NICK HENNEN: Now I See — Me, Too

My first memory was playing in the dirt with a hand trowel just inside a wooded area near my home. I was digging deeply into the tan soil, pulling up chunks to later break down in search of “gold” — all of the good stuff was going into my dump truck, which was nearby.

I was really into the moment. It wasn’t gold-gold but fools gold. It was a thrill to find. I was digging and excavating as I heard some young men approaching. I believe I was around 5 years old. The group approached and started talking to me.

I noticed guns at some of the boys’ sides and for some reason, my eyes fixated a light brown strap that held the gun to the boys’ body. I think there was five or six boys total. They were  about 12 to 16 years old.

The leader was older than the rest. He was tall, blond and bossy. He asked me what I was doing but didn’t let me answer. “You want to come to shoot guns with us?” I somehow knew it was a bit of a sales pitch but felt naively glad to be included. I remember feeling happy and curious to see what this was all about and mostly to spend time with older boys.

I got up and immediately fell. I had my dump truck and a trowel. They were walking fast, but I was keeping up.

Out of nowhere someone grabs me, my truck spills into the tall grass and weeds. I’m shocked and immediately fly into defense mode, kicking and screaming and fighting with everything I have, but they are too much. I don’t stop fighting. My eyes follow the yellow dump truck in the tall grass as I’m hauled away. My feet held by two boys and my arms by others. I’m stuck, but I don’t stop kicking and fighting and screaming.

Eventually, we get to some sort of clearing. They place me on this grassy bed. It is a few inches deeper than the earth above and it was also on the very edge of the forest. Civilization was tantalizingly near. This is their fort I learn. I’m laying there, and I have to be restrained because I am kicking and fighting and trying to get the hell out of there. They won’t let go of me.

“F— her” the oldest guy yells. Someone I’ll now refer to as the leader.

So, I was born female but I never believed in it. I still don’t. I don’t look female. I have a swaggering gate — there are just so many reasons why there is no possible way I could be. It’s just a mistake. It happens. My parents said I was “born a tomboy,” but what it was was me never accepting the wrong gender. I always knew what I was. Why did anyone else’s opinion matter?

“If you keep kicking, we’ll shoot you,” one of the boys snapped. I couldn’t stop kicking if I tried. It was instinctual. My entire body was crying to break away from their holds on my arms and legs. I was fighting for what felt like my life.

Two of the younger guys pulled my pants down and spit on me. The ones holding my arms pulled up my shirt.

“F— her” the leader yelled again. I kicked and cried and flailed and screamed and did everything I could to break free. My pants were now around my ankles and my shirt near my neck.

Young half erect penises came into view, and I was utterly confused by their appearance. The leader pulled flesh through his trousers but kept his belt fastened. They looked like fat noodles.

“F— her,” the leader yelled, and one of the boys protested. There was a man mowing the lawn in the distance. What if he were to hear us? He just yelled “f— her right now,” something he would say over and over again.

When the first boy laid on me, the pressure felt unbearable. He was too fat, even though he was a skinny boy I was little and this felt terrible. I hated the way they smelled and I hated the way they pressed themselves into me. I hated everything in those moments but most especially I hated how confusing everything felt.

They could not yet penetrate but they were getting there trying. I remember the sensation of one of them trying to stuff something into my insides. “It won’t go in” the boy yelled, “Just f— her” leader commanded again and again. I kept kicking and squirming and fighting as best I could. The boy kept trying while another boy did what I now know to be ejaculate onto my face and chest.

The rumble of an approaching motorbike was heard. One of the boys jumped off. I was still kicking but no longer remember screaming, in shock, I suppose I was out of the body at this point.

The leader said something about the noise and told them to throw me into the hut.

There was a small hut made of branches and sticks in front of us. I was tossed inside by two boys. They laid me down, pushed my pants to my ankles again and told me to stay right there. One of the boys stuck his gun to my face and said stay quiet and don’t move or he would shoot me. They both left the hut.

