The Life and Times of Rachel Hanson

**Warning – this true story may contain trigger warnings for victims and survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault.**

It’s February 2003 and  I was 15 years old.  I’m at the local Super 8 motel for my friend Jaime’s* 15th birthday.  We have two rooms, food, and we are having a blast.  Just as we decide to go to the pool, Karen’s* boyfriend Jim* shows up.  We all change and once we’re in the pool we are taken with this guy. We can all see that he’s fairly attractive and he seems to be intelligent, smart, and funny.  I was getting tired of the hot tub and so I went into the sauna with Sherry*.  Jim comes in with us after a while and listens to our heated debate on religion.  I can’t remember what we were talking about, I only remember that I very strongly disagreed with her.  After she left, Jim starts telling me that my argument was one of the smartest he’s ever heard.  Throughout the evening, I begin to fall for Jim pretty hard.  “Luckily” for me Karen broke up with him shortly after Jaime’s party.  Even though I was forbidden to date anyone until I was 16 I start to consider Jim my boyfriend.  It only takes me about three weeks to realize that Jim is bad news and I broke up with him. I told myself that I would never talk to him again.

Fast forward four years.  I was 19 and had just moved back to the Iron Range from Utah.  I was working at the Target Starbucks.  I was back in school, trying to be as independent as possible.  I’m closing up for the night and I get into a semi-intense discussion with a customer on why I think Bill Clinton was a way better president than George Bush.  Out of the corner of my eye, I see Jim walk in and sit at a table close to where I can see him.  I was extremely nervous, but finished my discussion with panache as I gave the customer his latte.  I continue what I was doing in closing for the night as Jim approached me.  “You looked really bored during that conversation,” he said to me.  “No, you’re just making me nervous.  Why are you here?”  I said, defiant. “I’m here to pick up my girlfriend,” he says, “I’m sure your husband will be here to pick you up any time now.”  I was really surprised by his statement and I said, “Do you think I’m crazy or something?  I’m not married.”  Jim looked surprised and said that he had heard I was married and something about how there might still be a chance for him.

That one statement melted my defiance and old feeling were beginning to resurface.  Just a week later we were “dating.”  Bearing in mind that this was before he had broken up with his girlfriend that I worked with.  It was a very confusing time.  Here enters a plethora of emotional, verbal, and psychological abuse. He announced to his mother that we were going to get married before he’d even bothered to ask me if I wanted to marry him.  That night, he decided that since we were going to get married anyway we might as well have sex.  I protested, saying I wanted to wait until we were actually  married. I tried to fight back.  But honestly, what can a 130 pound woman do against a 190 pound man?  I cried and cried as Jim stood over me with a look of disgust on his face.

It took me weeks to finally break up with him for the second time.  I tried talking to him, face to face.  I took that approach twice and both times was shot down with accusations of being controlled by my parents and friends, “Thy don’t want us to be together,” he said.  I tried to send him a message on MySpace and when I asked if he saw it he just got upset that I had somehow managed to find his MySpace account.  Finally, on my fourth attempt I wrote him a letter.  But I lacked the courage to actually bring it to his apartment.  A friend came with  me and slid the letter under the floor.  Several days later he called me to tell me that he had left his apartment almost a week ago (well before my friend delivered my letter) because he found out that one of his friends had leukemia. So I told him everything that was in my letter, including that I never wanted to speak with him again and that if he contacted me I would call the police.  He responded by saying, “I know you’ll come back to me eventually.  I’ll wait for you.”


I wear that cardigan unbuttoned now

I knew that getting on with my life was critical.  I had an interest in student government and my friend Jenny* encouraged me to run for Director of Communications on my senate.  Only a month and a half into my position we had to remove the Vice President and I ran for V.P. and won (yes, I was the only one running, but still!) Half way through the year I knew that I wanted to do more but I didn’t know what.  Several people suggested that I run for the Treasurer position in our statewide student association.  This time I ran against two other people and won (I had to give orientations at our monthly conferences, which is what you see me doing above.)  It was a great position!  It was great for my confidence and it was great because I met my sweet husband.

We still like each other this much

My husband is great and really encouraging.  It’s because of him that I published “The Life and Times of Rebecca Walker.” Rebecca and I have the same story.  We both have friends who love us (my only difference is that one of my friends loved me enough to marry me) and encourage us in our goals. I have the same trepidation that Rebecca has about sharing her story, even though I know that sharing my story is good for me and it could also be good for other people.  Who knows, maybe someday I’ll be as successful as Rebecca and I’ll be able to shout out a big “screw you!” to Jim.

*Names in this story have been changed.  Events have not been changed.

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