In the wake of last week’s guilty verdict in Steubenville, Ohio, the case of the 16-year-old girl raped by two high school football players continues to reverberate. Time magazine carries a particularly interesting exploration of her possible avenues to recovery, and the factors that could affect it, here. In the essay below, a 46-year-old Massachusetts woman shares her own Steubenville-type experience from more than 30 years ago, and its aftermath. Because of the painful and personal nature of its content, she would like to remain anonymous.
I have a secret.
It’s something that happened in 1981, when I was a high school freshman, more than 30 years ago.
It was a Saturday night. My parents had gone out to meet friends and I was watching TV with my younger brother. A “popular” boy I didn’t know well but who had just started being friendly towards me called and asked if he and his four friends could come over. I’ll call him “John.” I was excited and nervous – the first boys to come over to my house! — and said sure.
They arrived and we all watched TV with my brother for a while. Then we went into the living room without my brother and talked. One of the boys suggested going upstairs so they could see my bedroom. We were sitting on the floor talking when John said, “one, two, three,” and they all jumped on top of me. Some were holding my arms, some were holding down my legs. They were pulling at my clothes. I was scared and confused and overwhelmed. I struggled and said, “John, get them off me.” He said no. I pleaded again, “John, get them off me.” He said, “OK, one at a time, then?”
First, I was victimized by the rape. Then I was victimized by how the people around me reacted to learning that I had been raped.
I agreed. I didn’t know what else to do. I just wanted them to get off me. I had recently moved to this fancy suburb from a more working-class area and was getting adjusted to the faster-paced lifestyle. I assumed this sort of thing must happen all the time and that I had just never heard about it because I was new in town.
The other boys left John and me alone in my bedroom. I don’t remember much except that he ripped off what was left of my clothing. I felt humiliated, devastated. The boys filed out and filed in. I stayed on my bedroom floor in a corner of the room, pulling on my underwear in between. The last one to come into my room was the only boy I knew somewhat from school. I just cried with him and he let my underwear stay on. Before that night, I had only kissed one boy – after he had been my “boyfriend” for several months.
On Monday I was shocked that everyone at school knew what had happened. Continue reading