Of Jocks and Rape

Monday, May 22, 2006

Originally published: Saturday, April 22, 2006

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.


Curmudgette said...

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deviousdiva said...

Your post brought back painful memories and I suddenly realised why I cross-posted this comment at OW.

I also cannot write on these rape cases. It's too painful and close and scary. I never spoke about my sexual assault or my rape until I met my present husband. I never knew I could report it or even that the rape by a boyfriend WAS rape. I am sorry that you and I and millions of other women have lived through this experience and that we will live with it always. Thank you for your post.

Curmudgette said...

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The Blogging Curmudgeon said...

As your story proves, rape is a crime that cuts across racial and class lines--and yes, "nice boys" from "good families" do it, as well. Clean-cut boys wearing J. Crew and driving BMWs can be rapists, too.

And your story raises another question: one wonders how many girls and women don't report sexual assaults and rapes, for one reason or another? Do we even know how prevalent this crime truly is in our society?

It should be noted that one of the accused in this case, Collin Finnerty, has already been involved in one hate crime: a gay-bashing incident in Washington, D.C. last November.

While no one's criminal past is proof of guilt in a present crime, I find it quite odd that Mr. Finnerty committed one hate crime only a few months ago and is now accused of another--based this time not on sexual orientation but on gender and race.

Curmudgette said...

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Curmudgette said...

Well this is an interesting morning so far. Logging into my email, I find a message from a defender of the Lacrosse players. It directs me to a personal escort site purported to belong the accuser. His very sympathetic email advises me not confuse my experience with that of a stripper/escort.

Well sure. Everybody knows that women of ill repute can't be raped. Only nice girls get raped. Bad girls just serve their purpose as sex objects. And bad girls can't be trusted to tell the truth about anything. They're very bad girls.

To my well-intended friend, let me just say this: Your tragic Madonna-whore mindset makes you part of the problem.

Sex workers are actually one of the most vulnerable segments of the population. Many of them are in the industry because they don't have other options. Sex trades are also disproportionately comprised of survivors of child-hood sexual abuse. Many of them are addicts and alcoholics, which is very common among survivors of childhood sexual abuse. And when they are raped they have even less recourse than "nice" girls do. And "nice" girls have very little recourse.

Many women and girls don't report. I didn't. Because, you see, rape is the only crime for which the victim is routinely blamed. And blaming the victim is exactly what you have done.

Now, I don't know whether or not these particular allegations are true. It's not for me to know. It's for 12 unlucky jurors to sort out. But what you have done by directing me to this woman's "sexual history" is what is done to every survivor of sexual assault who comes forward, regardless of what that history is.

Curmudgette said...

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The Blogging Curmudgeon said...

Now I have steam coming out of my ears, as well, dear Curmudgette.

It's quite clear that the men (and they're men, not boys) at that party dehumanised the two dancers (Ms. Kim Roberts and the accuser) and the process of dehumanisation continues.

The remarks you paraphrased about the dancer being a "bad girl" remind me of the remarks of Bill Napoli, the state senator in South Dakota who drafted the legislation making abortions illegal in that state. Mr. Napoli said THIS was the only scenario in which a woman should be allowed to have an abortion:

A real-life description [of an exception scenario] to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.

I guess only religious virgins--or nice white middle class girls--are allowed to complain of rape, or have abortions.

There's a sick mentality in the United States, at least among certain segments of the population, that divide people into categories--and some people fall into the "subhuman" category. It's the same mentality at work here that let Bush get away with abandoning thousands of poor people (most of them black) in New Orleans to their own fate during Hurricane Katrina.

As George Orwell wrote in "Animal Farm", "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

It seems to me that there are people at Duke who possess every gift (looks, money, brains) except one: compassion for those who aren't beautiful, rich, and white.

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