On Thursday, a prosecutor will ask Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh about a sexual assault he allegedly committed in high school. His accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, will also be questioned about the night when she says Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, covered her mouth and groped her.
They were both teenagers in the 1980s. Back then, “only yes means yes” was not yet part of the vernacular, but teenagers today say not much else has changed. Boys groping without consent and worse is an experience still firmly entrenched in everyday reality.
HuffPost asked four teens to talk about the predatory incidents they endured in high school, at home and at parties. We have left out last names and, in some cases, used pseudonyms for first names to protect their privacy. The interviews were edited for length and clarity.
When I was a sophomore at a high school in upstate New York, my boyfriend started pressuring me to have sex. We had been dating for a month and a half and he was a senior.
I said, “I’m not ready for that,” because I was a virgin at the time. He would act like he had heard me, but then a few hours later would try to revisit the topic.
One day we were just, like, kissing and touching and taking our clothes off. He brought up the topic of sex again and I made it clear that I wasn’t ready.
We had our hands all over each other anyway, and then he just started having sex with me. As soon as it started, I really did freeze up and quit responding to the situation. We had been getting in fights where he would scream at me, and I was really worried that if I said something, it would turn into a violent sort of thing. I really just lay there. I focused on what the rest of my day looked like.
He definitely didn’t seem to recognize directly afterwards or during that there was anything wrong. The fact that I was suddenly completely unresponsive should have been a clue.
We stayed together for a few more months, but I didn’t tell anyone about the assault for about a year. I was embarrassed of it being such a bad virginity story. At first I thought it was an uncomfortable sexual encounter in the way that everybody has a crappy first time.
But my former boss at summer camp helped me realize that I was raped. I remember I started to cry and I told her everything that happened. She said, “Yeah, that’s assault.”
I was a very vulnerable and insecure high school freshman in New Jersey. An older guy asked me to send him a sexy picture. I thought this guy liked me and I sent him a photo of myself in a bra. He said I was different from the other girls and it seemed like he wanted to date me.
Then he asked me to hang out. He said he wanted to watch a movie, but once I got to his house, it became clear what he wanted to do. I did some of it but not all of it.
The next week at a football game, my friends asked me if I had hooked up with him. He had told everybody, “She gave me a blow job.” It was so terrible. The only reason I did this to begin with was for validation from this guy.
Then I found out he was sharing the photo of me with his baseball team. Someone texted it to a male friend of mine and then he asked, “Is that you?”
At the time I acted like I was proud of it. I wanted the girls who were pretty and popular to like me. They were the kind of girls who went out with guys like this. My actual personality was ashamed of what I did, and I became more ashamed as time went on.
The next semester I was put in a class with the guy who sent my photo around, and it involved a lot of public speaking. I had to do presentations while he was staring at me from across the room.
Last year I had been Instagram messaging with a guy from my university in Nashville. After our Christmas break he said, “Do you want to come over?” I was kind of excited to go to his dorm. I had recently broken up with my high school boyfriend, and I was like, “I can get over this and explore a new relationship.”
We sat on his bed and started watching an episode of “Black Mirror.” Before going over, I had thought we would maybe hook up. But as I was sitting there, I started to feel uncomfortable. I started to feel like, “Should I be doing this? Or is this just an immature reaction to breaking up with someone I cared about?”
I thought, “Yeah, I don’t know that I really want to do this,” but at that point he put his hand on my thigh.
He slowly moved his hand to unbutton my jeans, and then he started touching me. I was in shock and just kind of froze. I just couldn’t really say anything or do anything. I was scared of how he might react.
I felt like it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t comfortable. I was pent up and I wasn’t looking at him. I kind of started disassociating. I guess it was kind of a way to defend myself. I just wasn’t there for most of it.
I feel like he should have just kissed me first. And then he should have asked, “Do you want to go further?” If you’re in a situation where the person seems unenthusiastic, you should ask them if they are comfortable.
I walked out of his dorm and went back to my room. I cried in the shower and was like, “What just happened to me?” I knew it wasn’t just a bad hookup. I felt dirty and bad about myself. It’s the only time in my life where I ever felt like I am not a good person.
I grew up in a small, very conservative town in Ohio where it’s just kind of accepted that men are better than women. If you are married to a woman, they are basically your property.
I didn’t really go to parties because I just knew how the guys acted at school. I didn’t know what they would do to me outside of school, especially if there was a group of men to egg each other on. This past summer I went to a Fourth of July party and a classmate tried to pressure me into having sex with him.
I said, “No, that’s really not my deal. I have a boyfriend.” But he wouldn’t stop and he tried to kind of climb on top of me and kiss me. I went home really early.
In high school, during the evenings, I worked at a pizza shop with a 16-year-old kid from my school. He was always flirting with me, but then things started to escalate. He would threaten to kiss me at work, lock me in the walk-in freezer so we could have sex, and come to my house.
When I told one of my managers about the harassment, he said something to the effect of “guys will be guys, you just have to deal with it.”
I didn’t feel safe at work or even, eventually, at home. When I came in to school every morning, I would be looking around to make sure he didn’t pull up his car behind me or follow me. I always hoped that it wouldn’t escalate to physical assault.
Then one day at work he grabbed my butt. He and a colleague laughed about it, and he said, “Oh, do you like that? Do you want more?” It was disgusting. Had I been able to leave the job that day, I would have, but I couldn’t afford to.
When I told the manager about the incident, he said, “Well, maybe if you flirted back with him a little, he wouldn’t have felt the need to do it.”