How Long

Saturday, February 23, 2019


"Why are you here today? Why are you coming forward now?"

Up until this point, I told my story of that night in February 2006 without emotion.  Throughout the weekend, my Monday workday, and the hour long drive up, I hadn't felt much of anything.  Until now.

I tried to hold back a gasping sob as I managed to let out before the tears began to flow, "Because I'm afraid it's happened to someone else and I didn't stop it."

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It was a sunny Friday in September. My boss took our little team out to lunch. The weather was nice enough to have the windows open as we drove. And the whole world was talking about Christine Blasey Ford.

I sat back down at my desk after lunch and opened an article discussing the inquiry.  Dr. Ford was questioned about why she was bringing this up now and her response was that she wanted to do the right thing. My head exploded and little bits of guilt and doubt fell around me like confetti.  For so long, I wanted to do the right thing too. But I didn't because I always thought it was thirteen years too late.  So, I sent off an e-mail to my high school and I told them.

The next day, I looked at my mom and I said, "I'm finally reporting him."  She rolled up her sleeves and we searched through endless notes and pictures in a giant tub filled with memories from the last thirty years until she picked up a tiny rectangle card.  "Is this it?" she asked.

Six months ago, as I was working my way through personal items in preparation for my parents' move, I almost threw it away.  I looked at it and I said to myself, "Why am I still holding on to this?" But I kept it anyway.  That night, he gave it to me as a way to keep me connected to him.  I hated it so much I wanted to burn it, but part of me needed it. I needed it to remember it was real.  I needed it so I wouldn't let go.

Then, I prepared myself for the nothing, knowing how these types of things go, especially after almost 13 years.

Monday morning, my high school called to meet that evening. The force of what I was doing slammed into my head like a sledge hammer; I couldn't concentrated at work.  I went home and found my journal from that time.  I flipped it open and read further than I had in years.  There was an entry when I was finally fed up, about three months later, where I knew something needed to be done and it wasn't my fault.  It was a beautiful pep talk I was sending to myself in the present to give me the nudge I needed to move forward.

I asked my brother to come sit with me.  The night it happened, the first person I told was my poor 15 year old brother in our shared bathroom.  We never spoke of it again until that Monday.

Reporting is hard.  I know my ordeal was far easier than others.  If I'm being completely honest, what kept me moving through the story was that I knew I needed to selfishly relieve my guilt.  I know they tell you when something happens to you, it's not your fault.  I believe that and I know that. For a really long time though, I held onto the lie that there was something special about me or something I did to encourage him.  If I believed that, then I could believe he wasn't going to do this to other girls or the way I treated him afterwards would scare him good enough to not try again.  If I keep silent, then he has to be silent, like an unspoken deal.

But that's not how it works.  That Monday, driving home after I spoke with my high school, I really thought about the girl I was at 17.  I was desperate to play into the cool girl role, the one who could keep up with the guys.  I trusted everyone.  I was shy. I was above all other things, quiet. I was a fantastic mark.

The next week flew by.  Local police officers, state troopers, and through them the District Attorney's office contacted me for details and to see what I wanted to do. I was matched up with a state trooper who gave me the facts cold and hard and we both appreciated each other's candidness and honesty.  I told him the truth and he gave me the truth right back.

Ultimately, in the state of Pennsylvania the law changed around the time my incident occurred due to Jerry Sandusky and Penn State. Unfortunately, I was born two months too early and missed the cut off for my case to be pursued today.  And I was okay with that.  Speaking with the state trooper, I told him from the start I knew my chances of "winning" after 13 years were minimal but I admitted to him it wasn't about me.  It was about paving the way for another girl who needed me to open the door for her.

Immediately after I brought my situation to light with my high school, they put him on leave.  Even though they could not move forward legally, the school was still pursuing an internal investigation.  They called and asked me if this was to go through arbitration was I willing to testify.  I told them I would do anything to do the right thing.

The next day they called and told me he resigned.  I later learned he never responded to any of their questions, brought a lawyer and a union representative (which was strange for him to have one in the position he was in) and refused to respond. Months later, it provides some solace.  Maybe he couldn't remember it as clearly as me and didn't want to get caught in a lie; or worse, maybe he couldn't be sure who it was who brought this forward and he couldn't risk bringing more people into this.

And like that, it was over. Wrapped up in a month what took me twelve and a half years of courage to bring forth.

I won and I didn't win.  But I won.  Maybe not against him, but against me.  Against the "what if" game I'd played for 13 years. I don't have to wonder what would happen if I said something because now I know. Back then, I made a long list of things I would lose if I reported him.  I saw all of the things I could never have again, the things I would have to give up, the rumors that would follow me forever.  It was a lie.  I feel like I can do things I never before dreamed.

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When I close my eyes, I can see the landscape passing by through the bus window.  I know he's behind me, talking and talking.  I almost smell the pleather seats. I feel the condensation on the window against my forehead, see the blur of the streetlights. I see him stand and stretch.  I hold the little card in my hand, knowing now he gave me the weapon to his own end.

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