Angie and Dana, authors of the Sweet Tea and Baby Jesus blog, are welcoming our first-ever guest blogger. We are withholding her name due to the sensitive nature of her story, but her story is too important to ignore. With the latest headlines about girls being abducted and/or sex trafficked in Tennessee and DC and Atlanta and everywhere we needed to pause and share the deceptive tactics teenagers face, and start a conversation about how to train our children to avoid these situations.
Please share and comment, especially with teens and parents of teens.
Recently I was told that if I’m ready, I can share my story.
That scares me. What do I have to fear? I fear that as an adult, I may have to face people and challenges that I have pretended do not exist for a very long time. I am a people pleaser, and cannot stand when someone is mad at me. However, I am learning that I have a unique story when it comes to living in America as a white female in my twenties.
Let me set the scene for you: I was 13 years old, living in a small town in rural Texas. My parents divorced when I was 3, and both parents had been remarried (my mother was remarried multiple times). By this point in my life, I had been in 8 or 9 different schools and 4 different states. I had 1 stepmother, and 2 or 3 different stepfathers. At school, I learned to do what the other kids were doing so that I would fit in as the new kid. I never had trouble making friends on the first day, but I always had trouble keeping a “best” friend or one close friend group. I always felt like I was different, or did not quite fit in as the other kids. They would laugh at a joke, and I didn’t understand why it was funny.
Hormones do a weird thing to teenagers. I remember that I could “fit in” with the boys groups, and even get them to carry my books or give me their sweatshirt. They didn’t worship me, but I was the girl they thought they stood a chance with….so they tried. I would keep a “boyfriend” for a maximum of 2 weeks. If I really liked the guy, we could last one month. I dated most of the youth group that I attended and most of the boys in the 7th grade class.
I got labeled “easy.” Rumors fly around small towns like wildfire. There were rumors that I had sex with all of these boys, and I started earning the name of “slut” and “tramp.” Keep in mind that I had never even kissed more than half, held hands with most, but really just saw it as a commodity for someone to carry my books to class. I liked feeling like I was worthy to get their attention. The more these rumors flew around, the more I wondered why I was still a virgin. No one thought I was, and it wasn’t like they would believe me if I said otherwise. So I started watching TV shows like Dawson’s Creek, Everwood, and The OC. All shows that would teach me what a real relationship would be like, and what to do if a boy ever wanted to do more than peck me on the lips. These shows became my god. I couldn’t go to my parents about these questions, and the only talk I had received from my dad was “The guy has a thing and the girl has a thing, and when you put them together…it feels real good.” Bless the poor man, he had a teenage daughter, and they don’t come with instruction manuals. So, I got more and more information from TV.
Fast forward a bit, it’s summer before 8th grade. I had just made the cheerleading squad, and thought “This is it. This is going to be the year I have friends”. During the summer, I went to a Christian coffee shop that was a local hangout. On Fridays and Saturdays we would play pool and drink coffee, and then come Sundays we would have bible study. I attended this shop EVERY WEEKEND.
One week, a group of people I wasn’t familiar with showed up. They were all dressed in black, and took an interest in me. I started talking to one girl of the group, and she was very funny. Sarcastic and witty is the best way to describe her. There was a guy in the group. He didn’t say anything, but he had piercing blue eyes, tattoos, smoked, a buzz cut, and kept staring at me. He whispered something to the girl I was talking to, let’s call her Suzie, and then walked to the truck they had pulled up in. She asked me if I had a ride home, and I said I didn’t. I usually would ride with the youth leader at the end of the night when she took us strays home, but this night…..I got into a Ford F-150 that was red and had black smoke stacks. It was classy. Okay, no it was not. It was garbage. But, I was 13. I digress. The boy that had not spoken back at the coffee shop insisted that I sit in the middle, in the front. He still had not addressed me, or told me his name. I was terrified of him and wanted his attention all at the same time.
These two strangers I met became the most influential people in my life for a matter of three weeks. Three weeks. That’s all it took for this child to go from complete innocence to complete hell. Again, they do not give instruction manuals about this kind of stuff.
I began to receive phone calls from Suzie and learned that Camden was the name of the mystery blue eyed boy. They lived in an apartment with another female and one other male. Two bedroom apartment, and everyone shares rooms and beds and food. Very “communal”, but also my first glimpse of what life outside of a parent’s house is supposed to look like. There were other transients that came in and out of this apartment, and looking back I think one of the roommates was selling pills and providing alcohol to minors. Everyone is an average age of 19 or older. Except Suzie, she’s still 17.
