When senior Ella Mary arrived at a friend’s house, she looked forward to an afternoon of playing video games and listening to music. She sat with her friend, and the pair became invested in the popular video game Grand Theft Auto until the boy asked Mary to make out with him. Immediately, the tone of the afternoon shifted. Mary refused, reminding the boy of her sexuality.
“[I said], ‘I’m not interested in men,’ and he was like, ‘So it doesn’t mean anything,’ and I was like, ‘Well, to me it does because it’s kind of, like, strange,’” Mary said. “He started to kiss me, and I just kind of just stood there because I was in a panic, and I didn’t know what to do besides freeze.”
Mary said, ‘No,’ but the boy continued to make sexual advances. He took off her clothes and began intercourse while Mary lay silently, staring at the ceiling and trying not to feel what was happening. Though Mary was on her period, the boy continued his advances. After he satisfied himself, the boy asked for more from Mary sexually. Again, Mary said, ‘No’ and escaped into the bathroom with the boy trailing behind, trying to get her not to panic.
“He did not use a condom,” Mary said. “He said his pullout game was strong.”
In the bathroom, still fully naked, Mary said she took less than five minutes to clean herself.“[During the assault], I was like, ‘This is all very new to me. I don’t like this at all,’ Mary said. “I knew from the start I wouldn’t like men, so I was like, ‘This is very weird. This is uncomfortable, and I do not like it at all.’”
The boy took her virginity.
With a history of using self-harm to cope with her negative emotions, Mary knew the only thing she wanted to do in the moments following her assault was to cut herself. Looking for something to numb her sickening feelings, Mary searched for a knife in the bathroom. Mary told the boy she did not feel good about what happened, and she said he attempted to convince her everything that happened was all right in order to get her to calm down.
Still feeling disgusted, Mary put her clothes back on, focusing on Grand Theft Auto, and sat as far from the boy as she could until her father could pick her up. When her dad arrived, Mary got into the car without saying a word.
Later that night, Mary told the boy she no longer wanted to be friends. She said he texted her incessantly afterward, saying, “I lost a best friend,” and posting about the end of their friendship on the social media site, Snapchat.
“I’m not entirely sure [he knows he did something wrong],” Mary said. “I know I [direct messaged] him one night and was really frustrated, and he was like, ‘Well, you didn’t say no.’ And I was like, ‘Alrighty then, never mind. I’m not even going to try to talk to you anymore.’”
“I know I [direct messaged] him one night and was really frustrated, and he was like, ‘Well, you didn’t say no.’ And I was like, ‘Alrighty then, never mind. I’m not even going to try to talk to you anymore.’”
After she confronted him electronically, Mary stopped talking to the boy altogether. She said she kept to herself for more than two months before she decided to tell a close friend about her experience. Since sharing what happened to her the first time, Mary has only told three people about her assault, including a friend’s parent.
“[My friend’s mom] called the school, and she didn’t give names, but she gave kind of the situation of what happened, and the school told me to get a therapist. I was like, ‘Okay,’” Mary said. “[I didn’t go to the therapist] because I don’t really want my parents to know why I wanted to see a therapist.”
Instead of visiting a therapist, Mary turned to self-harm just as she did the day of the assault. Mary said the boy knows she has a history of self-harm, but because she no longer talks to him she does not believe he is aware that his actions caused her to mutilate her body in an attempt to erase the experience from her memory.
“I know I self-harmed whenever I felt bad about it,” Mary said. “That’s how I kind of cope with things, so I just kind of self-harmed to let all my anger out on something. So that’s what I did for a couple of months.”
While dealing with her new reality, Mary said she felt frustrated and disgusted with the boy, especially since she had to see him every day in class. Mary also said her friend, Delilah Cooper, is afraid he is doing the same thing he did to Mary to younger girls because Cooper said he hangs around a lot of freshmen. Additionally, Mary said the boy is involved with one of her female friends.
“My [other] friend is with [the boy], and I get really frustrated when they’re together because I know he did do bad things, and I don’t want something to happen to [her like] that happened to me, and she gets really mad about [when I bring it up],” Mary said. “I guess with friendships I get really personal about [their relationship].”Even before her assault, Mary knew the boy had a past of sexual experiences with other women, including some of her friends. Long before the boy got physical with her, however, he sent Mary a long paragraph over text about what he wanted to do to her. Cooper said a couple of other girls showed her messages he’s sent them on the same topic.
“Whenever people would react to [the text] and send back responses he’d be like, ‘Someone must have hacked my account,’” Cooper said.
After Mary received the sexual text, she said she told the boy she was gay but continued to be friends with him despite the message’s content. Mary said she did not want to lose him as a friend at that point because he was the first person she interacted with when she moved to Columbia, and she said he was a good friend. Because of her initial friendship with the boy, Mary said she trusted him not to do anything sexual with her. When he broke her trust and assaulted her, Cooper wanted Mary to take immediate legal action.
“I did and still want her to go to the police about [the assault], particularly because that’s, in my mind, what should happen,” Cooper said. “I’m really afraid of him doing it to younger girls or other girls he hangs out with.”
Mary does not know why the boy continued to make sexual advances toward her despite her saying no and her sexuality. For now, Mary said she does not think about what happened to her much, but when she does she becomes anxious and worried about the whole experience. She said she uses cutting to get all her anger and rage out, and when she feels extremely emotional; she cries.
“I see him every day, but I don’t acknowledge he’s there,” Mary said. “He tries to talk to me [in person]. I ignore him.”
Art by Moy Zhong