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« Elsewhere | Main | A Real Campus Rape, Part Two »

March 24, 2008

A Real Campus Rape, Part One

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

A few weeks ago, Blowhards and visitors compared notes about what seemed to many like a particularly absurd case of is-it-rape-or-isn't-it? on a Northwestern college campus. Soon after I was contacted by a woman who actually was raped while in college in the mid-1970s -- raped in the traditional sense, if I can be allowed to put it that way. I asked her if I could interview her about the experience. She kindly agreed, then gave me a remarkably frank and open interview. I think that you'll find her descriptions and reflections very interesting and thought-provoking.

I should add that I also suspect that you'll find her evocations of the era enjoyable and informative. She's very eloquent and direct. Have I mentioned recently how much I love the way that blogging has made the mini-memoir such a vital and accessible form? Life as it's actually lived, baby -- gotta love that. In this interview/memoir, you'll make the acquaintance of a smart, thoughtful, and soulful woman.

A quick word to the uptight: “Hannah” and I use some earthy language. If you aren’t in the mood for uninhibited talk, please surf off now to another blog. We link to a lot of good ones in the left-hand column.

To everyone else: “Hannah” has agreed to field questions and to participate in any conversations that might crop up in the comments. So please feel free to make observations and ask questions. She’ll be dropping by today for Part One, and for Part 2 tomorrow.

Today, Part One: The Rape, and the Investigation


2Blowhards: Maybe first we should set some context up. What was your background?

Hannah: Middle class, middle of the road. Culturally Jewish. We celebrated the holidays and kept the traditions, but I had no religious training, and only went to temple for the high holy days. My parents were sexually conservative. I'm sure they expected me to be a virgin when I married.

How about politics?

My family was politically moderate to liberal. My dad did not want me to apply to Harvard. He thought it was too radical (but he had no problem with Columbia -- funny).

I wasn't particularly political myself. But if you think about what was going on then, I was a lot more political than the average kid today. While I was in high school, we went through Vietnam, Cambodia, Kent State, the first Earth Day, the Pentagon Papers -- how could you not be a little political? That was unbelievable stuff.

What kind of person were you as a girl-slash-young-woman?

35 years ago, I would have told you I was strong, capable, practical, and competitive. Sexually neither wild nor conservative, but somewhere around the middle. Anti-war but not particularly political. I thought I was more of an intellectual than I was.

Was that an accurate self-assessment?

Looking back, I see that I was very naive and idealistic. I trusted people.

I came from a typical small public high school where I had few intellectual equals, and those few were incompatible as close friends for various reasons. I had some good friends in my hometown, mostly through musical activities.

My favorite authors then were Jane Austen, JRR Tolkien and Ayn Rand. So what would that make me? A romantic idealist?

What was your sex-and-romance life like in high school?

I dated about a half-a-dozen boys. Sex consisted of kissing and heavy petting up until the summer before senior year. I was 16, and I had a semi-steady boyfriend who was 18 and who was getting ready to leave for college. We had sex, and it was about as satisfying as you might expect with two inexperienced virgins. We tried again a few times before he left for school. I dated various guys during high school senior year -- nothing serious.

How did college hit you?

When I got to college I was just giddy the first few weeks. Everyone I met was smart, interesting, and accomplished. I was just bouncing off walls with happiness at first.

What became of your romantic and sex life?

Well, there I was, away from my overprotective parents for the first time, and wanting to experience everything. I hooked up with a guy across the hall during freshman week. It was the first time I had smoked pot, the first time I spent the night in bed with someone, and the first time I "spooned." It was a fun experience. Neither of us was looking for anything to come of it.

I had a couple of other hook-ups too. I got involved with Bruce, a boyfriend who ultimately didn't treat me very well. But relationships were very tangled. I also tried dating another guy -- Ryan, who eventually became my husband. But it didn't work out at that time. I wound up telling him after our second date that he was a nice guy, I liked him, but I liked another person more.

Which means that the man who raped me at the beginning of my sophomore year was the sixth man with whom I had some kind of sexual congress.

The mid-'70s were a zany time in terms of male-female relations. What were things like at your college?

The ratio was 2.7:1 guys to girls when I entered college. I don't remember girls being anti-boy, but I do remember guys looking at us like fresh meat. Upperclassmen got copies of the freshman register, and picked girls out by their pictures. I got a call from a guy that way and my roommate Winnie got several too. I was definitely interested in meeting guys, but I also wanted to feel like I had some say in it too, not just that they had gone shopping in the register.

