Trigger warning: Before reading this post, please be aware that it includes descriptions of sexual assault and rape.
I was 17, had a couple of close friends, was shy, and my self-esteem was non-existing. I had never done anything more than to kiss a guy, and my experience with boys was very slim. All I knew, I heard from my girlfriends. I loved traveling, and I was ready for my 1-year adventure in Oklahoma, USA. It was a small town with around 400 people, but I was still open for everything, and had high hopes. I said goodbye to my amazing family when I got on that night bus going to Gardermoen, and waved. 1 year until next time.
When I arrived in Tulsa airport, I was met by my new host parents; mom, about 45, working at the local fast food diner, and dad, around 50, staying home because of a leg injury. They had very worn clothes that looked like they were bought in the 90’s. From the first moment I met them, I got the impression that looks was a very unimportant factor in their daily lives. I was open for everything, and found it exciting that they were so different and “hillbilly-like”.
The weather was excruciatingly hot, and we got into their pickup and drove for about an hour before we were “home”.
When we arrived at the house, I was met by a large yellow dog, a boy from Taiwan, and the moms’ son that was my age. The house consisted of tin walls, and looked like a garbage dump. The floors inside were covered in sand being dragged in from the outside. They had a small living room/kitchen, 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. All very small and tight. The house was just a trailer home with extra tin walls for extension. Their boy lived in a small cabin about 100 meters from the “house”. Around the house, they had multiple cows, goats, cats, dogs and chickens. The ground was a mixture between sand and grass (we lived I the so called “sand-hills”). They had a barn/garage, and multiple old cars on the property as well. A giant mess. Inside, the walls were filled with deer antlers and weapons. They were clearly hunters. Everything was brown, and it was very 1970-1980. I shared a small bathroom with the boy from Taiwan and the son. My room had a large hard bed, and a closet. The window had a very dirty cover that made it impossible to even look out of it.
The boy from Taiwan was very silent, and I never really talked to him. The son was cute and very “cowboy”, and I liked him. The mom was very protective and tough. She made us buy everything we needed ourselves like food, toilet paper etc, made us cook and clean, and gave us maximum 10 minutes in the very bad bath/shower. We were not allowed to go and do anything by ourselves, and a trip to Walmart twice a month was the only trips we got to go on. Sometimes, we had to go with them to work (for example cleaning out houses and gardens for other people). The man was a typical hillbilly. Cars, tractors, tv, hunting and Walmart. It was their whole life. He was very nice to me, and I liked it when he taught me things around the farm.
After a while, the boy from Taiwan left, and a new boy from Serbia moved in. He was so positive and nice. The family bullied him and dragged him down. They were not open to or at all wanted to learn or know about us. It seemed like they wanted housekeepers, and some extra bodies in their house so they got more food from their Indian food programs.
I was really trying to be open and learn about the farm, cars, animals and hunting. Everyone told me before I left that I had to be open, and that exchange students changed families too easily. I had to try. The house was dirty, the school was too easy, and my host family was very strict and bullying. They did not provide everything they were supposed to for me and the other boy, and it did certainly not feel like they were taking care of me. I was proud of myself for holding in there, trying to learn as much as I could, and for being open to this very different culture I found myself in.
In school I had one good friend. She was 13 and just very curious. I spoke to people in my class too of course, but the curiosity and niceness faded pretty quick. I had limited options to speak to my family at home. I had a very expensive cell phone for use in the US, and access to a computer first period in typing class in school. I was not supposed to, but sometimes I used my email to talk to people back home. At this point, I felt very alone.
It was around October when the father in the house wanted to take me hunting. The season was here, and I was very excited. I had tried shooting, and started to feel like a tomboy and like I started fitting in at last. He packed a couple of shotguns in the truck, and we drove in to the woods on their property.
I have tried to forget for about 10 years now, and it is not easy. Luckily, the days and times are getting more diffuse, but some of the details are burnt into my head. That day in the truck. He smiled at me and opened his zipper. He took my hand firmly, and pulled it towards him and into his pants. His wide crazy eyes looked at me, and it was very scary and disturbing. This was my first time even seeing or feeling a penis. I had never been this scared before. My closest “friend” In the house, and the man that I trusted to be my host father was suddenly not so friendly anymore. I was all alone in this far away country with this horrible man in his house filled with dirt and guns.
