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MISTAKE NUMBER FOUR

November 28, 2011
Not a funny piece today. 
I wrote this for the website Lifarre. If you’d like to read more, click here for the full Elements of Fear series (under the Broken Pieces tab). Thanks for your time. 


MISTAKE NUMBER FOUR

College, 1983
I’m a sophomore, nineteen years old.
A nice enough guy from one of my journalism classes invites me to a frat party, I say yes. (Mistake #1: his turf).
I go with a girlfriend – she drives. (Mistake #2: always have your own transportation). I didn’t know him very well and it wasn’t an official date or anything. If you’ve been to college, you know how guys ask you out without actually asking you out? They invite you to a frat party. (Yea, it’s like a punchline.)
Girlfriend is a sorority sister, so she floats in on her pink fluff of air-kisses and vapor. With my writer’s eye, I observe the mating rituals and try to figure out how many beers it’s gonna take me to either fit in with this Ralph Lauren crowd or scope out who’s got the weed.
As I’m deciding that two beers is a good number (hey, I’m not driving), Bill shows up. I know this by the he-man grip he places on my arm. (Mistake #3: underestimating a dude based on size – no we’re not talking sex here, ya guttersnipes). He’s not a big guy, but he is lean and wiry. He wrestles for the school and has been asking me to watch his matches. I cheered in high school – I don’t do wrestling (have you ever smelled those places)? A dedicated girlfriend kinda has to watch her wrestler boyfriend’s matches. I wasn’t that, so I’d politely declined.
Bill was rather charming and a smooth talker. We chatted for an hour or two. He was friendly, he held my hand; all was fine, sweet. When I needed to use the bathroom, he escorted me through the crowd and told me, “Hey, use this one back here. No one knows about it. I used to live here so I know this house backwards and forwards.” Because I really, really had to pee, I let him lead me by the hand into a room where I thought the other bathroom was.
I had no reason NOT to believe him, right?
MISTAKE NUMBER FOUR
He locked the door so fast, I hardly saw it. As I was putting together in my mind that something wasn’t right, he threw me down on the bed and pinned me with one knee. His face turned into something unrecognizable, like a monster you’d see in a movie… teeth baring, inhuman.
I wasn’t wearing sexy clothes that night. I didn’t do anything besides spend time with a guy who seemed, outwardly, like a decent guy from one of my classes. We hadn’t even kissed.
Yet here he was. Tearing at my clothes, hitting me, unzipping his pants. My heart was beating so loud, I could hear it in my mouth.
It didn’t happen, though. There’s a “happy” ending. Why? Because I fought. I kicked, I bit, I scratched, I screamed. Did I think it would make a difference? I don’t know, because I didn’t think. Not until later.
Not until after.
They say that once your heart rate goes above 200, your problem-solving abilities go out the window. You’re acting purely on instinct. Fight or flight kicks in.
I guess it was a combination of factors that ended his attempt: my reaction, people finally for god’s sake knocking on the door, and the fact that I drew blood when I scratched his face. It’s almost like that sobered him up, snapped him out of it. Made him human again.
He told me he would deny everything, of course.
Facing him in class that Monday was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. And yes, he told me I’d been “asking for it.”
Back in the early-80s, the term “date-rape” didn’t exist. I didn’t know that’s what had happened to me. Conventional wisdom was that I had nothing to report but fighting off some jerk. A ripped top, a few bruises. 
Attitudes toward rape and attempted rape have come a long way, baby. But we still have far to go.
I didn’t realize ’till later, when I became a mother myself, the impact of my experience…
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56 Comments
  1. Oh my god Rachel what an absolute arsehole, I’m so glad the
    worst didn’t happen but it’s such a horrible thing to happen nevertheless. I
    had a similar experience with a fella who tried to drag me into the back of a
    van so I totally know what you mean about the instincts kicking in. They
    deserve to be castrated. x

  2. Wow! what a piece and I do hope that you get loads of readers to this of both sexes, Women to be warned (sadly) to be on their guard and Men, to be shown that being an arsehole will always make you an arsehole and let's hope this particular one did not go on in life to procreate 

  3. My stomach was in knots while I read this.  Unfortunately, it happens way more than people know.  Thanks for bringing it to light.  I know it must have been hard to write and share this experience.

