NATIONAL SEXUAL ASSAULT HOTLINE 1-800-656-4673
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) https://www.rainn.org
In 2012, when I started this blog, I promised God and myself that I would share my experiences with the goal of inspiring others.
So, in the wake of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, the #MeToo movement and the #WhyIDidn’tReport Twitter feed, an over 30-year old experience that I placed in a high security vault and buried deep in my memory has decided it is time to have its say. I called the event then “my humiliation,” but later the term that most aptly applied was “date rape.”
This long silent memory was reawakened with the thought: I’ve heard people recently talk about their willingness to take a lie detector test to prove their innocence or truthfulness regarding disputed “intimate interactions”: both the accused and the accuser are certain they will pass and do pass the test. This caused me to wonder how that could happen? How can both be right? The answer became abundantly clear in light of my own experience: the accused may have viewed the interaction as having the person’s consent; the accuser may have experienced it as coercsion.
I’ve written extensively about my past and, in particular, my divorce. It was during this period, I returned to college (and campus living) and began attending events with my friends. At one of these events, I met a guy, who seemed to be genuine and interesting. He asked me to dance and the rest of the evening we spent in good conversation and trying out new dance moves. I had a great time!
Before the night ended, he asked to take me out to dinner the following evening. I gave him my phone number (mistake #1 — didn’t get his) and he called shortly after I arrived at my dorm to agree on a pick up time.
When he arrived, I got in the car (mistake #2 — should have agreed to meet somewhere) and on the way to the restaurant, he said that he forgot something at home and had to stop and pick it up. He parked and asked me to wait inside his house while he retrieved it. I said okay (mistake #3 — should have stayed in the car). Shortly thereafter, I learned that he had locked the door and had no plans of opening it without a concession that included my body. My choices in that moment as I saw them were: (1) say no and demand to leave (did that, it didn’t work); (2) fight with the possibility of injury or death; or (3) capitulate and, hopefully, be released. After the first option failed and I decided not to fight my way out (this was on the heels of working through my previous domestic violence abuse), I chose #3 — the only option I thought gave me the best chance of getting out of there unhurt. (I later learned through this and other experiences that some hurts can’t be seen on the surface, but are scars that are buried deep in your soul).
Once the deed was done, he acted as if all was well, while I felt haunted in my own body! He planned to take me to the restaurant as before, but I said that I wanted to go back to my dorm.
During the ride, he kept up a steady stream of conversation, while I hugged myself and huddled in the corner of the front seat waiting for the ride to end. As soon as he parked, I jumped out of the car and walked quickly away without a backward glance.
Once in my dorm, I confided to my roommates what happened. They urged me to file a police report, but all I could think about was how humiliated I felt by the experience and the strong belief that the police would blame me for going into his house and bargaining with my body for my release (this was in the early 80s, three decades before the #MeToo movement). I was also just piecing my life back together and the thought of opening up a Pandora’s box was less than appealing to me. So, I decided to lock the experience — and it’s associated memories and feelings — away “as if it never happened.”
A year or more later, I was surprised by my resilience; I didn’t dwell on my humiliation at all! In fact, I thought I had successfully moved on until I attended a friend’s house party and the rapist was there. I froze! My boyfriend (now my husband of 33 years) became concerned and asked me if I was alright. I finally told him about that night. Intensely angry, my boyfriend approached the guy, which opened the door to my confronting him about raping me. The guy looked seriously surprised by my accusation and then proceeded to apologize IF he did something wrong. I told him that he did and the only reason I didn’t call the police was that I didn’t know his address. I walked away feeling some closure, but also knowing, because of my response to seeing him, that the scar was (and remains) very present, and it’s a reminder to me to do everything within my power to make sure it never happens again.
Those 30-year old feelings of humiliation, powerlessness and fear resurfaced with recent stories of sexual abuse by powerful men — I hate that! But I can do little about those feelings other than to honor them for what they are, be thankful that I’ve survived and thrived, and to share my story so that people will know that consent is not always consensual.
If you are the victim of sexual abuse, please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 (https://www.rainn.org) or your local Rape Crisis Center for help and support.