16th Annual Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest People
I just want to make you feel good

“In the summer of 2011, I was twenty years old. I remember hanging out at the pool, and I ran into this guy. We talked flirted a bit, and exchanged numbers. I then went on back to enjoying my summer. I told him I was a virgin one night as he was getting to be too touchy-feely with me. During our next encounter, we went to the park, a place that was once my favorite place to be. I believe it was close to midnight, and I remember laying under the stars, looking up waiting for a moment to breathe once more. I was hoping for somebody to hear my cries for him to stop. I tried to push his body off, but I was not strong enough. I remember looking up into the dark sky, seeing the stars shining, waiting for him to be finished using me, and for the moment before all this happened, to tell myself it wasn’t real. Wanting to go home swallowing back tears and to reach the familiar place of my bed. I cried for the loss of myself until the next day where denial found my mind in comfort. I told my best friend what happened the night before, trying to convince him while lying to myself that it was consensual. Yet, he still told me, “No you were raped.” I never spoke of it afterwards. I didn’t want to report it; I didn’t want to feel more shame and embarrassment. I wanted it to go away. My heart still drops when I drive by the playground where it all happened. I’m still fighting with the results of living in denial and trying to erase that moment in my life even today. Despite all this, I want others to see me for who I am”

Photo Detail
Date Taken: 01.2018
Date Uploaded: 11.2018
Photo Location: Louisiana, United States of America
Camera: NIKON D5100
Copyright: © Keith Matthews