For the next 2 weeks he kept using me almost every day. He was the only one home when I got back from school, because everyone else had work or after school activities. My reality consisted of me going straight home every day in the same haze of sadness. I used to bring books to pretend I had homework, but it did not work. It is blurrier now when I think about the time concept, because I was trying just not to be. I just wanted to disappear. I was scared because he was not very intelligent, and had a house full of weapons. I could see myself on the local news the next day.
I knew my parents would be crushed if they knew. They were across the world not being able to do anything. I had no friends there close enough to tell either. It was embarrassing. This man had stolen my virginity and personality, and I had no one to turn to.
When I came home from school, he would force himself on me on the living room floor. I tried going to my room, but he always came in there too. I had nowhere to hide. He would take off my pants and use his hands as hard as he could. He also liked to make me give him oral pleasure. Once, he brought me into his bedroom and laid me over the bed. He put a VCR in the television, and started a porn movie. I remember exactly what the woman in the movie looked like. He would always be quick after I came home, because the boys and the mom would be home hours later. They never noticed anything.
On one of the days in this mad period, in school, I was signed up for the concession stand service. The kiosk at the school basketball matches. I was so excited! I was me and two boys from my class. They were very cool and very cowboy. I noticed one of them flirting a lot with me, and it felt very strange, but still nice to be noticed. After a couple of weeks, we started texting, and he asked me to start going out with him. I was happy and scared about the whole situation but needed to keep my mind out of the house.
At home, it was a totally different story. That day, when he wanted to do something to me, I felt courage finally arising, and told him I had gotten a boyfriend. He was very surprised. I don’t know why, but it seemed like he felt like we had had a relationship of our own. It was very strange, because he just said ok, and finally actually stopped. I felt like I could breathe again and felt a new excitement about life. After this, I would still feel very scared when coming home, and tried everything I could to avoid being alone with him.
After a few months, I decided to tell my boyfriend a small amount about what happened. I sent him a text, and he exploded. The next day at school, he had told his parent, who told someone they knew that might be able to help. I was taken out of class. They asked me questions in the cafeteria of the school, and who they should contact. I told them my little friend in 7th grade and her parents. They were the only adults I had met and felt like I could trust. They had some amazing neighbours that agreed to let me come live with them.
I never saw that old garbage pile of a house again. The representative from my exchange program came to collect my things while I was in school. They made me write an email to my parents explaining everything. I was very scared, and the last thing I wanted was to give my parents all the details, and make them worry more! I wrote them a short and mild version of everything that happened. They wanted me to come home, but understood when I said I needed to finish my year, and that I did not want him to ruin that for me as well. I decided to stay in the same town because of school, friends and my boyfriend. It was very hard knowing he was so close, but I made myself stay strong.
Going back to school after everyone found out was a horrible experience. He was the local father figure, and everyone loved him. No one believed me. I was just the lying exchange student that made up this terrible story to get closer to my boyfriend – which I did not anyway, because he was friends with the boy in the old house, and my new host parents were very strict.
I was sent to a shrink, doctor and talked to a police officer. They wanted me to press charges, but I couldn’t stand the thought of facing him like that. After telling the police most of what happened, they said the only thing that could get him was my testimony. I never really even considered it, because I was so terrified and felt so alone. My head wanted to forget that man and move on with my life. Back then, I thought it was that easy.
After the police spoke to my old host parents, they came back to school to talk to me. They gave me a condom wrapped in a piece of paper with the name of my boyfriend written on it. It was obvious that they had made this and given it to the police to make it look like I just wanted to leave the house to have sex with my boyfriend. They said that they found it in a drawer in my room. I recognised the condom right away, as this was the same brand the father used. I knew then that no one would ever believe me. He even got his own wife lying for him.
After returning to Norway, my parents took me to a lawyer. My family was the only people I told, and who believed me. The lawyer wanted me to tell her everything in front of my parents. I once again gave them a very mild version since my parents was there, and I was not comfortable to tell even a stranger about it. I never talked to my parents about boys or anything like that before. On top of me being very shy, it was a very hard topic for me, and very hard to explain. She then applied for a Criminal Injuries Compensation. I never got anyone to believe me because of my vague statements, and they thought I misunderstood the fathers form of playing…
Now, 10 years later, I never talk about it. Even though people might believe me, it feels like no one will. I want them to know my story, but I don’t want them to think of me as a victim, or for people to judge me based on that. I wish I could go back and do everything different, but it’s always easier to look back and think you know exactly what you should have and would have done. I wish people would just take time to listen to each other, and spread more love and trust in the world.
So please, just talk to someone. It can ruin the rest of your life if you don’t.