When The Worst Part Of An Assault Is Not The Assault

This story is a consistent presence in my life. While not always in the foreground, it is there, lurking. The current climate in the U.S. has made this a relevant tale for many. For people who are struggling to come to terms with their own stories of assault, for those who feel alone or too scared to share, for those raising boys into men, for grown men who do not know these experiences, for anyone looking to vote someone who speaks glibly about assault (and women, and minorities) into the highest office in the land, and especially for those who are acquainted with victims of assault; this story is for you, today.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty.

While I have never been able to recall what actually happened that night in 2004, my memories of friends’ testimonies, and the events that followed, are crystal clear. Going over something in your head again and again has a way of cementing those memories forever. I don’t think about it very often, but when similar stories pop up in the news, or when I think about the people who betrayed me, it runs through my mind.

I need a different word for it. I don’t like to use “rape,” because I feel like that puts my experience in the same class as those who have been violently apprehended and forced to do something against their will. It wasn’t that. I also don’t like using the term “date rape,” as I feel like that gives off the impression that I ever agreed to go on a date with this person. “Friend rape” would probably be most accurate, but again, that sounds far too friendly. Whatever you call it, it was what it was, a violation of my person by someone I had called a friend. I wish I could say that was the worst part, but what it resulted in was far worse (and I’m not even talking about the abortion). I am, of course, speaking of the violation of my trust by MANY that I called friends.

I had a friend, Sandy, in from out of town that weekend. We had done study abroad together and since most of our study abroad pals lived in Boston, she came by for a little reunion. She was staying with me in my studio, on my futon, about three feet from my bed. We all went out that night to a bar on Boylston Street called The Pour House. The Pour House was great for people who had just turned 21. Atmosphere, music, affordable drinks, booths. It was always a good time for us.

“Sandy” and I on the night in question, Aug 2004. Aren’t I asking for it?
“Sandy” and I on the night in question, Aug 2004. Aren’t I asking for it?

That night, we were all there with a bunch of our study abroad pals, and some of our regular Boston pals as well ― a really good crowd. I remember doing tequila shots. I remember sitting in a booth with some buddies and actively flirting with a gentleman that I had a history of hooking up with (not the rapist). That is the last thing I remember. Then I blacked out. Hard.

I woke up in my bed. I was wearing a t-shirt, but I was bottomless. I could feel the presence of someone next to me (it was a university-issued twin bed). At first, I thought it was the aforementioned hook-up buddy. The last thing I could recall was my hand on his thigh at the bar, after all. So, I lay there for a while, trying to play the remember game, when I began to notice that the figure of the person next to me was a little larger than the person I thought it was. Now I was confused. I tried to run a list of names through my head, but nothing came up. I glanced over, and I think I saw a mole on his neck or head… hmm. I propped myself up on my arm so I could get a better look. Upon realizing who it was, I checked and double-checked in my head. I didn’t even SEE this guy last night.

What the hell is he doing here? Why am I bottomless? Why am I bottomless next to this dude? We didn’t... did we? I never would have? Why is he here? It doesn’t FEEL like I did? What the hell?

I immediately climbed out of bed and put on bottoms. I sat at my computer for a brief second to send a message to one of my girlfriends, Enid, “Um. Why the hell is Jacob in my bed?” (Enid was one of Jacob’s best friends, so I figure if anyone would have an idea, she would). I changed my away message to “WTF,” and then got in bed with my visiting friend on the futon to curl up and further ruminate on what the hell? The offender, my “friend,” got up a short while later, made some awkward comments and got out of there.

Soon thereafter, Enid started messaging me back. She didn’t know why he was there either. We went back and forth for a few seconds and then she said, “Well, I’m about to find out. Jacob just called and wants to do lunch.” I thought to myself, this dude literally just walked out of here and immediately calls Enid to have an emergency lunch? Weird.

That day, my visitor Sandy and I, as well as some of our other lady friends were going to do the quintessential girl-visiting-Boston thing and wander and shop around Newbury St. We had a lovely day. A couple of hours in, I got a call from Enid.

“You guys slept together,” she said. My stomach churned, my heart sank. “What? Are you kidding me? What the hell? How did that happen?” I was incredulous. I couldn’t believe it. My lady parts didn’t feel like it. I certainly never would have. I didn’t even SEE that guy last night. I was in shock. Enid said one more thing before she got off the phone, and I won’t forget it, “Yea, I don’t know how it happened, but he did say that both you AND Sandy were looking good last night.” As if this were a funny anecdote. Like, ha ha, Jacob just wanted to get his dick wet, didn’t matter with whom.

My head swam. That son of a bitch. For the rest of the day, I felt nauseous, in a daze. It’s really, really weird to be told by a third party that you “slept with” someone.

