Trigger Warning: Rape/Sexual Assault
The stereotypical image of ‘real’ rape? “[T]he crime consists of a forcible attack, perpetrated by a male stranger on a female victim who has not been drinking or behaving in a sexually provocative manner, and is immediately reported to law enforcement and supported by ample physical evidence.” -From Rape culture isn’t a myth. It’s real, and it’s dangerous, by Amanda Taub.
We should all know by now that stereotypes are not to be believed or relied on. All rape is not violent, and all rapes are not perpetrated by strangers. Some rapes fly under the radar because we aren’t educated, alert, and aware.
When I was 15, I had a huge crush on my older brother’s friend. Ricky was tall, muscular, and handsome, and he had a beard. He could ride his beach cruiser bike with no hands, and he could sit on the handlebars and ride it backward. That was because he was experienced in riding dirt bikes, motorcycles. He was 15 like me. Several times, he’d come to our house with my brother after school. My mother was at work or at her boyfriend’s house. When my brother wasn’t around, Ricky and I would make out. We made out a couple of times after dark, too. I’d leave my house on my beach cruiser, meet him at the dark corner of my street, and we’d ride a little ways into the grassy field beyond, where it was dark, where we could lie down together and no one would know we were there.
Because of how mature he looked, Ricky could buy beer. One night, he, my brother, and I rode to Piggly Wiggly to see if he could get some. My brother and I waited behind the store with Ricky’s bike while he walked around and went in. Jackpot! He came back with two six-packs of Mickey’s Big Mouth. We loved Mickey’s Big Mouth, but not because it was especially good beer. We loved it because of the Tony Basil song, “Hey, Mickey,” which went : “Oh Mickey you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind, hey Mickey! Hey Mickey!” We were fifteen. That’s all it took to get us to like something.
That night, we drank maybe three beers each, and David carried what was left. We took off for the unlit elementary school playground next to Ricky’s house. David and Ricky were competitive about who could ride faster, so David pedaled off, but Ricky stayed behind with me. We rode fast, too, my long brunette hair trailing behind me in the wind.
Ricky cut down a street that went by my street. When we got near it, Ricky said, “Hey, why don’t you and I go to your house?” I was very buzzed and very happy. When we rode up, we saw my little brother working on his bike in the open garage at the front of the house, but my mother wasn’t home. Her car wasn’t there. We were quiet. We put our bikes on the other side of the house and snuck in.
Ricky and I went to my bedroom and closed the door. We lay on my bed, clothed, and made out for a while. Eventually, he laid on top of me, between my spread legs while we kissed. I liked that. We were still clothed. When he unzipped, I put my hand on him, as I had done once before in the tall grass. I liked touching him. When he unzipped my pants, I buzzed with anticipation. He was going to touch me. It was my turn. I couldn’t wait. Instead, he tried to put himself into me. “That hurts,” I said. I know I said those two words. I also know that I told him I don’t want to. We can’t do this. My little brother is out there. I don’t want to. It hurts. “It has to hurt sometime,” he said, words as sharp thirty years later as they were then. And with those words, he forced himself into me.
I was a virgin. Until then.
My mattress springs squeaked and I winced, held my breath. I didn’t want to feel like this. I didn’t want him to be inside me. I didn’t want to have sex. I had wanted a little pleasure, but all I was feeling was pain. I also didn’t want my little brother to hear us, because then he’d tell my mother and I would be in trouble.
When Ricky was done, he stood up, wiped himself on my blanket, zipped up his Levi’s and said he needed to go to the bathroom. I showed him to the bathroom in my mother’s room, where he’d be least likely to be discovered. In the bright light, he checked his face, rinsed it, and said, “I have to go. It’s past my curfew.” Not even a kiss goodbye. I sat on the toilet to pee and when I wiped, a lot of thick, pink goo was on the toilet paper. I was starting my period, and I was shocked that he’d left his fluid inside me. No one told me about that.
I went back to my bed. I didn’t know what I felt, exactly—emptied, maybe, but full of woe. A little excited that I’d had sex, but terribly sad that it was like this and that I hadn’t wanted it to be like this. I didn’t want to lose my virginity, but he took it from me. I sobbed myself to sleep– quietly, so I wouldn’t be “caught.”
The next morning, my grandmother called and I answered the phone. She delivered the bad news that my cousin Jeff died during the night in a horrific traffic accident, head-on with a semi, right in front of the Piggly Wiggly. I felt so sad about that, and in my mind my cousin’s death and what happened to me that same night belonged in the category of loss. When my mother got home I told her about Jeff. The other, I kept to myself.
Three days later, I still hadn’t heard from Ricky. I hadn’t seen him, either. They were three days of some kind of hell. I dreaded what had happened, but in the way it often happens, I wanted the one who caused me pain to comfort me. I cried and cried. My mother was at her boyfriend’s house, about a five minute bike ride from our house. I pedaled over. I was crying hysterically within moments of arriving. She asked me what it was about, and I didn’t want to tell her. I cried more and more, and she was more insistent. For a mother who was absent so much, she was awfully overbearing and controlling. Finally, I said, “I’ll tell you when I’m older.”
