Content warning: discussion of rape and abuse.
This is long overdue. I wasn’t ready before, which is why it’s taken so long, but now I have to get this off my chest. I can’t keep protecting this man to avoid backlash when other girls may be at risk.
The man that raped me is Melchizedek Joshua Roman.
It’s important to know that before he raped me when I was an adult, he pursued me romantically and sexually when I was still a child.
Melchizedek was a youth group volunteer at the church I attended. My first memory of him is one day when my father, sister, pastor, and I were standing outside the church talking about some drama in my family. I was 15 years old, he was 23. I think the drama had something to do with my mother not wanting us to attend a church event, but I can’t remember exactly.
I had already been experiencing depression, though I wasn’t officially diagnosed until recently. So when Melchizedek approached me and my family that day to offer consolation, it was a real comfort to see someone taking an interest in my unaddressed pain. He offered me his contact information and let me know I could talk to him anytime.
This is the first step of the grooming process: finding a vulnerable victim and giving them special attention that they are potentially missing.
We started communicating via AOL Instant Messenger. It was amazing for me to finally have someone paying attention to my needs. I was dealing with a lot of pain and confusion I didn’t understand and didn’t know how to communicate with my parents. Now, as an adult, I think it would have been prudent of Melchizedek to encourage me to talk with my parents or a school counselor. It would have been kind of him to help connect me with resources that could have addressed my mental health needs. But he didn’t do that.
He continued grooming me. He entered the second step wherein he gained my trust. I don’t know if he did this consciously, but he approached our conversations like someone getting to know me, trying to be my friend. He seemed genuinely interested in me and my needs. And he began to fill an emotional void, which is the third step in the grooming process.
At this point the conversations became more romantic. He made me feel special, cared for, and like he loved me. He told me how special I was and how he would love to date me if only I were older. He told me he’d wait until I was 18 because I was worth it.
But he didn’t wait.
We started talking about sex. I had zero sexual experience other than having kissed and made out with a boy before him. I shared with Melchizedek a trauma I’d experienced at a party where a boy touched me inappropriately and I froze up, not knowing how to tell him to stop. Melchizedek seemed empathetic towards this, and assured me that the boy was wrong for what he’d done.
He told me he’d never had sex. I believed him at first, but then said he must have had some experience because he knew so much. He told me he only knew what he knew because of his age and time on the internet and whatnot, not from personal experience.
One day when we were talking on Skype he asked if he could see me naked. I challenged that I wouldn’t show him my body if he didn’t show me his, mostly as a joke because I didn’t think he would. But he agreed.
I wasn’t sure what to think. I don’t remember all the details here but somehow I gathered from him that women were supposed to shave their pubes. I told him I only ever shaved my bikini line, and he said that I should shave it all. We paused the conversation so that I could go shower and shave. Then we resumed the video call and showed ourselves to each other.
At this point I was 16 and he was 23.
I knew that I couldn’t talk to anyone about this because he could get in trouble. After all, he told me we weren’t allowed to date until I was 18 but I was so special he couldn’t wait. We just had to wait to be public about it. And it was with this that I learned I had to keep secrets for him in order to protect him.
We began dating officially when I was 16. I wish I could give a clearer timeline on things, but it’s an unfortunate side effect of trauma to have fuzzy memories, especially if the trauma happens while the brain is still developing. Either way, it was at 16 that we began engaging in sexual activity like mutual masturbation and then finally had sex.
The first time he touched me sexually was when we were watching a movie at my house. We were sharing a blanket and his hand was stroking my thigh then moved towards my vulva. Of course it felt good and there were others around so I didn’t object. Remember, I needed to protect his secrets. What could I have said?
On our one year dating anniversary he took me out for a wonderful dinner. It was a beautiful date and I was so happy. But a week later he broke up with me.
Naturally I was incredibly confused. Only a week before he was declaring his love for me, then he was saying he didn’t love me at all and we needed to end things. I cried. I wanted an explanation. I felt so betrayed.
A few days to a week later he brought me flowers. He apologized. He said he didn’t know what came over him, but of course he loved me and wanted me. From that point on we had an on again/off again relationship. He told me not to tell others when we were “on” so that they wouldn’t be critical when we were “off” again.
