My name is Marissa. I am from Montclair, New Jersey.
Growing up as an only child, I sought out older kids and wanted to be taken under their wing. When I was 17, I was a camp counselor and I had some friends like that, and I had one friend who was, you know, a few years older than me. One night, we were out and we all went to a baseball field and everybody was, you know, just drinking and hanging out. Curfew came, she walked me back to my bunk and she tried to kiss me. And I was completely shocked.
Later, she had said, you know, “You were giving me all the signs, you were flirting with me and being touchy.” But I really had no idea I was doing any of that. I just wanted to impress this cool older girl. But I thought about it and I was like, well, you know I’ve kissed boys but never kissed a girl, so might as well try it.
So for the last couple weeks of the summer, we were hooking up in secret. After camp ended, she stayed in the US for a couple weeks and part of that time she stayed with me. So we started dating we were using the word girlfriend but I – you know, I talked to her about feeling really confused and unsure about what that meant for me, and I needed to take the time and have the opportunity to learn more about myself and be with other people. She was really upset. She took it really personally and, you know, so I felt really guilty on top of everything else.
She would come and visit me and she was living in northern England and, you know, living with her parents and she was working as a temp, and I was just still, you know, a kid in high school. I felt like I couldn’t talk to her about a lot of these things. I was left talking to my friends. I started joking with one of my friends – and I had known him for awhile and he was friends with my girlfriend also. And, you know, I would joke with him about all of us hooking up, basically saying it would solve all of our problems because I would get to hook up with a guy and it wouldn’t really be cheating.
She lived in England and he and I lived pretty far apart but a few months after that, he was visiting at the same time that she was visiting. We were hanging out on vacation by the pool and I suggested to her, like, “Why don’t we invite him to join?”
She was like, “No, I don’t want to do that.” You know, how could you suggest something like that?” We had a lot of friends around us so she couldn’t really you know make a scene. So we all just kind of let it pass and started drinking. A few hours later, she was flirting with him and, you know, splashing in the pool and being touchy. And then I got upset because I felt like she was doing it to prove a point. Trying to show me, you know , like, “This is what you wanted,” and kind of like, “Doesn’t that suck?” So I, you know, huffed off into the house at one point, and came back and they were making out. They didn’t see me and I just kind of took off for a little while.
When I came back into the house they were making out in a bed. And I confronted her She kind of followed me into the next room. I heard her slurring and I was like, “We’re not gonna, you know, solve any of this when everyone is so drunk. Like, we just need to go to sleep.”
We went upstairs but there are a lot of people in the house and all the beds were full. He was still in the bed where we were supposed to sleep and there was nowhere else for him to go. So we went back upstairs and she kept saying, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry. Let me show you how sorry I am.” And he was right there. And so I just felt obligated because she had already started, you know, with him.
I said, “Let’s go to sleep. Let’s just go to sleep.” But she was being really affectionate and rubbing my back and getting really, really close to me and just kept saying again, “Let me show you how sorry I am.” And I said no seven, eight, nine times. You know, after the tenth time, I was just kind of like maybe the fastest way is to just go through it instead of avoid it.
Thirty or forty-five minutes later, I left and went into the bathroom. And it was probably four in the morning at this point. And she came and she was like, “Are you okay?”
And I was like, “No, of course I’m not okay.” And then again she was crying and crying and apologizing. Finally, we just went to sleep and the next morning, she didn’t really remember what had happened. So after he left, I told her and she was just as upset. Again, she kept using that same line over and over again – Let me show you how sorry I am. I love you. I stopped her because I had said no so many times and I was just like, I can’t do this. But she was staying with me for another six days and so we kind of had to just sweep it under the rug.
I went off to college and was having these nightmares. I felt really disconnected from all of the students around me. It was very preppy and very stuffy and very conservative and – so she was kind of an outlet for me and I had – I had this consistent thing. You know, we had been together for a year. I needed whatever amount of good thing that she could still give me to get me through the situation I was in. And we ended up staying together for that whole year
My sophomore year, I ended up transferring schools and I was at a liberal arts college. And I almost immediately felt like I could kind of stand up on my own two feet. As soon as I felt happy, things deteriorated really quickly with my girlfriend. And she was like, “You’re not making enough sacrifices. You know, you’re not spending enough time with me.” Even though she was still living in England, so it was all, you know, phone calls and video chatting. At one point, I had to leave the library to call her because she was upset. I just thought to myself, if even homework upsets her what am I doing here, you know? So I was able to finally break up with her. And it stuck.
When I describe it to people the few times that I have described it, I call it coercive assault. When consent is given after 10 or 15, you know, declinations, it doesn’t count. This was a couple of years before sexual assault had come into the national conversation. And I also really never thought about sexual violence as something that could be perpetrated by a woman, so it took me a really long time to figure out that it had been really violating and that was why I had nightmares for so long. Luckily, by the time that switch, kind of, flipped for me and I realized what had happened, I was in therapy and I had this community around me that made me feel really safe. I was able to, throughout the whole time, you know, the few years after the incident happened, make a lot of progress just being comfortable with myself and accepting being queer and, you know, figuring out what the limits of that was – were for myself. It took a couple years after that to be – to feel accepting of myself but eventually I got to pride.