Monday — April 12, 2021
by: Terri LaFountain
She was 13 and it was her first school dance. The boy who asked her to dance was a friend, he was always kind and always courteous. They danced the first one, a fast one and then he asked her to stay for the second, a slow one. She put her hand in his and as she leaned into his shoulder, a smell from either his hair tonic, his cologne, or just the smell of a teen boy, with a little normal sweat wafted into her space, and she was sent into a paralysis. Struggling to breathe, and with a wild look in her eyes, tears streaming down her face, she was escorted off the floor. The boy was questioned with "what did you do?" and he had done nothing. She was peppered with "what is wrong with you?" No one had any answers. How could she explain that remembered smell of her assault, a dirty sock shoved in her mouth, and a pillowcase over her head with the sweat of two men suffocating her? Was it her fault? Did she deserve it?
Many years later, the question that changed her life was finally asked - "tell me what happened?" And with that question, she began to heal. The fractured simple acts of growing and being a little more trusting, understanding that the guilt was not hers to carry, was a long road. When someone reacts in a way misunderstood by people who have never experienced the horror of a sexual assault, it only prolongs the damage. Be aware, there is aftermath.