She - A Sexual Assault Story
Sexual assault is never prejudiced. Sexual assault can happen to anyone regardless of color or creed. Sexual assault can even happen to nurses even though we think we are immune. I have had the extreme honor of sharing this piece with several SANE nurses and participants and it is my hope someone here can benefit from these words.
She used to recount the episode by zealously insisting that she was nearly overtaken in his car following a failed first date.
She used to say that if the subject came up.
She had no real reason to volunteer the info.
Back then she was young and beautiful with the crisp freshness of naiveté.
She actually believed he was interested in seeing her for her substance;
He was not.
They met in a dive bar across the street from her fifth floor walkup in the city amidst college boys and vastly diverse assortments of people ranging from the local biker crowd to white collared crews out for a good time.
Her room mate convinced her to try something new. He even dared her.
She was a little timid but elected to go along.
After all, what could happen? The place was directly across the street.
Famous last words as they say.
She wasn't surprised when he immediately approached her since she noticed his eyes followed her figure from the moment she entered the place.
She didn't like it there. It was too dark and dingy, but then, it was a dive.
He was a bear of a person with thick curly hair and wild eyes. Black orbs of darkness traced her every movement.
She didn't feel comfortable but dismissed the feeling though it gnawed at her from time to time throughout the evening.
Her room mate had counseled her to relax so she ordered a Tom Collins.
The bartender laughed because "everyone here drinks beer."
She smiled and replied that she hated beer.
She could usually charm just about anyone. The bartender was no exception and mixed her drink.
The stranger's eyes measured every inch of her.
She sensed it would be only a matter of time before he approached.
Courage fueled by Tom Collins gave him the advantage and he walked over to her table without waiting for an invitation. A part of her was impressed by his forwardness but silently willed her room mate to return.
Her pulse fluttered as he sat down and she ignored the unshakeable discomfort she felt. She noticed he waited until her room mate joined his friends at the bar before sauntering over and decided not to surrender to his brazen stare. She wasn't certain if she should be flattered or offended.
He asked if he might buy her a drink. She declined. She was an independent woman, new to nursing, novice to grown up living.
The night passed swiftly and she was walked home by her room mate and the man at the bar. After two Tom Collin's and some lengthy conversation, he didn't seem so disconcerting. Still, she was glad her room mate had tagged along. She briefly wondered what her mother might think of her plans for the evening. She shuddered at the thought. Her father would definitely not approve. The thought made her alternately smile and shudder. Just as quickly, the thought was gone.
He asked her to dinner the following night in Harvard Square.
He asked her in front of her room mate and even named a restaurant he frequented.
She accepted and was actually excited at the prospect.
A date is a date after all.
He picked her up promptly in his own car. Two points for not expecting her to use the subway. Not that she minded, but it could be scary at night.
The restaurant was nice, but the conversation quickly floundered. At some point in the night she just wanted it to be over so he could drop her off at home. She discovered early on that he was wasn't interested or interesting.
His eyes were listless, devoid of depth. He talked mostly about himself in a way that amused her. Would men EVER learn, she wondered while politely pretending to listen astutely. He was a law student with dreams of grandeur. She planned the following day in her mind while hoping he didn't notice her distraction.
He didn't seem focused on her conversation though she noticed he did seem quite attentive to her attire. Or, was it her person? Something not exactly wrong yet not exactly right...Something.
She made an excuse that she had to get home as she was scheduled to work the day shift. Not exactly a fib because she did work the day shift. She just wasn't scheduled for the morning. Just a little white lie for a good Catholic girl. Is there such a thing? No matter. The deed was done.
She just wanted to leave.
He was surly but agreed to bring her home. He had wanted to go to a club.
She was adamant. He relented. They left the restaurant. She noticed he barely spoke to her after that, and disengaged eye contact.
In the story she related for years, he drove her past her apartment and kept going to a wooded area in a dark spot near some pond. She correctly conveyed the sense of fear which assaulted her the second he chose not to drop her off, but keep driving. It seized her like a fierce angry wind. Briefly she imagined he hadn't heard her, or simply misunderstood. Momentarily, reality struck, as the ancient windows of her drab building flew past.
Her heart began to race as her sense of danger heightened. She searched her brain for some instruction or explanation, catapulting then, into survival mode. She had never felt so dizzyingly afraid.
She couldn't breathe.
She told people how he locked the doors and attempted to kiss her, slobbering and pawing like a lion batting its' prey into submission. He toyed with her, which heightened her fear to a level she hadn't previously believed was possible.
She was scared but she was even angrier. Of all the things she most remembered, she recalled his horrific breath and the overwhelming desire to hurt him.
Her dad had always said to kick them where it counts.
She couldn't reach.
She couldn't breathe.
She just couldn't.
He said she owed him something besides dinner.
She didn't think so but knew better not to say it.
He was crushing her in body and spirit.
She wanted to kill him.
She told him her brothers would.
She KNEW they would.
She wanted them to.
She asked God to stop him.
Later, when her room mate asked why she was disheveled and upset, she told how she fought valiantly to push him off and screamed that she wanted to leave. She said she had fought her way out of the car and walked home. She said she had fallen and torn her coat on some shrubs and thorns had caused the scratches. That was also the reason she was so dirty.