I never really found out Camden’s full name or date of birth, or really even his age. I just knew he was older. He began to be very nice to me. Telling me that he liked cheerleaders, and that my hair was a pretty color, and that he could look at my eyes all day. He kept inviting me back over to this apartment, sometimes when no one was home. He began calling me “his.” If I talked to someone else that was a guy, he would be very quiet and just stare at me and make me feel like that was the wrong thing to do.
After about a week of being “his” he began biting me. He would bite me on my arms, my thighs, my shoulders, and my breasts. These were not playful nibbles. They left marks that were purple, blue, and yellow. He would light a match, blow it out, and place it on my arms until it left a small welt. But sometimes, he would still tell me that he loved my eyes. Or I would sing something and he would tell me I had the most beautiful voice. Sometimes he was even giving, and would buy me food from the local gas station or share a drink with me. I say these things now, and it’s hard to look back and not want to shake myself. But my brain was still downloading so much about life. I didn’t know what was going on or what could happen in these situations. I just kept liking the excitement I felt from the adoration of an older man.
My dad and step-mom left town one weekend. Camden and Suzie found out that I was home alone. They both came over, and I start showing them the house. I probably haven’t properly described that these two were of poor and dirty stature. Their only income came from what they could steal, borrow, or trade. When they walked into my dad’s two story house, they acted like it was a mansion. Camden told Suzie to stay on the couch and read something. Then he told me to show him my room. I did.
Walking through this in my mind to write it all out, is very painful but it needs to be done. Some details are foggy, and some are very vivid. Up until this point, the only physical contact I had with Camden was the aforementioned and nothing was sexual or leading to arousal in any way. If he ever kissed me before this moment, it would’ve been on top of the head, but never anything more. I really didn’t even know that being “his” meant he saw me as a girlfriend or something to be conquered.
When we got to my bedroom, he closed my door and locked it. I remember sweating and not knowing what he was about to do. He French kissed me while standing. It tasted like ashes and I didn’t want him to kiss me anymore. He told me to lay down on the bed. I was wearing a t-shirt and a skort. A blue jean skort. The kind of thing you see small children wearing. I was also wearing very colorful panties that were red and yellow. I bought them because they had red glittery flames on the butt. He began taking off my skort and underwear, and I asked him what he was doing. I struggled very little because I was scared of him. He asked me if I trusted him, and my response? “I think I do.”
He pinned my arms and pressed his bodyweight against me. Again I said “Wait, what are you doing?” and he responded with “Trust me.” The more I struggled the more he pushed me down. It hurt. I stopped struggling after a few minutes because I realized it was hopeless. I turned my head and looked at the clock. 2:22 am. In my family, if there’s ever a time like 11:11, you make a wish. I wished I wasn’t there or that this was a dream of some sort. When he was finished, I rolled over unable to look at him, and slid onto the floor beside the bed. He was dressed and leaving the room before I could blink. I said to him “Camden, I’m bleeding.” He responded, “Talk to Suzie about that.”
The next day, my dad got home from the trip.
I never talked to my dad about it and didn’t even know the word rape or statutory rape. I had no idea how to process what had happened and I began thinking that since this was the man that I trusted, then I should spend my life with him. He thought the same thing. Camden gave me a gold ring with a heart on it and one very small diamond. He told me it was our engagement ring and that I should wear it on my left hand. He began talking to the others in the group about us leaving Texas, and asking where we should go. Some of them had connections in Kansas, so that became the plan. We would leave in the middle of the night and go to Kansas.
I’m not really sure I was asked my opinion or if I wanted to go, it was just expected that I would go. I packed two backpacks, one was all black and the other was yellow and black; it had a broken zipper. I was sitting on the curb with my belongings and had several people stop to ask if I was okay. I appreciate them now, because they got me to question what I was actually doing. I should also mention that I took my dad’s cell phone with me. I don’t know why I took it, but I did. I didn’t look at it as stealing from my dad, I looked at it as if I’m in way over my head, at least I can call someone.
I got into the truck and we made our way to Flying J, a local truck stop. We hitchhiked from that truck stop to a town 45 miles down the road. I should mention that one of the men that gave us a ride mentioned I looked awfully young and Camden said “she’s 21.” Camden had some family in this town but we couldn’t call them, so we spent the night at a church on the front steps where there was green outdoor carpet. I stayed awake all night, couldn’t sleep like I was told to do. I sat at that church and several times on the side of the road wondering what I was doing. This man claimed he loved me, I thought I loved him. My mind was so warped and spinning so fast. I do remember praying. I don’t think it was coincidence that we could only find church steps to sleep on that night.
