Date Rape: The Aftermath

August 26, 2013
By

By Anonymous

I should have known before reading Brittany Burton’s essay, “You Have No Idea,” that it would reopen what I thought I’d so carefully packed away. As I read, I felt for her as I thought that her rape must have been so much worse than mine. I wanted to tell her that she can move on and that it doesn’t have to be so haunting. Instead, after reading it, I found myself back in Corbett Hall, Room A415, with the sickening glow of the blue stereo dial.

It was 1980. I was 18. I was in a dorm room, waiting for my boyfriend who was at work. I don’t remember how I got into his room. I was drinking heavily. He came back from work. I poured him a drink. I was in a silk blouse. I was in love with him. I was a virgin. We had agreed that we’d wait until I was ready and we were in a special place. Corbett A415 was not a special place, even with music playing in the background. His roommate was visiting his parents back home, and my boyfriend’s bed was the top bunk.

We ended up there in short order. We were kissing, and the next thing I knew, he was inside of me. No birth control, no “request,” no consent. And then, as I held onto the bed frame, he finished, jumped off, and hollered “woo hoo” to echoes of the same down the hall. I was numb and shocked, and stared at the blue dials, and wanted out of that room. I threw on my pants and ran to the door. It wouldn’t open.

We had been “pennied in,” a technique wherein people tape together pennies and shove them between the frame and door so it won’t open. I went to the phone to call the desk to open the door. The phone was gone. So I went to the bathroom suite door. Locked. The blue light from the stereo glowed menacingly.

It was planned. Premeditated. A group effort. Something I had saved and wanted to give freely to the man of my choice was taken from me. By a group of young men who conspired to trap me in Corbett Hall A415.

I crawled into the bottom bunk. By now he was accusing me of not being a virgin as there was no blood on the sheets. I had no idea why the sheets weren’t bloody. I hugged the pillow. He passed out in the upper bunk.

Morning came. For some completely unexplainable reason, we went to breakfast together and I paid. After that, I went back to my dorm room feeling irreparably changed. And then I began to worry about pregnancy.

Fortunately, I did not get pregnant. But the experience amped up my lifelong fear of being pregnant.

“Date rape” was not a part of the nomenclature in 1980. A few years later, I watched a TV movie that made what had happened crystal clear. Prior to that, I had figured it was my fault. I was in a dorm room voluntarily, drunk, and I was kissing him. I was raised fundamentalist Baptist. I had saved “it” for the man I wanted to marry. That was that, and so I married him.

It sounds pathetic. I married my rapist. A Dr. Phil show. My shame around this, coupled with my mourning for the uninformed girl I was, is still extremely painful.

I have never fully recovered from what happened. I don’t live life in fear of rape, but I will fight like hell should that ever cross my path again. I don’t blame myself for not fighting then. But knowing that I would fight now doesn’t change the fact that he altered the trajectory of my life, and it haunts.

Like Brittany, I am leery of those who pontificate on and belittle rape or the women who are raped. They have no idea of what they speak. Nor do those who talk about battering, unless they’ve been there. And yes, I was battered, too. By him, my rapist.

I don’t know where he is or what his life is like. We divorced after four years. About a year into our marriage, I confronted him and told him that he had raped me. He became volatile, so I didn’t mention it again to him.

I have never fully trusted men since. I sought the sensitive types after him, and I called the shots. All of them. That’s not a good formula for a marriage, and both subsequent marriages also ended.

If I dig deep, I think this is I part why I don’t have children. I’ve yet to spend the time to fully untangle my thoughts on this, but I doubted my ability to protect a daughter and raise her to protect herself. I doubted my ability to raise a son in a culture that would give him so much privilege and so many messages and avenues of power. And I never met a man I trusted enough with whom to have a child. These were not in my conscious determination to not become pregnant, rather they float to my mind with hindsight.

Part of my experience is that I often feel as young as I was when I was raped, as if I haven’t aged. I am not psychotic, I see myself in the mirror. But I feel inside as though I’m 18, in the sense that I’m not always ready for what comes my way. I’ve handled it with a bravado that often fools people. I’ve succeeded in a career, and I’m financially independent. I have survived. But Brittany is right about the re-visiting. It’s not 24/7, but it lingers. And in an ironic twist, sex became the validation I sought from men that I was attractive. Though, I believed, on my terms. I’m just now unpacking that little gem.

With the move on campuses to distinguish date rape, and the silencing of victims because they aren’t squeaky clean and sober, I quietly seethe. But I’m still under the shroud. I am not as brave as Brittany. I don’t want you to know my name or to look at me. And perhaps that’s the worst of what he took from me.

I have had a privileged middle-class life on all other counts. I don’t think of my rape daily, or even monthly. But it changed me. It changed how I see men. It changed how I navigate life. It changed my sexuality. It warped my issues of control. It’s been a life-long struggle to trust myself. Brittany is right, you just don’t know unless you’ve been there.

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5 Responses to Date Rape: The Aftermath

  1. Brittany Burton on August 26, 2013 at 10:18 am

    I never thought that the essay I submitted would have such an impact on it’s readers. I apologize profusely for dragging up any memories that you’ve been trying to forget, because sometimes the “trigger warnings” don’t do justice. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing. Regardless of the anonymity, reading this has made me feel more at peace with the words I’ve spoken. It’s never easy to share your story, especially not with the world. Since beginning my work with sexual assault prevention, I’ve always said “If I can help one person, it’ll be worthwhile” because at the time of my assault, I had no one to talk to with similar experiences. Thank you for being the person to reaffirm that it is okay for me to feel this way.

    • Anonymous Author on August 26, 2013 at 8:21 pm

      Brittany, no apologies needed. You helped me find the courage to tell my story, though anonymous. It is interesting the many-faceted lens that rape gives us. It’s sometimes faded and does not impact my consciousness, and sometimes it’s as if it’s happening now. I grieve for each new colonized body. And I’m glad you made it out.

  2. Corey Lee Wrenn on August 26, 2013 at 11:45 am

    A beautiful and important story. Thank you for sharing.

    • Anonymous Author on August 26, 2013 at 8:22 pm

      Thank you, Corey. It is affirming to not be judged for what I’ve beat myself up about over the years.

  3. rochelle on September 5, 2013 at 12:11 am

    i am writing a similar story…it is difficult to pen those memories since i believed i was over it, yet i find the anger that i didn’t have in the beginning (it was shame) surges upward and throughout my post-violated self…and i wonder if i will be okay…i believe i will, i am, but the memories fluctuate and sometimes i’m left hanging with rage and an inability to forgive my perpetrator…
    your experienced as put here on this site has given me the courage to tell my story, to finish what i started, to get out of my head and onto the page…thank you!

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