The term elicits within our minds one specific scenario: a person actively stalked by a stranger and forced to engage in sex by threat.
The scenario built into our minds is wrong.
According to the National Network of Rape, Abuse & Incest 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim, and 1 out of every 6 American women has been effected. As a sociology major at UCSD, I’ve studied myriad cases where women were raped by someone they knew. What I never understood was why so little of them came forward to legally put a stop to their perpetrator.
I never understood, not quite, until now.
I’m sharing what happened to me because I want to find clarity for myself. I also want to provide a picture of what the most common form of rape looks like; I hope that this article will serve as support for other women who have experienced this burden.
But what I want most is to put a spotlight on the way our society normalizes men using alcohol to score.
For a month I’d been working on-call at a financial firm. We’ll refer to the firm’s primary financial adviser as John, who I immediately meshed with. As I was new to the position, he was more than helpful when I had questions and seemed genuinely interested in getting to know me as a person.
My second week, he began asking more about my financial situation and providing advice on how to clear up my debt, laying out wise investment options and financial plans.
Anyone who’s had an adviser knows that there has to be serious trust established. You’re effectively giving a stranger an insider’s perspective into your world, allowing them access to everything you have to offer as well as a complete history of where you spend it; I wholly opened up, trusting John with my future.
He was much older, very knowledgeable, and held a position I aspired to. His words were valuable to me and I looked to him as a mentor. I blame myself for letting down my guard and trusting in someone so much that I threw caution to the wind. I overlooked far too many red flags; blatant issues, like the fact that he asked me if I was aware a lot of people in my position slept with their financial advisers. Later in the week he asked if I had ever been date raped. It sounds so ludicrous now but at the time I thought it was his way of relating to me; a pertinent college issue.
What keeps me up at night is something yet more manipulative. He’d seemed so genuinely concerned when he’d told me he was worried for me as I’m so young and independent; that I must be at a very vulnerable time in my life, one in which it would be easy to be taken advantage of.
It was a Monday. You always think of these things happening during a weekend, late at night, around the corner. Not so.
As we closed down the office he asked if I’d join him for a drink at a bar owned by his friend a block away. The invitation didn’t seem out of place; at this point I considered him a friend. As we sipped our happy hour cocktails, our conversation progressed from the housing market to our personal lives. Our first round ran dry and he shared that his wife had just decided she wanted a divorce. He was a friend. A second drink seemed necessary.
I consoled this man the very same way I would any other friend: asking for details, specifics on the way he felt, telling him how deeply sorry I was that he had to go through with it.
Two drinks doubled. The last thing I remember is looking down at the swirling ice in my fourth drink.
The next six hours remain completely black. No recollection. No haziness. Just darkness. Though four drinks might make me tipsy, they’d never brought me to the point of blacking out.
Soft leather. When I opened my eyes I was lying on the office couch.
Why am I naked? Where are my clothes? Why does my body hurt so badly?
I looked around the dark room. He was standing by the door buttoning up his shirt. I asked what’d happened to which he casually replied.
“We had sex.”
I can’t convey in words how much that sentence crushed my heart. He continued fumbling with his clothes, congratulating me on how I was the first person he’d slept with in over 10 years. Other than his wife, of course.
I had no reply.
Like a robot I reached for my shirt and clothed my naked body piece-by-piece, mechanically. Once at home, full panic and hysteria came at me like a runaway train. I called my closest friend, who drove over in a heartbeat.
That night, I felt so much guilt. I blamed myself. I thought the entire event had been my doing.
The next morning I was able to open up in more detail to my friend about the events that had occurred, spitting out absolutely everything I remembered. I realized John had engaged in anal sex with me, as I was sore there. The more details that fell out of my mouth, the more suspicious my friend became. What had occurred was absolutely not in my character. Eventually he convinced me to go to the hospital and get a rape exam.
That day was one of the heaviest and longest of my life. I spent hours waiting at the hospital, a barrage of uncomfortable questions thrown my way by doctors and nurses. I waited for the police to show up. They asked right away if I planned to press charges. They asked questions about my previous sexual history, as if that had some relevance.
5 1/2 hours later I was referred to a clinic that administered a rape kit: blood samples, urine samples, vaginal and anal swabs, cameras documenting the state of my bruised, naked body. I was administered penicillin in case I’d contracted an STD. I swallowed Plan B because I wasn’t on birth control and had no idea if he’d used a condom.
I was shocked to find that I wouldn’t receive any of these results unless I decided to open an investigation.
Should I decide to open that door, I can technically do so without pressing charges but they’ll contact John and the company we work for which will instantly put this man out of a job and could potentially alter my own chances of being hired in the future. Last and most problematic, I’d be forced to weather yet more questions from police investigators and strangers about intimate details of myself, and relive the pain that I have endured since the incident.
What will all this pain add up to? I can’t know whether there will be justice. It’s a massive sacrifice of my being for a shot in the dark.
The nurse who’d administered my rape kit told me that even if he’d used some form of drug on me there was a chance they might not be able to find it in my system; enough time had passed since the incident that it wasn’t a given. There are so many types of drugs on the market, many of them untraceable.
The situation was presented to me as impossible and bleak.
My major dilemma is that even if I do open an investigation, chances of me seeing any sort of justice is slim. Say I did keep my job and John lost his; the community is tight-knit and friends of John’s would blame me. The last thing they would want is to hire me in their office after I was the cause of their colleague’s unemployment.
You may be asking yourself why I don’t just apply at a different financial firm and put this behind me.
It isn’t that easy.
This firm has been the subject of my deepest professional aspirations for years. I have connections within its walls. I’ve invested so much in this company and if I went somewhere else it would feel as though all my hard work was wasted.
There are thousands of cases like mine in the area of San Diego as well as all over the country yet very few women ever find justice. Only cases that are “open and shut,” explicit and easy to prove are the ones that make their way to court; even then justice isn’t always guaranteed.
Was I raped?
Others may speculate; come to whatever sordid conclusion they want. I know in my heart the truth. I know that regardless of whether he’d used drugs or not, he took advantage of a vulnerable 23-year-old college student who trusted in him completely.
Sleeping with a woman who is unable to consent is against the law.
We all need to accept this fact.
My head is screaming:
HOW DARE YOU?
You will never understand what you did to me. You’ve jeopardized my academic standing, my relationship with my peers, and devastated my perspective on life. It is because of you that I will forever struggle to trust. It is because of you that when my boyfriend touches me I am painfully reminded of how I felt that night. How dare you use my body as if it were your own toy, stolen from the store for your own pleasurable needs? There is absolutely no excuse. What happened was completely and utterly unprofessional and unethical, the very essence of wrong. Though you have apologized to me for what occurred, you fail to realize that when you apologize you are apologizing for “having sex” with me, not for raping me. I hope you take this lesson to heart and never put another woman through what you have put me through.
John, I also want to thank you.
You have awakened what was previously still in my soul and set it on fire, inspiring me to find justice for those who cannot find it. Maybe I won’t experience it for myself, but I will raise my voice against yours, and people like you, and find power in numbers.
Women all over the country who have experienced this same form of bruising in their hearts will hear this. Together we will seek retribution from the slime of the earth like you.
But he won’t hear it.