Should I be afraid?
I didn’t know what to do when harassing phone calls turned into threats.
After some problems with my classmates and grades at my old school, I needed to start over in the middle of sophomore year. So I transferred to a new high school and everything seemed perfect until a boy wouldn’t leave me alone.
It started innocently when I gave a boy in one of my classes, Jake*, my phone number. When he asked for it he said that it was just for “school purposes,” which I assumed meant homework. He called me that day and asked about my day, my plans and if there was any homework I needed help on. I thought he was being friendly.
But after two weeks of almost daily calls it became irritating, especially when he asked about my personal life. “How many boyfriends have you had? Do you still talk to them? Why’d you guys break up?” It was ridiculous that this guy I barely knew was prying into my life. I changed the subject every time. By the third week, I had told him dozens of times to stop calling, but he called anyway. I started screening my calls, but sometimes he called from a number that came up as “private” or “unknown” on my phone. When I answered those calls I made things up to get off the phone.
In class, I did my best to avoid him. My friend and I developed a system for her to come pull me away when she saw him around me. Our system worked, but part of me pitied him because nobody at school seemed to like him. Sometimes I felt so bad for Jake that I talked to him. Looking back I see that my actions weren’t clear. I had told him to stop calling yet I sometimes picked up when he called and I talked to him, too.
In March, Jake asked me to the Sadie Hawkins Dance even though it was supposed to be the girls who ask the guys. I made up an excuse and declined. The week after, he asked me to go to the movies with him. I told him I didn’t feel comfortable going with him alone. He invited one of his friends and one of mine, so it would be a “group hang out.” I had my friend lie to him and tell him that she couldn’t go. And if she couldn’t go, neither could I.
Soon after, I stopped answering my phone, except sometimes to tell him to stop calling. Those times, when he would beg me not to hang up, I made up excuses like “My dad just came home, I have to go” or “My brother needs to borrow my phone.”
I felt bad about rejecting him
Sometimes though I didn’t hang up on him because my pity for him won out. Those times he liked to tell me how bad his day went, how he has girl problems. “I like this girl and she doesn’t like me back. I asked her to the movies and her friend tells me no for her. What should I do?”
Having Jake refer to me as that girl who rejected him made me feel like a jerk. I wondered if other girls had to deal with guys like this. I had no idea whether his behavior was normal.
I didn’t tell my parents about it because I didn’t think they would understand. I told a couple of my friends from my old school and they told me to transfer. I wanted to, but that wasn’t an option. My parents had told me when I transferred schools that they didn’t want to go through that again because it was a lot of work for them.
Things got scary around the end of April of my sophomore year. Jake called and I decided to pick up because I didn’t want to be mean, but after 15 minutes I told him I had to go.
“Talk to me, or I’ll cut myself,” he replied. I was too stunned to say anything. Then he said: “Sometimes, I want to die.” He sounded sad and serious. His voice was quiet.
Cutting wasn’t a joke to me. I used to cut myself when I got upset. I didn’t hang up because I didn’t know whether he was serious. I thought that if I listened to him, he wouldn’t start cutting like I did. Even though he scared me, I wanted to be someone I wished had been there for me.
I felt as if I would be responsible if anything happened. I had rejected him when he asked me to go to the movies and to the dance, and now he said that he would hurt himself if I continued to reject him.
After a minute of silence, I asked him, “Why would you do that?” Jake just changed the subject. “Have you started your homework yet? Oh, my friend is here, I have to go, bye.”
Part of me thought that he was playing some kind of really sick joke on me, that it was all an act to get my attention. The other part of me thought that I didn’t know him well enough to judge and I also didn’t know what he was capable of.
The next day, I told my school guidance counselor everything. She told me she was going to talk to Jake’s guidance counselor and get everything straightened out. She asked me if I was ever more than just friends with him. I said, “No.” She also asked me if it was a bad joke because she knew I used to cut. I told her I didn’t know. She was the only adult I told. After talking to my guidance counselor for an hour, I felt better.
After a few days of not seeing him in class, I asked my guidance counselor if she had talked to his guidance counselor and she said no. I was frustrated and disappointed. She then brought in an assistant principal, who had me write a statement of everything that happened. It ended up being about five pages; my mind was racing as I wrote.
