A Violent Loss of Innocence
One of the reasons that men continue to rape is that they continue to get away with it. —Author Susan Brownmiller
"The statistics back up Brownmiller's conclusion. More than 55,000 American women reported being raped last year. "
"Official estimates say unreported rapes would place the figure at least three times as high, and some analysts claim as many as 500,000 people a year are at tacked by rapists. Yet few rapists, perhaps 2% of offenders, are actually convicted and jailed."
The above are excerpts from an article published in TIME magazine in October of 1975. Four months before I was raped. I was 15. Today a rape is reported every 6 minutes...every 6 minutes. Thats worth repeating, Absorb that for a moment.
By definition Rape is forced, unwanted sexual intercourse. The experts tell us it is an act of violence and aggression, not sex. That irritates me. Sex is clearly involved. I prefer to say it is a sexual act of violence.
As you can see from the TIME article, Rape in 1975 was not often reported. They say that 3 times as many as 55,000 women were probably raped but never reported it. It was probably even more. I was one of those who never reported it. In fact, I never even discussed it with anyone and spent the next 18 years pretending it never happened. Why?
Well you saw the statistic. Only 2% of offenders were actually convicted and jailed. Why would I tell my family, ruin my life, my reputation, have my name and my families name dragged through the mud? Be humiliation, and have to endure hushed whispers in the local stores about the girl that was raped. For what?
In 1975/76 you weren't the rape victim you were the whore who realized what she had done and cried Rape. It was the tight pants, the sexy way you dressed, the make-up, that hot perfume. You were asking for it. But if you insist, go ahead, prove you were raped. Prove it was not consentual. You have proof right? Because you are crying it was rape and he says it was consentual so who is lying? There were no rape kits. No DNA tests.
I could pretend it never happened and act normal again like before. Isn't that what rape victiims do?
Acquaintance Rape on College and Community campuses:
According to the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress; "...in three-quarters of all rapes and sexual assaults against women, the perpetrator is know to the victim..."
I knew my rapist. I knew his first and last name, I knew what he did for a living although I did not know where he worked. I had gone on a date with him once and not alone. It was a date with my sister and her boyfriend, as it was through her boyfriend that I met my rapist.
However, over the years acquaintance rape on college campuses in particular has become an epidemic and a far more sophisticated one. Now there are actual "date rape" drugs given to young women in their drinks that cause an "amnesia" affect the next day. They know they were raped, at least they think they were, they have a hard time remembering any of the details at all nor do they have any knowledge of taking any drug. This makes their case useless in court.
There are things you can do to avoid this ever happening and it is my hope that most mothers have these conversations with their daughters before sending them off to college. They have to be armed with all the necessary information and they have to understand how serious it is. They have to pal around with other girlfriends and not go anyplace alone. They have to be hyper-aware of their drinks and never let their drink out of their sight. They have to be careful not to drink too much and make rash decisions. Do not allow some guy to walk up to you and hand you a drink. Say Thanks but no thanks, you have no idea what is in it. Never go off alone with a guy you barely know, know from class or went out with once or twice. You don't know him WELL ENOUGH yet. In spite of what you "feel" remember that once he has you alone, just about anyplace, you have the potential to become a victim. You have led yourself into a potential trap.
Not to say that being raped is your fault. It isn't. It may have been your choice to be alone with him but it was his choice to rape you. No matter what you did, are doing or said you might do, if at some point you say No, push him away or try to get away yourself, he knows you mean no. He just doesn't want to stop now.
Has Anything Changed?
No one spoke about Rape in 1976 when it happened to me. It was a taboo subject. There was one movie made about it called "Cry Rape" in 1973 starring Andrea Marcovicci. It was even nominated for an Emmy. The guy claimed it was a case of mistaken identity.
Today not only have there been many movies about rape, there are rape scenes in soap operas, television shows and it is discussed on talk shows. But while it is no longer a taboo subject and it is openly discussed, it STILL happens. By 2005 over 250,000 rapes were reported. 73% of those reported knew their assailants.
What has changed? The huge increase in number in the past 30 years? Survivors are still reluctant to come forward and relive this horrific and traumatic event in their lives. It is still difficult to get support from their community and more difficult still to get a conviction.
Just recently, in Houston Texas a rape survivor was charged and continually harrassed by her local hospital for payment of the rape kit that was used to gather evidence which eventually led to a conviction of the assailant.
YouTube has over a dozen rape videos, that I could find. Of those dozen, one was viewed over nine (9) million times, another was viewed nearly three (3) million times. What is the attraction? Why do we put out rape videos and why do so many people want to see them?
What are we saying to our youth when they are exposed to, for their enjoyment, Rape videos and scenes in movies and television shows? Just about every teenager in society today accesses YouTube. The message sent to boys who watch this video is a dangerous one. Rape cannot become a part of mainstream society or some game that kids play.
