Trigger Warning: This is an essay about sexual assault.
Twenty five years ago, about six weeks after my father died in February 1991, I went out with a new girlfriend on a Saturday night to a club. We met up with her best friend from college, and he introduced us to some of his buddies. Although I was unaware, one of his friends took a particular interest in me. It felt good to be out with other young people, to be dancing, to be alive.
At some point the man slipped rohypnol into my glass of water. I began to feel oddly, and I asked my girlfriend to help me get home. The man offered to help her get me home, and she said, "Sure." She didn't realize I had not had alcohol that night., and assumed I was drunk. The three of us got in a taxi and drove to my apartment building. They helped me into the building, into the elevator, into my apartment, and onto my bed. Then, as they both left, I remember saying one thing to her: "Lock the door behind you." That's the last thing I remember. The drug the man gave me made me lose consciousness.
The man made sure the door was left unlocked. He came back into my apartment. The man raped me. The man strangled me. I do not recall any of this. This is peripheral amnesia. The trauma the man inflicted made my mind block the horror from my conscious mind to protect me.
When I came to in the morning, I was laying on my bed. I wasn't wearing any clothes. I hurt all over my body and inside. The man was kneeling at the end of my bed, and was naked, and the man looked angry and savage.
My instincts told me that I had to get the man out of my apartment. I got out of the bed slowly, and pretended that my legs were trembling because I had had "one too many last night." I made a lame joke. "I am such a lightweight." I faked a laugh. My voice was so hoarse. My throat ached so badly.
I said, "Gosh, I have such a bad hangover. How are you feeling?"
The rage left his face, and he slipped on his Nice Guy mask.
"I think I had too many shots of Jager last night," the man said. He used his fingers to smooth down his hair. I put on my robe so I would not be naked. The man pulled his clothes from the floor and began to dress. I kept talking, speaking to keep me alive.
"Would you like some coffee?" I asked my rapist.
I walked out of the bedroom to the kitchen. The man followed me into the other room.
"It would just take a few minutes." I turned on the kitchen faucet and let the cold water run. I was a few feet from my front door. Then I turned my head to see where he was. The man was sitting on my sofa, and putting on his Hush Puppies.
"Nah, I should roll," he replied. I was leaning with my back to my kitchen stove and hoped that the man would go now. Blood pounded in my temples. Everything seemed too bright and too loud to me. I could hear that I was breathing very quickly, from fear, and thought that the man might notice that. I had to act as if I were normal, as if everything was normal,when nothing would be normal ever again.
"Yeah, okay," I said as casually as I could, like we had had a one-night stand, like we had met at the club and I asked him to come home with me, like I had consented.
He picked up his jacket which had been hanging over a chair. The man walked over to me, and then he was in front of me, a full foot taller than I am. The man looked into my eyes and the man said, "This was fun. We should do this again." I felt the vomit rise up into my throat. I swallowed. I moved to the front door of my apartment and turned the deadbolt lock. "Oh, sure," I said. I opened the door and I prayed he would leave.
He kissed my cheek, and then the man walked past me out the door. He had a smile on his face. I kept the door open door so that I could watch the man walk down the hall and get on the elevator. Then I closed and locked the door. I walked into my bathroom. I looked in the mirror and I saw the bruises around my neck. I splashed water on my face. I recalled hearing that you shouldn't shower after, after what had happened.
I sat on my living room floor. I needed help.I phoned a close childhood friend who was an A.D.A.. She had been at my father's wake and funeral the month before. I told her what the man did. She was shocked, but she kept her composure.
"What do you want to do?" she asked.
"What should I do?" I said.
It was 1991. DNA testing was in its early stages. She told me that if I called the police, they would say, "Sweetheart, if you can't remember what happened, how are we supposed to know?" It would be a case of my word against the man's. She said that if the police did investigate, and found enough evidence for the D.A.'s office to prosecute, the man's criminal defense attorney probably would bring out my personal life and my sexual history. In essence, I would be placed on trial, not the man.
I thought of my mother and how Daddy just had died. How could I bring more pain to her? I thought of my job. What if my bosses found out? I tried not to think of my father, who would have been heartbroken that he could not protect me from the man. I decided not to phone the police. I did not go to the hospital and have a rape kit done. I did not speak up. I did not report my rape.
I hurt inside, so I went to my gynecologist the next morning. She wept while she examined me because of the pain and the damage the man caused me. She tested me for STD's, and she gave me The Morning After Pill. I hadn't even made the connection that I might have caught something or become pregnant because what happened, what the man did, was not sex.
I survived. There has been no justice. There has been a lot of pain, and rage. There is depression and anxiety. I have Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. But I'm alive.
It sickens me that rape culture has become worse in many ways. So I fight. I write about this, I talk about this, even if it makes people "uncomfortable." I speak truth to power.
So listen up: There is no way I am going to stay silent when a man who thinks he can do whatever he wants to do to women, who is alleged to have sexually assaulted several women, who says whatever he wants to say about women, who thinks he is better than women because he is a man, who believes he is above the law, is running for the highest office in the land.
I didn't survive my rape and attempted murder by the man so that we as a nation could allow this man to become President of the United States.
Heartbreaking, Maura. Thank you for sharing. You're so brave. Everyone should read this.ReplyDelete
Oh, Maura. No words. Just... no words.ReplyDelete
Tears and rage... And gratitude for your courage and determination. This needs to be seen by everyone. Bless you.ReplyDelete
I am so heartbroken for you and for every woman who has been through this kind of trauma. Thank you for your bravery and for sharing. Peace and love coming your way:)ReplyDelete