Note: The post discusses rape in a very graphic manner. If you have PTSD or are squeamish about this subject, I recommend you do not read it.
I am that girl – Jane Doe – of Steubenville, OH; you know, the one who should have known better than to drink that much? At least that’s what some people say, in 2013, in our “blame the victim” culture. I was sure that’s what they’d say in 1977, my freshman year of college, which is one reason I never reported my rapist.
On a cold January night, I made the short walk from campus with a couple of other students to a frat party in town. Frat parties encourage nothing but drinking and reckless behavior, with males getting “all you can drink” for a few bucks and females getting “all you can drink” for nothing. It never occurred to me that the goal was not only to get as many females there as possible but to make sure they were inebriated.
I remember talking to a variety of people; I remember drinking a lot of beer. I remember a guy offering me a ride back to my dorm. I wasn’t in a co-ed dorm, but men were allowed in as long as they were accompanied by a female resident. I remember climbing the 2 flights of stairs to my friends’ dorm room; they were both away for the weekend. Shortly after opening the door, I told him I had to go to the restroom and would be right back.
I was naïve. I had just turned 18 a few months before, and my experience with men was limited. It never dawned on me that something bad might happen to me in that room that night. I opened the door to the room, but I didn’t see him. Then the door slammed shut.
The next minutes are somewhat of a blur; not just because it has been over 36 years, but because of the alcohol and no doubt the shock of what transpired. I remember being on my back on the floor and struggling. I remember screaming, “No! You’re hurting me! Stop!” over and over. He didn’t stop. He didn’t stop until he left me there bloodied, battered, and bewildered.
I turned the light on and could not believe the look of my friends’ light blue rug. It was red as red could be. I had been a virgin. That night I lost much more than my virginity. I lost “me,” and it would take years to find myself again. I still cannot stomach light blue carpeting.
I remember going down the hall and around the corner to a friend’s room; we may have been the only people on our floor that did not go home that weekend. I woke her up and asked her to come to the room and help me clean up. We dragged the carpet across the hall to the restroom and put it in the bathtub. I got a shower stall with my clothes still on. I don’t remember anything else from the night. I’m sure between the alcohol and the shock, I passed out.
When I woke up, my friend was there and asked if I wanted to contact the campus police. I said no. I called my aunt in New York who told me, “Tell me who he is and I’ll cut it off with a rusty knife.” My friend and I walked all over the campus Sunday. I felt everyone knew. I felt it somehow showed on my face. I was sure he told everyone he knew. I felt it was my fault. I didn’t tell my family for many years. I didn’t go to counseling for 10 years. A few months later, a softball team song reminded me it was my fault with the verses about freshmen getting raped by members of XYZ, the Greek letters of the fraternity whose jacket my rapist wore so proudly that night. It was odd to be the personification of a song.
Rape, I learned, is not about sex but about power and control. Those who are not taught about their own power are destined to be abused one way or another by those who, by their privilege, have power. Those who are taught they are superior and meant to rule over others are destined to be abusers, whether mentally, physically, spiritually, or institutionally.
The good news is, we can change our destinies. We can change our culture. Girls and women need to be taught about their own power, and boys and men need to be taught that the opposite gender are not only their equals, but their sisters in Christ.