I was at a fraternity party with a date in February 1989 at Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was a beach theme, so we were all wearing bathing suits. I distinctly remember choosing a one-piece because I thought that a bikini would cause problems. I was wearing denim shorts as well. Two “big brothers” visiting from another school followed me upstairs when I went to get my cigarettes from my coat. They dragged me into on of the rooms. They took turns holding my arms down while the other raped me. I remember looking at a reptile tank on the dresser to avoid looking at them. I remember telling them that I didn’t want them to do this. I wasn’t screaming; I wasn’t fighting. I was numb. I couldn’t believe that they weren’t respecting my wishes. Afterward, I went into the bathroom & cried. I went to a guy friend’s dorm & asked to shower (I know, I know). I eventually made my way to my dorm room.
I came home, crumpled up my clothes in the corner & hung up the leis I had been given at the party. My roommate woke up & said, “I see you got ‘lei’d’ twice last night.” The way I looked at her, she knew something was wrong. She finally got the story out of me. She told me I had to call the police. I said, “no.” She told me to call my mom. When I did, my mom said that I had to call the police because I will prevent this from happening to someone else. She said that if the girl before me had called the police, this wouldn’t have happened to me. My parents were coming up.
I called the police. They questioned me. They asked me for the clothes I was wearing & when they saw how little I was wearing, one of the detectives said, “You know, before our sensitivity training, I would’ve asked you what you were wearing. I would’ve asked you what you thought might happen to you if you wore something like that.” So, in his attempt to be “sensitive,” he proceeded to shame me. I already felt ashamed. I hadn’t fought & now I had to admit it. I went to the hospital where they took pictures of the bruises on my breasts, they asked me to comb out my pubic hair & checked for semen that they told me I must have washed away. More shame. I shouldn’t have done that. Then, I had to talk to the district attorney. He repeated similar comments about my attire & told me that they’d only take the case if they could win.
The school newspaper ran the article & everyone looked at me differently in the cafeteria. The school sent me to the student counseling center. They counselor asked me what I would have done differently to make the outcome different. I was stunned. Wasn’t I the victim? The school wanted it squashed. A few weeks later, I went to the district attorneys office & found out that they weren’t pursuing the case because the rapists said it was consensual & because I wasn’t a virgin, I wasn’t a credible witness. The defense made up stories about my “virtue.” He said, “We have a won/loss record like a baseball team. I can’t have any more losses & this is an election year.”
I didn’t get justice. Needless to say, I eventually transferred. I floundered; I eventually dated & became engaged to someone who physically & emotionally abused me. He was ashamed of what happened to me & called me a slut.
When we broke up, I buried my rape deep, deep down. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. I refused. I was tough. I could handle it. I got married to a decent guy, had 2 girls & became miserable. We got divorced & I finally started working through my pain.
Coming up to the 25th anniversary of the event this February, I have come a long way. I am happily married & raising my girls to be the feminists everyone should be. I am comfortable being honest about my past, but I still feel dirty as I type this. I still wonder what I could have done differently. I still wonder why I didn’t fight. They’re nagging little questions in the back of my mind even though I know that they were wrong, not me. Twenty-five years later, we still live in rape culture that objectifies women.
I am thankful for people who bring rape into the open without shame.