Broken clouds, light snow
Broken clouds, light snow
17.6 °F
December 13, 2017
River Reporter Facebook pageTRR TwitterRSS Search

Rape culture

July 6, 2016

I was listening to a radio show soon after the news story about the conviction and light sentencing of Stanford freshman Brock Turner. A commentator referred to the phrase “rape culture,” saying, “I don’t even know what that means.” I don’t usually feel moved to talk to my radio, but this time I did.

When I was 19 and working as an au pair during the summer, I was raped by a houseguest of my employers. It was a non-violent rape. I was asleep in my room and the man felt confident his intrusion would be welcome. He had no reason to think so, other than I was a single young woman with a penchant for bell-bottoms and peasant blouses, like many young women in Marin County, CA.

He was married, a lawyer, and a Congressional candidate from another state. His wife was sleeping upstairs at the time.

I woke to find him inside me. Raised to be polite, I told him he should leave, and he did. I’m not even sure he knew he was unwelcome and I’m not sure he cared.

The next morning I told my friend and employer what had happened. Her friend was the man’s wife. She was very upset, but her main concern was that the wife not be told. She was sympathetic to me, but she made it clear what turmoil any public acknowledgment would create for the man. The man. The candidate. The husband.

When I returned home after that summer, I told only my best friend about my experience, hesitating to call it by name. To call it rape. For years I never told anyone else about it. Not even my mother. It was my secret.

Years later, a close family member was abducted and repeatedly and brutally raped over several hours in an abandoned building. She was lucky to escape with her life. She told her mother but did not want anyone else to know. Her mother later confided in me. As far as I know she has kept her secret all these years.

We were the victims of these crimes. We were hurt, both physically and emotionally. Yet we kept our victimhood a secret. I do not equate my experience with hers because violence was absent in my case. My attacker left peaceably when I became conscious and asked him to. But the impulse to take a woman’s most intimate sense of herself is a callous act, whether you are a guest in someone’s home or a violent criminal.

My rapist was an educated, erudite married man. For all I know he went on to raise a family. What then, I wonder, would he have to say about the subject of rape to his children? What can he possibly know that would be useful to a daughter or a son going off to college?