Angela’s Story, in her own words: Part 1

Editor’s note: Angela (Wilt) Rayle is the subject of this piece. Again, she has strongly requested communication be filtered through me – not her, her husband, her parents, or any other family members. Please respect these boundaries.

These are her words:

In August 2006, I was working as a representative of SLCC during freshman orientation, having been assigned a group of new students to lead in activities, discussions, and meals throughout their first weekend on campus. One of the students assigned to my mentor group (I’ll call him Levi) was from out of state, drawn to SLCC by the joint allure of the new full-tuition scholarship and the opportunity to follow in his youth minister’s footsteps. The first memorable conversation between Levi and myself happened the night before classes began. Our small group had met for a prayer circle and disbanded; all incoming freshmen had been assured that an upperclassman would frequently “check in” with them to help smooth the transition into college. As I walked from my dorm to President’s Hall to meet with friends, I was stopped by a car leaving campus. Levi rolled down his window to tell me goodbye. “I just wanted to say thanks for making this weekend fly by. I feel like I owe you an apology and a goodbye before I take off”

“You don’t need to apologize! I’m not sure I understand: are you moving out?” I asked him.

“Yeah… I don’t think college is for me,” Levi continued. “Some of the other guys moved into the dorm today and I feel like I just don’t fit in. I probably don’t have enough gas to get home, but I’m gonna start driving and see how far I get.”

“It’s pretty late in the day to start driving to [hometown]. I think you’d feel better about everything if you get a good night’s sleep. Maybe even try classes tomorrow; see how you do with the professors and if you make friends with some of the guys who don’t live on the Ledge?” I told him, a little surprised.

“I could maybe wait a day, sure. But I’ve got to get off campus to clear my head right now. I’ve got an itch. Like I need to drive,” Levi said. But then he kept going. “Like I want to drive off a bridge or something… I want to just disappear so I won’t be a disappointment to my family back home, or be a laughingstock for anybody here at school. I don’t think anybody would even really notice I was gone until it was too late. Do you want to come with me?! I bet you know this city really well. And I’d feel better if I could drive around – maybe you can show me the local sights, or we can go down and see the Arch at night or something? I promise – I won’t do anything drastic tonight. I just need a friend.

{This is the moment that tortures me the most: knowing that I could have just walked away and not been caught in a web of manipulation and codependency. But how could I possibly justify ignoring a blatant call for help, and a not-so-subtle reference to suicide? There are no alternate versions of this conversation that bring me peace}

The next day, after the semester’s first chapel service, Levi got my attention on the upper floor of President’s Hall and asked if we could have lunch together. In our conversation, he casually mentions that he told some of his floormates that he was dating an upperclassmen. But he was concerned that I would think he’d overstepped his boundaries. And he stated that he *wanted* to date me, but hoped that we could be friends for a little while at least. I responded that I wasn’t interested in dating anyone, and it made me uncomfortable that he would tell other people that he was in a relationship when he wasn’t. He backpedaled and begged that we have lunch together each day the first week of classes, until he “got his feet under him.” And then he’d leave me alone to socialize with my own friends. He thanked me for not letting him drive home, and for being so kind when we talked. I reminded him that it was my job to make sure he acclimated to the campus. He suggested that lunch tomorrow (Wednesday) be off campus for a picnic. He wanted to go alone, but was afraid of getting lost. I was invited to be the navigator. We’d each have our own “quiet time” at the park. Wednesday: We did not each have “quiet time” at the park. He drove; I navigated. We ended up at Creve Coeur Park. I had no Wednesday afternoon classes; he skipped E&D and probably something else. He ate mayonnaise from the jar (?!) as we made sandwiches, and I continued to make strange small talk about Saint Louis.

That weekend: Levi tells me that he is openly telling everyone he knows that we are dating, and that I may as well go along with it. He told me “It doesn’t need to be a real relationship, with touching and stuff” but that he just wants to feel like he’s part of the crowd of freshmen pairing off into couples. I dislike being backed into a corner, but feel overwhelmed at the idea of trying to broadcast to the entire campus that I’m single.

Second week of school: A friend of mine on my hallway informs me that Levi is actively walking around the men’s dorm, threatening male students not to speak to me because I “belong to him.” I confront Levi, tell him that he can no longer make statements referring to both of us together, and emphasize that I won’t be spending any time with him in the future. Levi starts to cry and whine.

After I walk away, he makes a show of coming to the cafeteria for several meals in a row and adamantly not eating until I acknowledge him. He makes the comment that any man who would willingly forego food to get a woman’s attention should be rewarded with affection. After a terse conversation, I agree to eat two lunches a week at the same table as Levi (but Levi refuses to eat near my friend group, as he asserts “they hate him”).

