Escaping Rape in 2015
Last night, on New Year’s Eve, an intoxicated young man tried to assault me. When he said, “I am going to hurt you” and reached to grab me, I neither felt afraid or angry. My animal instincts and years of self-defense training took over. My senses became heightened. I could see, hear and smell everything with precision. I felt clear and focused. I felt powerful as I weighed my options: I could run, I could fight, or I could scream (although any screams would probably would be confused with New Year’s parties.
I ran. I ran as fast as I could. I have been training for a half marathon and am in peak running condition, so running felt like the best option. I didn’t expect that he would chase me and I was surprised at how fast he was, but I was faster. He kept pace at ten feet behind me for a couple of blocks. Relying on my hill training, I turned on a street with a hill and sprinted uphill for two blocks, turned a sharp corner, then hid in the shadow of a building. He lost some speed on the hill and didn’t see where I hid. He ran past me and kept going, looking for me. I waited and watched, hiding while I considered my next steps.
This incident began after an unsuccessful trip to the supermarket for milk, as I arrived after closing. Walking alone with an empty Chicobag across my shoulder, I was talking on the phone via my headset. After a few minutes, I heard someone’s footsteps keeping in-pace with mine. I sped up and so did the footsteps. Then I slowed down, while continuing my conversation. Sensing ill-intent, I removed my gloves despite the freezing temperatures and took the bag off my shoulder, readying myself for self-defense.
I was in an unfamiliar neighborhood, as our family was visiting Boston for the holidays. My husband and children were back at the apartment we rented for a week near Boston College. We had spent the evening celebrating the New Year downtown with my husband’s family and had just returned to the apartment to get the kids to bed. While my husband was getting the boys in their pajamas, I went out alone to get milk for the morning.
Ready, but unsure of his intent, I stepped off the sidewalk to allow the person whose footsteps I heard to pass me, hoping that he would. He didn’t. He stopped and said something to me that I didn’t understand. I then started to walk again, but he kept pace next to me. He said something to me again, but his speech was slurred and I couldn’t hear him properly. I stopped and asked him if he needed to call a cab, as he appeared intoxicated.
I quickly evaluated him, as he appeared sad, confused, drunk, yet handsome, clean-cut and well dressed. Obviously out for the evening, he was wearing nice slacks, expensive shoes and a well-made wool overcoat. He looked to be in his mid-20’s, tall, athletic and probably a recent college graduate. My mothering side wanted to help this lost and confused kid, but my instincts told me it wasn’t safe.
I asked him, “Are you okay? Do you need help?”
“I need someone to hold.”
I replied that I could call him a cab to help him get safely where he needed to go.
“I want to talk to you,” he said.
“I’m on the phone, please leave me alone!” I replied.
“No, you’re not on the phone. You’re trying to avoid me.”
“You need leave me alone now,” I said with confidence.
He stepped in front of me to block my path and I repeated, “you need to leave me alone now!”
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“That’s none of your business, you don’t need to know my name.”
“I want to know you.”
I dodged him and darted across the street, which he quickly followed and got a few steps in front of me, blocking my angle of escape.
“You need to go away and leave me alone now,” I repeated in a strong voice.
“I want to hurt you” he said.
“You aren’t going to hurt me.” I replied.
“Yes, I am probably going to hurt you.”
“No! You are NOT going to hurt me,” I commanded.
I then realized he was serious in his intent and was strategically trying to corner me on an empty dead-end street. I dodged his attempt to grab my arm and sprinted in the other direction, crossing the street again. He chased me. I ran.
At the beginning of the encounter, I considered calling the police. But trusting my instincts and assessing the situation, I realized that didn’t have the time to dial 911. I felt completely calm and present during the entire experience. Time seemed to slow down, which allowed me to feel like I could make good decisions and move with precision.
The entire time I was running I kept thinking to myself, “I am glad I have been training for a half-marathon. I hope I don’t have to use martial arts to defend myself. Good thing I am wearing comfortable shoes. Thank god I am not wearing heels. What if I were wearing heels? I would have had to hurt him!”
After I reached a safe spot, I sat and collected my thoughts. I considered chasing him down, tackling him, pinning him and giving him a talking to, like a mother to a young child. But thought better of it and went inside the building. When I told my husband what happened, he called the police. A lovely female police officer came to the apartment and asked me questions. She said, “you did the right thing and sounds like you handled the situation perfectly.”
After the police report, I kissed my kids goodnight, sat in the quiet apartment drank some tea, ate some chocolate and fell asleep thinking to myself, “What an interesting way to start the new year!”