  4. Powerful piece, Rachel. I'm so happy it didn't happen, but despite that, the experience must have scarred you somewhat — sometimes those scars remind us of what we've endured – and hopefully that means it won't happen to us again. 

    Thanks for sharing this, honey. xoxoxeden

  5. Thx Jen. It was terrifying & surreal. Sorry for your experience also. My overall opinion of men is they're great & fun — this was an isolated incidence for me. Any one person can suck — male or female. Just how it ended up for me that night. 

  6. Thx Tom. My guy & I discuss this frequently — most men have NO IDEA what it's like to feel the fear a woman feels every day just walking to her car alone in a parking lot or running out for diapers at night when you've run out. Not that we live in fear — but as you said, that guard is always up. 

  7. xo Jackie. I honestly never thought I would write about it. Probably because, as so many women have felt, besides being beaten up & held against my will (um, hello?), he didn't actually rape me. I willingly entered the room. Was it somehow my fault? 

    Some people still think so. Let's victimize the “victim,” ya know? 

    Though I don't take on that role. I'm a strong, snarky bitch, as you well know. 

    xo

  8. I talk in the next piece about my 'scars' :). Don't mean to bring people down, but we all have our truths. I appreciate your love, as always, Thin Mint. xo

  9. So happy that you fought and he stopped. I unfortunately had a similar experience but the guy didn't stop and I became a statistic. And sadly we aren't alone – it happens too often. I hope your piece empowers other girls out there to fight back.

  10. Great post, Rachel. I like how you avoided a bunch of hyperbole that would have turned me off from reading about an already uncomfortable subject, and instead let the facts speak so strongly. I had a similar experience when I was 13 with someone I knew from school. I have a feeling he is much more mentally scarred from the experience than I was.

  11. Raine Thomas permalink

    This is an excellent post, Rachel. It's hard to write about sensitive topics like rape, and extra difficult when it's something you've experienced. Knowing you, I'm not surprised you fought back, and I hope you serve as a source of inspiration to anyone who might face such an experience in the future.

  12. Julia Rachel Barrett permalink

    Been there and worse.  I know how you feel.  Courageous post, Rachel.

  13. Erica Lucke Dean permalink

    I have a friend from college who was raped in a room full of people. No one even noticed. I know…I was there. She didn't fight back. She didn't make a sound.  She was a little drunk, and a lot scared. I'm really glad you fought back and made as much noise as possible. 

  14. Heidi, it takes courage to share that. So many women are afraid to share cause there are too many idiots out there who think we somehow bring it on ourselves. I applaud you. xo

  15. Aw, thx DC. Takes one scrappy chick to know another, baby. Scary to think how young you were. My girl is 12 now — and in karate. xo

  16. KellySGamble permalink

    Very powerful, Rachel. A good lesson, too, for all the young women out there. The 'mistakes' you listed above are so true.  Sharing this one as much as I can. ❤

  17. Thank you, Raine. I do hope it does help someone else be more aware of their surroundings in a similar situation. 

  18. Sarah Ralston permalink

    I fought. Would have been much worse if I hadn't. Dec 7 2001

  19. Julia, I'm so sorry. It's so scary and I appreciate your words. xo, doll. 

  20. You listed all the mistakes.  He was wrong, DEAd wrong. But we have ways of protecting ourselves too. Excellent post! My daughter was invited to a party, went with friends and was asked to leave at 2 a.m. She was on the phone with me all the way home, walking in the middle of the night, terrified. Always take your own transportation. Good advice. Good post. I am sorry it happened to you.

  21. Random Girl permalink

    Glad you are sharing this Rachel! So many girls, of all ages, find themselves in these situations and then question themselves for causing it to happen because it must somehow be our fault right?? Whether it's a frat party or a parking lot or a good date gone bad, it needs to be talked about and the guilt put on who owns it, the perpetrator. 

