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I remember choking back vomit as I took those 4 steps onto the bus – knowing he would be there, waiting. I remember that look in his eyes. It was something I’d never encountered. It wasn’t until I was older that I could articulate what I saw there. A mix of glee and intense hatred. He was a tightly wound knot of malice, jealousy, and insecurities. I remember the mini spirit rallies I would perform for myself daily. “You’re tough!” You’ve dealt with scarier things.” “He’s bigger, but he doesn’t know you practice swinging your book bag.”I remember bringing a hat so I wouldn’t have to cut chewed Starbursts out of my hair anymore. Or a hooded jacket so my neck wouldn’t be wet from spit for the hour it took to get home.I remember knowing that whatever I did, I had to keep it from my mom. She was still grieving and I knew she couldn’t take any more worry or heartache.

But unlike the stories others have to tell, I don’t remember having to deal with those torments AND the thought that he might sexually assault me. He was older and stronger and meaner, but he never threatened my innocence. 

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I fully understood why he was the way he was. His father was a sex offender – registered even. He grew up in a home with a man who traded in pedophilia. My first bully likely suffered in ways that stole his innocence. Maybe he could see that I was gay. Maybe he spotted something about me that his young mind wrongfully equated to his own father’s sickness. 

All too often women have stories like this to tell – his and mine.

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