Soon, I began to collect stories from other people in order to piece together what happened that night after I blacked out.

My friend Luisa told me the tale of her walk home. Luisa was in a long-term relationship with another one of our friends. She mentioned that Jacob really creeped her out and was hitting on her on the way home. I guess we had all left the bar at similar times (probably at closing, let’s be real), and we had similar routes back to our apartments. According to her, at one point he either tried to go home with her or get her to go home with him. This, of course was unsuccessful. Like I said, Luisa had a boyfriend, and I think it’s pretty safe to assume that even if she didn’t, she wouldn’t have slept with Jacob either.

This is where Sandy’s story picks up. We were walking together back to my studio when Jacob caught up with us. We three walked together for a little while, and when we got to Jacob’s street, he asked us if we wanted to come to his place. This was a confusing question as we clearly both had a place to go, and we were already going there. We told him, thanks, but we are just going to go home. We parted ways with Jacob and continued on the route to my apartment. Maybe 30 seconds to a minute later, Jacob ran up behind us and said he was going to come back with us. I don’t know why we didn’t question it, but I guess it was like, okay, cool, he’s our friend, he just wants to hang out a little more. Whatever. I have spent years wondering what went through his mind that made him stop, turn around, and come follow us.

I have a pretty good guess, and it might involve the fact that “both Katie and Sandy were looking good” that night.

The days went on. I had gathered all the details I could, and was working on dealing with it and putting it all behind me. It could have been much worse, after all. I didn’t even remember it, so it was ALMOST like I wasn’t violated. It’s not like I had to deal with uncomfortable flashbacks or anything. As far as my brain was concerned, it didn’t happen.

Then, one day, I was talking to Enid online. She had just started dating one of our friends and had some questions about birth control.

“What birth control are you on?”

“Me? I used to be on the pill, but I’m on nothing now.”

“You’re not on birth control?”

“Nope. I’m not dating anyone, I don’t need it.”

“Katie… Jacob didn’t use a condom.” Time stopped again. What?! Not only did this dude invite himself into my vagina, but he didn’t even think to wrap it the hell up!?

“What?! Are you kidding?”

“No. He said he didn’t use one.”

“Why is this the first I am hearing about it?”

“I thought you knew…”

How would I possibly know he didn’t wrap it up if I didn’t even know anything had happened? How could I know if I didn’t even know he had been out that night until I woke up to him in my bed? I was shell-shocked. Now, I really felt violated. This dude took it upon himself to follow me back to my house, somehow enter me, and then blow his load inside me. And he didn’t even think to tell me that MAYBE I should look into a morning-after pill or an STD test or something? I was furious. I was angry for ages. I felt gross, icky, not in control.

Again, time softened the blow. At least I didn’t remember it. At least I didn’t have the mental image of this overweight, hairy, sweaty douchebag doing his business all over my person. That is something I am continually thankful for.

So, I put it out of my mind. There was nothing to be done. It was too late for a morning-after pill. I could just focus on being more careful in the future, and less trusting of my friends (which is a harsh realization in itself).

A couple of weeks later, I had a doctor’s appointment for an unrelated procedure. When I got there, they said that before they could do the procedure, they needed to do a pregnancy test just to be sure. I didn’t think twice about it. They sent me into the bathroom with the little cup and told me to put it on the swively thing in the little window when I was done. That way, the technicians on the other side could just grab it. I did my business and went back into the exam room. The doctor told me to get undressed and that she would be back in a minute. No joke, I didn’t even have the zipper all the way down on my jeans when she came bursting back in the room.

“Don’t worry about getting undressed,” she said. I froze. “The test was positive, you’re pregnant.” Of COURSE I am, I thought.

I made a little joke, which is what I always do in high-gravity situations, and then we sat down to talk it over. I explained the situation to her. She was concerned, but I assured her I had it under control. She asked if I wanted a referral for someone to talk to, a woman’s health advocate perhaps. “No, no, I am fine,” I said. “I don’t even really think about it, anyway.”

We discussed options. I told her when it had happened, that I hadn’t even had the chance to miss a period yet, that I 100% wanted to get rid of it. She said they would need to do a sonogram to verify the age of the embryo, because if we did the procedure too soon, they might not catch it. It was a lot to take in.

“So, you’re telling me, that not only do I have to get this invasive procedure due to something that I did not choose to do, but I have to WAIT with this thing inside me until it is viable? Brilliant.” I was thrilled.

On the way back to campus, I immediately called my friend, Maude, who was one of my best pals at the time. We affectionately called each other, “life partner.”

“I’m coming over,” I said. I think she could tell from my tone not to argue. When I got there, she buzzed me in. I walked in with a bemused look on my face. She looked at me warily.

