The messages, they started in middle school. He seemed nice, a boy my age. He needed a friend. He lived on the other side of the country, a place I never visited.
We twittered. After two weeks and his request, we connected on Facebook, where he shared pictures of him with his older brother. I looked around his page, he was cute, interested in sports. He liked the pictures of me.
Months passed. One day, he asked for a private photo of me with my top removed. He never saw breasts and said it would help him lots in his social life.
No one else will see the picture?
No, no one else, promise.
Promises, I never broke promises. No one in my house broke promises. I sent him the picture.
A month later and on my birthday night, he threatened me. Send more pictures, or this one goes viral. Mom didn’t throw a party at my request, but she made a cake. I didn’t eat my slice, a bite, maybe two.
An hour later, I cut for the first time. Parallel slashes on my forearm. Crimson blood painted white tile. Fascinating, the droplet fall from my arm. I cleaned the mess and wallowed in the temporary high of restored control.
I sent him more pictures.
He disappeared for a year. My first year of high school, he messaged his family vacationed in the east, and we should meet. I declined.
He released my private pictures on the internet.
Students saw them and shared. I lost friends. Many made fun of me. Some called me a slut. One of my few friends could get percs – Percocet – and I bought some.
Cutting, my arms looked more like the surface of Europa than train tracks.
My second year of high school, I overdosed, too much alcohol and too many pills. It almost killed me. It shocked my parents.
I refused to say the reason why. When counsellors persisted, I blamed it on teen experimentation and curiosity.
A month after I came home, the man found me. Yes, a full-grown man in his thirties, not someone my age, and he didn’t look like the pictures on Facebook.
He followed along as I walked downstreet from school, towards the corner convenience store. In a narrow aisle, he brushed against my body, apologised, and pretended he recognised me.
“You’re…Jala, right? You’ve gotten… you’re an adult!”
I didn’t know him. He claimed to be a friend of my father from our old home two towns over. He bought a soda and bag of chips for me. We talked outside for maybe a half-hour. He mentioned things I knew. He offered me a ride home.
We took a wrong turn. Stupid me, I gave him a corrective route, through a rural area with lots of trees and little traffic.
He raped me.
I skipped school, but didn’t go to the hospital, a shelter, or a stupid clinic, and especially not the police. Drugs, I bought more.
Mom found me in the bathroom, passed out in blood from cutting. They brought me to a treatment place. The first two days, I slept. The third night, I ran.
Without keys, I broke into our home the next morning, while my parents worked. I scrounged up my phone and found it full of texts and pictures of me. They mocked my overdose and cutting, told me to do a better job of suicide.
In the cleaning closet, I found bleach and grabbed ammonia. I mixed them and covered my head with a plastic garbage bag. I inhaled the fumes.
(Author’s note: written because I cannot shake off what I read and watched today. My heart aches for Amanda. Enough, enough.)