During my sexual assault, I had a few minutes to think about how I wanted things to go. Sure, there was the distraction of the guy’s tongue in my mouth and his body pressing me against the wall … and the fact that one of his hands was on one of my boobs … but knowing that his mind was otherwise occupied meant I had a few minutes to plan.
I thought about grabbing a lamp and bashing him over the head. But the problem was, he’d smushed me against the wall the second after we walked into his parents’ condo. I didn’t have the chance to look around and case the joint. Hell, I didn’t even know if there was a lamp in the room. Plus, with my inherent clutziness, if there was a lamp I was likely to pick it up all wrong … what if it wouldn’t unplug from the wall? What if I hit him with the shade instead of the base and I just ticked him off more? There were about ten ways that could’ve gone comically bad.
Plus, instinct told me that any bold action I took was going to be rewarded with a solid punch to my face. I’d never been punched. I didn’t want to start then. Also, what if he knocked me out? What was going to happen then?
No, better to stay conscious, even if it meant just letting him do his thing so I could get the hell out of there alive.
Friend of a Friend—So Cliché
“Skippy” was the bartender at the Jersey shore club where two of four my roommates worked.
Skippy was the kind of guy you could give a nickname like Skippy to, and then continue to call him Skippy to his face even though he fucking hated it.
Both of my roommates were naturally funny, and they teased him mercilessly. But they were also both charming and beautiful, so Skippy took it.
Memorial Day weekend that year was cold and rainy. Business was slow everywhere in town. The five of us, all underage, were stuck inside our tiny apartment with nothing to do. Skippy came over for a visit. Someone floated the idea that he should go out and get us some booze.
He said there was a lot of alcohol at his parents’ condo, but he wasn’t going to go get it unless someone went with him. None of us wanted to.
Then someone volunteered me. The rest of the girls quickly got on board with that. Certainly, they were all happy that they were off the hook. I glared at all of them but I agreed to go. I figured I’d deal with him for 10 minutes or so and then we could all get drunk on his parents’ liquor.
I went downstairs to the street and got in his car.
He started heading toward the other end of the island … I watched the familiar street names pass … Youngs, Roberts, Baker. As I always did when I was alone with a man I didn’t know well, I had become as alert as a deer in the forest—looking calm but ready to bolt at any second.
By the age of 20, I already been on at least two dates that I didn’t think I was going to get home from.
We kept driving. Bennett … Hildreth … Cresse …. Cresse was where the boardwalk ended. I didn’t know the street names after that. The houses became nicer and the hotels higher …
Just as I was starting to get nervous, we ended up at the gated entrance to a large condo community. Skippy parked and then went to one of many doors on the bottom floor. I don’t recall seeing a number on it. We entered to an empty hallway and lots of apartment doors. It was silent. Due to the rain, I imagined a lot of people had forgone the holiday weekend at the shore.
I followed him upstairs to his parents’ place.
He unlocked the door. I followed him inside and that was it.
He was on me.
He backed me up against the wall and shoved his tongue my mouth.
Oh shit, I thought. This is totally happening. No one knows where I am. I don’t even know where I am. How am I gonna get out of this?
Obviously, this was long before cell phones.
I managed to pull my face away. “We should get back …” I said.
“No, let’s stay here a while …” he said before resuming licking my tonsils. I can still picture his face moving in to crush mine. He copped a feel.
“No … come on,” I said as I managed to wriggle my face back and to the side a bit. I smiled. I wanted to show him everything was cool. Everything was chill. I rubbed his shoulder a little—doing the same little dance women have probably been doing since the beginning of time. “They’re going to wonder where we are … ”
“It’s fine,” he said. “We can have our own party here.”
He was bigger than me. He was insistent. His ego had already been bruised by a roomful of women calling him Skippy for the last half hour. It was also pretty likely that he realized that his only value to our group was a booze mule.
After running the calculations on bashing him over the head vs. just getting this whole thing over with, neither option was very appealing. Diplomacy also did not seem to be getting me anywhere. But still …
One more try.
I’m not sure how … but I managed to duck under his arm quickly, while also scanning the condo for possible items with which to bash him in the head, just in case. “We really need to get back. Let’s go,” I said. There was new firmness in my voice. It was clear that I wasn’t playing along any more. I grabbed the doorknob and opened the door. I stepped halfway out. “Come on,” I said.
“Fine,” he spat. He huffed off to get some bottles from his parents’ liquor cabinet. I stood in the open door. I wondered if I should just run, but I had no idea where I was. I could’ve probably found my way home, but it would’ve taken an a few hours to walk there.
We didn’t speak on the way back to my apartment. We both walked into the kitchen, where all my roommates were hanging out. I kept walking, straight through to the bedroom and threw myself on the bed.
I can’t remember how long he stayed after that. After he left, I think I probably stomped out to the rest of the girls and said something like “Thanks a lot, guys. That asshole made a move on me.” I think they laughed and apologized and spent a few more minutes making fun of how Skippy seemed gay, so maybe this confirmed that he wasn’t. Haha.
And that was it.
It was summer. We were young. There were parties to be had. Cute guys to flirt with. I had gotten out unscathed … no need to turn it into a whole thing.
My roommates continued working with Skippy. I let the tides of summer wash it all away. I never saw him again.
The Unshocking Truth
Men who would never do this cannot believe that there are men who would.
I once casually mentioned to Joe that any woman who has spent any time in the dating has been scared on a date at least once or twice. “Really?” he asked.
“Absolutely.” Doy. I couldn’t believe he didn’t know this.
The conversation moved on but a few minutes later he stopped me. “I need to go back to what you said a few minutes ago. Is that really true?”
“It is absolutely true,” I told him.
“That is so upsetting,” he said. He was quiet. Hearing that when you have three daughters is something to think about.
The Silent Epidemic
The Skippy story is the one I selected to tell. I have others. There was the married male colleague I was traveling with who wouldn’t stop calling my hotel room and propositioning me. There was the disgusting pig of a man I used to work with who sexually harassed three of my friends over many years, and then finally got around to me with a series of extremely graphic Facebook messages.
As I sit here right now, without too much effort at all, I can think of two women I know were date raped, one who was rape-raped, and another friend of a friend who passed out at a college party and woke up with no pants on and her tampon shoved way up.
This shit happens all the time.
But on the other hand, let’s be clear: most men are not like this.
I have traveled with men for business in which there was zero inappropriate conduct. I have been alone in cars with male colleagues and male friends. It has been fine. Easy. I have not felt threatened.
I once explored an abandoned house on some random, rural road near my college with a car full of guys —I was the only female (so dumb, right?). But no one made a move.
As a teenage girl, I sometimes worked a late shift at the Pizza Hut Delivery with male managers. There was a skeleton crew. There were probably times when we were the only people in the store when the drivers were out. Nothing happened. I never felt unsafe for a second.
We can’t live our lives in fear. And we know that most men are not these disgusting creeps, and this is what allows us to move through the world without our guards up all the time. Unfortunately, that also sometimes puts us in situations that are suddenly awkward or dangerous.
So I take immense comfort in that. This is not most men. Unfortunately, the small percentage of creeps more than make up for it.