I can't say there was any prevailing atmosphere. There were some guys who were just assholes, and there were some girls who were just bitches. Most of them were not. Did some girls take advantage of the ratio of men to women to be ball-busters? I'm sure of it. Was it pervasive? I didn't see it.

Was there much feminism around?

I honestly don't remember there being a strong or strident feminist presence on campus. I had grown up with a kind of practical feminism myself. My mom was a pioneer in her field, back in the 40’s. I knew all her stories so I knew what it was like for real groundbreaking women. We had it easy by comparison.

Anyway, there were 20 women out of 200 students in my department at college. I only remember one of them being militantly feminist. She was a lesbian as well, as it happens.

How did you view the campus's more assertive feminists?

My friends and I distanced ourselves from "Feminists" with a capital F. We were more intent on proving ourselves by what we did than through politics. I had read "The Feminine Mystique" by Betty Friedan, and I thought, "Well of course, women are going to be more than homemakers." I was surprised that someone needed to read this in a book in order to accept it.

The 1960s wave of feminism that had gotten women into this college in the first place was past, and the phase of overdone Women's Studies programs didn't really start until the '80s, as I understand it. The most political event I remember the entire time we were on campus was when William Shockley came to talk about race and intelligence. In general, the campus was much more concerned about minority issues than about women's issues.

Can we walk through your rape?

Sure. It was September 1974. Though I was a sophomore, I was back on campus during freshman week. My friend Winnie and I were roommates. My boyfriend Bruce and I started freshman week together but midweek we broke up. He initiated it. I sort of knew it was time, but I was still kind of hurt by it.

So Friday night of freshman week comes along. Winnie and her male friend and I started the evening hanging out together. I was feeling in the way, but I also didn't have anything better to do. There was supposed to be a midnight organ concert at the chapel that night, and I thought it sounded kind of cool. Winnie and her boyfriend weren't interested, so I headed up to the chapel on my own, shortly before midnight.

Walking from down-campus to up-campus on your own? Was this a big deal?

Not at all. It was a bucolic, small-town campus so there was no reason to be wary.

What was your state of mind?

I was kind of depressed about my singleness, but I was also happy to go to this weird concert that none of my friends were interested in.

What kind of evening was it?

It was a cool-ish early fall evening, clear. I was wearing blue jeans, a not particularly clingy stretch terry zip top (kind of like a hoodie), clogs.

Where did the rape occur?

In the middle of the campus there's a fairly large garden. At that time, the bushes surrounding the path through the garden were pretty dense. It wasn't completely dark that evening. There were lights every so often, some of them mounted on trees.

I was on the way to the chapel, taking a main path about halfway through the garden, when a man stepped out from behind the bushes and asked me if I had a match. I said no, and I tried to walk around him. But he grabbed me, putting one arm around my head and face and one around my arms. He then pulled me off the path towards an empty building on the garden grounds.

Did you put up a physical struggle?

I started out screaming, but he got his arm over my mouth. He held something against me. I didn't know what it was. My glasses were falling off.

How scared were you?

I remember thinking "Oh god, please don't hurt me, I'm going to die, no one hears me, no one's going to help me".

Just to get this straight: You’d never seen this guy before, right?


Did you try to push him away or harm him?

When he first grabbed me, my struggle consisted of trying to break free of his arms, trying to get a hand free. He had one arm around me, holding one arm and pinning the other. His other hand was around my face and neck. I tried kneeing and kicking, and I lost my balance. That's something they teach you in self-defense classes often happens. It's why you should stomp on an attacker's instep instead of trying to knee him in the groin.

I was trying to keep my footing and he was pulling me off the path. I lost one of my clogs. If I had gone completely limp, he probably would have had more trouble getting me to move. I didn't think of that because I was too scared.

Did you struggle physically throughout?

No. There was a small screened porch off the back of the building in the garden. He dragged me into it and pushed me down. I think I gave up struggling around then.

Why? What was going through your mind?

I gave up struggling out of hopelessness. It wasn't working, I couldn't get away, I didn't want to make him mad, and nobody could hear me. Losing my glasses didn't help. I'm nearsighted, with around 20/200 vision. I'm also somewhat night blind. I lose a lot of depth perception at night, even with lights. So I couldn't see where he was taking me. That contributed to the panic.