When I woke up in the morning, I realized that I was prepared for this experience. I had years of training and preparedness to deal with exactly this type of situation. But this wasn’t always the case. 20 years ago, I had the opposite experience. It is finally time to share my story, not just for my own process but to talk publicly and raise awareness about violence against women so that it can STOP.
The National Institute of Justice says that “1 in 6 women will be the victim of a completed or attempted rape during her life.” This is not a rare occurrence, this is a cultural problem. For years, we have focused on empowering women to prevent rape, but we also need to empower men to prevent rape. Rape and violence against women is not about lack of power in women, it is about lack of power in men. Men who rape, do so not because they can’t “control their urges.” It is because they feel powerless in their lives and seek the feeling of control or dominance over someone else in order to feel more powerful. We need to empower both women and men with compassion and self-love, the true source of power.
Like so many women in the world, my first experience with sex was rape. I was 15 and was raped by a close friend. I felt deep shame around this for years. I wrote the details of this experience right after it happened and kept them hidden in a journal for almost 20 years. In-fact, this is the first time I am sharing this experience, despite years of therapy, women’s self-defense training and spiritual healing. I am telling this story so that other women and men know how this happens and hopefully so that we can stop this pattern together.
Surviving Rape in 1996
I was a trusting 15 year old and innocently angry at the world. He was an 18 year old disaster and craved my sincerity. We were both on the swim team. His need for someone to care for him drew me closer and sucked me into him like an anemone feeding on whatever it touches. I became more fascinated by him the day that he came to the pool and had shaved his head and bathed in bleach to cleanse his skin. Like some amphibious creature he crept from the water and seemed to breathe through his skin.
I admired his powerful frog-like body as he would leap out of the pool and dry himself off after swim practice. He caught me staring at him and he laughed out loud. He loved to be a “freak” and he took it to extremes. He didn’t try to pretend to be normal and I envied that. His strangeness aroused my curiosity and an intuitive sense of danger. To overcome my feeling of intimidation, I swam my hardest to compete with him and there were times that he would tempt my competitiveness, but he never let me beat him.
He was obsessed with swimming. He was in the pool for three hours in the morning and in the evening every day. I truly believed that he wasn’t human. He was dangerous and had wild ideas. I was fascinated by him, but soon began to realize his weaknesses and wanted to help him. He began to invite me to longer conversations. He didn’t work and only went to school occasionally, so he had endless amounts of spare time. He convinced me to skip classes to smoke pot with him and talk. His forcefulness with persuasion frightened me and made me hesitant. A couple of our conversations extended late into the evenings and I felt his interests change, but couldn’t exactly identify what was changing.
One of those late hour nights, he talked me into jumping from the WNMU roof into the swimming pool. We almost got caught by the campus police, but we slipped away through the back of the building and hid behind a short rock wall. The evening was concluded by a late night talk about life and death. He spoke of floating out of our bodies and into space so that time and reality never existed. Metaphysical conversations merged with crying and story sharing. I became vulnerable like a child. I wanted to comfort him as I longed for the same. I told him about some of the sad things that had happened to me as a child and he listened with intensity.
It got late again that night and I fell asleep on the couch at our swim coach’s house. She often let some of us stay at her place when we were having a hard time with our parents. I woke up to him pushing me onto the floor. He was kissing me, I became confused. I was not quite awake yet and everything seemed like a strange dream. I remember my shirt coming off. Drowsy, I felt unable to respond. He had never tried to kiss me before, yet I didn’t mind so much. I wanted him to love me and respect me for all my loathing of the world. He kept undressing me and I told him that I didn’t want to have sex with him.
I had never had sex before. I still had my vision of how my first time would be and this definitely was not it. I wanted my first time to be romantic, perfect, and special. I would love my first one with all my passion. I did not feel passion or love for him, I pitied him. I began to try to fight him off. I pushed him, but it just motivated his aggression. He had transformed into an unrecognizable creature. His face deformed and became a salivating angry monster. He pretended to be someone else or something else. Strange, distant, and animal like, I called to him, frightened of what he had become. He didn’t respond to his name. He was gone.
The beast that took over bit me and stripped off my clothes. I tried to wrestle my way out, but he pinned me with his weight. He growled and penetrated me. It burned and ripped. I felt the pain deep within my abdomen. I was helpless. It was so fast. No scream left my mouth, but tear after tear leaked from my eyes like the blood from my wounded vagina. I ached everywhere. He came soon and was done with me. He rolled off me and pretended to sleep again.
I stared at his lizard like body and believed that I had just had sex with Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jeckle. I crouched into a fetal position, hugging my knees. Shaking, I cried and cried. After many minutes had passed, I stood up, grabbed my clothes, put them on and walked out the door. I got into my car and turned the keys to escape the creature sleeping in my swim coach’s house.
