1.

“I was 15, and he was 19 when we first started dating. I was desperate for love and attention, and I’d struggled with self-worth for years. After a few weeks, he began hounding me for more sexual discussions and nudes. He said, ‘I love you so much. … If you love me, you’ll do it.’ I was a child and didn’t want to lose him, so I did it. I think I was barely 16 when it started. We dated for about six months until I broke up with him for someone local. Looking back, it’s the smartest thing I’ve ever done. To this day — he’s in his 30s now — he will randomly email me a nude of mine or send it via social media just to remind me that he still has them.”

“He hasn’t shared them to my knowledge, but the fact that I know he still looks at them really creeps me out.” —audreyunashamed

2.

“When I was 15, my BFF — who was 16 at the time — was dating an ‘older’ guy. He was 18 and in university. His friends were also older, and one of them took an interest in me. He said he was 25, and even then, I felt it was kind of wrong. However, I was very flattered because I liked him. In the two weeks he ‘courted’ me, he became super manipulative and obsessive. One day, we were in his car, and he had to show his ID for the place we were going to enter. I jokingly took it out of his hands, and he panicked. I looked at his birth date, and he was actually 32! I freaked out and never saw him again.”

“As an adult, I’ve thought of that often. While I’m grateful nothing ever happened apart from kissing, any memories of him still enrage me.” —defiant_respect

3.

“I was 18, in my senior year of high school, and he was in his mid-20s and in the Marines. I was in a Facebook group I probably should not have been in, and he messaged me. He said he and his wife were polyamorous and looking for a third person. We messaged for a while, and then he asked to pick me up. It felt wonky, so I said I couldn’t get away because my mom would notice and I had school. After that, we started sexting. His wife eventually messaged me angrily, and I blocked them both. He was not in a polygamous relationship and should not have been pursuing a freshly 18, still-in-high-school child. I hope his wife understands what happened — that I didn’t mean to be the other woman and that I was too young to understand.”

“I also hope she doesn’t blame me and is mad at him for pursuing anyone, let alone a high-schooler.” —elliebaby

4.

“I was 15. He was 42. I was in a really bad place mentally when he found me. He made me feel so beautiful but then went insane. He wanted me to stay up all night talking to him, even when I had school. Whenever I did talk to him, he’d accuse me of texting someone else. He also hated that I didn’t want to send him nudes. Because I refused, he made me have phone sex. Yes, made me — he constantly threatened me. First, he threatened to tell my mom. Then, he threatened to hurt my mom. After, he told me he knew where I lived, and if I didn’t do what he wanted, he’d take me away. He even made a Facebook profile using pictures with my face that he edited. I was terrified of what he was doing to me. But when he wanted to be, he was kind and made me feel special. He knew that I was fat and had a disability but still claimed to love me. In fact, he said he’d be the only one who ever loved me. I believed him. After all, what teenage idiot would date someone who wasn’t a supermodel?”

“I finally cut it off for good when I turned 18. He wanted me to move in with him, but I was still in high school. I blocked him in every way possible on the app we used to talk and text, and then I deleted it for good. I’d done it before, but I always went back to him when I was weak. This time, though, I knew that I couldn’t go back, not when he wanted me to move in. That was way out of my comfort zone.

I finally told my mom about it this year. I broke down crying, and she told me that it was okay because I ‘made a mistake.’ Somehow, I believed her. It was my fault. I could’ve and should’ve ended it sooner.

My therapist says that it isn’t, but I just can’t shake the fact that, for a while, I loved him, and I thought he loved me. What’s really crazy is that sometimes, really late at night, I miss it when he called me beautiful. He may have been manipulative, but damn, was he good at it.” —hollysmith3

5.

“I was 17 when an older man started coming to my work and flirting with me. I assumed he was in his late-20s but realized he was in his early-30s after I had gone on a few dates with him. I was aware that this was messed up, but I was not experienced. Guys at my school thought I was a nerd. Here was a guy who thought I was sexy and beautiful. I liked going on dates with him, but I felt nervous knowing how little control I had in any given situation. I lost my virginity to him, and while it was technically consensual, looking back, I see how weird it really was.”

“Fast-forward to a few weeks later: His wife, who I never knew about, contacted me and told me to leave her husband alone. I was mortified.

Again, guys at my school saw me as the quiet nerd, so if you don’t think your quiet, studious daughter could fall prey to something like this, think again.” —Anonymous, Pennsylvania

6.

“I was 16 years old and crushing on my stepmother’s brother. He was in his late-20s or early-30s. He took me to a strip club, got me served, and tried to have sex with me that first night (I was a virgin but so in awe of him). Luckily, Aunt Flo was in town, so I said no. We fooled around, and he held me until we fell asleep. This went on for a few weeks, but, thankfully, I never agreed to sex. The worst part, I realize now, is that the two times my stepmom caught me in his bed in the morning, I was the one in trouble. She said that if it happened a third time, she would tell my dad, and I would be in serious trouble.”