So there you are, he's overwhelmed you ...

Neither of us said much. Once I stopped screaming, it was very quiet. He didn't say anything, so all that was going on was just heavy breathing.

His hat had a braided leather strap. After he pushed me down to the floor, he started to wrap the leather around my mouth. I said, "I promise, I won't scream anymore," and he stopped. That's when I really gave up, and became completely passive.

How did the intercourse part of the rape go?

I let him pull my pants down, off one leg. He spread my legs, and lay down on top of me. I have no idea how long it took him to rape me. It felt like forever. I just wanted him to be done, and it went on and on. He asked me my name and told me his, during the act. That's when I was thinking "Okay, this is really happening, I couldn't stop it, what happens when he's finished, is he going to let me go or is he going to kill me to get rid of the evidence?"

What were your physical sensations?

It seemed unreal, but I was very aware of being flat on my back on a cold cement floor, with this stranger fucking me. I didn't smell much of anything except a wet-earth garden smell.

It did hurt when he entered me. I don't think he noticed that I had my period. He certainly didn't notice that I had a tampon in me. Strangely, I had an orgasm.

Was that disorienting? I've read that women who orgasm during rape often feel guilt or shame.

Yeah, I felt shame. My body betrayed me by reacting when my mind was so against it. I remember hating myself because I had an orgasm.

What was going through your head as the event was underway?

Fear, mainly. I remember thinking "this can't be happening to me." My spine hurt -- it was scraping on the concrete floor. My mouth hurt -- my teeth were being ground against my cheeks. My overriding fear was that when this guy was done he was going to kill me.

Yeah, I was being overly dramatic.

It sounds plenty scary to me.

The fear of further injury definitely overcame the pain/horror/disgust of being raped. It probably comes with the territory of being a somewhat sheltered, romantic 18 year old girl. Although I had read a book about [famous murder victim] Kitty Genovese that summer, and in retrospect, I'm sure I was thinking about her case.

Were you able to make out anything about your rapist?

At the time, all I knew was that he was bigger than me and a lot stronger. He was black, youngish, and was wearing that leather hat sort of cowboy style. I had never seen him before.

Who was he, in fact?

Some things I found out later: he was 21 at the time. He lived in town with his girlfriend, who was white. He had been fired or laid off from his job that day and he didn't want to go home and tell his girlfriend. He had a very thin moustache, though I didn't notice that at the time. He had been a star football player in high school, I later learned. He was about 6' tall, easily 200 pounds. I was 5'7" and 140 pounds. I thought I was in pretty good shape and capable of defending myself. Ha!

How did the rape end?

When he was finished he asked me my name again. I don't remember what I said, but I didn't give him my real name. He said his name was Albert. He helped me up. I said "I lost my shoe" and he went outside and found it while I dressed. He was also looking for his cigarettes, and said "You know that wasn't a knife I was holding, it was a cigarette box." He had dropped it during the struggle, and he couldn't find it afterward.

He didn't say much, he just asked me where I was going. He didn't really say much of anything else. He was just a dark, looming presence, still wearing that hat.

I remember thinking "How do I get away from him? I don't want him following me. I don't want him to come back and get me."

That's so strange, that he didn't just pick himself up and run away.

He asked where I had been going, and I answered that I had been going to a concert at the chapel. He walked with me there, but the chapel door was locked. I wasn't wearing a watch, so I have no idea what time it was. I guess I'd missed the concert. So I told him I was going back to my dorm.

It sounds like Albert became a kind of gent in his own mind after the act.

He did seem to think that we were going to be more than rapist / victim. It was kind of surreal. Here I was not saying anything because I was scared out of my mind, and he's thinking something like "I made her happy -- new girlfriend time." I remember that he said he was sorry a bunch of times. And he did help me up from the floor.

Was there ever any explanation for his behavior?

In the trial, it came out that he had been drinking straight whiskey beforehand. His lawyer tried to make the case that, however things had started that evening, I had consented to sex. I will never forget his attorney saying "Consent, however reluctant, negates rape." This appears to have been the legal opinion at the time.

Did Albert continue to accompany you?

He walked with me. But I didn't want him to know where I lived. I walked into the dorm's lobby. There was a crowd of people at a foosball table. I walked into the crowd, then around the corner and through the door to the stairs. He didn't see where I went, so he didn't follow me. I just got away, and I returned to my room.

