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I want to be brave. Brave like Julie Swetnick and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Brave like all the woman who have ever come forward to tell their stories, confront their abusers, stand and say me too. It is time to be brave.
As the #metoo movement is unfolding, I am so hopeful for all the young women out there, with their lives ahead of them, blank pages to write on, rainbows not yet seen. I am hopeful that this generation of women will gain knowledge, gain confidence and gain courage to not only protect themselves but stand up to the violence, assault and the degradation of women that my generation and the generations before mine has seen.
Before, you read on, please be aware that this is an account of a rape that I experienced. I will be frank and honest, so please do not continue reading if you are not okay with that. I will tell this to my recollection, to my memory and to my truth. I am going to tell you what happened to me, how it affected me, why I never told anyone, and why I am telling my story now.
I am trusting you, the reader with my story. Please read this with an empathetic heart and a non-judgmental soul.
IT WAS 1988
I was 20 years old in the summer of 1988. I was smart and pretty enough with a friendly personality. If you asked me to describe myself back then, I would not have said those things though. I had just finished my Associates Degree at the local community college and the next step was going to a University. I took that step.
I started at Northern Illinois University in the Fall of 1988. I was excited to be away from my parents and the rules of my house. The freedom of do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, was something I looked forward to.
What I was really looking forward to was the college social life. I romanticized college and I was expecting to cram for tests in a dorm room with girls I could call me friends, to hoot and holler at football games in the crisp fall northern Illinois air, and I was hoping to find the love of my life.
Up to that point in my life, I had been relatively successful, leaving my local community college with a decent grade point average and a couple jobs under my belt. I had dabbled in the world of men, with a few heart breaks and I felt that college would be the place that I would meet “The One”.
A few of my friends from high school went to Northern at the same time I did so I had some people I knew. I roomed with a girl I had worked with over the summer and I stayed at the Plaza which was a dorm, but suite style, each suite having their own bathroom. This was a definite plus as far as dorms went and I thought I was set.
My friends from high school stayed in a different dorm and the physical distance resulted in setting me apart more than I realized it would. They developed a bond with a group from the dorm floor which I was not a part of. My friend from work, ended up being a much different person and was not as helpful as I thought she would be. I ended up not acclimating well. I had a really tough time connecting with anyone, and just felt out of place. I was going through the motions, but I felt less than, lost, detached.
One thing I was good at was drinking. I was a part time partier at home, but in college I shined. If there was a party, beer, or anything close, I was there and I was drunk. I thought this was my ticket in. I drank a lot and started to fall behind in my school work and grades but when the opportunity to become a little sister at one of the fraternities was presented to me, I was all in. Parties, beer, guys. Sounded great to me.
The Frat House was having a party and I would be there. I wore my cutest mini skirt and took time to get ready. You see, at least in my own perception, if you snagged a frat boy, you were set socially. All sorts of social events opened up to you, everyone said so. This was my goal, to date a frat boy.
When he caught my eye in the middle of the party, I thought it was fluke. I thought he was looking past me. But then I noticed it again. He was looking at me, smiling. I was on the dance floor with my gang, doing my best to look sexy, red solo cup in one hand, snapping to the beat with the other.
He was cute. He had a nice face, an easy smile, curly brown hair with his baseball hat on backwards. I looked down trying to be coy and when I looked up again, he was still looking and smiling. My friends and I headed to the bar for another fill up of beer on draft. There were big kegs behind the bar, it was an all you can drink party. My cup would be filled and refilled many times that night.
He sauntered up to me and said hi. He introduced himself and I did also. Then he whispered in my ear, “You are the prettiest girl here.” He then brushed his hands against my backside and walked away with a smile.
My friends and I hung around, drank more beer, talked and danced. He would occasionally stop over and make small talk, always whispering some sweet nothing in my ear as he left and always touching some part of my body. I felt flattered. I felt giddy. I felt lucky for I was the chosen one. I was the chosen one that night.