“Seriously WTF?!” —Anonymous, Ohio

7.

“When I was 17, I met a man who was 30. He quickly gained my trust and pushed himself into my life as the one I should turn to for everything and the only one who really understood me. Whilst we were ‘friends,’ he would list the reasons why anyone my own age was too immature for me to date and how they couldn’t give me the freedom and responsibility I apparently needed. To his friends, I was some joke prize. They’d clap him on the back for having a really young girlfriend. He soon got me pregnant and stuck in a toxic and abusive relationship. He then exploited my age as to why I didn’t understand what real relationships were like. He made me think I couldn’t leave him because if I did, it proved that I was the child he thought I was who couldn’t handle an adult relationship.”

“He cut me off from family and friends. Again, he’d use their immaturity as a reason to get rid of them — despite him being just as, if not more, immature. He would apologize after being abusive, prey on my emotions, and pretend to cry only to carry on the abuse as soon as the dust had settled.

I finally got out, but it took me until my 20s — when he was nearing 40 — to realize how much of a hold he had over me, how he had groomed me for this when I was too young to understand what I was getting into, and how bad this was.” —Anonymous, United Kingdom

8.

“I literally don’t know a girl who hasn’t experienced at least unwanted attention from an older man. For me, it was Gavin, who worked in our local bowling alley. He was at least 18 to be working there and paid me and my girlfriends (14 to 15) a lot of attention, which we all vied for. Turned out, he liked me — much to the disgust of my friend who actually stopped talking to me for two weeks over it, but we’re still very good friends now, don’t worry! He asked me out, and by out, I mean to his flat that he rented with his girlfriend. She was at work, so he put on some soft porn. I was not at all comfortable, and he encouraged me to give him a blow job. I remember stopping halfway through, saying I didn’t like it, but he persisted, and I continued. It was horrible. I wish I could go back and stop myself. He was actually 21 and knew I was 15. I saw him and his girlfriend years later, and I hid like I was the guilty party. It just makes me so sad.”

“It’s sad because my female family members said male attention was what we all aspired to get; because that’s what society says women should want; because I wanted that. Just sad.” —Anonymous, United Kingdom

9.

“We had family friends whose youngest son was four years older than me. We hung out a lot, and our parents thought nothing of it. His mom called me the little sister he never had. By the time I was 14 (he was 18), he’d kiss, grope, and do sexual things with me whenever we were alone. He’d always talk about having a future with me; getting married, having kids, and arguing about where to live. Yet, he never seemed to want to be with me. We were never officially a couple. I always knew without him having to tell me that I wasn’t to tell our families. When I was about to turn 18 (he was 22 and had finished university), I met a guy my age, and it was all just so simple: I liked him; he liked me. I didn’t feel confused by his behavior, and I didn’t feel pressured into anything. It then hit me how much I’d gone along with that I hadn’t wanted to do but that he’d pressured me into doing gently, subtly, and over a long period of time.”

“On my 18th birthday, he arrived and kissed my cheek in front of my parents. I felt hugely panicked. I had this feeling like he’d been waiting for me to turn 18 so he could ‘go public,’ and that he was going to keep on being with me like he had been — only now, we could tell people. It made me feel inexplicably awful. I lashed out, and we had a dreadful row that night. I told him I’d met someone else who didn’t make me feel emotional whiplash like he did, and that I wanted him to leave me alone. 

When I was in my early-20s and effectively at the same life point that he’d been then — out of university, getting a grown-up job — it really hit me how young I’d been at 17 (when he was 21), and how he knew how young I’d been. He was a family friend. He knew I didn’t have experience with other guys; he knew I’d had a fairly sheltered upbringing, and he knew that I’d idolized him as a child. Then he’d do things with me, and I’d find out he was dating someone his own age. I never knew where I stood.

I always thought he was my friend, but I realized he never cared about me at all. I was just convenient to him. I cut that guy out of my life brutally. Both my and his parents just think that we’d always been great friends until I suddenly became a massive bitch to him when I was 18. I still frequently get updated by my-mom-via-his-mom on him, his wife, and their children. I’m sure they report back to him about me and my family, too. We met up a few years ago at a family event, and he was laughing and joking with my parents, my brother, and my partner. I sometimes wish I could scream and shout at him. Doesn’t he even feel guilty at all about how much he took advantage of me? Then made me out to be the bad guy?

I feel very lucky that I met my first proper boyfriend just before that incident on my 18th. It didn’t last long, but I don’t think I’d have realized how wrong it had been if I hadn’t had a nice, fun, straightforward, face-value flirtation and relationship that I could be open with people about and stuff. I know that if my ‘friend’ had really announced our ‘relationship’ to our families, I’d never have been able to get away from him. They’re so close that I’d never have been able to break up with him — and I think he knew that, too.” —Anonymous, United Kingdom