Month of September: My “friendship” with Levi reaches an uneasy truce as he quietly shadows/stalks me throughout each week. We eat lunch together twice a week as agreed upon previously. Levi stands outside my dorm every morning to walk as close to me as I allow before and between classes. When not eating meals with me, Levi sits by himself near me and eavesdrops. When I work evenings in the library, Levi comes to sit at a table for the duration of my shift and waits in the lobby of PH (President’s Hall) to “walk me home” after I finish cleaning and locking up. If anyone addresses Levi, he vehemently declares that he’s not doing anything wrong, and that he’s trying to prove to me that he loves me and wants me to stop rejecting him. On the weekends, Levi wants me to spend time with him.

One Saturday, he convinces me to go for a drive with him. I direct us to Alton, IL, and up the “river road” to Grafton. The view is amazing, and we sit riverside for hours. Other tourists near us greet us; Levi introduces us as “boyfriend and girlfriend.” I bristle at the term, but to make his point, Levi leans over and kisses me. I freeze, but make no other comment. We leave soon after the kiss. As we drive, Levi tells me he wants me to “feel something.” He takes my hand and places it in his lap, then uses his fingers over my fingers to demonstrate the length of his penis. He’s very proud, mostly of how aroused he is after the stolen kiss. I felt confused more than anything – I hadn’t ever felt or seen a penis. And I couldn’t understand why he was so pleased with himself.

Levi was angry that my response wasn’t what he expected. I feel guilty and more confused. So when Levi said he’d explain when we got back to campus, I nodded and followed him wherever he wanted to go. We walked into the Nature Preserve from the unofficial (possibly illegal but frequently used) entrance next to Married Student Housing. On the grass near the marshland habitat, Levi sat down next to me, removed his lower clothing, and started to explain his anatomy and how a penis changed during arousal. He modeled with his hands, and then mine, how to stroke up and down, and verbally described differences in pressure and speed. I let go as soon as he released my hand – he suggested I take off my clothing. I refused. He asked if I would stay until he was “finished.” I agreed, possibly out of curiosity (?) and watched as he masturbated to ejaculation.

As I/we walked back to my dorm, he chattered excitedly about how penises shouldn’t be scary or ugly or disgusting, and he was pleased with my overall reaction.

The next week, Levi tells me that he thinks I’m the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. And that with ‘a little work,’ he can make me blossom from the ugly duckling I am.

Editor’s Note: violence begins to escalate. Trigger warning.

Levi begins to call me or text me every morning and instruct me what to wear that day. I refuse the first day – Levi grabs my arm in PH to drag me into the coffee house and ‘spank’ me before lunch. Later that night, after Levi walks me home from the library, he pulls me behind my dorm and slaps my face.

He warns me to wear what he says tomorrow or he’ll leave a mark next time. He kisses me and walks away. I start wearing what he suggests. He asks me to dye my hair – when I hesitate, he grabs my ponytail, yanks it until I’m on my knees, and threatens to cut my hair off if I don’t make it beautiful.

The next week, Levi starts asking me to borrow/steal clothing from other females and wear it to class. He starts pulling me aside before chapel to look at my bra straps – his response is for me to either go braless or find ‘sexier’ undergarments.

Levi expects me to do his homework for him. One of his professors suspects plagiarism and wrote a note on an assignment. Levi is furious and screams at me for being so obvious in my writing style. “Everyone knows I’m stupid and dyslexic!!! You need to misspell things. You need to turn things in a day late. Aim for a B+ average. You don’t want your future husband to fail classes, do you?” He pinches the inside of my forearm and explains that I need a bruise to remind me that he’s always watching. This becomes a normal pattern – everyday he makes a mark on the inside of my arm, with his fingers or nails, or a small pocket knife. I am thankful that it is weather appropriate to wear long sleeves.

As the weeks continue, Levi tells me that I’m damaged for anyone else. And he wants me to be a virgin when we get married. But he also thinks he deserves to see my body. He escorts me to the Nature Preserve one night. He asks me to strip – I refuse. He rips my clothing off of me and tells me I need to walk back to my dorm naked. I cry and he softens. If I let him ‘inspect’ me, he’ll loan me his hoodie. I comply and shut my eyes, turn off my brain, while his fingers touch every part of my body. He mourns the marks on my arms and comments that my goal should be to not need his punishment anymore. I sneak back into my dorm through a first floor window (the lower level is almost completely empty) and wait to get to my room til after curfew.

That night, I take the first of a months-long nightly ritual of scalding showers. The water is so hot that my skin turns bright red, and I scrub myself trying to remove his touch and scent. This pattern continues.

Beginning of October: Levi disappears for a few days, and emerges the week before Fall Break. He approaches me after chapel. He calmly and rationally tells me that he’s sorry he’s been so clingy and mysterious. And he wants to apologize over the long weekend. His grandmother is in town, staying with his great-aunt. He offers to let me come with him to do laundry, and eat a meal on Saturday, in exchange for my navigational services again. I agree, thinking he is genuinely repentant. Maybe he doesn’t know how much it hurts me when he does and says such manipulative things.

Part 2 will be available in roughly an hour.

If you need to talk, I’m available. Email: Johnson.nataliegrace@gmail.com

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s