I’m not sure why I’m doing this, sharing one of my secrets on the internet, but here it goes.
I was stalked and sexually assaulted when I was 19 years old.
A little background of 19 year old me…
Up until the very second that I moved out of the house, I was a prisoner of my dad (Dad if you’re reading, you know this is true, and also please don’t freak out when you read this story even though I know you’re going to freak out). He is the epitome of an over-protective Asian father, and truth be told, he’s proud of it. This is not a joke— If you went to Chaboya Middle School in 2002, then you are already aware that he voluntarily chaperoned last minute so he could watch my every move. Which he did. He also danced. He also approached me multiple times asking which guy I was just talking to. He asked when we could leave. He danced some more. Then he asked me again when we could leave. You get it. Apparently he was kind of a “player” back in his day, so he “knew how guys thought” and decided he would have to protect his very innocent daughter from all the men who would throw themselves at me, as if I was even that desirable anyway. Looking back, I was and still am very lucky to have a dad who cares so much and loves really hard. It’s called tough love, I think.
You can imagine that I basically ran out the front door on move-out day. I was fucking free and holy shit was it FUN. No curfew… No rules… No checking in… And soooo many dicks. Just kidding. I was living with my best friend at the time, who we will call “C” and her boyfriend “S.” We lived in a good neighborhood in North Sacramento, in a fairly new apartment building just down the street from my college. I went about life as usual— School, work, party, Top Ramen, sleep, repeat. I think it was about 4-5 months into our lease when I started getting notes on my car in our parking lot.
“You looked very pretty yesterday.”
“I really like your red dress.”
“You are so beautiful.”
“Have a good day gorgeous.”
Seemed pretty innocent at the time— I honestly assumed it was one of the high school kids who used to ride past me every morning on their skateboards. I could handle them, so I didn’t worry. This went on for a few weeks.
One night I came home pretty late, maybe a bit after midnight, and my parking spot was taken for whatever reason. I ended up just parking in the stall next to mine, which my neighbor was fine with since he rode a motorcycle and had it parked in an enclosed garage. Around 2am, “S” (roommates bf) wakes me up and says my car was being towed. I remember being in a bit of a daze, and seeing the lights from the tow truck flashing against the walls in my room. I rushed downstairs half asleep and told our apartment complex’s security guard that I had permission to be parked there. I requested he let me off with a warning and let me stay in that spot until I would leave for school at 8am. He refused and explained that no car can be parked in a stall that was not yours, even with the permission of the stall owner, unless management had a written and signed consent on file. Yeah, didn’t have that. The security guard then said he would “do me a favor” by showing me some unused parking stalls that I could park in if ever in this situation again.
Keep in mind, it’s really early in the morning, cold, and I’m wearing nothing but a big t-shirt and an underwear. I told him I’d just run upstairs really quickly to put on some pants, and he insisted that it would be “really quick,” basically implying that going back upstairs to PUT ON PANTS would be a waste of time. I told him, “No, I really need to put something on, brb.” Ok— Now if you’re reading this, you’re probably like RED FLAG RED FLAG YOU FUCKING IDIOT, right? I know. I didn’t have a red flag at the time, because I was 19 and invincible, remember? Didn’t everyone at that age think they were?
I get back downstairs, fully clothed, but without my contact lenses in, so things were a bit fuzzy but manageable. I hopped into his cool golf cart that had a plastic lining so the rain couldn’t get in. He told me to zip it up so the seat wouldn’t get wet. (Red flag number 2 or OCD?) He drove toward the side of the building and started making small talk:
“What do you do?”
“Where do you work?”
“How long have you lived here?”
“Do you like living here?”
I happily answered to avoid an awkward and silent golf cart ride, but as he kept driving deeper and deeper into the apartment complex and further away from my actual parking spot, the questions quickly evolved to:
“So, do you have a boyfriend?”
“What kinds of things do you like doing with him?”
“You’re a freak, aren't you? Small asian girls are always the freaks.”
I started to worry because I was disoriented and couldn’t really see clearly. I then asked if we could turn around and go back because I thought these parking spots were too far, and I’d rather just park on the street in front of the building instead, to which he replies, “Are you trying to ditch out so soon on our first date?”
He pulls up behind this dumpster somewhere in the complex with no lighting. He turns off the golf cart and makes his way closer to me whispering things like, “fuck baby you’re so sexy” and “you looked so good in that t-shirt and panties.” Now I’ve watched A LOT of fucked up movies— Jeepers Creepers, Saw, Zodiac, Hannibal, Psycho, Dahmer.. You get it. Now a running theme in most of these movies are that the women who freak out and scream, usually end up with a knife in their throat. So my game plan was, go along with it and play it cool. Play it cool meant, to not cry or scream as he’s groping you from inside your sweatpants, or not vomit as he smells your hair and kisses your neck.
Out of nowhere, some drunk dude comes out of his apartment with two bags full of beer cans. He’s walking toward us, because we’re right next to the dumpster, and the guard quickly pulls his nasty hand out of my sweatpants and turns on the golf cart. The drunk guy says “SUP” and before I can give him a sign that I’m in danger, The security guard speeds off further into the complex. I remember at this point feeling so scared that I kind of escaped my own body for a period of time. All that I can remember were flashes of memories— my first kiss, my first slow dance, piano recitals, ballet, science camp, learning how to ride a bike… and I don’t know how long I was in this head space or why I even went there, but it kind of snapped me back into reality. I knew that no matter how scared I was, I had to convince myself that I would get out of this without being hurt. When I tuned back in to what was actually happening, I didn’t know where he had driven me to, but he was still asking me questions and it was really dark out still:
“Do you like when your boyfriend eats your pussy?”