I was a 15 year old virgin. It may have been the mid-70's and the middle of a full blown sexual revolution but I wasn't ready to play. I was waiting for that magical first time with the boy I loved and I believed with all my heart that that would happen when we were ready. But ours was an on again/off again relationship and at this time, it was off.
My sister's boyfriend came out from the city to Long Island and brought his friend with him, actually I should say his friend brought him because he was the one with the car. This particular night, the night of February 2, 1976 was a party at a friend's house. We didn't drink at all as her parents were there and they were good Christian parents that carefully monitored the party and made sure we all behaved. We danced and Jake (not his real name) watched me. I was flattered by the attention.
My sister and I had to be home by 1 am if there was a party. I was never late. But my sister wanted to stay out with her boyfriend. She pleaded with me to stay with her "just a little longer" because she knew if I showed up at home without her she would be in a big trouble. I just wanted her to be happy and have fun. So I said Okay.
But it was a freezing winter night and I couldn't stand the cold as Jake and I walked around the schoolyard leaving my sister and her boyfriend to have fun in the car with the radio blasting.
"I have a sleeping bag" Jake said "we could just use that to keep us warm". His long dark brown hair fell over one brown eye as he tilted his head, he dressed impeccably, which I loved, and had a french portugese accent.
I said "no thats okay" a couple of times assuming we would just get back to the car as they had had enough time to have fun, but Jake insisted we leave them alone and got the sleeping bag out of the trunk. They barely even noticed him. We went to the alcove by the doors where there was one step up and about 8 feet by 6 feet of space in front of the double doors. Jake layed out the sleeping bag and I stood there nervously. I didn't want to get in and lie down.
"Come on" Jake said "I'm freezing". He rubbed his hands together.
"No...go ahead" I told him "lay down, I'll be fine".
"Well aren't you going to lie down also? It's freezing, come on, what's the matter with you?" he tried to make his voice sound light but I could hear he was becoming annoyed.
"Nothing, I just don't know if this is a good idea"
"Oh come on, thats ridiculous we're both freezing here, its just to keep warm, we're not going to DO anything, just cuddle and stay warm a little bit".
Would you have believed that if you were a 15 year old naieve kid like I was? Yeah thats right, I got in.
And then it started almost immediately. His hands were all over my body, unzipping my jacket and pushing it away. I was pushing away his hands saying "Stop it, stop"...in an annoyed voice.
My jacket was opened my shirt was unbuttoned and I was pushing him away with both hands as hard as I could "Stop it!! Stop it Jake!! Jake, please..." I started pleading.
He never said a word. He just kept ripping and pulling at my clothing. My voice had that quivering sound in it as I pleaded with him. He became annoyed with my hands pushing at him and although I was shorter than him by 5 inches and beneath him now, I had enough strength to be a problem and make it difficult for him to get to the parts he wanted. So he took both my wrists above my head and held them there with one large hand. I was pinned down now and couldn't move. He used the other hand to take down my cords. (Tight corduroy pants girls wore that were thinner than regular corduroys).
"No, No!!! please please Jake not that, don't do that" and then "we can do something else" in a lighter voice, trying to convince him that "something else" would be better so I could keep my virginity in tact.
He never responded, just pushed my cords down over my thighs and past my knees. I was loose for a moment and shoved at him hard trying to bring my body up, but as fast as possible he grabbed me and pinned me down again and shoved my pants and panties down with his one hand and his legs. I pushed my thighs together as hard as I could, squeezing tightly. "Oh God" I kept saying, my voice crying and desperate. Begging and pleading. Then his fingers dug into the sensitive inside of my thighs to force them apart and I screamed.
I don't scream well. I have a deep voice so my screams are not high pitched. I always knew that if I were ever in trouble screaming would be of little help to me. My thighs now apart he pushed himself between them and I looked around frantically for someone to help me. In the dark cold of winter not a single house that sat on the other side of the school yard fence had a light on. I stared at their windows with pleading eyes.
Jake pulled off of me and looked down at me. I stared blankly into his eyes. Then before I knew what was happening he shoved himself into me and I let out a scream I will never forget. It seemed to last a full minute.
The next thing I knew I was hovering over my body and going higher and higher into the night sky. I was confused at first but happy not to be in my body now. But I kept rising higher and higher and I got scared. As soon as I could no longer see my body below me I thought "oh no, I can't see my body" and I was right there inside it again. Jake raping me. I turned my head to the side. I had to do something to not "be there" so I focused on the one tear that I noticed was sliding down the side of my face. I traced it in my minds eye down the side of my face, over every curve, crevice and imperfection. A little to the left...straight, a pause...Jake continued to rape me as I follwed the tear falling into my ear and moving from side to side when It landed. Jake was still raping me when the tear stopped.