  22. Oh, honey. That's so awful. That it happened to her in a room full of people is every girl's nightmare. How awful you were there and didn't know. I can't imagine. xo

  23. {hugs} Kelly. Too many lessons learned too late. I was raised to know better. I'd even had self-defense training! I guess some of it instinctively paid off that night. It's why my girl (age 12) has been in karate & continues to be. I want it to be instinctive for her. Nobody can protect you better than yourself. 

  24. Thank you, Sarah, for being strong and sharing. xo

  25. I will never understand why some men do things like that. I'm glad that you fought back and were able to escape. I do know that if something like that happened to a woman that I know,I would be in prison for going after the guy.

  26. Thx Sonia. Always have a buddy who will never leave you. That's so important. No woman should be alone late at night. Have $$ for a cab. My ride left me. At least your girl made it home safe w/ you on the phone. Thank goodness. xo 

  27. What an utter bastard. I hope you got him one in the knackers good & proper. Very glad that attitudes have changed & continue to change.

    G

  28. So many guys won't ever own up to being the perpetrator. But if you saw me that night — my torn clothing, my bruised face & body, the skin under my nails — there was no question. (& NOBODY at that party asked if I was ok.) 

    Yet he still told me that Monday in class how much I “wanted it.” 

    There are still guys today who question this article & whether it's my fault. 

    I don't want pity. I want action — don't let this happen to someone you know. 

  29. Maria permalink

    I beg to disagree on a couple of points. We did have date rape. When it happened to me, I knew exactly what it was, but I didn't report it. I had been drunk and for the first decade, I blamed myself. I've gotten over it. It did change me then and who knows about now because I only got to now with that incident in my past. As for things being different, I don't agree. I think that we still teach girls to not embrace their sexuality. I think that we still teach boys to act like “rapists”. I say this because of things like the superbowl moment with Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. All you read about was her exposed nipple and how it was her idea and yada, yada, yada. Unbelievable that no one involved said, “It looks like forced sex. This isn't a good idea.” It happened in 2004. I am sure that there are more incidents where we still continue to perpetuate the idea that good girls say no when they mean yes. We still need to do better, educate more, and expect better from our purveyors of entertainment which does include video games.

  30. Thx so much for your comments, Maria. Very insightful. I only meant that I was unaware of the term “date rape” until much later, not that it didn't exist. 

    I agree with much of what you said, particularly about the Superbowl moment. As a feminist & supporter of embracing female sexuality, I strongly believe blaming women for being sexual beings is ridiculous. 

  31. Thx T1. It's not worth going to prison for. I'm a true believe in fate — it happened for a reason. Just as I'm sure this guy had his issues to live with. Karma, baby. 

  32. You're right but in the moment emotions can and will run high. It doesn't help that I'm extremely protective of the women in my life.

  33. That is horrific! I have a complete disconnect when it comes to understanding the way someone like that thinks. How can someone possibly think they have the right to do whatever they like to someone else? I don't know. Was it partly the era? Was it an attitude of the times? I don't know that either. But it's things like this that really makes me wonder what's wrong with some parts of the human race.

    What's just as bad is women who lie about rape, use the allegation as a weapon against men. It's not fair to the men who don't do these things and it's not fair to the women who have rape experiences, either lucky escapes like yours, or those who weren't so lucky.

  34. Thanks for writing this, Rachel. I'm sure it wasn't easy, but it's a topic people need to discuss openly, and more open. I'm glad that you fought as you did, and I'm glad that there were good people there who stepped in.

  35. Ciara, I agree on all your points. For the most part, my experiences w/ humans has been pretty good :). I don't know that it had anything to do w/ the 80s, to be honest. Crimes against women have been happening for so long & still happen every day. 

    Which, as you pointed out, doesn't mean women don't create scenarios for whatever reason. I can't imagine wanting to create that kind of hell for myself, but I suppose it takes all kinds. 

  36. For a long time I didn't even remember what had happened to me, that's how “good” I had become at pushing it aside in my mind.  I was 19 years old when I was raped and I had believed him when he said I deserved it.  It has taken many years for me to unlearn what I had been told by him.  It is amazing how the voice of one person will influence your thought patterns even when it is the most irrational.  We have taken many steps in the right direction in speaking out against crimes against women.  Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go.  As long as we allow people and/or media to perpetuate the myth that women “ask for it” or want something when they come forward — no matter how long it has been since the incident ha taken place — victims will continue to hesitate to speak up.  It's time to turn the lights on. 

