Survivor’s story: Rape

by Kim Hoertz

Trigger Warning: This article contains content that may be sensitive to some readers.

“At any given moment you have the power to say this is not how the story is going to end.” ― Christine Mason Miller

I am a warrior

I am a fighter, a warrior, and a survivor.  I refuse to let the past dictate how my story will end.  It is extremely important for me to share my entire journey with the utmost transparency and vulnerability so that history does not repeat itself for my innocent children.  

The Rumors 

“Never let someone who contributes so little to a relationship control so much of it.” ― Unknown

The rumors that have surrounded my life over the past four years since my insane divorce have consumed me and driven me to come out and share my painful truth.  I have children that will someday, a day I hope to be prepared for, connect the dots and start asking me questions. Until that day comes, it is important for me to share my story so that, hopefully, I can empower others to not have to live with shame, guilt, or denial about what happened to them.  

The Bubble 

The truth is, I had a great childhood. But, none of the normalcy of my upbringing really prepared me for the reality of what my life turned out to be over the next two decades.

It is important to note that I did live in a “bubble.”  I grew up in a white, middle-class, large Catholic family.  I attended private school from kindergarten through college and before my high school graduation, I didn’t have much diversity in my life.  Not by choice, I just assimilated to the surroundings I grew up in.  

I was an athlete and most of my spare time was spent on the courts, field, or track.  I stayed out of trouble, for the most part, and focused on sports, academics, and friendships.  I attended an all-girls catholic high school where sports and education were very important.  I was able to secure a college athletic scholarship because of my grit and determination for my sport, cross country. 

All Girls

Going to an all-girls high school was a blessing and a curse at the same time.  It was an absolutely incredible education and allowed me to obtain an athletic scholarship where sports excellence was a top priority. Looking back, I don’t think it prepared any of us for the “real world” as far as intimate relationships were concerned.  To my recollection, I don’t remember ever having formal “sex education” rather, we were taught all about abstinence.  We learned about sex through word of mouth and from any of our friends who had older sisters.  

We also never talked about our bodies, puberty, or healthy relationships.  I had no clue what domestic violence or what rape even was.  Yes, I may have been very naive in my thinking or learning and I may be looked upon as “not the norm” these days, but the truth was that back in the day this was all too common.  Parents and private school educators didn’t feel comfortable talking or teaching about any of this.  Therefore, most of us were left on our own to figure it out and our parents prayed that we would.  

Public School Boy

I did have a long-term public school boyfriend who treated me like a queen.  We had a very normal high school relationship and attended all of the dances together at each school.  I would attend all the varsity football or baseball games he played in and he would support me in my athletic endeavors (basketball, track and cross country).  Considering we went to different schools, we made our relationship work despite the odds.  

He was kind, caring, and very respectful to me.  His family treated me as if I was one of their own and for the most part, I fit in with his group of public school friends.  We dated for a couple of years and I definitely innocently thought he was “the one.” Our relationship was very supportive and respectful. I had been taught religiously to not lose my virginity until marriage and I felt safe and secure with him.  He treated me with the utmost respect and would do anything for me.

Culture Shock

The culture shock though began when I left on my high school senior trip to Puerto Vallarta.  I still to this day don’t understand what my parents were thinking letting me go to a foreign country with no parental supervision and BOYS. 

I am convinced that since I was their oldest child I was their “trial and error” child.  However, once my friends and I got the YES from our parents we didn’t ask any more questions…we got our bags packed, passports stamped and we were off.  Eight girls and eight boys from the “all boys” high school got on a flight and landed safely in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.   

The minute we walked into the hotel we noticed we weren’t in our little sheltered world anymore.  There were a thousand high school graduates from all around the United States who joined us.  The funny thing is, probably nine hundred of them were already there in a blurry image of what was the pool.  It definitely wasn’t clear water, but instead  a milky substance with couples on top of each other and condoms floating around everywhere.  It was absolutely a scene out of Girls Gone Wild.  Except these were fresh new adults who just turned eighteen.   

Fitting In

How the heck were we going to fit in?  The answer to that was the drinking age in Mexico was eighteen.  Alcohol changed our outlook for sure on some of the chaos surrounding us from midnight dance parties, smoking cigarettes and joints for the first time, and everyone making out with complete strangers around every corner.  After all, we all made a pact that whatever happens in Mexico was going to stay there.  