As soon as they did, I quietly pulled up my pants, got up and looked through the crack of the hut to see what was happening outside. A young teen was approaching on his motorbike. He was about the same age as the leader so, 16 or 17. “What’s going on here?” he asked as he shut off his ride. He was casual and calm. I don’t remember what they talked about, but I remember him saying, “Why do you guys look so guilty?” and I took a chance and darted out of the hut to stand before him.

I don’t remember what he said but I do remember him asking me to get onto his bike right away and to hold onto him as we raced out of there. I remember feeling immensely grateful. He knew my older brother and knew where I lived and dropped me off in the driveway. I remember him asking me if I wanted him to go in with me and I couldn’t understand why. I couldn’t conceptualize what had happened. Still, I remember thanking him for saving me and walked from my driveway into my home.

I never said anything about it. Weeks after the incident, I saw the leader with one of the boys near my home. He threatened to shoot me and my family if I told anyone what happened. “You don’t want to see me get into trouble do you?” I don’t remember how I said that I would not but I would not and didn’t. Instead, I had nightmares every night.

Many years later, when I was around 30, I told my mother and father about it. To my horror, my mother said she thought remembered a day around that time where everything seemed a bit off. She felt bad she didn’t properly investigate. That hurt but I forgave her and I forgave all of them somehow.

Later, as a fiercely ambitious teen, I learned that I could lose myself in work. I was a DJ at the radio station my father owned. I wasn’t given the position; I had to fight for it. But at 12 years old, I had a popular show and was learning how to sell my own advertising. I had what was often referred to as a tomboy appearance and manor. I talked like and dressed like a typical teen boy in the ’80s.

An older DJ, someone in their 20s befriended me. I now know this was grooming. I also know that people that victimize children do so over and over and they can see it in the eyes when a child is damaged. They look for it and it is how they find their victims. I think victims of sexual violence run a higher risk of being sexually abused further.

Al, the older DJ, talked obsessively about young women’s bodies and about virginity and was I a virgin? He would ask this more than once. I was 11 years old when he first asked me that. I didn’t even know what it meant. I really didn’t. This is pre-internet. I remember laughing uncomfortably a lot. I knew he was in a place of power. I just shrugged it off but tried to stay away from him. He would rub himself close to me and do lots of inappropriate hugs and things, so I never felt comfortable around him.

One night, I worked late on a school night and didn’t finish up until after 9. I called my mom to come and get me and didn’t get an answer so waited around in the waiting room to try her again after a little bit. He was watching me and intercepted the call from my mom and then told her he was driving me home. I was terrified. I called my mom myself from the reception desk scared. She told me Al was driving me home, and I just froze and said OK.

He drove me straight to his house and said we have to run in. He offered me a beer the minute I got inside. I took a sip and said I have to go. “No you don’t,” he said literally picking me up and lifting me into his bedroom.

He laid me down, felt my chest and forced his tongue into my mouth. I said, “no, no, no.” He pulled down my pants, forcibly spread my legs and started kissing me there. It was so completely gross I wanted to vomit but I was trying to get up. “I have to go,” I said. He took off his pants and shimmed on top of me. He was very heavy. He smelled old and bad. He pushed my legs open and forced himself inside of me, and I was at this point screaming “stop” because it was the deepest pain but he continued and he raped me.

I said “Stop!” over and over. I dug my nails into his back and remember seeing blood as I scratched behind his ear but he held me down until he was finished. And it felt like it took forever, and it hurt so much I was crying.

Afterward, he offered me a maxi pad and I was confused. I didn’t understand. He’s like, “look here,’ I look and there’s a large circle of blood on the bed and he’s like worshiping it. “Look at this,”  he says running his fingers through it. “That’s from you.” I am in so much pain and feel like I am going to be sick and I’m utterly confused.  I said something like, “I didn’t realize I got my period” and he’s like, “you didn’t” and I was still superconfused. I had no idea about virginity. It all seemed to happen so fast.

