13 Reasons In Reality
I just finished watching Season 3 of 13 Reasons. It reminded me of people I knew in High School once upon a time. I will not name names, but I do think it is an important story that needs told.
It starts with me starting my Junior year of High School. I attracted the attention of a certain young man we shall call Bob (not his actual name.) Bob fell madly in love with and tried to woo me. He wanted me to be his girlfriend. I wanted to take things slow and get to know him first. I suggested an actual date before we made a commitment. He agreed, but nothing had been set up yet.
We had gotten off the bus one morning shortly thereafter. We were laughing and having fun. I made a joke that he did not find funny. It was a reference to the rumors around school that he had indulged in bestiality. Bob’s mood changed suddenly and he shoved me up against a locker. It surprised me more than it hurt me.
Later, Bob sent me flowers and the girls in class were impressed. Their boyfriends didn’t send them flowers. They thought I was crazy to reject him. I shrugged and said I simply wasn’t interested. I didn’t feel like explaining that his violent outburst scared me. I was smart enough to see it as a red flag. If he could get that mad in public, what was he capable of in private I wondered.
My friends were still friends with him, so even though we didn’t date, I still heard about his life. We spoke casually when we met in the halls or at a school function. I was polite, but distant. He moved on fairly quickly to date some girl from another town named Tiffani (also not her real name.) They dated for a few weeks or maybe a couple of months. I don’t remember. They broke up and he began seeing Tiffani’s friend Dani.
It was nearly a year later when I met Rachel (not her real name either!). She began seeing my ex-boyfriend Rob (not his real name) shortly after he broke up with me. At first I was jealous and I hated her, but then we met in person and began to talk. We became fast friends despite the awkward situation. Jump ahead a few months and Rob was out of the picture.
My friends decided that I needed to go to Prom. Since Bob didn’t have a date and I didn’t have a date, they thought we should go together. I agreed to go with Bob, but only as a friend. I made it clear that I was not interested in more. He picked me up and we went to his house so his Mom and Dad could take pictures. We went out to eat and then went to Prom. When we got there, he refused to dance with me. He met up with some other chick and left Prom to go have sex with her. While I was not jealous of the other girl, I was angry that he had left me stranded at school. I had no ride home. Eventually my friend and her boyfriend took me home.
I recalled this bad prom experience to Rachel, who then dropped a bombshell on me. Bob had raped her. It was well over a year since it had transpired. She told me the story about the seemingly nice neighbor boy she hung out with. They began to make out when she’d visit him. He wanted to take it further and have sex, but she did not. He was 16 and she was just 12 at the time. That afternoon he forced himself on her.
I was shocked. Ironically, Bob had claimed he was still a virgin for all of last year. And even though he had never had sex with me or Tiffani or Dani, that didn’t necessarily mean that he was actually still a virgin. It struck me that he might not have wanted to advertise that he not only cheated on his girlfriend, but that he had raped a 12 year old girl. Bob was many things, but he wasn’t a complete idiot.
Anyway, somehow Rachel’s parents found out. Rachel’s father was enraged and ready to march over to Bob’s house and kill him. Rachel begged him not to. She didn’t want to call the police or to press charges. In fact, she just wanted to forget the whole thing ever happened. Rachel spent the next year doing drugs and acting out, but she had found a boyfriend and was ready to be healthy and happy now.
What she neglected to tell me is that she had been suicidal. She had been hospitalized at one point and had been in counseling on and off. I never had any idea the depth of her depression. I wish she had trust me enough to share some of her burden with me.
Anyway, skip ahead another year. Bob graduated and left town. He was gone for several years before returning. My friends report that he had gotten some girl pregnant and gotten married. Then he got divorced and gotten somebody else pregnant. His adult life was a mess!
That is when I met Tiffani in college. She and I became friends. Later, I learned she was the very same Tiffani who had dated Bob. I recounted Rachel’s story to her, but she refused to believe it. She and Bob were still friends. Yes, he had a temper, but he had never hurt her. She couldn’t imagine him raping anyone. I don’t think I mentioned it again for a long time. We had plenty of other things to talk about.
Some ten years went by and Tiffani had an epiphany. She had heard complaints over the years from Bob’s former girlfriends and wives that sex had not always been consensual. They would accuse him of rape, but somehow charges were never pressed. Tiffani began to wonder if the rumors were true. I reminded her of Tiffani’s story and she finally was ready to accept it as a possibility.
Both Tiffani and I had seen his temper as a warning sign. We were the lucky ones. The other girls he dated were not so lucky. I have no proof Bob is a rapist, but I see no reason for any of these girls to lie to me or to Tiffani. What would they have to gain? Clearly, Bob’s reputation had not really suffered over the years. Despite all the rumblings, he had continued to live life as he always had.
Rachel was not my only friend who was sexually assaulted. My friend Beth was raped at knife point by her first boyfriend. My other friend Diane was raped by a trusted friend who wanted to be more than friends. And another friend Amanda told me she had been raped by two or three teenage boys when she was walking home along the train tracks. And my friend Jamie had been date raped. My neighbor Sue told me about how her ex-boyfriend coerced her into having sex with him under the threat of kidnapping their son if she didn’t do what he wanted. None of these rapes were reported either, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.
Why didn’t they report the rapes? Many reasons. Many of them were teenagers when it happened. Some were terrified that their parents would be pissed at them for being sexually active, even if it wasn’t their choice. Some feared indifference. Some didn’t want to piss off their attacker any further because nearly everyone knew the person who had raped them. Others dealt with trauma by trying to forget it or repress it. It seemed like the general attitude was that it was an everyday occurrence that could not be prevented or punished. I suspect that whatever the reason they told they told themselves, the truth was that Rape had made them feel powerless, so why would they assert their power by prosecuting?
I, for one, hope #MeToo and 13 Reasons Why makes a difference. Women need to change the Rape Culture we grew up in. It has gone on for far too long.