I have stayed out of the Duke Lacrosse rape story. I have no capacity for journalistic dispassion on this issue for reasons that should become clear as of this writing. My associate the Blogging Curmudgeon emailed me this CNN story this morning and I found myself staring at the smug visage of Reade Seligmann for several uncomfortable moments: handsome, entitled, determined, all-American, boy-next-door. Suddenly, I was hurled back in time to my own high school days; days I prefer to think of as long ago and far away.
In my case it was the star of our high school basketball team who I knew better as an altar boy at my church. He was handsome, poised, intelligent, and we all knew, destined for greatness. When I first heard, through the rumor mill, that a girl had accused him of date rape, I simply did not believe it. No one did. We all sounded much like the good reverend quoted by CNN:
"Knowing Reade Seligmann as well as we do here at Delbarton, I believe him innocent of the charges," said the Rev. Luke L. Travers, headmaster at Seligmann's $22,500-a-year high school.
It was unimaginable, simply unimaginable. I was not a stupid girl, by any stretch. Even then, I was feminist enough to know how unlikely it was that a girl would subject herself to the consequences of a rape allegation if it were untrue. But I didn't know this girl. I knew Mike and fairly well. So, like the rest of our humble congregation, I dismissed the allegations even before the courts did.
A few months after the whole thing had blown over, Mike and I took a drive one night after a youth group meeting. I had scored a little pot and we decided to sneak off to a secluded spot in the woods to smoke a joint. And Mike made a pass. I was incredibly flattered. I was an awkward girl, woefully inexperienced with boys, and I did not think of myself as terribly pretty. Mike was a golden boy, the kind of kid I felt fortunate even wanted to be my friend, let alone kiss me.
As suddenly as it started, it all went horribly wrong. He tore at my clothes and pinned my arms to the ground. In a split second, he became someone I did not recognize; a young man possessed by rage and brutal determination. Never in a million years could I have imagined that such violent depravity resided underneath that cool exterior.
He left me in front of my house, bruised, grass stained, and bleeding. Mostly I felt numb. I suppose that was partly due to the fact that I was still pretty high. In a strange way, I have always been grateful that I had smoked so much dope that night. In truth, I had been on something of a bender in the days leading up to that evening, so I was really pretty wasted. I was looking at the world through waxed paper, and maybe, just maybe, that lessened the impact of both the assault and the disillusionment.
I never reported the incident to the police. I am embarrassed to admit that, in part, I still considered Mike a friend and didn't want to get him into any more trouble. We actually did remain friends and he later apologized for what he knew was inappropriate behavior, but in the course of the apology, he made yet another attempt to rip my pants off. A knee to the groin stopped him that time, but it also ended the friendship.
In time shock gave way to bitter hatred. I despised Mike. He knew it and he knew why. Yet he always exuded that same sense of calm, smooth detachment. I secretly marveled at his ability to project such an air of moral superiority, knowing, as I did, the monster that remained so well hidden.
Some time later I confessed the whole thing to his then girlfriend. Monica was a lovely girl from a good family with her whole life ahead of her. Word was they were considering marriage. So I took her aside her and told her that the allegations of date rape – they were starting to pile up – were true, and that I knew this because I was one of his victims. Then I knew, at last, what it felt like to be that anonymous girl who I myself had dismissed as a disgruntled liar not so long before.
The names in this story have been changed to protect the guilty.