I feel weird, guys.
My childhood bully apologized to me. Like, a genuine apology for 20 year old hurts.
As a brief summary (brief-ish), I hit puberty kind of early compared to other girls in my grade. Sans growth spurt, because I'm still the same damn height I was when I was 12, but I was a very generous B cup by seventh grade. I figure that's what initially made me a target, but I don't know. There was a guy in my grade who would grab them if he passed me in the halls between classes. He made inappropriate comments which I have since forgotten, but I never forgot how it made me feel.
He didn't stop there, though! In eighth grade, he continued with the groping, and the comments were much, much worse. I distinctly remember being in Language Arts class with a substitute teacher, and this kid (I will call him Luke) leaned over and asked me "what would you do if I raped you?" I got the bathroom pass in a hurry and hid in the girl's bathroom but he followed me, telling me "I'm gonna rape you."
Of course I told nobody. All kids know that bullying gets worse if you tattle.
This continued in high school. At this point, we had no classes together, but he'd follow me in the halls, touching, making threats, and eventually following me home from school. I'd RUN home, and run through the woods rather than on the road, because I could hide better, and could hear if someone followed me.
A teacher saw him corner me once, and she's the only adult who took it seriously. She didn't approach me, and I don't know that she approached him, but she did tell the guidance department. My guidance counselor grilled me until I told her a few details (such as the touching and the threats), and she called him in to hold a mediating session. We could talk it out! Silly kids! Neither Luke nor I said anything. He just grinned smugly and looked at me while I stared at the floor, refusing to talk, because fuck you. Guidance counselor dismissed him and then told me that I was making a big deal about nothing, and didn't I know there were people who have actually been raped? I shouldn't be upset. Boys will be boys.
Unsurprisingly, he became more aggressive, but I was just defeated. Two years later, I was called back into the guidance office for more mediation with him. Nobody spoke, and that's the last contact I had with Luke. He dropped out around that time, but I know he'd been suspended at some point for bringing a pocketknife to school.
My mother got wind of something at some point; I'm guessing from guidance? But I wouldn't talk about it.
Fast forward to two years ago. My mother works at the school, and knows everyone in my hometown. She tells me that Luke came in her office one day. He was like "Mrs. Stone? Like...Jenna's mother?" Yeah. He had been looking for a class list because he needed to contact old classmates to apologize for things. "Jenna is someone I'm trying to find." My mother wouldn't give him my info, of course, but said she'd tell me. Which was awkward as fuck. She asked me "what did he do to you?" Even then, I didn't want to talk about it. I said he harassed me and threatened me, and that was that.
Three weeks ago, she was like "by the way, Luke came in the office again. He had a letter for you, so I sent it. I didn't want you to be surprised." I was like "cool, let's change subjects."
I got the letter. Guys, it was heartfelt and genuine, and in it, he provided his phone, FB, and email, because he wanted to apologize more. I'm not going to call him, I'm pretty stealth on FB for a few reasons, but I am going to paste a few bits and show you why I wanted to give him the opportunity to say more.
I have great hope but zero expectation that you will respond. Again, understandably so. You know our history, and if this is my only chance to let you know, I am sorry. I have gone through immeasurable changes in my life and as result, I reflect. You are probably the oldest amends to whom I owe and am in an apologetic debt to you.
I'll never be able to replace the past, but I have never forgotten, with haunting guilt!
So I emailed him from the email I use for volunteer work. Basically I got your letter, and you said you had more to say?
He emailed me back. I cried. I sent it to myself at work and I have read it and reread it dozens of times in the past two weeks. It was so fucking validating. He's been in NA and has been sober since 2003, and his eighth step was to make a list of people he'd wronged. The ninth step was to make amends, providing that doing so wouldn't cause further hurt. In his original letter, he apologized in case he was bringing up pain I'd pushed away. Here are some things he said in his email.
As I stated to you in the letter, my actions towards you have always haunted me. When I came to NA and began to learn about steps I felt "ok" knowing I may someday have opportunity to address you.
To redress, I make NO attempt to excuse myself by any means at all! My actions were vulgar, damaging, inappropriate, unacceptable by all means, and then many other words as well which could fill this email to its full capacity. Although not a drug induced action at age 12 or 13, we in NA try to be as thorough as possible. You, [Jenna], are the oldest memory to whom I owe amends and certainly well deserved, entitled and long overdue.
I hope this in combination with the letter helps reveal to you my state of sincerity and whole hearted concern. I truly am sorry for my 20+ year old actions. The suspension I incurred back then was nothing compared to mental imprisonment I've endured...which the image of you turning from me when passing in the hallways, burned in my brain, would only signify to me that the mental jail I built for myself holds no comparison to the one I built for you :-( For THAT I am eternally in your debt. We are adults now and "kids will be kids" does NOT brush this aside for me. We try to live our amends in current day life...I live, and have lived my amends to you by putting forth the utmost respect towards woman today, and over the years gone by.
I never even considered forgiving him. He's right. The fear I lived in affected me for years, even past high school. I laugh that it taught me an important lesson in the necessity of minimization (again, fuck you EVERY adult at that school who knew about this except one), and while yes, being raped is terrible (and I do know that from experience, fucking stupid guidance counselor), that doesn't take away from how horrible and terrifying this was. And how I hated my body because I had big boobs and it made me a target, which IS something I still carry today.
But now, I do. I wrote him back today finally, thanking him for the apology, telling him that I forgive him, and wishing him peace and continued success in his sobriety. I also asked that he not only continue to respect women (as everyone should! But I get what he was saying), that he stand up for women and girls being harmed. Also, can I say again how validating it was? Especially when he said he couldn't brush it off as kids being kids? I want to send that to the old guidance counselor.
I just wanted to share, because I've been having so many emotions over the past few weeks.