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25 December 2005 @ 04:56 pm
Same experience, different definition  
Back in 1986 I went on a date with a man who chatted me up at the counter where I sold Indian food from steam trays at our local Metro station. I was inexperienced at the dating game and pretty naive. We agreed to meet at a local nightclub by the sea, and I was reassured because I was bringing my own car.

The evening started out nice enough. I didn't drink alcohol back then, and so I stuck to sodas while he drank shots. That should have been my first warning. But not being a drinker I didn't ponder the implications of how many shots he was drinking.

He came on rather strong for me, painting a picture of his financial success and how he could make a wonderful life for me and my two kids. He spoke of the home we could live in and the swing set he would buy for them (sight unseen at this point). He knew I had just started college and so he said, magnanimously, "And I'll let you go to school."

Those words stopped me in my tracks. Up until that point, while I thought he was a little over eager with his talk of marriage on a first date, I figured he was just lonely. These words woke me up, giving me a picture of him as a man who runs his household and controls everything. I realized I was signing up for legal prostitution if I went along with this just so my kids could have a better home.

Soon after this statement I found an excuse to bring the evening to an end, much to his dismay. He became angry, and I started to worry that if I walked to my car he would be on my heels. I knew I couldn't out run him on my flimsy shoes and with my asthma. He said he'd taken a taxi there and needed a ride. In retrospect I should have asked to use a phone and call for a police escort to my car. Instead, not wanting to anger him further I gave him a ride.

We got to the parking lot of his motel--he'd told me he didn't live in the area and was just visiting. He asked me for a kiss goodnight. Again I should have said no but I was trying to keep his anger in check so I agreed. Next thing I knew I was pinned in my own car. One arm was imobilized against the seat and with the other I was pushing him away as I said no, repeatedly and loudly. His hand went down my pants, his fingers were suddenly inside me. I continued to say no and began to think, "I'm going to have to really hurt him to get free. I can reach his face, maybe I can gouge his eye." At that moment I guess my repeated "No! Stop!" litany broke through his alcohol filled brain. He got up and let me go, much to my surprise. He was angry and started accusing me of leading him on. Blah blah blah. He wouldn't get out of the car. I didn't have a working horn or I'd have used it at that point.

He demanded that I drive him back to the club so he could find someone else. Not knowing what else to do at this point I complied. At least he did get out when I drove up and didn't touch me again.

I went home and got in the shower, where I remained for over an hour, crying and crying. The next day I told my closest friends about the date, and how I'd been molested. He had the nerve to call me the following week and ask me out again. I declined, saying, "I really don't feel up to another wrestling match." He apologized and hung up. That was the last of the matter, as far as I was concerned. The memory occasionally comes up for me when I hear about date rape, but for the most part I put it behind me.

A couple of days ago I read about a man who is not presently competent to stand trial for rape. Apparently he intruded upon a woman's camp site, asked for shelter for the night, and proceeded to rape her. He was accused of penetration with a foreign object, one of the categories of rape in our state. The object? His finger.

I never thought of my experience as rape, even though I was sore the following day. I was stunned as I read this because I never knew that digital penetration qualified as rape. I was clear that I had been molested or sexually assaulted, sure, but suddenly the word rape pierced right through me.

I've always thought of myself as someone who would report a rape, at the very least in order to protect other women. Now I realized I had failed to do so. I had rationalized that he did stop (finally) and that his drunken state was to blame for not stopping sooner. I didn't think of him as a rapist, just a pushy guy with a drinking problem.

Now I feel like I've let all the other women who've encountered him over the years down. I no longer even remember the man's name. I've blanked out the details of his face and couldn't pick him up out of a lineup to save my soul. The statute of limitations must have long since run out.

I wish that I had been as uppity then as I am now. I would have done things differently that night, both before the assault and after. I'm sorry I let my sisters down.
 
 
Current Mood: guiltyguilty
 
 
 
Angie: What Would Joanith Do?xtremeroswellia on December 27th, 2005 03:44 am (UTC)
I'm going to comment on this later when I'm not on a lot of Nyquil and running a fever. I do hope you know, though, that it was NOT your fault.
Tapatitapati on December 27th, 2005 11:35 pm (UTC)
I know the original event wasn't my fault, although I would certainly handle that situation differently in hindsight and think it's instructive to mention the specific ways I would. What I am responsible for is not reporting it.
Angiextremeroswellia on January 4th, 2006 03:07 pm (UTC)
This is just one of those issues that so much factors into. The way society looks at and treats rape survivors, the lack of sufficient punishment for offenders who are convicted, the rate of recidivism for sexual offenders. It's easy to blame yourself for not reporting it, but when you really look at it, you have NO way of knowing whether or not he would have been convicted in the end anyway. At the job I used to have, we told survivors that the choice they made at the time of the assault and immediately after was the right one for them; whatever the person had to do was the right thing because they survived and that's what's important.

On a personal level and not just an advocate's, I do understand that feeling and it is very hard to come to terms with. It's taken me a long time to accept the choices I made and forgive myself. I hope in time you'll be able to do the same and if you need to talk, please don't hesitate to email me.