My friends wanted to go to another party down the street, but I wanted to stay and I made the decision to do just that. They advised me not to stay there alone, but I felt confident that he would take care of me. And I was right about that.
With my friends gone, all his attention was immediately on me. He was charming and his canned sweet talk worked on me. I believed him when he told me that I was pretty and he was so glad he met me. I believed him when he said he felt a connection between us the first time he saw me. I believed him.
When he suggested that we go upstairs so we could be alone, I obliged. I went without a fight or thought to consequences. I was no angel, I knew what he was implying. He said, “Don’t worry, I will take care of you,” with a slight laugh. And he sure did.
He led me up a stairwell and to a room. He held my hand which I liked and made me feel safe. The room was like every other dorm room with 2 twin beds and desks but we were alone. He turned the lights out and we started to kiss. I kissed him back without hesitation. We was sweet and nice and even in my drunken state, I remember liking him and feeling special that he liked me too.
After, in the dark as we lay there, he suddenly started to get up. I asked where he was going. He said, “Stay here. I will be right back.” He would not come back though.
I stayed there because I was tired and drunk. I started to doze off or pass out, I am not sure which. I am not sure how long I was there when the door opened. It was dark in the room and the light from the hallway woke me up, brought me to, and I saw a figure in the doorway. I assumed it was him, but it was not. The figure shut the door and it was dark again. He said, “I’m back. Are ya ready?”
But it was not him and I was not ready for what came next.
This was a different person. I felt he was bigger and heavier as he climbed on top me. I could hear his belt unbuckling and his zipper being pulled down. He was not sweet or nice, he was rough, and violent and pulled at my body. He squeezed my breasts which would leave bruises. His breath hit my face and smelled like beer and cigarettes. He pulled my hair and held my arms down so I couldn’t move. He was hurting me but I didn’t fight, I just let it happen. He was raping me, I instinctively knew this, and I just let it happen.
I am not sure how long I was there, under him, feeling the assault, maybe 10 minutes, maybe more. My brain went numb and I didn’t fight at all. I was just waiting for it to end. I closed my eyes and just waited for it to end. After he raped me, he got up and I could hear him buckling his belt. He opened the door and the hall light illuminated the room and my shame. The figure said, “Stay here, I will be right back.”
He shut the door behind him. The room was dark again, I was alone and my brain screamed. “Get Out Of Here NOW!” I knew someone would be coming back. I didn’t know who, but I knew someone.
I grabbed at the floor looking for my clothes, my purse, my shoes. I found something. It was a pair of shorts, I put them on. I kept looking and found a shirt, I pulled it on. I couldn’t find my purse or my shoes but I knew I had to leave, now. I opened the door. The light of the hall was bright and I had to squint to see. I was scared. I was scared they would see me, find me, bring me back to the room. I was drunk, hazy, I couldn’t remember which way we came in. There was a long hallway but I found a stairwell. It led to the basement where the party had been. It was empty now and quiet, a much different place then it was just an hour ago. I was a much different person than I had been an hour ago.
I went down a hall and found a door. It was locked. I fumbled with the lock on the door. I couldn’t get it open. I just kept turning it, right, left, right, left, pull and it finally gave way and opened. I swung open the door. There was a light and I could see the street. I started to run. I didn’t know where I was. I was confused and didn’t know the right way to go, but I just ran. I was barefoot but didn’t care. I just ran.
After a few blocks, I stopped. I was out of breath, my heart racing and I threw up. The street was deserted and I was alone. I have never felt more alone in my life. I stood there hunched over and started to cry. It was a heart wrenching cry from the bottom of your soul sort of cry. I would never cry again over that night.
I started to walk. I walked for about 2 blocks, maybe 3, and then around a corner came 4 students, young women, like me. They were dressed up, walking home from a party or something I assume. They helped me. They got me a ride back to my dorm. I will never forget their faces, the concern in their eyes. I never thanked them.