As I mentioned before, I had a very serious boyfriend at the time.  He truly treated me with the utmost compassion, respect, and support.  However, because he attended a different school he did not end up going on the trip.  I promised him that nothing would happen and I was there to just party with my girlfriends.  

I did just that…partied with the girls.  However, all of my single girlfriends attracted a group of guy friends.  This group was from another small coed catholic school about a four hour drive north of home back in California.  Well, we ended up partying quite frequently with this group and there was one boy who kept flirting with me.

Alcohol

The flirting felt good when I was drinking.  It had been a long time since another boy had given me attention since everyone knew I was “off-limits” because I was in a serious high school relationship.  However, this boy didn’t know and didn’t care what I had to lose back home.

The groups consistently spent time together every day and night as we felt like we had a lot in common with this group, seeing they attended a private catholic school as well.  The alcohol was always free-flowing and so was the continuous flirting. The very last night, we ended up on the dance floor together making out.  

The Guilt 

The next day we were all extremely hung over and had to make the journey back home to our reality.  The reality for me was a very painful dilemma I had running through my head.  How was I going to confront my boyfriend of several years who treated me so well to let him know that I “cheated” on him.  In all reality, this was a very innocent, alcohol-induced fling that was supposed to stay in Mexico.  However, I never had lied to him, how could I start now?  

I immediately started bawling when I saw him at the LAX airport terminal waiting, with flowers in his hand, for my return.  He knew immediately something was wrong.  I ended up riding back home with my mom and friends.  I broke his heart when I confessed the truth.  He was willing to work things out but I couldn’t live with the guilt I felt, knowing that I kissed another guy.  

From that point in my life, guilt would play a constant theme in my life.  I could not seem to forgive myself for the wrong that I had done, even though every other couple our age had worked through these minor issues.

The Call

It had been a couple of days since my return from Mexico and I had been so depressed and in tears for days. However, all that changed when I received a phone call from “the guy.”  Apparently, in my drunken stupor, we had exchanged numbers. Back then we didn’t have cell phones, so he actually had the courage to call my parents house. We ended up talking for hours, then days.  I didn’t think I had physical feelings for this guy as I was always so drunk when we saw each other, but now we were talking sober as can be over four hours away and I am starting to believe “maybe he really likes me.”  I felt I could potentially make this work, after all, I had given up so much for safety and comfort that I had known for this “one-night” in Mexico.  

A couple of weeks had passed and it was Fourth of July weekend.  He invited me up to meet his family and come hang out for the holiday weekend.  I somehow convinced myself that he was “safe.”  After all, he went to a Catholic high school and I knew all of his friends by this point.  From what he told me it sounded like he had a “normal family.”  So I went.  

Butterflies?

Somehow I convinced my parents that I should go visit my cousins, who happened to live in the same town as “the guy.”  They of course supported me visiting family and didn’t think twice, afterall I was eighteen. I took the train and then transferred to a Greyhound bus and arrived in the city where my cousins and he lived.  We had arranged for him to pick me up.

I had butterflies in my stomach but couldn’t tell if they were nerves or I was really excited to see him. When I saw him, I quickly realized I was not physically attracted to him at all. Apparently, I was intoxicated most of that Mexico trip as I don’t recall why I would have ever jeopardized my relationship with my ex-boyfriend for this guy.  But now, I was four hours from home, didn’t have a car, and didn’t have the guts to tell him I wasn’t attracted to him.  

He tried to greet me with a kiss but I quickly turned my head and his lips landed on my cheek.  He held my hand, took my luggage, and opened the door for me.  

The Chase

I could tell he was very much into me.  During that trip, I felt as though I was a trophy.  It was as if I was on “show and tell” the whole weekend.  He would introduce me as his girlfriend to his family and all of his friends.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him I wasn’t feeling the same.

I, fortunately, was staying at my cousin’s house during the weekend I was there.  So I had a place to have some space before he would want to meet up again the following days.  He did try to kiss me multiple times but I explained to him that I wasn’t ready for all of that.  

I think this was very frustrating to him, as he probably thought, “this isn’t the chick that made out with me so carelessly in Mexico.”  But truth be told, I had just broken up with what I thought was the love of my life and I soon realized I wasn’t ready to jump into anything, especially with this guy who I was not attracted to at all.  I felt so much guilt for leading him on though and I just wanted to escape and go back home, however, I had one more night and day there.   

