The Perfect Victim by Natasha Snow follows the story of Rachel, a high school student so desperate to be a part of a relationship that she starts an unhealthy relationship with Dominic, a boy at her school that she meets online. As she begins to become uncomfortable with the horrible way he is treating her she soon turns to drugs and cutting, unable to step out of the vicious cycle she has been drawn into.
Check out an excerpt of The Perfect Victim below!
With every encounter I had with Dominic, I knew something was wrong, and as a result I needed to find a release. Tears were not enough, weed was hard to come by, and difficult to hide, but my razor blade was always tucked away under my alarm clock next to my bed. I had made it so easily accessible. I started to cut even on days I wasn’t with Dominic.
Soon my passion for cutting grew and it was harder to discriminate what I was using it for. If I didn’t do well on a test, I cut. If I got into a fight with my parents, I cut. It was always just enough to inflict pain on myself. Pain that I endured when I was failing at something. I deserved to be punished, and I deserved to feel pain. I remembered being spanked as a child or hit for talking back to my parents, but a slap was a sting that lasted for a moment. I deserved something that lasted longer.
I would only cut at night, when I knew I wouldn’t be interrupted or caught. I wondered what the consequence of cutting would have been? Hospitalization? That would have been one more thing to make me feel like an outcast, to be distanced from the normal people. I couldn’t risk it.
I knew when I was going to do it, and I made preparations in advance so when it was time for bed I could stay there. I knew my razor blade was close but I needed other supplies to be prepared, paper towels, medical tape, or sometimes I liked to put the paper towel under medical wrapping tape. As long as it prevented the blood from reaching my sheets, where my mom would see it, I was okay.
The ritual would always begin with my reflecting on what I felt the problem was and why I needed to be punished. The tears were always near the surface so it was only a matter of time before I started to cry. Sometimes, it was only a couple of tears, other times I would be sobbing, but the end result was always the same. Within minutes my flesh would be torn and blood would be coming from my left arm.
It was punishment, but at the same time I found it enjoyable. It was fascinating to watch the blood rush to the surface. The blood and the pain were my punishment, but I can’t say I didn’t get any pleasure from it. Feeling the pain, and watching the blood made me feel like I was cleansing myself. It was a symbol of me releasing my “bad blood,” as I called it. Maybe the bad things would stop if I let all of the bad out of me, maybe I would stop doing bad things if I let the “bad blood” go.
It didn’t matter how much I cut, Dominic would come back and take me from safety almost once a week. I was no longer curious about what was going to happen. I no longer hoped he would finally ask me out on a date, or to be his girlfriend. The excited feeling I once had towards Dominic had completely vanished and turned into sheer anxiety. If I didn’t feel the stress, I felt the fear. I was always on eggshells when he was around me. If I didn’t have to see him I could at least focus on whatever tasks I had in front of me.
I was becoming a master of deception. To my friends, I was confident and happy. I was bold and outgoing. I was smart and dedicated. My teachers liked me, and I gave them no indication anything was wrong. The same went for my parents. I was moody in front of them, but I’m sure it only came across as teenage hormones. In reality, I was crumbling on the inside. I should have been given awards for the performances I put on. They were flawless, and only one person knew I was scared and unhappy. Phoebe.
I don’t know what Dominic thought about the situation, and I never had the courage to talk about this with him, but what I ultimately decided is that he didn’t care. If he would have cared, he would have picked up on my lack of interest in the situation, he would have easily seen the way I looked at him now was not the same as it was in the very beginning. He would have respected my words, and my attempts to avoid him. He would have realized everything that was once fun about this, had been gone for a long time now. But what was true for him was that he was still getting exactly what he wanted from me without having to consider my feelings.
If I felt the need to cover up my cuts, I would use an ace bandage to cover it up, and because I was on the computer all the time I would say that my wrist hurt. They didn’t know the bandage went all the way to the crease in my elbow because it was winter and I was wearing heavier clothes. Dominic didn’t even know about the cutting because he was only interested in getting what he wanted from me. He would unbutton my shirt, but he didn’t feel the need to take it off anymore, so, like everyone else he would only see the ace bandage.
As I continued to cut, I became more creative with the things that appeared on my arm. It started as simple slash marks that looked like I battled a cat, but I started putting words and pictures to my pain, and sometimes the location of the cutting would change. I carved ugly words into my arms, “Dominic,” “hate,” and “evil,” made appearances on my skin. The skin art I took most pride in, was the perfectly symmetrical heart I spent hours carving into my ankle with nail scissors. I loved my bleeding heart so much that when it began to fade I would carve into it again.