I got to my dorm room and got into bed. I looked at the clock and it was about 2am. I couldn’t believe that all this transpired and it was only 2:00am. I slept until dinner the next day. I was hungry, sore and hung over. My body hurt everywhere. I looked in the mirror and there were bruises on my breasts and thighs, the only proof of what had happened to me less than 24 hours ago. It would take two weeks for the proof of that night to dissipate but in my mind, it never happened.
ABOUT LAST NIGHT
Nobody knew about last night except me, frat boy and the figure. The group of girls that got me home saw the state that I was in, as well as the doorman who had to let me in because I didn’t have my ID, but I didn’t say anything to them. When I finally got into my dorm room, there was no one there. I was relieved that nobody else knew because above all, I was ashamed.
As I took a shower, I replayed the unfortunate series of event that occurred last night. Did frat boy know about the figure? Was it a set up? Did it even really happen? As I looked in the mirror and saw the bruises, I knew it happened. I got dressed and went downstairs for dinner. All my questions would be answered soon enough.
At the dorm cafeteria, I saw my suite-mates. As they sat down, they asked me about last night.
“How was the party last night?” asked suite-mate #1.
“Good. Do you guys know frat boy.” I asked.
“Oh my god. He is an asshole, cute but an asshole. He is the one night stand king,” suite-mate #1 said. “You didn’t sleep with him did you?” She asked with a lilt in her voice making me feel like I was stupid if I did.
“No, no, I was just wondering.” I said. “I just kinda think he is cute.”
“Good, stay away from him,” suite-mate#1 told me. “He has sex with girls all the time and then just ignores them the next time they see him.”
“I heard they got a whole date rape thing going on,” said suite-mate #2. “Frat boy fucks them, leaves them in the room and then the figure comes in and has sex them too. The girls are usually so drunk they don’t even know what is going on. Really, what kinda stupid and desperate slut would go up to frat boy’s room in the first place?”
“Come on, he is cute and they have all those little sisters at their beck and call, they get them so drunk, most of them don’t even know what is going on. Why do you think they have them,” suite-mate #1 said and they both laughed.
“No offense,” she said to me because she knew I was a little sister of the fraternity. “At least you are not stupid. Just be careful over there at the frat. There is some creepy shit going on,” she added.
“Yeah, I am just there for the beer,” I said and then I laughed.
HOW IT AFFECTED ME-SHORT TERM
I was ashamed, deeply ashamed. Not only had I been played but I had been raped because I was drunk, stupid and desperate for the attention of a man. I believed at that moment in my life, that I was a woman that deserved to be raped. I put myself in that situation. I got drunk. Nobody drugged me or forced me to drink. I went up to frat boy’s room, willingly, without reservation. I didn’t fight back or tell the figure to stop. I just laid there and got what I deserved. I was not some virtuous person who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I asked for it. Tell you truth, I didn’t even think of it as rape. I just thought I deserved it. I got what I was asking for.
As far as reporting the rape, it never crossed my mind. To me, it was my fault. Period, end of story.
If I was doing horrible with my school work, after this, it just got worse. I did horrible in my classes and just stopped going to many. Tell you truth, the next weeks, I don’t even really remember. I just remember the feeling of being worthless, being ashamed, and being alone.
I isolated. I didn’t call any of my friends on campus and stopped socializing. I would avoid anyone I knew. I didn’t go down to dinner with my suite-mates even if they asked. I didn’t answer the phone. I just wanted to go home, to escape.
I did go home at Thanksgiving break and I broke my foot in a drunken escapade. This gave me the legal reason I desperately needed to get out of the all the contracts I entered into by being admitted to NIU. I had to go back one more time to NIU to retrieve my stuff, and I could not wait to leave. My brush with college life would affect me long term for years to come.
MY BACK STORY
I was raised in a family with an abusive alcoholic father and a doting co-dependent mother. I learned very early on, that men are important and even if they beat, demean, or abuse you, they are most important to a woman’s standing in life.
That being said, I strived to please men. I always had a boyfriend going back to kindergarten. He would push me down, and spit in my hair and the moms would say things like, “Oh, look. He really likes her.” I learned that even abusive attention from males, was worth something.