I don’t remember the drive home. I don’t remember the next day. Three days later my cat, King Arthur was missing. Someone told me that he had said that he was “taking care of my cat for me”. I couldn’t talk to him. He had come to my house to take my cat while I was gone. I became terrified to leave my house or to see him anywhere. What had I done? Did I lead him on? What did I do to provoke him? Why would he do that to me? Why would he steal my most precious things? He stole my virginity and my honor, then he stole my cat. I have not had a cat since.
Two months later, I was at a party, drowning myself in alcohol to sponge up some of the misery of my fifteen-year-old existence. I knew that he had been following me, watching where I was going. But I was too drunk to care. He found me vomiting on the front lawn strewn with beer cans. I clung to the grass, so that I would not spin off the earth. He lifted me up and said that he needed to talk to me.
“Fuck off” I spat at him as he grabbed me and began to lead me away from the party.
I stumbled trying to catch my balance.
He said “you are so beautiful all I can think about is wanting to fuck you”.
“I hate you,” I screamed.
“I know . . . but I just have to explain it all to you” he gently edged me away from the party.
I could no longer hear the music or my friends. We were suddenly at his front door. We had somehow already walked the three blocks to his house. I began to tremble. The helpless feeling overtook me again and caused me to shake. Once inside, he thrust me against the wall. He tried to kiss me forcefully. I attempted to push him off. This aroused him. He liked the battle. He threw me down on the floor and hit me on the side of the face. I felt it sting, but the alcohol numbed the hurt. He started to scream at me like a wild animal. I became his prey.
I thought that he was going to kill me and devour my flesh raw. I stood up to try to run, so he punched me in the stomach. I couldn’t breathe. As I doubled over he stripped down my pants. He left them at my ankles and tore off my shirt, ripping my bra. I fumbled with my pants trying to get them above my knees. He grabbed me by the waist and threw me on his bed. His beast-face took over again and he began to penetrate me. He hovered above me like some giant menacing demon.
I cried and yelled, but nobody could hear. My anger and frustration caused my stomach to convulse and I vomited alcohol over the front of his shirt. He was dripping with hate and puke. He yelled at me and threw me on the floor. I could hear him yelling about the mess and the stench, but I was drifting away. I felt myself leave my body, like what he had described in our metaphysical discussions.
He grabbed me by the arm and threw me out his side bedroom door. Still hidden from the street, I barely pulled my pants up and I found my shirt. I couldn’t find my bra. I half crawled-walked to the street. I sat down in the middle of the sidewalk and I cried. I couldn’t feel any pain, but I still cried. My friend Dave happened to be driving home from the party and found me in the street. He took me to my friend Becca’s house where I stayed the night. I slept till four the next afternoon and I only went to school twice that week. I spent two days at my friend’s house laying in her bed, staring at the ceiling. I went home and locked myself in my bedroom. Luckily I had some pot and I smoked it staring at the ceiling in my room.
I avoided public places because I was terrified to see him. The next week someone told me that he had left town. I never really knew why, but I considered that Dave knew what had happened to me and perhaps threatened him. The only time that I ever saw him again was two years later. He was walking down the sidewalk in our small town and he was wearing a suit and quoting scriptures from the bible to the public on the street. I can never forget that day. It was the first time that I wanted to kill someone.
After the violation of my body, I no longer belonged to myself. I was a stranger inhabiting a body that was the property of whoever chose to touch it. Since my body was not my own, I had no problem abusing it. I wanted to die. I wished for death in so many ways, but did not have the courage to actually kill myself. I made myself physically ill with my thoughts, hoping to die. I had appendicitis, meningitis, as well as a number of other illnesses and injuries. Each one was a prayer for death, to escape the self-loathing.
Eventually I healed from those wounds and self-hatred. My healing process has been a long 20 year journey, finally arriving at true self-love. I started with counseling and martial arts. I did years of women’s self-defense training, eventually teaching women’s self-defense. I became a radical feminist, writing hate poetry and shaving my head. I wanted to hurt men and held anger at them for years. I only dated men who were gentle and sensitive, which was very healing. I have worked through the pain and anger through powerful spiritual work and eventually forgave all men for violence against women. Today, I have wonderful relationships with men. I am grateful to be alive and truly love my life.
As a mother of two young boys, I feel a duty to teach them how to honor women and how to love themselves. It is my responsibility to raise good men. As a survivor of sexual violence, I have made a commitment to ending it. My experience on New Year’s Eve 2015 was a reminder of that commitment. Telling my story is part of my healing journey and part of my commitment to ending violence against women. My hope is that my story inspires others to heal what needs to be healed and raises awareness so that we can prevent this from happening again. I hold true that we can live in a world with peace and love. I am doing what I can to make that so.
Happy New Year!