The rest is extremely foggy, and I don’t remember whose house we ended up at but I do know there was an older lady that fed me. Camden’s family was called and they convinced him that this was not a good idea and that I needed to go back to my family. I don’t know how they convinced him, I was too busy eating because it was the first time I had gone hungry, without consecutive meals. I called the youth group leader that ran the coffee shop and told her where I was, she called my grandmother, and my grandmother picked us all up. When my grandmother picked us up though, everyone changed their story except me. They all said it was my idea that I wanted to get far away and that they were just supporting my decision the best they knew how. Praise God for a wise grandmother that saw through their bullshit (excuse my language). She was my one advocate through this all. She knew that they were lying and she dropped them back off at their apartment and I never saw them again until many years later. My grandmother was the first and only person to believe me and to see that I was just stuck in a situation that got way over my head.
I don’t really know how to conclude this story. I went through many years of depression, counselling, and anxiety medication to begin to understand the details of my effed up story. I was lectured by a doctor and blamed and then made to go through a pap smear and put on birth control. The amount of empathy that I received was zero. Anger, frustration, disapproval—100. People around town began to find out lies about my story, so rumors spread once again. We had seminars about abstinence where they would show dirty toothbrushes as the people that had sex and clean new toothbrushes as those that were waiting for marriage. I was distraught, feeling like I was that dirty toothbrush. I had no dignity, no pride, and felt I had zero worth. There was absolutely no education about rape, and if I told someone I was raped—they said it was my fault. I put myself in that situation, therefore it cannot be rape.
My dad’s reaction to this all is probably the hardest for me to talk about. I love my dad. He loves me. But there have been times, and this was one of them, that I completely disagreed with his parenting style. I get to do that now, because I am a parent. And I also have to mention that I was the last child at home, and completely different from the other children he raised. I did not have a curfew at 13. I was always home some time around 10 or 10:30 but mostly, I got home and my parents were in bed. I could leave in the middle of the night and no one would notice. I could have people over in the middle of the night, and no one noticed. Basically, I tested every single boundary I could think of to see if I would receive any guidance or direction….or even upset someone.
When I ran away, I got a reaction. I was NOTICED AND SEEN for the first time in probably months. I was also yelled at, and told I was acting foolish and that I was going to end up in a juvenile detention center. That was enough for me. I still struggled after this event because I still wanted the structure, but never received it. My grandmother passed away, and I still went through so many ups and downs of high school. I tried drinking, tried smoking, and just wasn’t quite done with my “rebellion” for a really long time. But that’s all it was labeled was “rebelling.” I wasn’t comforted, or told I was worth more. I didn’t hear that my dad was proud of me until I graduated high school. And I still didn’t know I was raped. I had justified these actions Camden took against me. I had decided that it was just a bad situation that I put myself in and to be a little more careful.
When I was 19, I got married to a young gentleman that tried his hardest to save me. We’re divorced now, and I think we just had one too many unpacked bags when we got married at such a young age. However, something that came out of this was FINALLY someone told me I was raped and that it wasn’t my fault. First time ever in my life that I didn’t have to plead my case or beg for someone to believe me. We struggled with intimacy in our marriage, and he could slam a door or say “trust me” and I felt like I was right back to being 13. He was married to a portion of me, but I never truly let my guard down for the entire marriage. We attended lots of counselling, together and apart. During counselling, there would always come a time that we had to discuss sex and intimacy. I received empathy for what I went through, but I never received clarity on why it affected me every single day. I was told that I had PTSD and that this would be a lifelong battle of accepting what is actually happening and what has already happened.
I'm not sure I truly healed from these events, it just got easier to manage and accept. About five years ago I had my son. For the first time, I had a human rely on me and look at me with complete unconditional love. It was my God given duty to protect this child. To nurture this child, and to set boundaries in life for this child. My son will have a curfew. I will know his friends' names. And I will do my best to educate him on what can happen in precarious situations, but also to teach him to NEVER treat a young lady the way I was treated. I do not think there are perfect parents out there, however I do think there are a lot of things that could have prevented what I went through. Cell phones and internet usage were not controlled nor monitored. I got into cars with multiple people that my dad did not know their names. I was not told by my dad that I was beautiful and worth more than anything he could ever buy. I wanted to hear uplifting and encouraging words from my father.
Parents, please listen and be willing to extend grace when your child is making what seems like idiotic decisions. Sometimes, they don’t know the way out yet. Show them love, show them compassion, and show that no matter what they do, they are still your child and you believe what they have to say. But most of all….be parents, not friends. It is NOT easy, and sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do. Sometimes those battles with your teenager could potentially save their life. Set limits. Set boundaries. Remember that this is your duty that God has entrusted to you and no one else. No one, absolutely no one, can replace what is needed from a parent.
If I can say one thing to young girls, it’s this: Love and grace do not shame you into feeling like you are less capable or in less control of your future. Love, real love, will not bite you, make fun of you, or tell you that you should not wear certain clothing. Unconditional love means love that has no requirements. There is not a checklist of criteria that you have to meet for someone to truly love you.