Warning: Rape triggers.
It was a late January Saturday night. It was c-o-l-d. Just about everyone in the dorm had gone home for the weekend, including my roommate, the girls on either side of my room, and those across the hall. The dorm was, for all intents, deserted.
I headed for a beer bash just off campus; couldn’t beat the price – all the beer a college gal could drink for FREE. It was a ploy to get the gals there; I was too naïve to realize it was also a ploy, still employed, to get those gals nice and liquored up.
I walked over to the house with a couple of friends, all bundled up against the bitter Pennsylvania cold. The place was already overcrowded. It was loud; I recognized a couple of people I knew and we all began talking, dancing, drinking, singing to Springsteen, drinking more, and singing louder. An upper classman offered to give me a ride back to the dorm, which sounded like a good idea given both my state and the cold outside.
I had spotted him shortly after we arrived – he wore a TKE jacket and unlike almost every other TKE on campus, the name on it looked like it could have actually been his real first or last name. We had spent a good amount of time talking earlier in the evening and I didn’t think twice about accepting his offer.
When we arrived at my dorm, I asked him if he wanted to come upstairs. “Sure,” he said, rather nonchalantly. He exited the Camaro (or was it a Firebird?) and came around to my side and opened the car door, then the dorm doors. I waved to the desk assistant on duty.
I don’t remember much after that. In retrospect, I know I went to my room and got the keys to a friend’s room a few doors down and must have let him in there, then went to the bathroom. When I came back to that room, I didn’t see him. I thought he left. The next thing I knew, I was down on the floor with him on top of me, his arm in the crook of my neck so I could barely breathe, his other hand removing my clothing.
My next memory is of me screaming, “No! Stop! You’re hurting me!” and me trying to kick my feet and get him off me. I must have blacked out. When I came to, I was half naked in a pool of blood. Well, pool does not even begin to describe it. I had been a virgin. Had been.
I was panicked. It was now early Sunday morning. My friend’s formerly light blue carpet was now scarlet red. All I could think of was, “How am I ever going to clean up this mess?” I knew one friend had not gone home. The problem was her room was all the way on the opposite side of the dorm.
I flew down the hallway. My clothes stuck to me. Just recalling this now makes me tear up and want to vomit, and it has been over 37 years. Some visuals and some sensations never leave. No amount of soap, no amount of therapy, no amount of love can take them completely away. #AskManyWomen
I can’t imagine what my friend was expecting when she heard the knock on the door at whatever obscene time it was that Sunday morning. I really can’t imagine what she thought when she saw the mess that was me standing there. I have no clue what I said. I have no clue what she said. I know she never left my side for the entire day. (Not surprisingly, we are still friends.)
First we dragged that damned carpet into the bathroom, which was right across the hall. Into the bathtub it went, with a whole lot of soap. “Out, out, damned spot!” never had as much meaning. I think I took a 30 minute shower in what I was wearing and scalded myself. I threw away the clothes. The thought of calling the campus police never once entered my mind. This was 1977. It was decidedly my fault. I drank too much. I asked him into the dorm.
I called my Auntie Mo in NY from the payphone in the hall. “Let me at him with a rusty knife blade,” she said. My friend and I bundled up and walked the deserted campus. “I feel like everyone can look at me and tell,” I said. “It’s not your fault,” my friend said. “I feel like I’m wearing a scarlet letter,” I said.
I wish I could say things got better for me quickly, but they did not. This incident sent me into a tailspin of drunken promiscuity. I had not been much of a drinker before this assault. Now that I felt spoiled, ruined, damaged, used, and abused, I felt I may as well just give it up all over the place. It is not something I am proud of, obviously. It is what happened. It did not make me fearful of men or hate them. It made me want to toy with them and control them, and I was really good at it. I’m not proud of that either.
Alcohol, and later, drugs, let me push down all the feelings of anger and rage the assault caused. It was not until about 10 years later that I read a NY Times article about women who were facing issues surrounding their rape some 15, 20, or 30 years later that I realized I need to do the same thing. As my luck would have it, the first therapist I went to was a real asshat and only set off triggers. I quickly found both a great physician and a great therapist.
Shortly after, I ended up so down, I feared I might hurt myself, so I checked myself into the psychiatric ward of my local hospital. That was July 3, 1988. That was also the last day I had any alcohol or illegal drugs. The lasting effect is I cannot stand light blue carpet. I have long since forgiven Mr. TKE. I did not do that because I am some wonderful person. I did that for me.
It is true that you are only as sick as your secrets. I have no secrets. I hope this has helped someone. If you are still suffering from what happened to you years ago, days ago, minutes ago, it is not too late to get help. You are not what was done to you. You are stronger than you know. In the U.S., contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline – 1-800-656-4673.