already convinced myself I would never tell anyone, I would go to Planned Parenthood the next morning and get the Morning-After Pill. I’d act like it never happened. Next, they brought me to HIS aunt and uncle’s house and left me. I called the only friend I thought would help me from their landline, I didn’t have a phone yet. He picked me up, he would be my savior that day. I’d never forget that. He couldn’t take me home, but at least he got me out of there, he brought me to the guy I lost my virginity to. I didn’t want to see him but he was the only one around. He
brought me home, my parents were out thankfully. I went to sleep. I woke up because the phone was ringing, call after call, I finally answered. It was my friend’s stepmom. I hate that woman. “You little slut, I need to speak to your mother. You lied to us. My daughter was raped and you’re going to make a statement to the police.” What? She wasn’t raped. I asked her if they had done anything to her. No one had touched her. My parents came home and I decided I’d rather be the one to tell them. It was awful, my mother and father both cried. I sat on my dad’s lap for the first time since I was a baby and we cried together. Her mom called again and spoke to my mom. She called me a slut, a whore, a liar, I did this. I made her daughter go. She demanded we go to the hospital. Threatened us with the police if I didn’t consent for a rape kit. I went. It was the worst thing I’ve ever endured. The nurses pinch and poke you, put things in you. Pluck hairs from your body, keep your underwear. They won’t let you shower and all you want to do is be clean. You’re naked, for everyone to see. It’s like it’s happening all over again. You’ll get an antibiotic injection in glutes. The biggest needle sunk deep into your flesh. They’ll give you the morning after pill and if you haven’t taken it before, you’re not prepared for the pain and bloodshed. It’s awful, and you know what?
You’ll go through all that and you won’t get to see the results of the kit. If your case doesn’t go to trial, you’ll NEVER know what’s in that kit. It will be locked up in evidence at the local police precinct and rot. I didn’t want to go to trial, I didn’t want to do any of this. I just wanted it to go away. I had to because my friend lied, even if I wanted to have him prosecuted my credibility was ruined because she lied. Her stepmom already had a boy she slept with in consent charged with statutory rape. She cried wolf, she ruined a person’s life to avoid being grounded. I still had to make a statement to the police. The detectives, they were so nice to me. Genuinely kind and sympathetic. They tried their best to help me, to be honest it was a hopeless case, at least they told me the truth. My friend eventually admitted she lied about what happened to her, but my story was true. I’m still referring to her as friend for simplicities sake, she is a disgusting person. The other guy, my friend, said it happened. The guy wouldn’t admit it to the authorities. The cousin confirmed it too, he also admitted to putting his fingers inside me while I was passed out. I finally had to meet the District Attorney. Who, though he agreed what happened was horrible, a court case would be worse for me. At this point, it wasn’t on my record. I could let it go. If I chose to go forward, it would be on my permanent record. It wasn’t a case I was going to win. I would be become the girl who cried wolf. I had no case, no recollection of events. I was a teenage girl at a hotel with three guys who drank too much. Shit happens. The prosecutors would drag me through the mud. I could walk away from this now and let it all go. Maybe he intimidated a bit into not pursuing charges, I don’t know, but I agreed. The DA said ultimately the decision was up to him, he had to give it some thought and would contact my parents in a few weeks with his decision. It felt like an eternity, but he decided not to go forward with it. I was relieved at the time. Now though, I would like to know what they found in that rape kit. I wish he had to own up to what he did, I wish he went to jail. A group of guys from school beat him up, they showed up at his house and his dad pushed him out the door and said to face up to his actions. That was the best justice I would get. I still wish I would have hit him with that bottle.
You would think it’s over once the legal proceedings are done. It isn’t. The kids you thought were your friends will whisper about you. The kids you used to go to school with will tell all sorts of terrible stories about you. Slut, whore, drug dealer (where did that even come from), stupid drunk slut put herself into a completely avoidable situation. She deserved it. I believed that for so long. I was so broken and felt so worthless. The physical rape isn’t even the worst part. The human body is resilient, it heals so quickly. It’s the mental rape that haunts you and determines how you navigate your future. It takes so much from you. The guy, my savior, I spent a lot of time with him. He said he didn’t care, he liked me in spite of what happened. He made me feel a little better. I felt that I had some value, that someone would love me in spite of what happened to me. I keep repeating that because he kept saying it to me. He loved me. He could look past it, but no one else ever would. It was abusive. Mentally. On occasion, physically. For four years I stayed with this person because I was convinced there was no one else. It was bad, but it wasn’t that bad. Right? He would gaslight me. Every time I rose a little, he’d drag me back down. He would drive around recklessly and turn off the passenger side airbag because I needed to trust him. Trust would be enough. Trust? He cheated on me. That friend of mine from earlier, I believe they slept together. She also slept with my first. He would threaten suicide if I were to break up with him. Text book abusive relationship, but I wouldn’t leave because I thought it was what I deserved. He smashed my face into the floor once. Another time he chased me out of his house, his parents screaming at him not to hurt me, because I called him annoying. That was it. I had gained back a little bit of confidence, I knew I didn’t deserve it. I broke up with him. Guess what? He’s still alive.
