Eye Contact Part 1

After I was raped and my rapist left, I lay on my bed crying for about 15 minutes.  I knew I needed help.  I had been sleeping in nothing but a T-shirt.  I threw on my robe and went upstairs where my roommate was.  I woke her crying and spilled out what had happened.  I had already called the police.  They arrived in just a few minutes.  Ironically I had called the police the night before, because I thought I had heard someone outside.  The same police officers who had shown up the previous night were the ones who responded to my call this time.

The officers were very nice.  They took my statement and checked my apartment and around my apartment and then they transported me to the hospital.  The officers even tried finding the rapist right away, grabbing some guys before we even got in the patrol car to see if I could ID anyone.  I couldn’t.  It was generally agreed on, that whoever it was, probably had cased my place the previous night and was the reason I had heard something outside.  A call was made to the Director of the little Black Box theater I was Stage Managing for because she was also a rape victims advocate.

When I arrived at the hospital by robe and T-shirt were collected for evidence as they had semen on them.  I was given a hospital gown.  Otherwise I was naked.  The officers asked questions, the hospital staff asked questions.  But what stood out most was the eye contact, or lack there of.

You see I wasn’t visibly hurt.  There were no bruises.  I was not beaten.  I was not restrained with anything but his hands and body.  I had one small, tiny nick in my neck where he had held the point of his knife.  You had to look to see it. I didn’t apparently look like a victim of rape.  So hospital staff looked at me sideways, or not at all.  A black nurse asked awkwardly about the race of my assailant.  He was black or mixed. She reacted as if she was physically hit.  She was not looking at me at all when she asked and received the answer to her question. Was she ashamed?

I rape kit was used to examine me internally and to collect evidence. Then I sat and waited or alternately answered the repeated questions of what happened by different people.  After what seemed like a very long time, I asked if the examinations were over and if I could wash myself as his smell and semen were still on and in me.  No one thought to offer me the chance to clean myself.    Hardly anyone made eye contact. I was told I could shower when I got home. No one thought that the idea of him on and in me was freaking me out. I was directed to a bathroom with a sink, where I did a basic washing.

Finally someone said I was free to go home.  I was naked, except for a hospital gown.  I had arrived by police car with no purse, money or transportation back.  I looked at the hospital staff and asked them how I was supposed to go home and wearing what?  They had no answer.  No one had thought of that.  My friend finally showed up and she brought me some clothes and slippers and took me home, but all I could think of was how the hospital treated me like I had done something wrong and how the staff could not look at me in the eye.

 

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The Blame Game

In most cases of rape, the victim is not just victimized once. They become a repeat victim through the blame game.  As if being attacked sexually by someone isn’t bad enough, now other people make it your fault too.

In my case I heard;

You chose that neighborhood, you should’ve known better = It’s your fault.

You kept your windows open, you  should’ve closed and locked them = It’s your fault.

You didn’t try and fight him?=It’s your fault.

Other women hear;

If you dress like that, you’re asking for it=It’s your fault.

You have too much make-up on=It’s your fault.

You were dancing sexily=It’s your fault.

You went out by yourself=It’s your fault.

You were drinking=It’s your fault.

You have big boobs=It’s your fault.

So basically because you are a woman=It’s your fault.

Bull Shit! It’s his fault!

 

 

 

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Scents and Sensibility

A scent can bring back memories as easily as a photograph.  Unlike a photo, however, a smell can sneak up on you and hit you unsuspecting.

There are distinct perfumes and aftershaves that I can still identify in one sniff and that will bring back memories of specific people or events.  My Nana wore L’Origan by Coty, Paris.  My Oma wore 4711 a traditional German Eau de Cologne by Mäurer & Wirtz. My Mother wore Tabu Cologne for Women by Dana. My Sister-in-law wore L’Air du Temps, a women’s perfume by the French fashion house Nina Ricci.

My Father wore Aramis for Men.  An old boyfriend wore Pierre Cardin,  and Drakkar Noir by Guy Laroche.  And I can still identify when a man wears Grey Flannel or Polo for Men. For years I bought my Brother-in-law the Avon aftershave colognes in the bottles shaped like vehicles. My husband does not wear aftershave or cologne, but he buys the scented deodorant and body washes, usually a Sport scent.

My Rapist, he wore traditional Old Spice. Yes he was freshly showered and scented. Why? He broke into my apartment before dawn around 5 am.  What had he done? Woken up extra early, showered, put on cologne to get ready to Go-A-Raping?  Just like you and I would shower and get dressed to go to work?