More secrets I had to keep to protect his reputation.
Not that it mattered. Everyone knew I was “Melchi’s girl.” No other men approached me, even after I was 18. He had claimed me. Like a dog peeing on their territory, he left a stink on me that no other man dared come close to.
At one of our “off” points we had agreed to abstain from sex. I was 19 at the time. It wasn’t healthy to our friendship, and at any rate it was “sinful” to have premarital sex. But one day he was house/dog sitting for his aunt and he got some bad news. When I went to see him he told me that his grandfather had died. He was filled with complicated emotions because he felt the loss but also anger because he hated his grandfather. I attempted to comfort him. I kissed him. He tried to push me down onto the sofa we were on. I resisted, reminded him we were going to abstain. He pleaded. I said no. He ignored me. He was on top of me and we were kissing and then he began to unbutton my pants. I moved my hands to stop his. He pushed my hands out of the way. I became afraid. He was being forceful. His weight was on me and I couldn’t move. He raped me and I cried while staring at the back of the sofa, avoiding his eyes.
He pulled out to finish on my stomach then snapped at me to clean myself up before it spilled onto the sofa. I went to the bathroom and cried. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know if I had been raped, but I was pretty sure I had been.
When I left the bathroom shaken I found him sitting up on the sofa looking distressed. I approached him cautiously. He said he was sorry. He didn’t say what for and I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know what to say. But I was trained in protecting him, so I comforted him.
I left a shaken mess. I was changed in that moment. The relationship had been abusive before, but it was in that moment that I felt like I was in real danger. I realized that if he wanted something he would get it, no matter what.
I didn’t report the rape to the police. I didn’t even know that was an option, to be honest. The two friends I confided in were unsure if it qualified as rape either. We were young. We didn’t know what to make of it.
When I confronted him about it he became angry. How dare I accuse him of rape? He said, “What I did was wrong, but it wasn’t rape.” I didn’t challenge him further.
But I was changed. I felt like his property. I felt like I was bound to him. I felt like I was at his mercy. That had already been true, but I wasn’t aware of it until that moment.
Our relationship became far more toxic and abusive after that. He had already been violent when angry, hitting the wall next to me or the sofa we were on while we fought. He had already used intimidation. But after he raped me I was picking up on it more.
One day, and this is a dark comic moment, we were in his car arguing. He was yelling, I was stressed, and then my nose started to bleed. At the time I had been prone to nose bleeds. It would just happen. But this time when my nose started bleeding he became more upset saying, “Now they’re going to think I hit you!” And I just started laughing. I couldn’t help myself. I’m sure I looked crazy with a bloody laughing face, but it was just too funny to me that he was worried about looking abusive. Because he was. He may not have hit me, but he’d done enough to intimidate me and instill fear over the years. And that day he stressed me out enough to trigger a nose bleed.
I was in a very dark place at that time. It was with my friend Ena the summer of 2012 that I was finally able to rid myself of Melchizedek. She took me to the pool every week and I would talk to her whenever I felt the need to talk to him. She helped me out of my dependence on him. I can never thank her enough.
It’s taken years for me to manage the fear and agony that comes from being raped. But only recently did I make the connection that not only did he rape me, he abused me when I was a child. He preyed on me. He picked me out of the crowd as the weakest kid. He saw my vulnerability and latched on to it to fill his own needs. When I finally made that realization I felt a flood of emotions. Anger. Indignation. Confusion. How could I have been so unaware of the truth that was right in front of me? How could so many people see him with me and just look away? How did people see a man 8 years older than me pursuing me and say nothing?
And that’s why I have to say something now. This man works as a security guard at an elementary school. I don’t know for certain, but I think he still works with the youth in his church. And that is unacceptable. It may be too late for me to take legal action against him, but we can hold him accountable socially. A man with this predatory history should be nowhere near children. He should be in counseling. His church’s leadership should work with him to address whatever underlying issues caused him to pursue a minor in the first place. I have taken the time and steps to help myself after the mess he made. Now it’s time for him to work on it himself.
Note: an earlier version said I was 15 at the time of the Skype call, but I amended it to 16 after reviewing my timeline with Melchizedek