“Did you have sex with him?! You did! Oooh, I know you did!” She yelled at me about how she had warned me and warned me. Then she said she had to go to the grocery store, and she was gone in her car. Her boyfriend, whom she eventually married, sat me down in the living room and asked, “Did you enjoy it? Did it feel good to you?” as though I would talk about my intimate sexual experience with him for his sick sake, but my mother’s husband is another story entirely.
My mother went to Ricky’s house, not the grocery store. She stood in their front yard and yelled at his mother. His little brother, who was a sweet little 8 year-old, heard it all. “It takes two,” said Ricky’s mother– who had four strapping sons and the 8 year-old– probably standing with her fists on her hips and an indignant look on her face.
When my mother came back to her boyfriend’s house, she screamed at me, “I am humiliated! Do you know what she said to me? She said It takes two! What was I supposed to say to that?!” It takes two! Oooh, how could you do this to me?!” My mother then said to me, “Once you have sex, you can never go back to holding hands.”
No one ever asked me why what happened upset me so much. I’d like to think that a hysterical 15 year-old girl would receive a little more attention and care. I’d like to think that a mother would try to calm her daughter rather than be on such an offense. I’d like to think that a mother would ask her daughter whether it was consensual.
Part of the problem: “We are well beyond the notion that a stranger must pop out of an alley for it to be considered an attack. As our definition of consensual sex continues to morph, some young women could interpret certain unfortunate sexual encounters as ‘rape’ when they may just have been stupid, risky, unpleasant and regrettable.” – From the Dec. 13, 2014 op-ed piece in U-T San Diego, Is date-rape crusade hurting innocent young men? by Peg Rosen, who calls herself a feminist but admits that her true interest is her two adolescent sons.
I saw Ricky once after that, when he was riding his bike up a street and I was riding down it. I stopped. He slowed and said, “Your mother won’t let me talk to you,” and off he rode. I think he liked that excuse to stay away from me; he had a real girlfriend at school. I didn’t know if he’d told anyone, and I surely didn’t want his girlfriend to look at me in whatever way she would if she knew. I wouldn’t have been able to stand the shame. But I felt the loss of not being able to see him again, no matter that he had hurt me physically and emotionally. Something had been taken from me and I hadn’t even had the chance to say goodbye.
At 19, I married a guy I met at church. I’d started going to church on my own at 18; my home life was so dysfunctional that I had to find peace somewhere, though I still hadn’t realized the truth of what had happened to me.
Years after having my children, I heard the term “date rape.” It didn’t immediately sink in for me. But when it did, I knew that’s what it was. I could see it clearly. I told my mother, “You were humiliated when his mother said ‘It takes two?’ Well, it doesn’t take two—it only takes one tall, strong 15 year-old boy who is going to get his way.” I didn’t get a big response. It was something like, “Well, okay, I’m sorry, but I did the best I could at the time.” Three decades and a lot more enlightenment for the general public later, I’d like to think that today’s mothers can do better.
My children went to the elementary school that was next to Ricky’s parents’ house. The same house where my mother stood on the front walk and screamed and from where she’d been sent home with her tail between her legs because “It takes two.” Every day when I dropped my children off at school and picked them up, I had to drive past their house. When I went to their school to volunteer or to chaperone a field trip or lead Cub Scout or Brownie or meetings or go to PTA board meetings, or to go to the carnival, there was their little brown house and the two chairs on the front porch, where they were sitting sometimes. Did they see me? Did they remember me? Would Ricky’s mother have seen things through a more discerning lens back then if she’d had a daughter?
I didn’t hold a double standard with my children. I could not let my three sons become beasts who would do to a young woman whatever they would want and not fear consequences, as so many beasts had done before them. Beasts is a good word, because rape is animalistic at best.
This was my way of getting even with the world: putting three healthy, respectful men out there to treat women the way women should be treated. I had a daughter, too, but I didn’t concentrate my energies on arming her with the litany of things she should do to to stay safe and be personally responsible. I concentrated more on raising young men who would respect not only young women, but themselves, too– not to mention their family. Rape is far-reaching. Pregnancy, too. I taught all four of my children that everything they do affects more people than themselves. What did they want to bring back home to their family? I spoke with them frankly and gave them plenty to think about.
When my children were older and I had graduated from college and then law school, I’d see Ricky’s mother in the grocery store sometimes. His niece was a cashier. Did she know who I was? Did his mother recognize me? I think she did. I held my head high, and not because I was a professional wearing a suit when I’d come in after work, but because I knew by then that I hadn’t done anything wrong, and that everyone had only assumed I had, that he was the one who had done wrong, and that I was okay in spite of it. Ricky date raped me and took my virginity, but he didn’t take my self-respect.
I didn’t change his name to protect him. He doesn’t deserve it. And I’m writing this freely under my own name, though I am the innocent one. I am the one who deserved protection, way back then. And I deserved understanding and empathy. But I didn’t get it.
Today, what I need most is to truthfully tell my story, to say “Yes, this is really rape,” though I had been drinking, though I had invited him to my bedroom, though we had been making out and heavily petting and though I let him unzip my pants.
I said no.
Categories: Suzannah's Voice