All this talk about rape and sexual assault makes me want to tell my rape stories. Some of them, anyway. I’m betting many people have stories like mine to tell but are holding them back. Sometimes, all it takes is one person to get things going and then others feel comfortable opening up.
The first rapist I knew, I met in elementary school. Of course, we didn’t know he was a rapist then. We were kids. The way I remember it, he was nice* but awkward and most of the kids stayed clear of him. When I was in junior high, I discovered that he was spending a lot of time at the home of family friends, who had three daughters around my age. I asked the daughter that I was closest to if any of them were dating him. She said no, he just hung around, and she thought he was mostly there because he needed a mom and their mom was good to him. Worked for me, until they brought him to my house once. I didn’t say anything, but didn’t really want him at my house and that was extremely out of character. I’m the kid who made my father say, “Other kids bring home stray animals but Sandy brings in stray people.”
I was neither surprised nor devastated later when he was arrested for a string of rapes. I don’t remember the exact number but I think it was around twenty. The only shocking part of the story (remember, I was young) was that he was a couple of years older than we were, yet he had been in our grade. It was hard on the family friends, though, since they had taken him in like an extra family member and now they almost had to adopt his shame, too. I did, however, feel what I guess people would refer to as dirty – just from knowing someone who would do that. And, maybe a little bit lucky that I had been around someone who could do that without having anything happen to me.
Later, I wondered if he had abused any of them. They hadn’t said and I hadn’t asked. Much later, my way of thinking has changed enough that I would be very surprised if he had. (Explanation will be evident later.)
In tenth grade, I was invited to a New Year’s Eve party with the guy who would become my first serious love. I was beyond excited that I had finally agreed to go out with him but there were complications when I told my parents. They already had plans to go to a dance and we weren’t drivers yet. The plan was that he and I would walk to the party, I would go home with a female classmate until my parents left their dance, and they would pick me up from her house.
The party was great. I left there probably as excited as I had ever been at that point in my life but the euphoria ended soon.
The classmate and I giggled and talked as we walked around the corner to her house. Upon walking through her front door, everything darkened for me. I didn’t see anyone, or anything scary, but the atmosphere was eerie. She took me straight to her bedroom, which wasn’t especially strange since, at that age, many of my friends entertained in their bedrooms, where parents couldn’t hear conversations. But something felt off. It got worse when she closed and locked the bedroom door.
She must have noticed my mood change because she, obviously also uncomfortable, explained. Pretty good friend didn’t prepare me for what she would pour out. She said I couldn’t trust the brother, who was in the house. And went on to tell me that both her brother and her father sexually abused her, and had been almost as long as she could remember.
I listened, with my insides twisting in knots. I wanted to cry, or scream, or run, or something. She was talking as if she were telling me her list of chores or her favorite foods. I watched the clock hoping my parents would arrive soon.
I knew her brother, too, mostly in school but also at the places we all congregated after school or ball games or teen club. He was a bit odd but popular because he was funny. He did strange things for attention and to look tough. The strangest of these was that he opened the heavy outside door of the Pizza Hut with his head. He would get a running start from across the room, bend down, and ram the door with his head to open it. Everyone else laughed and cheered but I saw him do that and imagining the pain made me sick. Once, when we were alone, I asked him to stop doing that with his head. I told him it made me sick and that it couldn’t be good for his brain. He just laughed. And he kept doing it.
On the way home, I told my parents. This part seems so unreal now. They said they didn’t want me to go back to her house again, but I could let her know she was always welcome at ours. In fact, if she was in trouble or needed them, she could call and they would go pick her up, anytime, anywhere.
They didn’t call the police or child protective services (I assume that was a thing back then). Not that I know about, anyway. My parents did everything for everyone – honestly the most giving, loving people imaginable. It’s possible that they took some sort of action without telling me. Also possible, though, was that times were really that different in the 60s.
I watched that friend at school and she didn’t act a bit different after telling me about her life. She laughed and acted as carefree as ever. It was hard to even imagine her in that house with the eerie atmosphere.
And, since she did, I still interacted with her brother the same as I always had. Never alone. And I still felt sorry for him because he did weird things like opening heavy doors with his head and molesting his sister.
He, too, was arrested for a bunch of rapes, later. One night the big news was that he had escaped from prison. I was no longer talking to his sister.
We all kept a look out for him. I’m not sure I felt afraid of him. I was definitely afraid that he would return to the neighborhood and I would have to decide what to do if I ran into him, though. Eventually, the police found him – at her house, where she lived with a young daughter. I was sick, trying to imagine how she could allow him to be near her daughter.
He was either a suicide or suicide by police, I don’t even remember which way it happened.
I’ll say here that I never ended up hating or even really disliking either of these guys. I hated what they had done, and was sad for their victims, but I didn’t hate them. They were both people I knew and cared about, and long before I knew what they had done, I knew something wasn’t quite right with them.
When my daughter was a teen, there was a string of rapes in our neighborhood. Someone dressed like a cop and pulled women over, or knocked on their doors and gained entry to their homes, and raped them. Finally, he had grabbed someone a few blocks away, in the parking lot of the grocery we used. He took her away from there to another location and raped her. Local television channels were flashing a picture of him, frequently, asking everyone to be on the lookout and to call police immediately if they saw him. The picture looked like one of my daughter’s friends.
