At the age of 15, my life took an abrupt turn when I was raped by my boyfriend (he would say he simply made a executive decision). Being raped was bad enough, but being told it happened because he loved me (he was powerless to resist me, hah!) really messed with my head. If I hadn't found out he was cheating on me, I might have felt I had no choice to marry him since I naively believed no other man would ever marry me.
At the time I thought I was alone in what I experienced and so like many others, I kept the facts of what happened to me to myself.
For 20 years.
This despite trips to Planned Parenthood, appointments with mental health counselors and one on one sessions with several pastors before I turned 18. All of them saw me as someone who had been sexually active. The advice was birth control, imagining my mother in an empty chair and repentance, respectively. My diagnosis after that was that I had gone crazy.
It was the Mike Tyson date rape trial and the ignorant comments I heard about that situation that finally made me determined to express what date rape really felt like. When I began writing my story, I gave the characters fictional names and used composite scenes mostly so I could tell the emotional truth of what happened to me while hiding my personal shame. Also I didn't want to write a memoir from an adult's perspective. I wanted to write a story from the perspective and knowledge I had at the time. I wanted readers to see the world from that limited perspective.
A key lesson I learned from writing my story is that hindsight is NOT 20/20, it is colored by what happens later. In the first draft, my boyfriend was an obvious rapist in every scene. Only he wasn't. He was consistently manipulative, but often in the nicest way.
When my novel CHERRY LOVE came out, I tried desperately to explain to a local reporter that I knew what I wrote, but the protagonist wasn't me.
Imagine my shock when I read the following headline:
NEW AUTHOR WRITES ABOUT DATE RAPE FROM EXPERIENCE
I seriously thought I'd have to relocate. Then something bizarre happened. Women started approaching me and telling me that my story was also theirs. The condemnation I expected for losing my virginity never materialized. One woman who read CHERRY LOVE told me that I had captured what had happened to her down to the words her rapist used to excuse his behavior.
Having my shame out in public for all to see was the start of my healing. I'm not completely free of the abyss yet, but the hope is winning.