[Warning: rape/suicide triggers.]
There was this girl. She was young and naive. Because of other family dysfunction, she spent a lot of her teenage years raising herself. There was a lot she didn’t know about the world, even more so than other teenagers.
She had a friend. This friend had a car and a boyfriend who lived out by the beach. The girl had had no chance to learn to drive, but didn’t think about the possible consequences of being in a location miles from home with no way out.
It was a warm evening in late July. The friend, her boyfriend and his friend who lived next door began drinking. Although she actually had never drunk much (just a glass of wine when she turned eighteen, three months before), the girl joined in.
It is at this point that I have to stop. The third person, which I had thought to use for this story until the end, will not do. I use it sometimes to protect myself when telling this story to people I don’t know, as a way to distance myself from what happened.
This time, I have to tell it as myself, as my own story. Making it about some theoretical girl protects me, but it also minimizes what I went through.
I and my friend Lorrie went out to the beach to visit her boyfriend, Doug, and his friend who lived next door, named Gary. All of us were drinking: the booze started with beer, and moved on to rum and tequila. Heady stuff for a young woman who had had no exposure to any alcohol but a glass of red wine on her previous birthday.
Lorrie and Doug moved from kissing to necking to the inevitable decision to have sex. They kicked me out of Doug’s half of the duplex he shared with Gary, leaving me alone with no place to go. Had I been more street-smart, I would have stayed in the car until morning. Instead, I accepted Gary’s suggestion that I come into his place.
I was drunk. Very, very drunk. I had never been drunk before in my life, and was having trouble coping with the room swimming around my head, let alone walking much. I sat on the bed, while Gary bolted the door.
I am not going into all the details. There are details I don’t remember because I passed out. There are other details that I could remember if I tried very hard, but the memory of them would break me. Although every once in a while something happens to leave me feeling shaken and broken, I have not had actual waking flashbacks in a very, very long time and am not going to risk triggering one now.
There are details that I remember that I can relate. Unless I try very hard, I cannot remember what my rapist’s face looked like, because my mind protects itself. I do remember the house, though, and the pink stucco walls. I remember begging “please no, please no, God please don’t do this I’ll do anything you want just please….” and I remember having my arms pinned down. To this day I am likely to react badly if my arms are immobilized. Once, in the middle of a mutually consensual tickle fight, I kneed a man in the groin — hard — because he pinned my arms down.
Afterwards, while Gary sprawled on his bed, having fallen asleep, I went and took a shower. I ran the shower until all the hot water was gone, got dressed, unbolted the door, and went to the car. When Lorrie stumbled out early in the morning, I said nothing of what had happened. We drove home, with her chatting away about Doug, oblivious to my silence.
I said nothing to anyone. I had to say nothing to anyone.
My father was an ex-Marine who took a very dim view of people hurting himself or his family. He was never abusive towards his wife or any of his kids, but when he felt his safety or ours was threatened he could become violent. I knew that he had once hooked a man in the neck with a fishhook who was trying to run him off his fishing hole with a motor boat. When the man approached him at the dock, Dad pulled out a filleting knife. I knew that many years before, when my eldest sister was run over in our driveway by a delivery truck completely by accident, Dad had gone out with a shotgun looking for the driver. Fortunately, his hunt was unsuccessful.
I knew where he kept the revolver, and the ammunition. I knew as well what would have happened had I told my dad what had happened — or if he had heard it from anyone else. Dad would have blown Gary’s brains out. (I would have been lucky: there are families where the first fatality would not have been the rapist but the girl.) While I would have had no problem with Gary’s death, I could never have lived with my dad spending the rest of his life in prison because of me, because of what I thought I had done.
Because in my own mind, it was my fault. I had grown up a Roman Catholic, and like far too many of us had internalized the vile idea (not from my parents but from the priests) that sexual violence was the fault of evil women tempting men into lust. Gary was simply acting on his natural instincts. Although I was never sure of what exactly I had done to tempt him, other than being drunk and female, I was sure it was something. I was a sinful woman who had essentially only gotten what she deserved.
I was terrified that I might be pregnant. I spent three weeks praying to the God I was sure hated me that if nothing else I not be pregnant. Being pregnant would mean that my horrible secret would be exposed. I was prepared for pregnancy, though: as I said, I knew where my dad kept his gun.
When I hear someone — in this case, the President — say that Plan B or other emergency contraception should be kept behind pharmacy windows, available only to those over seventeen, I shudder. I think about my rapist, and my dad, and the gun that would have ended my life had I been pregnant. Yes, I would have been old enough to purchase Plan B had it been available, but what of sixteen-year olds? Sixteen is old enough to be a junior in high school. Old enough for a girl to drive, but according to the administration (in complete disregard of the FDA’s position on this), not old enough to take steps to protect her health.
No one should have to go through what I went through. Rape is horrific enough, but to disallow medicines to young girls that would lessen the damage is almost unthinkable to me. Not every rape is reported — sometimes for very good reasons. And in those cases, withholding drugs that help to ensure that a young woman will not have to carry the additional burden of a pregnancy by her rapist is obscene.
People think about what parents want. Sometimes even the victims think primarily about the good of their families rather than their own well-being.
Someone needs to think about the girls.