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Assault

I have never been raped.  One in seven American women experiences this dehumanizing assault some time during her life, so I know, compared to my sisters, that I have been lucky. Neither virtuous nor unusually skilled. Just lucky.

When I was 22, I was assaulted in my home. The man was my boss’s husband; he was a UCC minister, 45 years older than I was, and I admitted him to my apartment because I trusted him. He did important work in the social justice world and I thought, when he said he was in the neighborhood and wanted to drop in for a cup of coffee, that he was doing me an honor.

As soon as he got inside my door, he attacked me. He was  a foot taller and a lot stronger than I was. I broke away from him, ran out of my building, jumped on the first bus I saw,not caring where it was headed,  and finally got to  a friend’s house, where I spent the night. This was in 1969. Not only were there no cell phones, there were no rape crisis centers.  It didn’t occur to me to report him to the police, and because his wife was my boss, I didn’t think I could tell her. (I didn’t know this at the time, but he was having affairs with several other women. A year later, he  left his wife of 40 years and their four children for one of these other women.)

He continued to be revered in my community. When he died, his second wife and all her friends eulogized him in the church I occasionally attend. I had to leave the service. The one person at the service I mentioned the episode to refused to believe me: this was much too saintly a man. Why would I want to make up something like this about him?

Writing about it now, all these years later, I find that my stomach is still knotting up, that it’s hard for me to type this and not cry.

For one in seven American females, as young in many cases as toddlers, the story moves from an attempt to complete sexual assault. I don’t know how many women came as close as I did but were able to flee or otherwise avoid their assailant (“My” attacker had left my door open when he came in. My youth made me a faster sprinter.)

If you have any doubt about the massive damage that rape does to women, and why it’s an outrage for a woman to be forced to carry a violently conceived pregnancy to term, read what Eve Ensler has to say on the subject.

Todd, Paul, Mitt, Benedict, Timothy and the rest of you trying to put yourselves in charge of women’s lives and women’s pain–one in ten American men experiences sexual assault, too. It’s not about sex, or babies. It’s about power and powerlessness and terrible pain. If you think you have a right to force people to be in pain, then you are part of the problem.

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