Dear Fearful

Dear Zoe,
I’m a guy in high school. I’m a senior about to go off to college. My last year was going so great! My classes were so easy, I learned how to play the keyboard, and I even had my first kiss! It was all going stellar until one day when I decided to stay after school to work on a group project with some friends. We were working on the project in the school cafeteria. It was me, and two other male friends. During one of our many little breaks, one of my friends, whom I’ll call “C”, took my phone and playfully ran around trying to get me to chase him. This wasn’t a problem, because as a group of teenage guys, we always teased each other. After running maybe three, laps around the cafeteria, he ran, with my cellphone, into a large closet that was called the “band closet”. It was used to keep all of the school’s orchestral instruments.
I knocked for a bit, asking him to come out, still laughing, and the door opened, but I didn’t see him inside. I walked in, and as soon as I did, the door closed behind me. I turned to see C standing in front of the door, blocking my way out. I, still thinking that he was being silly, asked him to stop playing around and return my phone so that we could finish the project. He told me that I wasn’t getting my phone back.
At this point, I felt like something was a bit off. I started to feel a bit uncomfortable. I asked him what he meant, and he locked the closet door so that no one could walk in. He told me that if I wanted my phone back I’d have to do him a favor. I took a nervous step back and asked him to elaborate. He pushed me down onto a chair and pulled his pants down, demanding that I would perform oral sex on him. He was standing, lower half exposed, right in front of my face. I was terrified. I was frozen and shaking. He was taller, more muscular, and athletic, I was a skinny artist. I couldn’t fight him off. Looking back at it now, I should’ve probably yelled for help, but I was too scared that he’d beat me up. I guess I sat there frozen for too long, because he aggravatedly whispered for me to hurry up and do it. As he was getting more irritated, someone knocked on the closet door and he quickly pulled his pants up. This saved me from having do anything. He angrily told me that I was “too f*cking slow” and left the room. When he left, there was no one outside of the closet door.
After that, C left my phone, packed up his stuff and went home. Still feeling scared out of my mind, I pretended to be happy, sat back with my other friend and kept working on the project until we were ready to leave. I never told him about what happened between me and C, but I had him walk me back to my house that evening. He thought it was weird because I usually walked alone, and asked me about it. I told him that something just felt a bit off, and he seemed to accept that answer. It’s been a week and whenever C and I are around each other, it is very uncomfortable. C has never brought that day up, and I haven’t either. I honestly feel scared and I don’t trust him anymore. I have almost every class with him and it’s hard to concentrate because I can feel his eyes on me. I feel anxious whenever I’m around him, and now I don’t eat at the lunch table with my friends anymore since he usually eats there too.
I try to push my fears away, but I can’t. Sometimes I go home and cry because I feel like a wimp because I didn’t stand up to him that day in the band closet. My dad always tells me that a man should be able to fight his battles, but for some reason, I feel like I can’t.
Sometimes I wonder who knocked on that closet door. It was probably my other friend who was working with me and C on the project―he has never said anything about me and C in the closet either.
I just feel like my life is a wreck now! What a great way to end my high school career, right? What do I do? Do I report him? I don’t know if I should. I have no idea if I’d even be taken seriously because of my gender. Do I keep trying to ignore my feelings? I’m so confused.
― Fearful


Dear Fearful,
Years like this are always the toughest, when you’ve had a positive start and things are looking up and then something happens to just ruin that uphill climb. I’m sorry. In regards to your problem, C is very childish for taking your phone and running around like that, you’re in high school for heaven’s sake! To start, you had EVERY right to feel the something was off and I am incredibly sorry that something like this happened to you.
I need you to tell yourself though that frozen and shaken are just about all anyone might possibly do in a situation like this where they are caught completely off guard. Your brain shut down due to shock and it is perfectly fine that you did not yell. As far as you know, if you had yelled, the situation could’ve gotten worse.
DO NOT PUSH AWAY YOUR FEARS. Talk about this.
How close are you and this other friend who walked you home? Could you talk to him about what happened?
In the classes you and C have together could you confide in your teachers? See if you can move seats so C is directly in front of you and can’t see you unless he completely turns around.
With your dad, I don’t know who he is as a person, I don’t know his moral compass, but I would hope that if you explained to him what happened he wouldn’t react saying “you should know how to fight”.
Focusing more on the steps you can take now, you have a few options if you chose to report what has happened to someone.
If you want to keep this within the school and not blow it out of the water and get the authorities involved, I would suggest talking to your school’s guidance counselor, ask for full confidentiality, explain what happened, and request and in-school restraining order or no-contact order. I did this my senior year of high school actually when I broke up with my abusive ex-boyfriend. It made me feel a lot safer. He wasn’t allowed to talk to me, ask people to talk to me for him, and in the classes we had together, the teacher moved his seat as far from mine as possible and never paired us up for any group work. It truly helped me a ton.
If you want the authorities involved, tell your parents. Go right to them, mom or dad or both, and tell them what has happened to you and that you want C to be in trouble for what he’s done. You are going to need their support immensely if you go this route.Going this route would mean you want to press charges against him or get a more legalized restraining order that keeps him away from you for a long time. (somewhat of a huge jump in what happened, could be taken as an over-reaction, but I think you could do this if you really feel that it is necessary).
If you don’t want to involved the school, your parents, or the authorities, can you reach back out to some of your friends? I’m sure some of them are wondering what’s happening between you and C and why you haven’t been around. Maybe pick the one friend you’ve been closest to and explain what happened between you and C and why you’re not talking or hanging around him anymore.
You can’t go through this alone though. You need support, someone to talk to, to hold your hand, to make you feel a little bit better about what is going on in your head. You deserve to finish high school on a high note with a solid group of friends by your side making as many memories as you can in the time you have left so that you can finish the year and leave, walking into college with the utmost positive feelings inside you.

I hope I’ve helped in some way. I can’t imagine what you’re going through but I hope that you can find the right support to make the rest of the school year worthwhile.

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