Not paradise after all

24 Aug

It was the summer of 1998 and my family was spending spring break at an all inclusive resort in Turkey.  I still remember the 30 minute bus ride from the crowded airport in Istanbul through the deserted plains.  Glancing out the window, there was nothing to see but dilapidated huts and the occasional rail-thin child or mangy mutt strolling along without much direction.  The land, so desolate around us, was so vastly different from the everyday craziness of traffic, businesses, beautiful single family houses and greenery back home that it seemed like an alternate universe.  We never truly realize how fortunate we are until we witness others who don’t even possess a fraction of what we have.

Needless to say, it was a relief to arrive at the luxurious 8 story hotel along the beach with its fountain out front and marbled steps leading to the entryway.  Decorated with fancy artwork on the walls and swarming with crisply dressed bellhops and maids, this scene was a breath of fresh air compared to outside its walls.

We spent the next six days, my family of five, relaxing on the soft sand beach by day and lounging by the lagoon shaped pool each afternoon.  And, with a four star restaurant providing our meals, who wouldn’t be content.  I was sixteen years old at the time and with hormones raging, I was always attentive to attractive men and on the prowl for trouble.  On each trip past the pool bar, I made sure to make eyes at the baby-faced sweet bartender while trying to remain nonchalant at the same time.  My younger sister, meanwhile, had caught the eye of one of the servers in the restaurant and we both enjoyed giggling about our “crushes.”

Now, being a teenager obviously has its temptations for adventure but it can be difficult to attain this while under the close watch of your parents.  So, on the last evening of our trip, my sister and I found ourselves surprised when the two men we had been casually flirting with all week made a point to approach us outside of our parents’ radar to ask what we were doing that night.  I laughed teasingly and stated that we would meet them at a bar near the hotel after our parents turned in for the night.  My sister went along with what I said at the time but I could tell that she was uncomfortable with our committment.  I knew that I would have to quietly convince her to take part up until the moment arrived.

I was giddy with the excitement of forbidden adventure as she and I snuck out of our room that we shared with our younger brother around 10:00 that night, carrying our sandals in our hands and venturing off into the moonlight.  We waited until we got all the way outside before putting our sandals on and crossing the street to where the neon sign lit up the small bar and proceeded to the upstairs deck where we knew our companions would be waiting.

My heart was racing and my conscience told me that this was all wrong but it was so much fun to be in the moment.  We sat with the two men we barely knew and began to converse over Corona Extras and Jack and Cokes.  To this day, I don’t remember how much I had to drink that night but I do remember the exact moment that things took a turn for me.  It must have been a hour or so in and I had drank alcohol before but somehow this time was different.  My head became heavy on my shoulders, my vision began to blur and I had no control over my speech or motor skills.  I knew what drunk felt like but this seemed so much worse and it happened so quickly.  My sister noticed it too and subtlely told me that we should leave.  However, I could not make myself get up from that iron mesh table and my mood made me not want to.  She gently grasped my arm and tried to make me realize that we should go but I wasn’t convincible at the time.  I remember her pleading eyes as she cautiously stood from her chair and begged me to accompany her back to our room.  Somehow, her level head knew to get out of this situation before it was too late.  But, it only took a few minutes of her getting nowhere with me before she decided to head back to the room on her own.

I felt like jelly and have no idea how I got there but the next thing I remember is the cold sand between my toes as I was being led across the beach.  Feeling as if I would fall down at any minute, both men were on either side of me supporting me under my arms.  Then, I was being pushed down onto a plastic lawn chair by the one man while the other one stood about 15 feet away and watched.  As a young girl, I may have flirted with danger on a daily basis but I had yet to lose my innocence at that point.  So, at first when this man started to kiss me I thought it was sweet but his kisses quickly turned agressive, as did his manner of touching me.  Still in a stupor from the alcohol, I tried to snap out of it and scramble free.  But, this proved to be a feat – I was so weak and he was so strong and determined.  With the sound of waves crashing against the shore and the bright stars glistening over the beach and water, what would normally be a romantic setting became a suffocating prison.

I remember struggling and beginning to cry as I said “no” when I could sense the situation growing to something I didn’t want.  He looked down at me and sort of smiled smugly, thinking I was joking I guess.  When I pressed my hands down next to me on the chair and tried to raise myself, he grabbed my wrists and abruptly placed them up next to my head.  His hands began to roam in places I was uncomfortable with and his lips mapped all over my body as I lay there helpless with him stradling me.  I continued to cry and wrestled for a few minutes and almost lost hope when the other man approached us in the darkness.  Oh my goodness I thought.  I’m going to be raped and no one will even know what happened to me!  My chest felt like it was going to explode as I began to say my prayers in my mind.  How could I have been so naive to put myself in this situation with people I barely knew!  Why didn’t I do the sensible thing and leave with my sister?!  

I know now that some sort of angel was watching out for me that particular night as I thought all of my worst nightmares were going to come true.  Just when I knew I was going to pay for being so stupid, I was given a huge break; the second man said something in Turkish to the man on top of me in a hurried tone and he sat up and released me.  I don’t know if an onlooker was nearby or what made them back off of me but I was instantly grateful.  Still feeling nauseus, woozy and distraught I jumped up off the chair with impressive speed and quickly began to head toward the path back to the hotel.