Like I said, I always had a boyfriend. It was part of my social standing. I was moderately successful as an individual, with good grades, accolades in sports and quite likable, but if I didn’t have a boyfriend, I felt I was not good enough.
I was successful all through Jr. High School to always have a boyfriend to make me a whole person and then I got to high school. My love life faltered, and despite my best efforts, I couldn’t really get a boyfriend.
I had a few. Here and there, I would date but nothing serious. I also had high moral grounds for myself when it came to men. I didn’t want to be taken advantage of or lose my reputation as a good girl. This is the double edged sword of our society. If you don’t do it, boys loose interest and call you a tease, if you do it, society looks at you like a slut and boys take advantage of you.
So I tried to walk the line between a tease and slut. One boy broke up with me because I wouldn’t let him go up my shirt. One boy broke up with me because I wouldn’t give him a blow job. I just wanted a serious boyfriend who would actually care about me. My friends had them. They were doing great. Loosing their virginity in beautiful ways. I was envious and wondered what was wrong with me.
At the age of 18, I still hadn’t had the experience of sex or loosing my virginity and I started to worry what was wrong with me. I finally met someone who would take care of that for me. I fell in love, lost my virginity and got dumped all in the timely manner of just 2 months. I was left with a broken heart, feeling empty, unlovable and wondering what was wrong with me.
For the next two years, between the age of 18 and 20, I faltered between a successful student and a desperate young woman needing a boyfriend. At the age of 20, I got accepted into Northern Illinois University, and now you know the beginning of the story.
I was the perfect victim, on a perfect night, for a perfect rape. I would never come forward, I would never accuse my abuser, I would never even acknowledge that it happened. A great predator, knows their prey and I was the perfect prey.
DRINKING IS PART OF THE STORY
Alcohol is definitely a part of my story and I assume for many other women. To be unable to consent to sex because a woman is drunk is a big controversy that surrounds rape in our country and especially on college campuses. This is many times a defense of perpetrators of sexual assault.
As my story of that night tells, I felt I was responsible for what happened to me because I was drunk. I know now, that I was wrong. Just because a woman is drunk, does not allow a person to rape them. You are not asking for it, nor did you invite it. The person that does this, is a predator. They look for you. They wait for you. They take advantage of you. It is not your fault.
If you drink, do so safely. I would recommend to all women, especially young women, to not drink in a highly charged, male dominated, event ever. This is for your protection.
HINDSIGHT IS 20/20
This story and many others in my life accumulates into the woman I am today. We all are complicated beings with many experiences that define who we are. I am not saying that this moment in time defined me, but it is a notable chapter in my story and one that I look back on with moments of clarity and retrospect. I feel that we all have moments like this one in our lives that might be able to teach, warn and advise others about life in general, rape specifically.
I continue to have a very fulfilling life although I consider myself a work in progress. I found passion and education in my life. I found a man who became my husband and he loves and respects me. We have 3 wonderful children and I am proud to be their mother. I am now 50 years old and here is what I have learned through this fateful experience to anyone who would listen:
- Do Not think you need a man to complete you. You are an individual and fantastic.
- Do not think you need the attention of a man to make you feel whole.
- Do not put your self in situations where you are vulnerable to being a victim.
- Do not go to parties drunk or become drunk.
- Never feel that you are not enough.
- Never let yourself become isolated.
- Never put yourself in a situation where you will become a victim.
- Always know that you are worthy of love. If you are not feeling enough, tell someone.
- Always protect yourself against people that will take advantage of you.
- Always tell someone you are feeling vulnerable.
- Always have a friend when you go into a social situation.
- Always tell someone when you are raped or sexually assaulted.
- Always know that you are loved by people in your life.
- You are loved, more than you know.
I am hoping that someone, somewhere, reads my story and relates. I am hoping that someone, somewhere, finds hope and realizes they are not alone. I am hoping that someone, somewhere, finds peace in my story.