I met Jimmy when I was thirteen years old. He was the so-called boyfriend of a girl that I had become enamored with when I was in the eighth grade. I referred to him by a different name in my book, “Groomed.” But his real name was Jimmy.
It’s important to acknowledge him by his real name because to do so lends to the reality of what happened when he raped me.
I couldn’t say the words out loud until recently. But it’s necessary to deal with the pain still left behind.
I met Jimmy at my so-called girlfriend’s house. I had only known Dina for a few months, but in the short amount of time, we had become an item. I was the new boy…a new boy with no history. And when you don’t have history, you don’t have baggage.
And yet, I had plenty of baggage.
Jimmy was my last molester. He was at Dina’s house for one reason only and that was to show me that she could get an older man; that indeed, I was too young for her. When I arrived at the house that hot day in April, I remember feeling like it was too warm in the tiny kitchen Jimmy had asked me to go to under the guise of talking to me.
Dina had stormed off in a rage because Jimmy was paying attention to me and not her; yet neither one of us had the wisdom of knowing that this man was a predator. She lacked the mindset of wondering what a twenty-one-year-old man would want with a fifteen-year-old girl. It never occurred to me to wonder why this twenty-one-year-old man would want to befriend me after his girlfriend stormed out of the house in rage.
What I remember most about Jimmy was that he could turn on the charm like a person turning on a light switch when they entered a room. But I later found out that he could turn it off just as quickly.
What Jimmy did over the period of a few weeks was groom me. He came up to the school to meet me at the end of the day. We would go for a quick burger at a nearby hamburger joint. Sometimes we would hang out at his house where we would talk.
The thing that I remember most about him was the way that he would hone in on you. He could make you feel like you were the only thing that mattered.
I had been groomed to keep secrets…by my first and second abuser; and then lastly by my mother.
You see, we lived in West Philadelphia and in order to graduate and go to high school, I had to leave the parochial school that I had been previously enrolled in. I didn’t get along with the eighth-grade teacher and she had threatened to leave me back in a heated battle with her in the principal’s office.
Looking back, I don’t know why my mother choose this school but I was told to tell anyone who asked that I lived at an address in North Philly. It would be easier for me to attend that school and then go to high school like I was supposed to.
I knew how to keep secrets.
But this last and final secret almost broke me. I was told to tell anyone that asked that I lived at place on Nedro Street. In my school, it was implied that I was to keep silent while my homeroom teacher abused me.
And lastly, there was Jimmy.
Jimmy had come up to the school after a day’s outing at Great Adventure. It was late and I really needed to get home, but Jimmy somehow convinced me that it would be better to come to his house and wait for a cab that he would call in order to take me home.
My better judgement told me to go home, but I was tired and didn’t feel like taking the subway and bus home. I tried calling my mother to tell her that I would be a little late but found out that she had changed our phone number. I never thought about calling a relative to let them know that I was safe. I simply thought that a taxicab would be coming to take me home.
There was something awesome about Jimmy. From the moment that we met he was polite and charming. It was within that charm that the grooming process began; and it started with making me the center of his world. Or at least that was the image that he projected.
I remember sitting in his room waiting for a taxicab to come. And then I dozed off. I remember waking up to Jimmy being on top of me. I remember the pain of his act. I remember the radio playing “Dream Maker” by New Birth.
And then it was morning and I knew that I was in trouble. I scrambled for my clothes, my heart pounding in my chest. It was well past noon and I had to get home as quickly as possible. Jimmy didn’t have much to say. He mumbled something about the cab never coming and he handed me a dollar to get home.
I shared this with you to make one point.
I was not at fault for what happened that night. I was not at fault for my situation any more than you were responsible for yours. I wasn’t responsible for being told to keep secrets. You were not responsible for yours.
I was not responsible for what happened to me. You were not responsible for what happened to you. However, if you feel like you were somehow at fault for whatever happened to you when you were younger, please understand that when you were in your early teens, you cannot be held responsible for acts perpetrated by predators.
We grew up in the perfect era. We grew up in an age where the internet did not exist. It wasn’t there to provide us with information to help us. We could not discern between right and wrong as skillfully as we can now.
This is where you must understand that no matter how much you think you were in control of the situation that led to your abuse, you weren’t.
Help is available at the bottom of this article. I would advise you to take a look at it to see if it can help you discern your feelings especially if you hold yourself responsible for what happened to you.
I think back on that night with Jimmy and I sometimes wonder if I, as a thirteen year old boy could have made different choices before the rape occurred.
Sadly enough, I couldn’t.
~ J.L. Whitehead
The National Sexual Assault Hotline is available 24/7: Telephone: 800.656.HOPE (4673) Online chat: online.rainn.org Español: rainn.org/es