The assistant principal later had my friend Sarah, who had witnessed things that happened between Jake and me, write a statement. She was angry at me because I involved her.
The assistant principal told me, “Unless he does something to you, ignore it.” I didn’t have any contact with Jake for the rest of the school year. I’m not sure whether any administrators talked to him, but he stopped trying to talk to me.
He told someone he’d hurt me
As my junior year started, I didn’t see him around and I hoped I wouldn’t because I wanted to put everything behind me. But in late September, I was having lunch in the courtyard when Sarah told me that Jake told her that he was going to rape me “over and over again.”
My heart stopped. I was speechless. I was angry with Sarah for not saying anything to an administrator.
“It’s a joke, don’t overreact,” she said.
I was scared all over again. I kept asking my friend Leslie, who was sitting next to me, if I had heard Sarah right. Leslie said that I had heard correctly. After fifth period, I left my counselor a note saying I needed to talk to her.
That whole week I was terrified. At school, I spent all my time in a classroom or with a group of friends. I couldn’t get a hold of my guidance counselor because she was unavailable. I didn’t tell my parents because we’ve always had a distant relationship. I didn’t tell anyone besides my best friend, Jenny, and my boyfriend. They both suggested I call the police. I had thought that too, but I didn’t have proof. It was “he said, she said.” I also thought of telling the assistant principal but I remembered him telling me last semester, “Unless he does something to you, ignore it.” I believed the school wouldn’t do anything because he physically didn’t do anything to me.
By the time my guidance counselor got back to my “I need to talk to you note,” a week had passed. I told her what happened. She suggested I talk to a different assistant principal and give her the name of the girl who had told me about it. I felt uncomfortable involving my friend again, because she wasn’t very happy the last time. So I talked to Sarah before talking to the administrators again.
But now she changed her story and said that Jake threatened to rape her and not me. Luckily Leslie was a witness and confirmed what I said. I was angry at Sarah for changing her story. We immediately stopped talking and we no longer shared lockers or had lunch together. Leslie and I continued to have lunch together and she was supportive and told me that I was doing what any normal person would do.
Eventually the school had Jake, Sarah and I meet in the assistant principal’s office and come up with a solution. I thought it was the stupidest thing ever. Some kid basically stalked me and was obsessed with me and had said he’d rape me and we were going to have a peer mediation?!
I felt the room closing in on me when I saw both Sarah and Jake come in. We all had a chance to say what we thought about what happened. What was scary was neither Sarah nor Jake saw this as something serious. I felt anxious when they seemed so dismissive of what Jake had said, because rape is a felony and a horrible and violent crime. Sarah rolled her eyes and said, “I don’t see it as a problem and I wouldn’t care if someone said that to me.” Jake claimed it was a joke. The assistant principal was convinced that Jake meant no harm.
All I got was an apology
After that, the assistant principal decided that it was not a threat and it was more of an “educational experience.” He let Jake go with a warning to stay away from me. The assistant principal highly recommended Jake apologize to Sarah and me.
“Sorry,” he whispered. The assistant principal recommended I accept his apology. I didn’t want to but I knew that if I didn’t, I would cause drama. So I accepted it. I felt the administrators just wanted to make this go away.
The principal wanted to call my parents to let them know what was going on, but he changed his mind. He felt that nobody was hurt, and it wasn’t a big issue. I didn’t tell my parents about it because my parents wouldn’t understand.
I feel that this whole thing could have been prevented if only I had ignored him from the beginning or if I had told someone who cared sooner. When he complained about me indirectly, I should’ve stood up for myself and told him I was going to tell someone he was harassing me.
But I think schools should not be passive about threats and harassment because both should be taken seriously. My senior year, I suggested to the new assistant principal that the school do more to prevent threats and unwanted attention. All he did was add a slide about threats and harassment to his PowerPoint presentation about school rules that they show once a semester.
My advice to teens is to talk to an adult when you feel like you’re in over your head. Trying to cope with everything on your own is not as effective as getting help. Write down everything that happens and file a police report if the school does not work with you to come to a resolution. Don’t make the same mistakes I did.