Finally the full weight of his body was on me as he called my name. I felt sick.
Jake finally got off of me and offered to help me dress. Was he serious? I grabbed my clothes from him and put them on as quickly as possible. It ached between my legs and it hurt to walk. I walked slowly and headed toward home.
Jake drove the car toward me and my sister yelled for me to get inside. "No, I'll walk" I called to her. She insisted that it was freezing and I should get into the car. To not further waste time I got in and sat as far from Jake and as close to the door as I could. When he dropped me off home only a couple of blocks away I slammed the door and ran into the house. Once I got into the bathroom and peeled off my clothes I saw all the blood on my thighs..
I immediately got into the shower to wash it all away and fell to a seating position crying hysterically with my hands over my mouth so no one would hear. I screamed into my wet dripping hands a few times just to release the pent up anger and pain. When I felt a little bit better I got out of the shower and wondered if this had been my fault. The tight cords, the dancing. Just being a stupid girl that got into that sleeping bag? I brushed my teeth and went to bed. My sister was still awake in her bed only 4 feet away. "Are you okay sis?"
"yeah, I'm fine" I answered.
"Nothing" I said and went to sleep. And that was the way it stayed in my mind for 18 years. Nothing happened.
There was no reason for my bouts with deep depression, dropping out of school nearly a year later, my inability to sustain long term relationships, never allowing any guy to get too close to me. No, nothing happened. I worked on each issue one at a time until I could somehow manage every aspect of my life so it was "normal".
Facing The Reality
I was 33 years old and, married with a 4 year old when I started working at a private school for children with learning disabilities. I loved both the kids and the staff. I worked with a woman we will call Maggie. Maggie had issues with her job and wanted very much to do something else. I would listen to Maggie everyday when she came into my office and try to offer her any advice that I could.
It was nearing the end of the school year and there was a special class she was teaching. She asked me to review a movie she wanted to show the children to see if it was "appropriate". She told me to take it home and let her know.
It was on "Date Rape". I watched the movie as soon as I got home. I told my 4 year old to please clean his room and not come out until mommy said it was okay.
Not half way through the movie I became aggitated and upset. By the end of the movie something was going on with me I couldn't put my finger on. I was pacing my living room floor. I went into my sons room to tell him it was okay to come out and he had not cleaned it. I started screaming and trashing his room. He ran scared into the living room and stared wide eyed at this crazy woman he had never met before.
I was screaming and throwing his things off his dresser and made his room a bigger mess when I suddenly saw his little face. I ran to him and hugged him and kissed him and told him I was sorry, it was not his fault. Something was wrong with mommy and she would fix it. I then took him to McDonalds and the toy store to ease my guilty conscience. I just didn't scream and yell at my child and act like that. I was in therapy within a week.
I gave the movie to Maggie the next day. She looked at me intently "What did you think?"
"How did you know?"
"Just had a feeling"
"Jesus, is it that obvious? Am I showing something that I don't know about?"
"Just how you reacted to the conversation about it. You had this look on your face. I thought this might help".
Did it ever. My therapist Susan warned me that the whole event might come back to me all at once one day like a movie in minute detail. It did. I had not remembered the entire event like I just told it to you. I remembered only that I had been raped, where, and by whom.
On my way to a friends house one afternoon it suddenly came back to me, just as Susan said, a movie in my head. In detail. I was crying so hard I couldn't see and had to pull over to the side of the road. I was almost at my friends house, but had to turn around and go home. It was as it I had just been raped all over again.
At the end of the school year Maggie gave me a card thanking me for all the help I had given her and how I alone had gotten her through a very rough year. It was accompanied by a beautiful barrett for my hair, which was very long at the time, that had all the colors I wore in it. It was stunning.
We both left after that. I like to think we were both there for each other exactly when we were supposed to be.
If you have been Raped or Sexually Assaulted
This is not your dirty little secret. You didn't do anything wrong. There are Rape Hotlines in every town across America. Report it immediately and although the urge to shower and be rid of the disgusting residue of the rape is strong, you must not do so. You could be washing away evidence. If you think you may have been drugged it is important that you do not even urinate as urine holds the drug and again, this could be used to help your case.
Family and friends may or may not be supportive but don't let their ignorance deter you from doing what is best for you. Surround yourself with a healthy support system. Peoples responses to rape has improved dramatically over the past 30-35 years but there are still those that just don't understand and they never will.
At some point, Rape becomes a background noise. Something that pops into your mind every now and again when the subject comes up.
As it says in my favorite poem "Desiderata" by Max Ehrmann (coincidentally I memorized this poem off a wall in my music class the same exact year I was raped) "...Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul..."
I remember back in the 80's hearing a commercial that stated that 1 out of every 7 women is a victim of rape and sometimes When i am with a group of women I still can't help but look around and wonder...who is the one, and then I remember...oh yeah, it's me.