I’m weirded out!

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

I’m a junior in high school, but, when I was in sixth grade, three boys tormented me with rude comments, especially about my body.

I was just starting to develop and I was slower than other girls. I was skinny and shy. I kept to myself and didn’t tell anyone what they were saying, except one friend. She was protective of me and she told them to leave me alone.

But, as soon as I was alone, the boys would corner me and say sexual things to me, especially one of the boys. He would threaten to do things to me after school and told me if I told anyone, I would “get it.”

He never actually did anything to me and neither did the other guys. But I still worried that they would.

My friend moved with her family the next year. We stayed in touch for awhile and she would always tell me to be strong and stick up for myself.

I never told my little sisters, my parents, or anyone else.

In eighth grade, I started playing basketball. I wasn’t home much and I was always with my team.

The boys stopped bothering me, except once, one of them threatened me again when I left the locker room.

Fast forward to high school … I became more confident and kept playing basketball. I also got tall and I’m not so skinny. In fact, I look pretty good and get compliments. I’m hoping to get a scholarship to a great university.

One of those guys asked me to go out the other day. He never said anything about what happened when we were younger and never apologized! I said I was too busy. I don’t get it. He seems different and I kind of want to go out with him. Do you think he could have changed?

I’m weirded out.

Dear weirded out,

You are to be applauded for overcoming your shyness and gaining confidence after being sexually bullied and abused.

It was good that you had a friend to help you. She seems to have indirectly helped you to find your courage to start defining yourself in a positive way. You did not allow fear to stop your action steps.

However, we want all girls, and boys too, to know that when you are being threatened in any way, to report any threats to your parents, teachers, principal and any adult you trust. It does not matter if you were threatened only once. You were consistently being put in danger and at risk by those threats.

Sexual threats are threats of violence, not attraction. One of the definitions of bullying and abuse means using force, threats, intimidation, and/or dominance and power over someone else. This can be habitual (which happened to you) or it may occur once.

Threats can escalate and could have caused you even more damage than the emotional harm you incurred.

You have an opportunity to guide others who are put into similar situations, to speak out against violence with your current confidence. You can create awareness for younger girls and boys who may think that saying something threatening isn’t really that bad.

We suggest that you don’t challenge your sense of well-being by trying to find out if your perpetrator really has changed, because the outcome could set you back or cause permanent harm.

Offer a strong “no” to any further date requests from him. Offer no explanations.

We think you will grow from this experience and find many worthy dates. Best to you! You deserve it!

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri

Gaslighting: What is it?

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual, hoping to make the person question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the victim and de-legitimize the victim’s belief.

Instances may range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. The term owes its origin to Gaslight, a 1938 play and 1944 film. It has been used in clinical and research literature.

Gaslighting: Know It and Identify It to Protect Yourself in Psychology Today

The film, Gaslight:

IMDb summary:

Years after her aunt was murdered in her home, a young woman moves back into the house with her new husband. However, he has a secret that he will do anything to protect, even if it means driving his wife insane.

Full IMDb entry.