Punishment shouldn’t be enjoyable, but what I felt was enjoyable was not only the release I received for it, but that I was also trying to make right all the wrongs I lived. I took comfort in the pain that I woke to the morning after I cut. And when I went days without cutting, I provoked my wounds so I would continue to feel the pain.
As much as I enjoyed my extended punishments, there was one thing I craved more. I loved the sedated feeling I would feel every day after I ripped my flesh. It was finally an opportunity where I was able to forget the things that usually stressed me out, and live my life in the carefree way a child does. Every day after I cut was the same. I was tranquil, I was focused, and I was peaceful.
While I was cutting, and while the endorphins were in my body I wasn’t worried about anyone finding out what I was doing. After my “calm” had left me I did feel a bit paranoid about it. Every once in a while I would see the scratches peeking out from my sleeve, and this would make me even more fearful someone would learn my little secret. The only person that knew about it, was Phoebe.
I learned I wasn’t the only one cutting and found another lost soul in my French class. He sat directly behind me, and we had gotten to know each other over the year. He was releasing his pain as well, and overtime we compared the misery of our nights by showing each other what carvings we created the night before. He would tell me why he cut, rejection, fight with his mother, the list went on. I would tell him I did it for the same reasons, and sometimes it was true, but I never told him about Dominic.
We both shared another passion. Writing. It was an outlet we could participate in at school and contribute to the school through The Dragon. Mrs. Stewart believed in artistic freedom and probably realized that we as teenagers had many things we were working through. I tried to incorporate things that were humorous that the readers might enjoy, but I received a lot of poetry that spoke of depression for a multitude of reasons. The student body had extreme expectations placed on them and knew they were too young for some of them, many were lost souls who felt no one else understood them, they had troubles with their parents, with their teachers, girlfriends, boyfriends, friends. There was talk of betrayal, rejection, failure. This is why the publication was beautiful. All of those lost souls could take comfort in knowing there was someone else out there who felt the same way they did. I may not have known who they were, but they were feeling the same things I was feeling, and used the paper as an outlet to vent their frustrations.
This was a healthier alternative than the road I was heading down. Looking back I wish I could have worked harder on my poetry, allowing myself to process the things that were happening in my life, but I never found this to be enough of a release. I take comfort in knowing that it was probably enough for the other people who contributed. The publication was one thing I didn’t have to shed blood over. I was proud of this accomplishment.
I hadn’t heard any rumors floating around about me, but that didn’t mean they weren’t being hidden from me. Some of Dominic’s friends started to act strangely friendly towards me, and occasionally I would get a slap on the ass. I handled it by laughing but resented the fact they were taking their liberties with me as well. I brushed these things off, only later, did I realize Dominic was probably talking about me which is why I was receiving this attention.
Dominic’s disregard for my feelings became increasingly obvious when my menstrual period was no longer a deterrent for engaging in activities. My hands and mouth still worked, and my breasts and ass were still available for him to grip onto and fondle to his satisfaction. It did however mean that I was safe from attempted sex.
Every time something happened between us I promised myself it would be the last time, but another week would go by, and he would be back, and I would go. I didn’t know how to stop him or myself. I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t getting bored with me. He was constantly changing his girlfriends, so why was I the place he found consistency? I hated that he gave me more questions than answers. I resented him for that. I resented him for the liberties he took with my body without listening to my objections, and sometimes I didn’t even object. Sometimes I was sick of trying to fight it and thought if I just let it happen it would be over sooner.
How did I get here?
It is clear that other people knew something was going on, and I know at the time I would have been really angry with my friends for reporting what was happening to me, but maybe my friends should have reported these things for my safety, even if it meant losing my friendship forever. The more I wrote about the situation the more I realized that people did know bits and pieces of what was happening to me. They didn’t know the severity of the situation, but they could have reported us because the things we were doing were wrong. Friends and acquaintances out there, maybe without knowing it, you could stop a rape.
If the educators were paying closer attention, I could have been identified as having a problem. I created a magazine for the entire school that consisted of depressing topics, with blips of humor in the middle. After school, if someone was watching me, they would have noticed I was frequently gone and unaccounted for. When I came back from wherever I was, I came back a different person. There are cameras in schools now, there weren’t back then, but even now, unless there is a reason to look at them, the videos are never watched.
I wrote pieces for my classes that clearly reflected depression, and I will admit I put it out there to see what others would say. In my personal work I was consistently writing about the darkest topics I could because they fascinated me. Normal people don’t consistently find their way to the miserable corners of the world. When someone does, and you notice, you should pay closer attention to what the child is trying to say.
The wiser you