“So, I’m going to need a wire coat-hanger…” Her eyes widened and we both laughed uncomfortably.

I had no problem contacting Jacob and letting him know about this little situation. He was shocked, but also willing to pay for it, which was good. Since I knew this and I was already angry enough about having to get it done in the first place, I signed up for the Cadillac of abortions. I was going to be put under, the whole nine yards. I wanted to end this ordeal the way it started: with me not remembering ANYTHING.

Since I had to wait until the embryo was 6 weeks old before we could do the procedure, I had the joyful experience of getting to feel the beginning effects of the pregnancy. It was so cute. I was SO nauseous. I was exhausted all the time, and stopped going out as much or being social. When I was around people and feeling badly, luckily I was often able to pass it off as a hangover. One weekend we went to our friend’s house down on the Jersey shore. It was hard to avoid people, and Maude was the only person on this trip who knew about the situation. I took a lot of excessive naps, and had some trouble eating the delicious meals our buddy’s parents prepared for us. I distinctly remember going out on their boat and my breasts were so painful (especially with the bouncing of the boat), I winced at every movement.

Finally, the day of my appointment came. I was so eager to get this over with and to put it behind me. I had the day off of work, and Enid had offered to come with me. When we were sitting in the waiting room, I picked up a copy of the magazine next to me. Parenting. We laughed. Welp, I guess I’m not going to need that.

I can’t stress enough how awesome my doctor was. She put me at complete ease. She gave me the option of choosing to see the sonogram they had to do, or to do it after I was out. I chose after, obviously, though I don’t think seeing it would have done anything to me. I was not connected to this little bundle of cells. I didn’t want to bring a child of assault into this world, plus I was 21, plus imagine if the poor thing looked like him? There was never a question in my mind. The only thing that got to me about the whole thing was that I had to undergo an invasive medical procedure due to a decision someone else made for me.

Getting put out was awesome. I woke up what seemed like minutes later and she informed me that it was all done, it was simple, they got it all. Brilliant. They recommended not eating for a while, told me about the after effects, set me up with an enormous diaper, and sent me on my way with Enid. Even though they had told me eating might not be the best idea, I knew exactly what would make me feel better. On the way back, Enid and I swung by McDonald’s and I got a double cheeseburger value meal; it hit the spot. We then went back to my apartment with snacks and art supplies and lounged around all day, watching Sex and the City, eating treats, and arting away. It was a pretty solid way to recover.

My mother and I are pretty close, but I waited to tell her about this until after the whole thing was over (I probably should have waited forever, but like I said, we’re really close). My mom is a combination of incredibly caring but also wildy neurotic. When her kid has experienced something like this, that is a dangerous combo. Of course, when I told her about what happened, she heard the word RAPE. To her, it was the same as if someone jumped out from some bushes and violently clubbed me. It didn’t matter what else I said; according to her, this is what had happened. I asked her to keep this information between us, not wanting the world to know about it just yet. She agreed.

In a few days’ time, I got a call from my uncle. Always fiercely my protector, he was livid. His tone on the phone was icy, steady, somewhat quiet (which was unusual for him). What happened? Why didn’t I tell him? Where was the guy? What was his name? Where did he live? A lot of questions that I didn’t necessarily feel comfortable answering. Apparently, after I told my mother, she had worn it all over her face. So, when my uncle saw her, he pestered her until she spilled the beans. He clearly had an agenda, and was very interested in more information, especially regarding the offender. I was already regretting telling my mom. When I just wanted to forget about it and move on, they were unable to. I was able to get him off the phone, and kind of started ignoring his calls. It was my situation. I didn’t appreciate people butting in telling me how to handle it (they were right, though).

A few weeks later, I had to drive down to Connecticut to pick up something from my mom’s house. Perhaps fall or winter clothes or something seasonal. I took my friend Maude with me, because road trip! Since I was going to be in town, and my Mormon friend Dean had JUST returned from his two-year mission in South Korea, we planned to have Garden Catering for lunch.

When Maude and I pulled up to the house, I saw my uncle’s car in the driveway. Ambush. “Oh, fuck no,” I thought. Luckily, Maude was already abreast of the situation, but still, we were about to be in for a treat. When we walked into the house, I was livid. My mom and my uncle were standing there, along with a man I didn’t know. He was tall, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, and fucking STRAPPED. Dude had one of those cross-body holsters that contained not one, but two handguns. “What the hell is this?” I wondered. My uncle introduced me to his friend, and then calmly explained that he would like me to talk to him and that they would like more information about this boy and where they could find him. I went off on them.

