I was 25 years old, in love with my boyfriend and living with him in an apartment. He was an artist, a sweet and wonderful man. I had moved to this new city with him, thinking that when he finished school we would get married and start a family as soon as we had enough money. It was 1994-95.
We were using birth control, but I found out that I was pregnant. I had no friends, only the girls I had worked with for a few months. I told my boyfriend, and he was not excited. He said nothing. He kept asking, “What are you going to do?” I felt sure that he would not support me, and that if I had the baby, I would lose him. I felt ashamed of the fact that I didn’t think I could support a baby on my own. My own family was shaky, and could not provide much support.
For days, I had nightmares about walking along a beach with one bag containing everything I owned, carrying a baby. In my dream, people would walk up, but when they saw the baby, they would run away. I called my mother, his mother, and a friend for advice. They all said the choice was up to me. None of them wanted to speak to him, to try to convince him to marry me and become a father. It seemed like I had two choices, and they were both wrong, so I chose the one that seemed like it had the most predictable outcome- I would end the pregnancy, so that things could stay the same.
I looked in the phone book and made an appointment at a clinic that said something like it was the ‘best women’s clinic in the state.’ My boyfriend came with me to the appointment, but they would not let him past the waiting room. It made me very nervous and emotional, and of course I was already ashamed, and terrified that this was a mistake. The nurse had me change and then the doctor came in. He was wearing a bulletproof vest. He had a gun in a holster on his side. He was cold, and mean. He explained briefly that I would be sedated using “twilight sleep”, the “termination” procedure would happen, and then I would go home. Then he left the room. The nurse put an IV in my arm. She was not mean, but she wouldn’t look me in the eyes. It all felt very scary and wrong.
When the doctor came back, he was rude and said something like a pretty girl like me should know better than to be in this situation. I remember thinking that I would have expected a doctor who sees frightened, sad, pregnant girls and women all day to be more sympathetic. That was the last clear thought I remember having before I was deeply drugged.
I was barely conscious and I couldn’t move. My feet were in stirrups, strapped down I think, and a gown or a sheet hung over my knees, which blocked my view of what was happening. The doctor kept talking, and sometimes the nurse would answer. She seemed intimidated by him, and his voice made me feel alone and afraid. Other than some occasional pressure in my abdomen, I couldn’t feel anything, but the sounds were very abrupt and loud. Then, it seemed to stop, and I thought the procedure was over. Someone left the room, but it was the nurse who left. The doctor stayed. Even though I was barely able to think at all, I remember telling myself, “That isn’t supposed to happen.”
I remember that he was still doing something, but I didn’t know what. I could just hear motion. Then I felt a sensation like warmth or tingling or contact, I’m not sure, on my inner thighs. A few seconds later, it felt like there was an explosion in my brain. I remember feeling panic, and wondering if I had just had a seizure or a stroke. I remember my body wanted to seize up, but it couldn’t. I was trying really hard to move my body away from him, but I was paralyzed. After a few minutes of being alone a nurse came in and adjusted my IV. While I was regaining consciousness, I stubbled to write something down on a brown napkin. I tried to get up, but I couldn’t move. As soon as I could stand, I dressed and fled as fast as I could.
I will never know exactly what he did to me, but I knew then that I was drugged and, without my consent, he did something. Now that I am able to wonder about it, I wonder if maybe he stimulated me to force me to have an orgasm. Maybe he shot me full of something with a syringe. Maybe he penetrated me vaginally or anally with his fingers or an object. Maybe he raped me. Maybe he did all of those things, and more things I can’t imagine.
I never told anyone about what had happened, because honestly, I didn’t even understand what had happened myself. I buried the feelings deeply in my mind and never told anyone for years. I attached my sadness and my shame to the decision to terminate the pregnancy- not even allowing myself to even know that I was abused- for many years. I’m sure that this doctor used this built-in shame as part of his method for abuse for many years. Even after realizing that I was sexually assaulted, it has been especially hard to overcome my story because I never wanted to tell the world that I had an abortion, because some anti-abortion activists can be so irrational and cruel. I fear that if I people know, they might hold it against my former boyfriend, or my current husband and my teenage son. My husband does know, and he has been incredibly supportive and loving; however, I’m sure that he often does not know what to say.
One good thing did happen: someone finally told the police that they were sexually assaulted by the same doctor. Over 100 women eventually came forward, and he was sent to prison. Unfortunately, I was no longer living there, so I never even knew he was being prosecuted, and I was not one of them.
I never got to tell my story until I found a terrific therapist for PTSD and depression several years ago. Just this week, after years of dissecting facts and feelings, I made up my mind that I was going to try to run toward all the horror and fear of that single day that has haunted me for almost twenty years. I decided that, no matter how hard, I would do whatever I had to do to finally face and overcome this and stop letting it affect my life in negative ways.
Today I journaled, did yoga, meditated, and read some articles. Then, I decided to rest and watch a movie. Thank goodness I discovered your documentary! Thank you so much for sharing your story, and for allowing me to tell mine. I believe that sexual assault and rape are vastly underreported, especially when they rapist is an authority figure who abuses their power, and especially if the victim feels guilty or ashamed of their actions.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!