What did you do then?

Winnie, my roommate, wasn't there. We didn't have phone service yet -- phones wouldn't be activated till the next week. I stripped, I put on my bathrobe, and I went to the bathroom. I took a shower. It's funny -- I didn't cry. (It's funny because I have always cried very easily.) I went back to the room, curled up under a quilt and a few hours later fell asleep.

Was it Winnie who found you?

When I woke up the next morning, Winnie had returned. I told her what had happened. She said to me, "You have to call campus security." I didn't want to. I was still scared, ashamed, embarrassed, a total mess, although I didn't realize it. Winnie said to me, "You have to! What if he does it to someone else?" That finally got through to me.

She and I went downstairs to the lobby phone. I called security, and told them I wanted to anonymously report a rape in the garden the night before. Needless to say, that didn't work too well. Winnie wouldn't let me hang up, and the security office kept asking questions. Finally I wound up telling them where we were.

They came to the dorm, took us in a back office, asked me some questions, and wound up taking me to the town's police station.

How were the cops?

They were fine. They had me write a statement. They had me describe Albert. They showed me pages and pages of mug shots. None of them were him, but they had me pick out a bunch that were similar. They took me to the college infirmary, where a woman doctor examined me.

I turned down a morning-after pill -- we decided that I was very low pregnancy risk. The doctor turned over a piece of tampon to the police. The cops talked to me once more. They wanted the clothes I had been wearing. Finally they let me leave.

I was due to drive home that day. And in fact I went home -- and I didn't tell my parents a thing about the rape. I came back to campus on Sunday evening, and started classes on Monday.

How did you feel about how everyone handled the rape?

The college security officers were coldly efficient. They didn't say much of anything. They just wanted to get me to the town police -- they were just getting the job done.

The police were much better. They listened to me, they acted like they believed me, they offered me coffee, they told me what they were going to do. I was still at the police station when the man they had sent off to the garden to look for evidence returned with his pictures. He was very excited that there was such a clear trail of drag marks. They told me they found footprints and cigarette butts on the steps to the porch.

How about the people at the infirmary?

I can still picture the woman doctor. She was a sweetheart. Professional, but gentle. No overdone sympathy -- that would have had me flooded with tears.

No one in officialdom treated me dismissively, or with lack of respect.

Was there a campus rape hot-line, anything like that?

The college didn't at that time have a rape hot-line or crisis line. I wish they had. I didn't know it at the time, but I very much needed to hear that it wasn't my fault, that I was still a good person, etc. I had only vague ideas about counseling and mental health back then. I don't think I knew anyone who had ever gone for any kind of counseling. I myself never would have thought I would need counseling. Somehow it would have been admitting weakness, and I was into the superwoman role model. I thought I could work through anything.

How were your friends about it?

My roommate Winnie was terrific. She offered unconditional support. I should have talked to her more than I did.

Legally, because Winnie was the first person I spoke to after the rape, she was a witness to my condition, my frame of mind, etc, without it being hearsay. And she did ultimately testify in both the grand jury and court case. Not everyone could have done this.

So, on to the investigation. What was involved?

After a few days, I was called to the police station to make a photo identification. They showed me half a dozen black-and-white photos of people, and Albert was one of them. I picked him out right away, with no doubts. Soon after, they spotted Albert hanging out in town and brought him in, based on my description. The photo identification served as a “lineup” -– after I id’d Albert, they charged him.

A few weeks later I got a call from a county prosecutor, who told me they needed me to testify before the grand jury. Bruce -- the boyfriend I had broken up with during Freshman Week -- drove Winnie and me to the county courthouse. It was right before Thanksgiving, so by now a couple of months had passed.

I’m curious: How did you come to tell your ex-boyfriend about the rape?

He had stopped by to see how I was doing after our breakup when I told him. He was just quiet, he didn't say anything. What do you say? I can appreciate it's not easy. A few days later he came by at night. We didn't talk at all about the rape, but he was very sweet, sensitive, loving, etc. I responded, and we had sex. Then he told me he had sex with me to help me get over the negative feelings about the rape. We weren't getting back together, he said, he just wanted to help. !!!!!!! (Insert favorite expletives here -- "rat bastard" comes to mind.) To this day, I somewhat hate Bruce. I think I talked to him once after that, the day he drove us to the courthouse.

Was the grand jury hearing a big deal?