But, that was not the real reason....
She truthfully related how he just would not listen.
He didn't care that it was nearly Christmas.
He didn't care that she was terrified.
He didn't care that she said no, more than once, and loudly.
He didn't care, period.
She came to realize that her initial uncomfortable feelings had been correct. She cursed herself for not following her instincts. She was strong, though, and knew it was NOT her fault.
It didn't help.
In the story she told for so many years afterwards, she got away and found her way home. She had to tell it that way to stay safe, to go on.
She had to, so she would forget,
As if she ever could...
In the TRUE version,
She didn't get away.
I didn't get away.
And all these years later when I thought I had forgotten and pushed past the shame and fear, I realized "she" was just a little girl.
"She was me...
She IS me....
For those who have suffered sexual assault, please know that no one can tell you how or what to feel. No one can tell you which way is the right way to handle it or cope. No one can tell you anything beyond their own experience.
Until a recent estrangement from a sibling and unbearable periods of stress and dread for too many Christmas seasons prompting inquiries from family and friends, I truly never put things together.
Now I am aware that back then in order to survive and go on, I made the decision to compartmentalize what happened and shove it to the back of my mind so I could simply function in the rest of my world.
Recently a sibling and I were involved in a disagreement that escalated into some heated emails back and forth right around Christmas. Just after that happened, flashbacks of a stranger with dark scary eyes began haunting me almost daily.
Finally, when I couldn't resolve the estrangement successfully, the words to "She" basically formed themselves on the page.
I don't know what happened to my assailant and I can only pray his defilement of me was his first and last rape, though statistics suggest that probably isn't so.
According to the US Justice Department, at any given time somewhere in America, a woman is raped every two minutes. The FBI estimates that seventy-two of every one hundred thousand girls become rape victims yearly and of those, few are reported. Roughly 47 percent or more are date rapes.
Looking back in time to 1981, when I was assaulted, it didn't occur to me to report the episode. I didn't know the man and he had told me up front that he had law enforcement connections. What does one do in that circumstance?
If there is a message I would hope to impart, it is that rape victims are just that, victims. Sadly, through high profile cases such as the William Kennedy Smith and Kobe Bryant situations, the "accuser" is often demoralized even further. Trust me; it isn't easy to feel worse.
My hope is that education, continued support through counseling, sexual assault services, support groups and more severe penalties for proven offenders, will encourage more women to report their rapes.
I am not the same person that I was then, and because of one insignificant and insensitive perpetrator, I am probably not the person I was to be.
But, I am safe.
I am whole.
I am ok,
And so is "She"......
Written by: Martha RNLast edit by Joe V on Feb 27, '08
Joined: Feb '02; Posts: 1,948; Likes: 412
Specialty: 27 year(s) of experience in cardiac, diabetes, OB/GYNFeb 27, '08I sit here with tears streaming down my face as I read your article. Your strength and courage to move on and tell your story is admirable and courageous.
I too, have a history of sexual abuse (family members), and rape at 15 by a trusted person, today at 35 I still struggle with trust, and feelings of being inadequate. I still find I have feelings of disgust in my self, and unfortunately started to self harm to ease some of the intense feelings as a teenager, today the scars are my past... Today I am training to be a RN. Today I am a woman, not a child... Today I am strong... today I am healing in hope not only to recover my broken soul, but also to help others who have also been injured from sexual abuse.
Your story really touched me, thank you for sharing.
Love and blessingsFeb 28, '08Blessings to all of you as well with many thanks and heartfelt compassion and empathy....Feb 28, '08You are a true survivor, and the healing never ends...I speak from experience. God be with us all, as we all come into contact with victims/survivors, for the compassion to serve them...Mar 14, '08still like these things happening because of ignorance of students about like these people in this socity. i appreciate yours initiation to save ur friends.i t hink it is better to choose relationships with others healthfully.and a friend of mine just with 3 days relationship gone along with him,does she got that much confidence on him within 3days.does not dshe think of their parents.be aware of patients also as they may give bribes and try to fraud you.bye take careMar 20, '08What a touching story, I always hear these stories and think "why didn't they just tell someone, I would!" But when you really think about it, it would be SO hard to do. I applaud you for sharing your story and hopefully encouraging others to report this sort of abuse.Mar 20, '08Hello,
God Bless You For Telling This Story. You Really Don't Realize How Many People You Are Helping. You Doing This Will Give You So Many Blessings! And Not Too Mention How Many People You Have Saved From Being In Such A Situation. Also All The Hope And Courage You've Given People That Have Already Been Through Such Incidences! Your Have Alot Of Class! I Can Tell, Stay This Way. I Hope You All And Eveyrone Else That Has Been Through This All The Luck In The World. It's One Of The Worst Things That Can Happen To Someone And For You To Get Out Of It And Turn It Around Makes You Stronger Then Any Common Person That Has Never Been Through It. So For All Of You That Have Been In This Situation And Haven't Been Able To Get Through To It, I Hope You Get Something Out Of This. God Bless Everyone!Apr 3, '08Aloha,
:heartbeat Mahalo nui loa (thank you) for sharing your story.... having experienced a similar event just a few years ago it is always inspiring to meet others who possess amazing strength and courage to continue on. Thank you......:heartbeat
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