Once I reached the beginning of the wooden fence at the edge of the sand, I paused only for a second to catch my breath between sobs before I ran with everything I had left in me back to the safety of my room.  The last thing I remember about that night was closing the door of the room and sitting up against it for hours crying about how much worse the encounter could have been and how disgusting I felt for what did happen.

For years after that I didn’t tell anyone about what happened that night; ashamed of what I brought on myself.  I didn’t even share with my sister the whole truth of how bad things eventually got, trying to shield her from the same hurt I felt.  I was embarassed to even tell my best friend.  And, I even began dating another guy my senior year of high school that following fall but I was not the same woman.  The relationship didn’t last long because I was skittish around any guy at that time.  Typical teenage boys are only programmed about sex and if you don’t seem interested, you are just classified a tease and they lose interest.  It wasn’t until I was halfway through my freshman year in college that I was able to get close to a guy and trust that he wouldn’t hurt me.  I can’t say that I wasn’t still scared of the intimacy aspect but I at least didn’t hyperventilate and panic at the thought.  In fact, the only person I told about that horrible experience at that time was my boyfriend and my mom.

To this day, only a few select people have ever been let in on what happened to me/could have happened to me in Turkey 13 years ago because I have been ashamed.  But, this is such a common thing that happens to young women in the blink of an eye every day, that I felt it necessary to tell my story in this forum.  I thank God every day for the strength he gave my sister to walk away before she was put in more danger and for granting me the break I needed to get away when I did.  I lived for so many years with anger at myself for coaxing my younger sister into this type of position, as I was supposed to set a good example for her.  I had let her down and I couldn’t face telling her the truth of how she was stronger than me to get away.  I don’t hold her responsible in any way for how things happened that night, I am just incredibly grateful that she was not burned as badly as I was.  I love my sister so much and I don’t know how I would have lived with myself had something happened to her too. 

 

When prompted to tell the story of my worst memory, I could have easily discussed some other less significant incident easier to tell but that would not be true to heart.  Teenagers make stupid choices believing that nothing bad will happen to them and this is my story of how I found otherwise.  If I can reach only one woman by educating them of the dangers that are out there, than I will have at least hopefully saved that one person the emotional stress that I have bared on my own for all of these years.

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9 Responses to “Not paradise after all”

  1. hubby August 24, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

    I am proud of you babe, I know this wasen’t the easiest blog to write, but if it helps even 1 girl it’s worth it. I always love reading your writing but this was the hardest one to read. I love you.

  2. Frelle August 24, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    Im so sorry you suffered through that night, and that it made you so skittish around men afterward.. that you didn’t speak out then. I know I didn’t when I was living through my own hell as a teenager, but it always hurts to read that people have kept secrets that have chipped away at their soul like these do. I hope that sharing your story and advocating for women in this way brings you more peace. thank you for being brave and sharing your story.

  3. Charles August 24, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    Thank you, Dear Jenny for telling your story. A similar thing happened to me when I was about your age, but it was someone I had dated for several years, and he didn’t stop where the guys stopped for you. I was scarred because someone i had trusted for years turned on me and hurt me. He told me he wanted me to get pregnant so I wouldn’t go off to college and leave him and have to marry him. How horrible!! It was incredible to accept that someone would hurt me to exert control over my life for his own selfishness. I have had trouble trusting men all my life as a result. I have told several people along the way and it has helped me heal somewhat. You are right to tell the story and try to help others. I commend you for sharing the truth!

    I love you! Aunt Cyndi

  4. Sarah August 24, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

    Jen…I know we talked this morning but I wanted to say how incredibly sorry I am that this happened to you. I feel so horrible and that I should’ve stayed with you no matter what would happen. I was young and very scared…didn’t know what to do. I know it won’t ever go completely away but I wish there was something I could do to make that experience disappear. I love you and really wish you never went through that. Hopefully this will reach out to other girls and women and help someone else out. Love you

  5. Charles August 24, 2011 at 10:35 pm #

    When I was 4 years old, I was sexually abused by a male teenaged cousin. There are some things that one will never forget.
    Thanks for having the courage to share your story, Granma is proud of you too.
    She was dated raped in her sophmore year of college.

  6. Cheryl @ Mommypants August 25, 2011 at 3:32 am #

    What a horrible, horrible thing. We are so fearless as teens, so naive. I am thankful you got away, and that your sister did to. It is amazing how a lapse in judgement can really impact your entire life. Hoping the telling of this has brought you some level of peace.

  7. stickynotequeen August 25, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    I want to thank everyone for their responses to this post. This story was incredibly hard to tell but I’m glad I did. I wanted to attempt to free my mind of some of the burden I’ve been carrying and reach out to others – I feel I have succeeded. I always appreciate the feedback and I was amazed to receive so much. I am truly saddened that there are so many others who share in similar experiences as this, though, and pray that they find peace one day too!

  8. Kevin August 26, 2011 at 3:28 am #

    So sorry you had to experience such a terrible thing, But at the same time I’m very proud of you for telling your story. I’d like to think your experience will make at least one young girl think twice about a decision that could change her forever. Thank you Jen

  9. Danielle [Left of Lost] August 29, 2011 at 3:58 am #

    I’m so sorry that you had to experience that. You are a strong woman.

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