What do you see, Katie? Can you see Miller’s Dairy Farm and the old country school? Have you ever been higher on a swing? I came to this park every evening when I was your age to swing, dream, and pray about my future. I especially hoped for a daughter someday. And God is so amazing! He gave me you.
The summer I was sixteen, on an evening just like this one, I was leaning back in that very swing, legs extended, my long hair flowing behind me.
“Hey! I thought that might be you!” The sudden interruption surprised and annoyed me, but I dragged my feet and stopped regardless. I didn’t know much about Kent except that he was twenty-one and a new Christian. He had attended our Bible study a few times, although he lived in a town some distance away.
“Hey, yourself! What are you doing in Podunks-ville?” I asked
“I think God wants me to do some witnessing. He brought Liz Harney to mind. Don’t you know her sister?”
“Shelby and I are on the same cheerleading squad,” I answered.
“Have you ever witnessed to her?”
“She knows I’m a Christian. We’ve talked about it some.”
“Let’s go then.”
“Let’s you and me go witness to Liz and Shelby. What do you say?”
That’s how I ended up in Kent’s car, heading out of town toward the Harneys’. Slowly it occurred to me that I hadn’t told anyone where I was going, and I was barefoot. “Oh well,” I thought, “It’s for a good cause.” Besides, it was kind of exciting.
The further we drove, the less talkative Kent became. As he turned onto the river road, darkness enclosed us. It was still several miles to the Harneys’.
As I considered those facts, Kent pulled the car to a stop and switched off the headlights. “Wha…” I began, but he had already grasped my arm and was pulling me toward himself. “Kent, I thought…” He covered my mouth with his and groped, tearing my shirt as I writhed and pushed against him.
Breaking free, my hear pounding, I slid toward the passenger door and swung it open over the steep, overgrown slope leading to the river. “Please, God, rescue me!” I prayed.
When I hesitated, Kent grabbed my wrist. “Don’t.” he said evenly.
“No! YOU don’t!” I shouted, breaking into sobs. “I want to go home!”
God answered my pleas for help. Kent re-started the car, turned around, and headed back toward town. I kept my back to him with my hand on the door handle, prepared to leap if he so much as made a wrong turn. Before he came to a complete stop at the end of my driveway, I bolted and never looked back. It was the last time I ever saw him.
Inside my bedroom I fell to my knees, thankful to be alive. But I also felt ashamed, stupid, and no longer safe. It was many years before I told anyone about that night.
Oh Katie, I hope I haven’t frightened you. You are so full of dreams and eager to experience life, just as I was on that long-ago summer evening. Would I deny you the freedom you have so responsibly earned? Not for anything. But I had to share my experience with you in hopes that you might learn from it. These are the things I hope you will remember:
Nearly every person who is sexually assaulted knows their abuser.
Most abusers use deception and enticement rather than force to get close to their victim.
It is often the violation of trust, even more than physical injury that causes long-lasting emotional pain.
A person who is sexually assaulted is in no way to blame for it.
It is still assault, even if the person doesn’t say ‘no’ or fight back.
A survivor of sexual assault may wait a long time before talking about the incident. They may be embarrassed, ashamed, fearful of their assailant, afraid of not being believed, or simply eager to forget it. Eventually, though, talking about the assault helps with the healing.
I hope that something like this never happens to you. Oh, how I wish that I could protect you every minute of your life. But that would be like making you sit on that swing, yet never allowing you to experience the joy of swinging. So hold on, Katie, I’m giving you a great big underdog push, but I’ll be here if you ever need me.
Julie Arduini is hosting Fiction Friday today at The Surrendered Scribe.