The Last Night

The last night I was in town, he asked me to go to his friend’s house in the country so we could really see the fireworks.  I agreed to it, as after all, it was the Fourth of July.  It was about 9 o’clock at night and extremely dark when he picked me up to go to his friend’s place. The trip there seemed like it took forever as there were no city lights on this road and we were in, what felt like, the middle of nowhere.  

About thirty minutes passed and I finally asked him how much longer we had.  He said we were almost there and he then actually pulled over to the side of the road as if I had asked at the perfect moment.  I thought it was very strange that he pulled over when there was literally nothing around us.  

My heart started racing as he stopped his truck, shut the engine off and turned on some country music.  I thought to myself, is he going to want to “make out” even though I had made it pretty clear I was not ready for that.  

The Pain

He started saying things to me like “I invited you up here because I thought you were into me.”  I tried to explain what my heart had been telling me all along, “that I wasn’t ready for anything more.”  However, he didn’t care to listen to anything and definitely had a different agenda all planned out.  

He reached for my face and pulled it towards his and aggressively started making out with me.  As I would pull away, he would pull it tighter and closer not giving me a chance to even breathe.  He then started thrusting his body on top of me.  It was at this point I knew I had no way out.  

There were no cars for miles, no cell phones at that point and I had absolutely nowhere to go.  This event was definitely methodically thought out by him.  His intentions from the get-go were not pure and he had one goal the entire trip and that was to have sex with me.

The Aftermath

The specific details from the rest of that night are too painful to write about. But, needless to say, he accomplished his goal.  After it was done, he didn’t say a word to me on the way home and dropped me off at the front porch of my cousin’s house.  

Nobody was awake at the time he dropped me off and I snuck into my cousin’s house quietly.  The next day my cousin dropped me off at the bus station and I went back to my home.  I never said a word to my cousins, my parents, friends, or anyone for years to come.  I stayed silent and lived with that guilt for years.  

All My Fault

It wasn’t until my sophomore year in college that I understood what actually happened to me.  I felt as though I had caused the rape to happen. After all, I was the one who led him on.  I made out with him that night in Mexico.  I broke up with my long-term boyfriend for him.  I went to visit him for a weekend.  I went to meet his family and friends.  I agreed to go to his friend’s party that night.  I lived with this guilt for so long.

S.T.A.R.

My sophomore year in college, I was introduced to a group called S.T.A.R., Students and Teachers Against Rape.  I soon attended educational classes on what rape actually was.  It was at this point that I educated myself enough to realize my rape was NOT my fault at all.

Even though I now knew it was rape, it was still incredibly shameful to talk about.  I told my closest friends at the time and they encouraged me to start going to counseling. By my senior year in college, I got the courage to tell my mom, almost four years past the actual event.  

Denial

To this day, it is very painful to live through that event.  I often think back and wonder, “How did all of this happen to me? I am an extremely educated and successful woman, how did I ever let myself become so vulnerable to men?”  However, this specific incident in my life in 1999 was only the beginning of my incredibly painful past.  

I still live in denial from a lot of my past experiences.  Thankfully, I now know why God has pushed me through all of this pain. It is because I have a greater purpose in my life and hopefully will empower others by sharing my journey.  

Power of One

It is incredible how the power of one person can change a life forever.  It only takes one person to influence, to uplift, to encourage, to empower, or to spark change in another. I could easily choose to share my nightmare from a very dark, hurtful, and emotional place.  Instead, I chose to muster the utmost courage and share my journey with transparency, vulnerability, and most importantly, grace. I sincerely hope to be a power of one to someone.

Your Voice Matters 

According to Nomore.org, “It is estimated that three out of four sexual assaults are not reported to the police. There are countless reasons that survivors do not disclose—including fear of retribution, not wanting their families to know or fear of not being believed. It is our responsibility to listen to, believe, and support survivors of sexual violence.” We have to do something about these staggering statistics. Your voice matters. Using our voices can help spark change.  

Becoming Purposeful 

Richard Leider states that becoming purposeful is not a luxury. Purpose is fundamental to health, happiness, and healing.  Purpose is pushed by pain or pulled by possibilities.  

I am now devoted to turning my pain into my purpose.  I am becoming purposeful by blazing a path to make a difference through a life dedicated to and for others. On this path, I hope to establish a legacy for my children and for myself.  I will not let the past define me rather, I will learn from it, teach from it, and inspire from it.  

I know with my whole heart that this is only the beginning for me. I am forever grateful to have found this group of women who support and believe in me and in my journey.