I was dressed in plaid from shoulders to knees in a dark gray and navy blue plaid. They were colors much too dark for a five-year-old, but the gloomily colored frock couldn’t deter my excitement: it was the first day of kindergarten. I pulled up my navy knee-high socks and straightened my round white collar.

I was off.

Little did I realize the weight of my uniform at the time. 

Wearing it, of course, would never quite give me the same satisfaction as it did in kindergarten after I found out other kids got to wear real clothes to school — a luxury I was never afforded. But my parents made it clear: Catholic school was a luxury, one that I should be grateful for.

Honest to God, I never was.

The realization that my schooling would be different than most kids started with my uniform and only became more evident from there. Religion was, obviously, a large part of the curriculum. 

The story begins on a late September night, in an AIM chat. 

There, religion, institution, and education were intertwined.

 The Catholic God and doctrine were woven into our education, not only in the subject matter, but taught, as a general rule, that our behavior and our lives should be lead, generally, under the shadow of morality, compassion, and understanding. 

To put it simply, to ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?” constantly, was the goal.

However, that question was rarely asked by my eighth-grade teachers.

The story begins on a late September night, in an AIM chat. 

The most popular boy in school—let’s call him Nick—was messaging me. I wasn’t the most popular, prettiest, or skinniest girl in school. I was just weird, aggressive, annoying me, who was in a euphoric state of validation as we messaged back and forth.

He asked me to webcam. 

I felt even more special. 

Then he asked me to take my clothes off. 

I was confused, then embarrassed, then nervous. I said no. He said no one would know. I said no. He asked what the big deal was. All the other girls did it, he said. So then I did.

“You’re so hairy.” I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to be.

I shaved everywhere every day for the next five years. It didn’t take long for him and his friends to start calling me “carpet” and “bush” at school. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that that meant that there were pictures and that at the very least, all of Nick’s friends had seen them.

Still then, I didn’t fully understand the weight of the situation. 

While I was going to be ridiculed for the rest of the year, shaving my body to please these boys that had done so much already to hurt me and violate my privacy, I was still prepared to handle it, and handle it alone.

It was a few days before Halloween that I received a text message from one of Nick’s friends, who we’ll call Joe. It said, simply, that could I either do what he wanted or have my picture sent to everyone at school—my choice. At the time, I had estimated that about five people had seen those pictures of me, but if it went to everyone, I knew it would have been a whole new game. 

Within a blink of an eye, I saw the infinite sharing possibilities.

Even at 13, I knew what that meant for a career or a college or even a selective high school. Google my name and a naked picture appears. 

That would be devastating to my future.

Perhaps even more than that, though, I was thinking about how much worse my life at school would be. It was enough to have these boys call me names, but the judgment I would receive from everyone else would just be too much. No one would think it was okay. 

Everyone would judge me for it—the same reason why I kept it all a secret.

So while I didn’t want that picture anywhere, I also knew in the back of my mind and in the knot in my stomach that became permanent that year that what Joe wanted from me wouldn’t be okay. I tried to remain in limbo for as long as possible, dangerously wavering between my two “choices.”

Everyone would judge me for it—the same reason why I kept it all a secret.

I had spent the time between Halloween and Christmas trying to forget about that text, but being quietly reminded of it every time Joe would take my arm in between class periods and ask me to skip the next class. 

Excuses poured out of me every time, but one Friday a few weeks before Christmas break, my excuses ran too thin and he led me into the boy’s locker room.

Desperately, I told him we shouldn’t. 

I told him it was a bad idea. I told him we’ll get caught. He told me, “Just let it happen,” pulled down his pants and put me on my knees.

I closed my eyes, for I don’t know how long until I heard a noise.

A teacher walked in after we were both decent and lead us back to our homerooms, looking disappointed in our “shenanigans.” 

That weekend, I considered myself safe. I had followed through, I was free. Besides how much I have struggled throughout the years with just that single event, I was by no means free of this situation. 

The following Monday morning, I was suspended for “skipping homeroom.”

On the car ride home with my dad, as he alternated between yelling and solemnly expressing his deep disappointment in me, I had only wished for one thing: for someone in that office to ask me why I was there. 

Without saying a word to me, they suspended me. 

I realized then that I had already been written off. I realized that the morality they preached didn’t apply to me. Not at that moment, and not the rest of the year.

I closed my eyes, for I don’t know how long until I heard a noise.

While I was suspended, one of my teachers had told the entire class that the reason for my suspension was me “fooling around with Joe in the locker room.” Everyone knew in less than a day. The news was confirmed—by a teacher no less—I had given a blowjob to Joe in the locker room. 

I was a confirmed slut.

It was no longer appropriate to be friends with me. It was no longer necessary to treat me like the scared, helpless thirteen-year-old girl I was. I no longer deserved mercy or love or compassion. I didn’t even deserve someone to ask me what was going on.

I witnessed the reality of innocence. 

I had committed an act, and I was no longer innocent. I saw it in the eyes of my teachers and my friends and their parents. I was tainted. I watched their respect for me dissolve within a day. Those fifteen minutes became a defining moment in my life. That was who I was, and that was it. 

Therefore, their Christian doctrine no longer applied to me.

At that point, I couldn’t tell anyone what actually happened, because I was going to be on the defense and I couldn’t handle that. That year, my Facebook was hacked and obscene, incredibly hurtful comments were put on it. 

With my newly acclaimed “slut” status, boys would text me constantly — “If you did it for him, why can’t you do it for me?” 

Parents and teachers were gossiping about how bad of an influence I was. Students would make snide and cruel remarks to me day in day out. Some days, I would get so infuriated that I would hit the boys that were bullying me. The teachers would pull me aside and reprimand me. I suppose there, only physical abuse was unwarranted.

This went on for the rest of my eighth-grade year. I just wanted to keep my head down. I just wanted to get out.

But on a spring morning, Joe accidentally dropped his phone in class and the teacher confiscated it.

At the time, I was convinced this wasn’t a problem for me until I later found out that the teacher searched through his phone and found those infamous pictures of me. But, like these teachers characteristically had done, they never talked to me about it. But they sent Joe to child pornography counseling because legally, I was a child.

Even while the law considered child pornography a crime, and I, technically, the victim of this crime, I was still never confronted by a teacher. From then on, I haven’t been able to wrap my head around what was going on in that group of eighth-grade teachers. They saw not only the pictures, but me acting out, being extremely, uncharacteristically isolated, and my grades declining.

I have gone over that year in my head too many times. 

In retrospect, I feel like I had every sign of someone in need. But, I swear, I believe those teachers were blinded by their judgment and their willingness to see children fail. It was too easy to gossip about me, to simply call me a bad influence for an event that they had no actual knowledge of than to reach out to me.

That year, in eighth grade, for those reasons and for many more, I wanted to reach out to a higher power. I wanted to believe in salvation and I wanted to believe in goodness in humanity. I wanted to pray, to feel some comfort when I felt abandoned and violated and rejected. 

More than anything, I wanted to believe. 

But I didn’t know how to when those that had taught me religion had defied it so crucially.

  • Anonymous writes, no matter what, and tells their story regardless of the circumstances.