  37. Oh honey. {{massive hugs}} It takes such guts to share. Silencing those voices, that pathetically still exist in our society today, even within our own circle of friends, family, or online, is sometimes our biggest hurdle to sharing our pain. 

    I'm so proud of you. I love you, my sister. 

  38. frelle permalink

    thank you so much for writing about this experience, it is violence and it is an attack. im glad you fought and he didn't end up getting everything he wanted, but Im sorry it affected you then and affected you after…

  39. A difficult subject.  It breaks my heart to read how common this is.  Like you, I'm a fighter, and I learned at 14 that even when they have a huge advantage in size and age and strength, sometimes a rapist will back down when you fight.

    The problem is, when they do back down, there's no evidence.  Nothing but your word against his.  And you know he'll try again, and succeed, with some other woman who won't fight back.  I wish there was a solution.

    But I'd like to present a gentle argument against your post:  you list your “mistakes”.  I know you mean it in the sense of “things I could have done differently to protect myself”, but in the big picture, you didn't make any “mistakes”.  You went to a party and had a conversation with a guy.  That's not a mistake, that's a normal human behaviour, and you had (and have) a right to do that in safety.  Hell, you should be able to go to a party buck-naked in safety. 

    Nobody “deserves” to be attacked.  Even if we're flirting.  Even if we're drunk.  No matter what we're wearing (or not wearing).  Telling ourselves we should have known better is just another way we assume responsibility for an attack.  You were fine.  HE should have known better.

    I wish society and the legal system would agree with that.  And until that happens, the “responsibility” to protect ourselves just comes with the plumbing.  I was hoping I'd see those attitudes change in my lifetime, but I'm pushing 50 and the changes haven't been that noticeable so far.  We've got a long way to go.

  40. I love you Rachel & I applaud your bravery for sharing this story. For everyone who has commented & had a similar experience, I'm sorry. 

    I'm a healer & 90% of my clients in Australia are women. In the US it's 75% (?). I work with a lot of victims of abuse: cult, violence, sexual, emotional. This continual cycle of abuse is an habitual vibration/frequency that is active in consciousness. Men & women are born vibrating at perpetrator & victim.
    I'm not an excuse guy,  I've been victim & aggressor. I'm responsible. I have the power to choose & to act or not. Consider this though.

    There's a photo on my father's wall of a young man who died in a single vehicle car accident one metre from where his father died in a single vehicle car accident. Both men were drink driving. The young man is vibrating at, I will die drunk while driving a car. He's also vibrating at the location.

    This isn't DNA or genes. This is consciousness. Our environment creates our behaviour. In the womb our children are aware of what's happening around them. Our energy fields, consciousness stores information. A drunk parent's behaviour is imprinting onto the unborn child. Potentially, the child will grow up to be an alcoholic, or be attracted to a partner who is an alcoholic. 

    Without healing these patterns of abuse – rapes – will continue. It's the sins of our fathers. Here's another thing to consider: whether we do something or think about it with intention, the affect, in our energy fields, is the same. This is why I love you. I really do. By loving you, & meaning it, I'm not being my father or his father or … keep going back for generations. To stop this we need to heal victims & abusers. 

    I have 2 daughters who were sexually abused by their mother. Why I was attracted to a woman who would do this? I was emotionally scarred as a teenager – with sexual incidents – my father has been abused, his father was abused, the grandfather was abused & a abuser. Have I done enough to stop this cycle? I hope so. The cycle of rape is the same.

    I didn't mean to hijack this post. I'm hurting for everyone who has shared their story. I admire your bravery. I love you.

  41. Thx Frelle — I appreciate your visit & my heart hears more than your words. xxoo

  42. I agree completely w/ your comments, Diane. I SHOULD have been able to do all that. In an ideal world, that WOULD be true. I don't believe in any way I deserved it. But thoughts had nothing to do with actions that night. 