It was stressful to anticipate but easy to get through. All I had to do was answer yes or no questions.

Albert, my rapist, wasn't in the courtroom when I testified. There was no cross examination. The prosecutor called me a day or two later to let me know that Albert had been indicted by the grand jury.

It would be some time before the case came to actual trial. Quite some time -- in fact, about 18 months after the rape.

When did you tell your family about the rape?

Sometime around Thanksgiving I told my older sister and brother-in-law.

How about your parents?

I didn't tell them for a while. My parents didn't know I wasn't still a sheltered innocent virgin. How the hell was I going to tell them about this, without having them overreact, or force me to come home, or whatever? My sister and brother-in-law were cool, though. They listened, and promised to help when I was ready to tell our parents.

How was the college administration about the whole thing?

A few weeks after the rape, I was called by the Dean of Student Affairs, and I went to see her. The only positive thing I remember coming out of that was I got a permit to park my car in a nearby lot rather than in a far-away one.

Did she offer any vows to do better?

The college normally had a security guard stationed at night in the garden where the rape occurred. But he wasn't there during freshman week. The idiot Dean couldn't bring herself to come out and admit that it had been criminally stupid not to have a guard stationed in the garden for freshman week. A simple apology would have been nice. But she didn't offer one of those either. They were probably concerned about potential lawsuits. I gave the college a list of places on campus that needed better lighting, where I didn't feel safe. They ignored it.

How did the rape affect your experience of your sophomore year?

My biggest problem was that I was scared to go out of my room alone after dark. I'd start out fine, and then my heart would start pounding, and anxiety would overwhelm me. Daylight around campus was fine, though.

What part of campus was toughest for you?

I hated walking to the tech center, where most of my classes were. It was a fairly dark and isolated walk, with a lot of parking lots to cross. And if a lab class lasted past 5:00 pm, which most of them did, it was dark when I left. I kept imagining someone was waiting in the dark for me, and would jump out at me.

What kind of affect did the rape have on your romantic life?

I started dating Ryan -- who later became my husband -- around then. He was very supportive about escorting me around campus. When I told him about the rape, his reaction was anger. He wanted to kill the guy. Very Regency! I loved his reaction. It helped me feel secure and protected.

When did you finally tell your parents?

I told my parents about it sometime in January. They were upset for me, hurt that I hadn't told them sooner, and angry with the school. My parents talked to the college's Dean of Student Affairs and were not impressed with her lack of response.

Did you leave it there with the college?

My whole thing with the administration was, What could they do to make sure that this wouldn't happen to someone else? I wrote them a two page single-spaced memo of my suggestions, including where to put additional lighting. I wanted them to put out security warnings to all students, telling them it was not as safe or idyllic a campus as it appeared.

A friend of mine told me about how she used to go out and wander the college's golf course at one in the morning, alone. I tried to convince her this was not the safest thing in the world to do, and told her about my rape. She was sympathetic, but she wasn't about to change her behavior.

So you were really looking into things.

I found out that there had been at least three "stranger rapes" at the college the year of mine, and about the same number of "date rapes." The infirmary doctor offered to put me in contact with one of the other victims of stranger rape, but the girl wasn't willing to meet with me.

As for the women's center at the college ... No one ever suggested I talk to anyone from there. I think it consisted of a one-room office somewhere, and I think most of their concern at that time was about lesbian issues.


Many thanks to Hannah. Return tomorrow for the trial, the impact, and some reflections. Please feel free to leave comments and questions. As I mentioned above, Hannah will be dropping by and responding.



posted by Michael at March 24, 2008


The description of the campus security people and the Dean of Student Affairs really brings back memories of my own student days (during roughly the same era.) Maybe college administrators of that era thought the whole 'in loco parentis' thing was antiquated or politically incorrect or something, but mostly their attitude came off as just colder than cold. Basically their only concern with students was whether the tuition check cleared or not, full stop. Well, that and covering their ass legally and in P.R. terms. Not a pretty picture.

"Hannah" is a great interviewee, very thoughtful and articulate about a horrific experience. I'd be very interested in how she thinks this has affected her adult life, romantic relationships, parenting style, etc., etc.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on March 24, 2008 1:40 AM

I'm so sorry this happened to you Hannah. Thanks for speaking about this.

Yeah, I felt shame. My body betrayed me by reacting when my mind was so against it. I remember hating myself because I had an orgasm.