It would be years, nearly 15, before I’d truly feel okay. That’s why I’m writing this now. I had a few people in my life that were rock solid. They got me through. I’m so thankful for them, that they didn’t give up on me because I know I didn’t make it easy. I was hard to love because I didn’t love myself for a long time. I had a couple bad relationships, I wouldn’t let people be kind to me, I wasn’t even kind to myself. You’d think I had learned my lesson about drinking, but it was how I dealt with it for a long time. I’d drink myself into oblivion only to find it in the deepest, darkest recesses of my mind. I would end up crying belligerently at parties or alone on the phone with a friend. I know they were annoyed. No matter how drunk, I was I’d always lock myself in a room. I was afraid of who might come in. It was misery and I am so sorry I didn’t do a better job of expressing what I needed. I had to get away. I went away for college, as far as I could get without drowning in the ocean. I needed a place where no one knew me. I made a few wonderful friends. I finally started feeling some sense of value. I met my partner, so kind and loving, and absolutely everything I never thought I deserved, but mostly he is patient. He helped piece me back together. I don’t know if he knows the extent of his superhero powers, but HE is truly my savior. I’m sorry he had to see me low so many times, but he always picked me back up. He made me realize I am worthy. I’m thankful for him every day. I was lucky to have the people I have in my life. There was always someone there when I needed a friend.
Though to say I’m okay, doesn’t mean that things are exactly how they were before it happened. Trauma changes you. The way you act in certain situations is different, everywhere I go I map out an escape plan. Later that year, the sandwich shop I worked at was robbed at gun point. I was frozen, I had a handgun pointed at my face. He said “Get the money, don’t scream, no one gets hurt.” I defied him, I defied logic. I SCREAMED BLOODY MURDER because I had already decided if someone was going to hurt me again, I would not be silent. It was an addict that robbed us for drug money, put a gun to my face, and I didn’t know if I was taking my last breath. I don’t have much empathy when it comes to the plight of addicts. Honestly, I don’t have a lot of empathy general now. There are two reasons I’m telling you this story. First, I would rather face my own mortality than be raped. This probably would have been extremely traumatic for some, but it honestly wasn’t the worst thing that had happened to me. Second, because of how society reacts to different crimes. The day after, when I got to school, countless people came up to me. They all said how happy, how relieved they were that I was okay, why was I at school?. Everyone wanted to know the story. Although I appreciated some of their concern, where were these people, where was this support when I really needed it? Some of these well wishers were the very same ones who so recently were casting stones. They cared now that the crime didn’t make them uncomfortable. Y’all piss me off.
Back to why I am so mad at Hannah. I never considered suicide, I never thought of it as an option, because it is not. Maybe because I was touched by suicide in elementary school, maybe because I had an amazing support system. I don’t know. Maybe some people are just wired differently. There are occasions though, when I stand too close to the cliff’s edge or drive too fast, where it may seem to others I’m testing fate. I’m not, but I think it’s healthy be reminded of my own mortality because I appreciate life so much. I can look over the edge into the abyss and imagine how simple it is to die, but I have no desire to. There are endless ways to die, like I said, I always have an exit plan. I have never wanted to die. I guess that’s why I’m so mad Hannah didn’t try to harder to live, going through a similar situation where I only saw survival, she only saw death. I feel like she didn’t even try. I believe there are always options or someone who will extend a simple kindness or listen to you. It’s so much easier to cope if you can find a way to express what you need. Maybe you need to talk. Maybe you need silence. It’s there. Whatever you need it’s there. Please, please, please ask for what you need. You’ll get through it. It might take years, but there are better days ahead. You will never forget what happened, you may never forgive the ones who hurt you and you don’t have to. I haven’t. Maybe embracing your anger strengthens you, as does mine. You will learn to live again. I made it through alive, but it’s only now finally feel like I’m living. Now that I’ve forgiven myself. I’m okay.