    We do have a long way to go. Thanks for reading and visiting. xo

  43. I think I said this wrong.  I didn't mean to say you should have done this or that.  I didn't mean to imply that the blame lies with us for living with what we haven't been able to change.  I meant to criticize society's attitudes, not yours.  This is an excellent post, and I admire your courage. 

    Sigh.  You'd think I'd be better with words.  Sorry if I sounded like a jerk.  :-/

  44. Wow, Simon. You didn't hijack. You're amazing. The level of abuse so many of us share is astounding. I'm so sorry for your experiences. I'm also blown away by how you've harnessed all that to help & heal others. 

    Thanks for your explanations about consciousness, environment, and energy. No matter what people believe, behaviors occur and eventually they'll look for answers. 

    I don't feel brave. I just feel honest. But thank you for your lovely words. I love you back. 

  45. Tanya permalink

    How awful.I also had a similar experience but instead of fighting back like you did I became numb to what was happening. The guy didn't know the meaning of the word no and when I ran into him a couple years ago he had the nerve to say it was consensual.

  46. So sorry, honey. Such an horrific thing to happen to anyone. I wonder if men rationalize it that way to live with themselves. {hugs} xo

  47. Not at all! I apologize if I came across to you that way. It's all good. Much love, Diane. 

  48. Wow. Rachel, I don't even know where to begin. I am so sorry for your experience. I know you're able to help other women as a result but it sucks! And you didn't deserve it in the least. Thanks for speaking out and being an inspiration to so many people. 

  49. thx honey. it happened a long time ago but it did shape me as a woman and a mother. I appreciate your comments, luv. 

  50. I'm incredibly sorry you had to endure that. While reading your post, I broke out in a cold sweat. I have a 17 year old daughter headed off to college next year. I hope she never finds herself in that situation, but if she does, that she has the presence of mind to react the way you did. She's a loving and trusting soul. I had her read this post and it shook her a little. Hearing warnings from dad are so much white noise. Hearing them from you had more impact. Thank you for your bravery.

  51. Thank you Paul for your comments & for sharing it with your sweet girl. That's my hope–that women of all ages will read this and be careful. Nothing more than that. {hugs} to you both

  52. Rachel, we men are smelly, hairy and aggressive; these attributes helped us survive long ago but are no longer needed. Unfortunately, there are many men who still follow the “might makes right” MO and I'm sorry that you, among many women I've known, had to live this experience. I can't imagine behaving like that douchebag and firmly believe that the path to change is in each man's hands. We must all do our best to raise our children and influence the children of others to see women as equal partners in a brave new reality. Thanks again for sharing these personal stories.

  53. This is the kind of stuff that scares the shit out of me. I have a one year old girl, and I've written about it on my site, and people tell me not to worry about it yet because she's so young, but it's not that easy to avoid thinking about. At the end of your story you mention you didn't realize the impact of it all until later. I'm curious, what was the impact? Did you mean that anything can happen at any time, or that you should always fight, or the impact would be that your daughter could face this sometime in the future, or something else. Just wondering.

  54. I will post the next piece about how it affected me. I won't leave you hanging, I promise Craig. 

    You can't live in fear of what MAY happen, but you can teach your daughter to be self-aware & to learn self-defense. Mine is in karate (as many young kids are now). It's no guarantee, but it's…insurance. There's more to my history than just this incident. She knows why it's important to protect herself. Come back tomorrow for part II. 🙂 xo

  55. Thank you for sharing, Rachel. It is not always easy writing, not to mention posting personal pieces. This hit a chord for me and unlike you I'm not brave enough to visit that place. I'm sure there are hundreds of others that you don't even realized you have touched and helped. 

  56. Jessica permalink

    When I was about 18 or so, I  remember stopping by a house  that this cute guy from high school was painting. It was light out, middle of the day. I sat and down an he started to go for me. I started yelling, “stop it!' and thankfully there was another guy there who came down the stairs and yelled at him to knock it off.  I was lucky.

    Thank you for sharing your story. They say that it's not the strangers we need to be wary of when it comes to sexual abuse,it's those living in our homes and who we see on a daily basis.

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