He dropped me off at my house and made me promise not to tell. I was sick My mom was already asleep, said nothing the next day, and I didn’t tell her but was miserable. The next day at work, he acted like I was his girlfriend and would try to get me to spend time with him again, but I avoided him at every turn. He was a monster. I never told anyone for years.

Alan Arthur Matzdorff was his name, and he was one of those guys who was really proud of his name, all of it and would spell it out and let you know what his full name was. He supposed to be a friend of the family. The way he raped me, I feel like he had done it before. The thing that hurts the worst is knowing that he is still out there and may be hurting people.

All I know about him now I learned from Google. He lives in Arizona and is now 56 years old. I found his older brother on Facebook. He friended me after I told him this story. He said he didn’t talk to him much, that he had no idea he had raped me and that he not only believed me, he was sorry that it happened. We’re somehow only friends on LinkedIn now. It was probably too weird for him. Never any closure other than that.

There were a few incidents before him and after but by age 18, I went into recovery mode. I’m now over 40 and happily out as a trans man doing my best to forget it all until another #MeToo story hits. When I read everyone else’s stories, they ignite my own memories, every time. Still, it’s a relief to get this all out in the open. Thank you!

11 thoughts on “NICK HENNEN: Now I See — Me, Too”

  • Leah Rogne September 27, 2018 at 3:20 pm

    Nick: I am so very sorry this happened to you. Thank you for sharing your story. I know you help give voice to others who have held back their stories for so long. My best thoughts to you. Leah

    1. Nick Hennen September 28, 2018 at 4:25 am

      Thank you sincerely, Leah.

  • Don Medal September 28, 2018 at 5:16 am

    What courage to write this, Nick. This is a real service to your community. Big Hugs, friend. -Don

    1. Nick Hennen September 29, 2018 at 2:20 am

      Don, I appreciate your kind words. Thank you.

  • Diane Lewis September 28, 2018 at 11:35 am

    I am so sorry this happened to you. I feel every girl in our family was touched wrongly or raped by someone that was a member or friend of the family. I didn’t tell until my 30’s and found out he also touched my sister. My daughter, and nieces by one of their cousins. It takes a long time to feel ok inside your own body and to feel forgiveness for the person that did this to you.

    1. Nick Hennen September 29, 2018 at 2:21 am

      Thank you, Diane. <3

  • Kim Winnegge September 28, 2018 at 4:28 pm

    Nick, you are a warrior. Thank you for your honesty and bravery and elucidation and strength. I see you and love you. With all of my heart.

    1. Nick Hennen September 29, 2018 at 2:22 am

      I see your love and it heals me! I love you too my dear sweet friend. Thank you.

  • naturelover55 September 29, 2018 at 10:12 am

    So very sorry that you had to endure this. I have stories that I will take to my grave. Thank you for your courage.

    1. Nick Hennen September 30, 2018 at 5:47 am

      Thank you sincerely. So many people have now told me their stories. Together we help heal each other now. It’s a thing. Silence is what hurts the most. There is silence all around. So many dear, close friends can’t grasp this pain or chose to ignore it. Silence hurts.

      Thank you for not being silent.

  • Nick Hennen September 30, 2018 at 8:26 am

    To the many voices who have reached out to me publicly and in private– Thank you! So many of you have shared stories. I am here for you. Together we can help heal each other. ❤️

    And those who offer love and support or simply the acknowledgment of a like, thank you. Together we can tackle prevention and awareness especially for women and children.

    Silence can hurt. There is often silence all around this stuff, isn’t there? Many simply can’t grasp the pain or chose to ignore it. feel better for having told. Sure, there whiffs of panic but my story is no longer a cage that ai am in.

    Reaching out to me with your words helps heal somehow. I know it is also uncomfortable and brave. Again, I thank you.

    Silence hurts.

    Thank you for not being silent.


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