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The Power of No
Anonymous
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Names have been changed.

When I saw Jack, I didn’t just have butterflies in my stomach; it felt like an entire zoo. He was tall and muscular, with long black hair and bangs that partially covered his eyes. He wore glasses and his skin was tanned. I met him in 8th grade, when we were paired up to be partners in English class. I was immediately attracted to him, but this was the first time I had feelings like this and I didn’t fully understand them. So I thought of him as a good friend.

But my best friend Ellen didn’t like him.

“I don’t think Jack is a good guy to be around,” she said.

“You don’t know him like I do, El,” I said in annoyance.

She tried to convince me Jack was a bad person, saying I shouldn’t trust him. She said he had a reputation for being a jokester. She also heard he often offended people without realizing it and since I was sensitive, she thought he might easily hurt me. I thought she was just jealous of my friendship with him.

Ellen and I hung out every day after school, but I gradually started spending less time with her because she would lecture me about what a bad guy Jack was. I also wanted to head straight home to my laptop to talk to him.

An Unexpected Encounter

Sometimes he would come to my house after school. My grandmother was usually there. But one day he came over while she was at the laundromat. He walked into my bedroom and sat down on the bed next to me.

“Hey, what’s up?” he said with a huge grin on his face.

I smiled and hugged him. He laid his head on my lap. That made me uncomfortable because I never had a guy be so touchy before. But I wanted him to be comfortable, so I didn’t say anything.

Then he started rubbing my leg and telling me how beautiful I was. This made me feel good because I was insecure about my looks. In fact, in that moment, I felt like the happiest girl in the world. I thought he was saying all this to me out of love, from his heart. He leaned in and kissed my cheek. I thought to myself, “Ellen is wrong, he’s a good guy. He cares about me.” I was excited to prove Ellen wrong. Then Jack began rubbing my thigh; I was under his spell. He started touching my arms, face, and back.

This was my first sexual encounter with a boy so I wasn’t sure what to do. He grabbed my hand and moved it toward his penis. I was confused about why he wanted to do that at our young age. I was 13 and he was 14. But I was scared to refuse because I didn’t want Jack to yell at me. I hate being yelled at. He said, “It’s OK, we can take it slow. I’ll be gentle, I promise.”

I wanted Jack to be my boyfriend. I wanted him to be my first kiss. But I didn’t want to have sex with him, which was clearly what he wanted. He had one hand on my hand while the other slid up my shirt. This was going too far.

I grabbed his hand that was under my shirt. “Listen, I’m not doing this, I don’t want to,” I said. He looked at me with desire as if he didn’t hear me and leaned into my neck, kissing it slowly and seductively. I tried to move away and he held onto my hands. I thought to myself, “This isn’t the Jack I know.” Fortunately, I was raised to speak up loudly if I felt something was wrong. And this felt wrong.

Making Him Stop

I looked down and saw he had an erection. I began to touch him, knowing he wanted that; I knew that would distract him. Once he loosened his grip on my hands, I ran to the phone in the living room. Jack came after me.

“Don’t you dare touch me! Either you leave or I’m calling the cops. Which one is it?” I yelled, trying hard not to break down in tears. Jack looked both confused and disappointed. He grabbed his stuff and walked out. I went to my room and started crying because I felt like I’d done something terrible. Rather than stopping it right away I went along for awhile, doing things that adults did, not kids. I thought, “How could he act this way toward me?” The realization that he saw me as a sex object and not an actual person with feelings made me angry.

How could he enjoy something if I wasn’t enjoying it? He never asked, “Do you want to continue?” or “Are you OK?” I was angry that he didn’t care how I felt about sexual activity, that he didn’t listen to me saying I wasn’t ready. I felt dirty and ashamed of myself for touching him.

image by YC-Art Dept

I also felt betrayed because I’d trusted him. He knew things about me I hadn’t shared with anyone else. I thought he was a friend, but he was dangerous. I was also angry at myself that I’d been too blind to see what he was really after.

I called Ellen crying. All she said was: ”I told you, he didn’t want to be your friend, he only wanted to have sex with you. You should’ve listened to me!”

She seemed to care more about being right than whether I was upset. She didn’t care that I almost got sexually assualted by a good friend. I told her I had to go and I cried myself to sleep.

The next morning at school Ellen could tell I was still upset. “Are you OK?” she asked in a worried tone.

“I’m OK,” I said, and headed upstairs.

I heard Ellen calling my name, begging to talk to me but I kept walking. I was angry at her.

Apologies Expected

I expected Jack to apologize. I went straight to my locker which was right next to his. He and his friend Freddy were there; Jack looked up at me and turned away quickly. It was quiet until Freddy spoke up.

“Hey, Jack, don’t be rude. Say ‘hi,’ man,” he said. Jack mumbled a hi without looking at me.

“You guys are acting like you’re exes, weirdos,” Freddy said, walking away.

We had the next class together, which felt uncomfortable. When he was called up to present his project in front of the class I no longer saw him as a friend. Instead I saw him as an animal that only wanted sex.

Ellen called me after school. “I’m sorry, I was self-centered, not thinking of your feelings. I’m sorry that Jack did something so horrible to you.”

I didn’t expect her to say any of that. “I accept your apology, it’s OK,” I said.

“So tell me, how did this all happen? How did you guys even get that far?” she asked.

It made me feel better to tell her everything.

From then on, Jack and I ignored each other in class or in the hall. I’d act as if I didn’t know him; it was difficult but it had to be done for my own self-protection and esteem.

For awhile, I worried other boys would do the same thing he did. I’ve only been interested in one boy since this happened. We were friends and I stopped feeling worried with him after about five months. I had so much confidence in myself that I decided to tell him that I liked him romantically. Sadly he didn’t feel the same way about me and wanted to just remain friends. Although I was upset at first, I was proud of myself for having the confidence to let him know how I felt.

Jack and I never spoke to each other again. After two years, I don’t care about him, but I am disappointed that he never apologized to me.

As upset as I was by the experience, I was proud of myself that I fought back. I have a voice that I use when I need to. I said no because I want sex to occur with the person I’m married to and when I’m mature enough for it. I didn’t want to lose my virginity so young and with someone I’d only known for a few months. When he started pushing himself on me, my first instinct was to make him comfortable, but I’m the one who needs to feel comfortable. My happiness is what matters most.


The writer of this story said, “I’m not doing this, I don’t want to.” Jack may not have known exactly what she meant; that's when they should have had a meaningful conversation about consent. For tips on how to have that conversation, read What Is Consent?

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(NYC-2015-03-03)

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