After he had left and I had called the police, they asked all the usual questions to help identify my attacker.  What did he look like? Hair color, eye color, skin color? Could I estimate how tall he was?  What was he wearing?  Could I identify him if I saw him again?  Since I was awoken out of a sound sleep to my rapist on top of me with his hand covering my mouth and nose and a knife to my jugular, memorizing those type of details was  not my first thought. I even remember him saying, “Don’t look at me! Close your eyes!”

With the threat of being stabbed, plus the fact that I was not wearing my glasses, as I was sleeping, I didn’t really try to look.  Yes, I  did remember some details after I had calmed down, but one of the most easily recalled details was his smell.  He smelled clean, freshly showered, and was wearing cologne.  One of the police officers happened to be wearing the same cologne.  I asked him what it was, “Old Spice”, he replied.

Needless to say, I do not like the smell of Traditional Old Spice Cologne.  Even though it has been almost 28 years, that scent can bring back all the details of that experience as if it were yesterday.  A couple of weeks ago, my husband bought body wash for the shower.  Usually he gets a sport scent, Old Spice even makes Sport scents.  this time he got traditional Old Spice scent.  He came out of the shower and I immediately recoiled  from him.  At first I did not know why.  I just knew he smelled wrong.  When I went to take my shower, I saw the bottle on the shelf and immediately knew why I did not want to be near him.  That evening on my way home from work, I bought him a different body wash.

I was raped 6 months before I met my husband.  I told him the stories, but he didn’t know me then.  It’s not real to him.  I told him about the Old Spice and to never wear it.  in fact when Old Spice came out with the other fragrances, I had to check them first, to make sure they didn’t smell like the original.  He forgot.  I’m not mad at him.  He accepted the new body wash without question.  The Old Spice body wash is still on the shelf in the shower.  Why haven’t I thrown it away?

Scents are powerful memory triggers.  Old Spice triggers one of my worst memories.  My nightmare memory. My rape. Do I let that scent, and that memory control me, have power over me?  Maybe I have been unable to throw the bottle away because I don’t want to touch it.  Maybe I have needed to face it, face the fear, face the memory of my rapist in a vulnerable place like my shower, and not recoil from it.  Not back down.  The memory will never go away.  It gets pushed aside by the present and regular life, resurfacing from time to time, triggered by something.  Something as simple and yet as powerful as a scent.  Maybe the sensible thing is to throw it out.  Time to put this memory away again.

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An Open Window

In 1993 Melissa Ethridge wrote the song “Come To My Window”

The sultry lyrics invite her lover with the lines;

Come to my window
Crawl inside, wait by the light of the moon
Come to my window
I’ll be home soon

A Different Window

The summer of 1988,
Less than 3 months after my father passed away,
trying to be an independent adult of 22 and living on my own,
I was sexually assaulted, no let me rephrase that,…raped.
Raped by a stranger who broke into my basement apartment by entering through an open window.
An open window that was open because it was a hot August night.
An open window that was open because it was a hot August night and my apartment did not have air conditioning.
An open window that was open because it was a hot summer night and my apartment did not have air conditioning or security bars on the windows.
Was the open window with no security bars an invitation to enter my apartment?
No it was not.
I was sleeping.
I awoke to a stranger on top of me.
I awoke to a stranger on top of me with a knife to my throat.
With a knife to my jugular vein.
People asked me if I tried to stop him?
With a knife to my jugular vein?
Did I try to stop him, pinned to my mattress with his body?
Did I try to stop him with my mouth and nose covered so I would not scream?
Did I try to stop him when I could not breathe because his hand covered my mouth and nose so I would not scream?
No.
No, I did not try and stop him, because I could not.
No, I did not try and stop him because I could not risk dieing from a stab wound to my neck.
No, I did not try and stop him because all I could think about was that I wanted to breathe and how could I convey that without getting stabbed in the neck?
No, I did not try and stop him when he did allow me to breathe and I convinced him I would not scream.
So, is that consent?
No its not.
When he was done,
When he was done, he went through my purse, as I lay crying on my bed.
He robbed me of what cash I had and berated me for not having more money.
Was there more money somewhere else?
What about upstairs?
My roommate was upstairs.
I told him there was nothing upstairs. It was empty. Praying he would not look for himself and find my roommate asleep in her bed too.
He did not go upstairs.
He left.
He left the same way he came in.
He left through the open window.
The open window that was open because it was a hot August dawn.
The open window that was open because it was a hot August dawn and I had no air conditioning in my apartment.
The open window that was open because it was a hot August dawn and I had no air conditioning in my apartment or security bars on my windows.
I did not invite him in.

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