“I bet you like to swallow.”
“I’m married, but we’re doing long distance and I get lonely.”
“I really want to know what you taste like. I bet you’re sweet.”
I looked at his left hand holding the steering wheel, and surely enough was a gold wedding band on his ring finger. Disgusting. In between these questions were statements that made me realize he knew exactly what my boyfriend looked like, who I was living with, and what my schedule was. He parked again next to some trees and proceeded to touch me, smell my hair, tried to pull my pants down, and all I could do was giggle and pretend I wasn’t scared, while trying to unzip the golf cart cover without him hearing or seeing me do it. I kept insisting that he take me out on a proper date, and maybe sometime I could come over to his house and we could hang out properly. I told him what beer I liked and what movies I'd want to watch when I came over.
I successfully managed to unzip the cart halfway and can vividly remember how the cold air felt when it rushed in and touched my right leg. A few moments later came the sound of a bat (I think) hitting the metal poles we had in our complex, and a mans voice yelling my name. It was “S.” The guard pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket and wrote his name and number down on it. He said, “You know we’re not done here. But if you tell anyone what happened tonight, I’ll find you.” He leaned over, unzipped the golf cart, and pushed me out.
I ran through the parking lot trying to re-orient myself and figure out how to get back to my apartment. I just kept following the sound of the bat hitting the pavement, hitting the metal poles, and the echo of my name being yelled by “S.” When I finally made it back, I ran past him and straight upstairs into the apartment.
You know when you’re at home and you had just watched a scary movie, and you’re kind of in the dark and walking back to your room and you feel like something is RIGHT behind you so you keep walking faster but not wanting to look over your shoulder? That’s the only way I can describe the feeling of going from the golf cart back to my own bed. I felt like if I slowed down for even a second, he would grab me and we’d start all over again.
I didn’t sleep that night and I waited ’til the sun came up to go to the property manager and tell her what happened. Before I even got there, two other women were in the office filing a complaint against the guard stating he had verbally harassed them as they walked from their car to their door. If only I had been as “lucky” as they were. I could still feel his sweaty hands on my thighs and his cigarette breath on my neck.
The property manager gave me two options:
- File a police report and take him to court for sexual assault, which meant my dad would find out and would force me to move back home.
- Don’t file a report, don’t draw attention to myself or the apartment complex, move out without being charged any move-out fees, and go on my way with my dad never needing to find out it.
I chose #2. I couldn’t lose my freedom and I didn’t want to move back home. I also didn’t want this to potentially end up in the news with my name, because I had heard the other two girls saying they were going to reach out to the media about it. The property manager informed me that the guard, who we will call, “T,” actually lived in the complex, right across from our unit. My bedroom and balcony faced his kitchen window. I compared the letters I got on my car to the handwriting of his name and number that he gave me the night before and it was an exact match. He knew it was my car, he knew I was not parked in my own stall that night, and he planned out this whole tow truck fiasco because he knew it might get me alone with him.
For months afterward I couldn’t be in the dark outside by myself. Even taking my dog out in my parents backyard triggered this fear in me that I had never felt before. I eventually got back to real life and back into the swing of things… And then he showed up at my work. I was a hostess at a sushi restaurant at the time, and one of my co-workers said that someone asked for me at the front and she sat him at the bar. I looked over and instantly knew it was him. He looked over his shoulder at me, tipped his hat, and smiled. I immediately went over to my boss, told her the situation, and she let me go home. I saw him again at the Safeway down the street from my school, and he was just parked in the parking lot sitting on top of his car. He had sunglasses on and when I walked by, he took them off and just watched me as I went into the store. When I left, I made sure to walk out with a group of people so he couldn’t catch me alone.
I think back when this was happening, MySpace was still a thing, or maybe it wasn’t, I can’t really remember. But he added me online and I freaked out. I freaked out because he could look into who my friends were, my family, find out where my parents lived, and I immediately went into panic mode.
People ask if Charmaine Adrina is my birth name, and the answer is no. If you’ve ever wondered why I suddenly changed my name online, it was so he couldn’t find me as easily. He knew my legal name, and I had to be sure that wasn’t searchable for him anymore. A few weeks before this, I was driving back from seeing my boyfriend in San Jose and was thinking about names I would like if I had a daughter. One of the names was Adrina. As soon as I got home that day, I swapped out my last name for Adrina on the internet without explanation to anyone. Of course people asked, but I wasn’t ready to answer it. I just replied, “I like that name.”
Eventually this fear of “T” kind of faded away, but I always look back at this as the time where I came really fuckin’ close to a really fuckin’ bad situation. Maybe if I panicked in the moment, things would’ve ended differently. It’s not that I consider this a happy ending, but a better ending. I wasn’t raped and I wasn’t killed. I was sexually assaulted though, and that’s not OK.
I know that so many other women go through situations like this everyday, and maybe some of you reading have been through worse, and I’m so sorry. But I’m ready to stop being afraid of this time in my life, and I don’t want it to be a secret anymore. I used to be embarrassed and ashamed that I didn’t fight him off or take legal action, but I know in my gut that I did what I needed to do for myself at the time.
To my family who may be reading this— I hope you’re not angry. We all have secrets and we all have our reasons for keeping them. This was something very personal to me, and I didn’t feel comfortable sharing it with anyone, and I hope you can respect that.
This was by far one of the scariest things that has ever happened to me, even worse than the time I got mugged at 5am in San Francisco at knifepoint. Yeah, weird shit happens to me.