I called my best friend, whose daughter was one of my daughter’s best friends, and asked if she had seen the news. She had. We agreed that he looked like the friend and decided we needed to let the look-alike friend know so he’d be careful that the police didn’t spot him and confuse him as the rapist.
When my daughter came in, I told her about it, that we were worried about him, and also that I didn’t want her going anywhere alone until this guy was caught. She wanted to go to the grocery for something and I said to wait and I’d go with her later. Meanwhile, look-alike friend came in and said he’d take her. I thanked him and cautioned them both to be careful.
He was the rapist. I sent my daughter to the store with the rapist. I. Sent. My. Daughter. With. The. Rapist. Whose picture I had seen all over the news.
I beat myself up over that for a few days. My friend was even more devastated than I was because he had spent more time at her house, sleeping over as her son’s guest, with her daughter there. Finally, we realized that we knew he wasn’t going to hurt our daughters. They were his friends, and he cared about them.
Again, I couldn’t, nor did I want to defend him, but I couldn’t hate the rapist. He was a kid and he will spend the rest of his life in prison – where he belongs.
What bothers me about this one is that neither I nor my friend sensed anything odd or off or alarming about him. I wanted this to be about watching for signs. But I saw nothing. Nor did my friend, who was around him much more than I was. (Now that my daughter is older, she might be able to identify something we missed. I’ll update if she does.)
I know several men who were raped and suspect that there are a couple more.
I have a couple of friends who’ve been raped more than once, by different men.
I have personal near-rape stories. There’s one where I came very close to being gang raped by a group of prisoners. (Won’t say how I ended up in this position but will say it’s why I never wanted to let my daughters leave home without me.) They were discussing who got me first when I was rescued. There’s one where I think I was in danger with a group of guys on the street. And another where I knew someone was on my porch watching me through the unlocked front door and I sat paralyzed for a few seconds planning my next moves because I was sure he would be in soon if I didn’t make a move at the right moment, and make it fast.
The father of a friend came to my home one night for me to help him with a book he was writing. He came in with a briefcase, which I figured meant he had a lot of writing to go over. And dinner, that he hadn’t mentioned. I took a few bites of the food and the room started spinning. There was little doubt in my mind that he had drugged the food and I was trying to decide what to do – or if I could even walk to do anything – when my phone rang. I grabbed it quickly. It was a good friend who immediately knew there was something wrong by the slur in my speech. I purposely responded to everything he said with something that didn’t make sense and he said he’d be right there. The man at my table apparently recognized my cry for help, knew he was caught, and took off out the door, leaving his briefcase behind. He hadn’t brought writing. The phone call saved one of us because, I would probably have had to kill him if I could get out of the chair. I didn’t call the police or go to the hospital. I stayed with my friend until I was okay. Again, today, I can’t imagine that either of us handled it this way.
I’ve heard screams that I couldn’t locate and wondered what happened and was I somewhat responsible for not finding the screamer . . .
All of this in my experience. One person.
I am 63 years old. I’m an open book and I’ll talk to anyone about anything. I was the epitome of a people person the first forty-five or so years of my life and I’m the kind of person that strangers approach and pour their hearts out to. I’ve talked to a lot of people about heavy stuff. Most (as in more than half) of the women I’ve known have been sexually abused in some way and I don’t count someone resting a hand on their ass during a dance or photo shoot, or kissing without permission, or sticking a tongue out suggestively, or even saying, “I’d like to _ you,” as abuse. I mean either molested or raped or sodomized, against their will, by family, friends, strangers, dates, or spouses.
This is real. And I hate that this is real. I do believe we should all continue to tell our stories, to make people aware, and especially to help people understand what to watch for in order to stay safe. But I think we need to be careful not to go public and name names unless it was an actual crime.
I sincerely hate that anyone has been in any uncomfortable situation, no matter how innocuous. But I really, really hate that anyone was molested, sodomized, or raped more, even if and maybe especially if they are victims of someone that I knew but still can’t hate although I absolutely despise what they did.**
I am asking everyone to not mix or confuse dangerous criminal offenses with inappropriate comments or touches. If we truly want change, I believe we must keep these separate and tackle the big things together. Handle the little things when and where they happen until they are the biggest things left to deal with.
I wonder if it is unusual that I have known three serial rapists. My daughter says she doesn’t think so and that makes me sad. Does everyone know people who have raped and been raped?
And, do others agree that mixing these cases with butt grabs is probably damaging the cases of people who have been violated more violently, and permanently?
If you would like to publish your story but don’t have or want to create a blog, I will publish it here, either anonymously or with your name, whichever you prefer. Contact me at the top, right-hand corner of the blog page.
*side story here: I think the best advice I gave my daughters is to remember that there’s a big difference between nice and good, and that the worst people (guys, particularly, because they dated guys) will act the nicest because that’s how they set people up to get away with what they do.
**I believe there is a correlation between crime and pain. The worse the crime, the more painful the criminal’s life must have been for them to get that mean or confused. This doesn’t mean I want them to be excused for their crimes or allowed to roam freely and hurt more people. I want them stopped and removed from society but for society to still care about how their existence became so burdened.
Deeper look into my thoughts about how we can be compassionate toward criminals without condoning their actions, wanting them to remain free to harm others, or wanting them in power.