“Do you have any idea how inappropriate this is? There is a reason I’ve been dodging your calls. I come down here with a friend of mine and you ambush me?! You guys have got to go, we will discuss this later. No, you have to leave NOW because my Mormon friend is about to pull in this driveway and I’ll be damned if my ‘Welcome home!’ will involve telling him about my rapey scenario or my ABORTION!!!” I was mortified. I knew Dean would pull in at any moment. How the hell would I explain this large, highly armed gentleman in my house or my enormous uncle who was currently rocking a stone-face? I stormed out of the house, and we waited for Dean outside. I couldn’t believe it.

At the time, retribution didn’t seem smart, or fair, and I was clearly unwilling to unleash this fury on the dude that had done this to me. I was concerned about my social life, about things changing more than they already had. My tune would change, but by then it would be too late. Also, judging by the way Jacob acted in years to come, I’m pretty sure this mother-fucker had no idea that I saved his pitiful little life, or at the very least, his knees.

While it only took a couple of days to physically recover, the worst part of the whole ordeal would occur over the following years. Like I said, right afterward I was more concerned with keeping the peace than anything else. I was confused about what had happened. Maybe I did give some indication that I was into it? I don’t know what actually happened, I wasn’t present for it. How can you seek to prosecute someone when you don’t have any memories of the event? That doesn’t seem fair. He agreed to pay for it, after all (well, up until a point. There was a mistake with how my insurance processed the procedure and I ended up owing like $1,300 more. He refused to pay that part). Anyway, I didn’t want to stir up my social situation, and the part of me that didn’t remember felt guilty about bringing the law (or the out-law, in the case of my uncle and his friend) into it. This, my friends, was a mistake.

In the years to come, I remained in Boston, and I kept the same group of friends. Of course, Jacob and I ended up at the same events from time to time, and we would just maintain an icy cordiality. I bet you are wondering how my friends still considered him a friend after they knew what happened. Yea, I wondered that too. A lot. Friends who were women, friends who had sisters or mothers or girlfriends or, eventually, wives. They had no problem keeping Jacob in their lives, keeping him close, even quite clearly showing him preference in some cases. His birthday and mine are 2 days apart, and you’d better bet your ass that these people would choose his celebration over mine if they ended up on the same day. No question.

For years, I was just kind of numb to this. Again, I was hesitant to shake up my social sphere too much, hesitant to engage in the drama that would no doubt come if I spoke my mind. This. Was. A. Mistake. I am not friends with these people now. Now that I am a full-on adult, I am realizing that my priorities were grossly skewed, and when I look back on these “safe” choices I made; I am ashamed, I feel weak.

As the years went on, Jacob became emboldened. He went from keeping his head down about it, to vocalizing his thoughts. He clearly realized that there had been no consequences and became a real big asshole. He would exert his power, clearly expressing what events he didn’t want me to be invited to. I began to regret not providing my uncle with his address. And my ‘friends’ took his side.

Somehow, I had turned into the one who had done something wrong here. Somehow, I was the one left on the outside. One of my very good friends at the time was actually dating one of his very good friends. She and I had been friends for many years, and she knew all about my side of the story. One day, her romantic proximity to his pal made her drunkenly defend Jacob. I straight up punched her in the face. I couldn’t contain it. While violence was certainly not the answer, I couldn’t handle one more of my friends taking his side.

Of course, I had allowed it to happen. I stayed silent; I remained friends with people who were clearly not good for me. Why wouldn’t anyone think it was all okay? Maybe they needed to justify his behavior. Maybe they needed to feel better about the fact that they associated with someone like that in the first place. I’m not sure.

To this day, I STILL hear about certain people discussing it, excusing it, trying to say that the baby had been someone else’s. Are you fucking KIDDING me? 1. It has been twelve years. 2. Are you still trying to make yourself feel better about this? These are are rape-defenders, and I hope every time they see an article in the news about another assault, that they know what role they play in that story.

So, to sum up: I was taken advantage of. Someone who I considered a friend had taken it upon himself to follow me home and place himself inside me, without a condom. Yes, I had been violated. I didn’t remember it, I wasn’t present. I didn’t even feel the after effects of it (go get ‘em, tiger). Yes, I felt disgusted when I heard these truths, but I couldn’t make the picture of it in my head. So, I was okay.

Then, I was pregnant. Someone else had chosen to fertilize me. Someone else had made a choice that resulted in ME having to undergo an invasive medical procedure. But again, I got put under. I wasn’t there. I couldn’t form a picture of it in my brain. So, I was okay.

Then, the people I counted on, the people I surrounded myself with, the people I loved and trusted who were essentially my entire life chose the rapist over me. Every day for years, I watched this happen over and over again. Enid, who came with me to the abortion, still counts him as one of her very best friends. I was betrayed by my people. And that was not okay.