I recently read a study on this & apparently it isn't uncommon among female & male victims of rape and leads to a lot of guilt, shame, self-loathing & in the case of men, unfounded fear that they're secretly gay. I hope you no longer feel this way.

Posted by: tc on March 24, 2008 1:52 AM

Thanks to both Hannah and Michael for the sanity and clarity of that interview.

Posted by: Robert Townshend on March 24, 2008 3:29 AM

When I went to college some years after "Hannah" there was a widespread perception that the admininstration was less than forthcoming when it came to informing people of crimes occurring on campus. It was almost as if they wanted to maintain an impression of the campus as an island of safety and peace, nothwithstanding the fact that it was in close proximity to some questionable neighborhoods. There were no rapes on campus during my tenure, as far as I know, but I heard of some break-ins and a couple of assaults - not from the administration, that is.

IINM there is now a federal law which requires colleges to disclose crime statistics.

Posted by: Peter on March 24, 2008 9:33 AM

A dreadful story. I lived on a very dangerous campus myself once, in the early 1980s, and the authorities there were equally reluctant, at first, to admit that crime was a problem. During my last two years there (1981/82-1982/83), though, there was a perceptible change in their attitudes. The first "wave" of feminist agitation about rape was beginning to make itself felt. Suddenly, there was a campus "escort service" (I know how odd that sounds) to take people across the school grounds at night. I don't know how many women made use of it.

Posted by: alias clio on March 24, 2008 9:47 AM

TC, thanks for your concern. I really have gotten over it - its been a lot of years and a lot of living since then.
Robert, thanks.
Friedrich, you'll definitely find out the longer term effects of the rape on my life, opinions (especially), parenting, etc. in tomorrow's continuation of the interview.
Friedrich, Peter - then and now, colleges don't want parents, and by extension, students, to know about crime on campus. For the past few months, I've been doing the college tours with my son. Whether the school is urban or suburban, small or large, they answer questions about campus security the same. Security officers work closely with the local jurisdiction. There are "blue light" phones. There are safe rides programs. But if you press for statistics, nobody seems to know. Next campus visit we do, I'll ask about required reporting of crime statistics (bet the admissions officers will just love me).

Posted by: Hannah on March 24, 2008 10:02 AM

This is certainly an ugly story. Clearly, Michael you're holding out some very important facts until the next installment.

To this point, I don't see that the response of police or authorities was in any way negligent or improper.

I was attacked with a knife by a black man some 30 years ago. The police response could be considered "cold," I guess, but what else was I supposed to expect? I don't expect weepy compassion from people doing their jobs. Before respondents get all irate... in what way do you think that rape is any more profound an assault on a person than attempted murder? As far as I know, my assailant's only motive was racial hatred. He never asked for money. He seemed to have no other objective than to cut me up.

Here's what the police said to me: "If you're going to live in this neighborhood, you'd better start carrying a gun."

I did fight back against my assailant. I think that I hurt him worse than he hurt me. He nicked me slightly. I hit him upside the head several times with the lid of a garbage can. Although I filed charges, the police never produced a suspect. After my initial police report, I never heard a peep from the justice system.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on March 24, 2008 10:27 AM

To this point, I don't see that the response of police or authorities was in any way negligent or improper.

It seemed from Hannah's account that college officials were rather unconcerned about the whole incident. Considering there'd been three prior "stranger" rapes that year it would not be unreasonable to expect a greater level of concern from the administration.

Posted by: Peter on March 24, 2008 11:37 AM

Hannah, I am surprised by the burst of rage I feel toward the creature who hurt you so. I find myself wanting to hurt him back, and badly. Forgive me for indulging in an emotion that does you no good, and could never do so.

But I am also impressed by the clarity and wisdom you show. I admire you very much. I must admit I am dreading the story of the trial. I hope (against hope) that your suffering was not continued and exacerbated by its events.

Of relevance to the discussion we had on the blog which led to this post, you are completely credible to me in a way that the girl in the original incident just is not.

Thank you again for doing this.

Posted by: PatrickH on March 24, 2008 12:42 PM

ST, you exasperate me. One of the reasons why rape is a "profound assault upon a person" is that no one who is raped, esp. by a stranger, ever knows if she/he will come out of it alive. Some rape victims are indeed murdered by their assailants - or has that fact escaped your memory?

In any case, the reason that the psychological trauma of rape can be so disorienting, beyond that of being beaten or robbed, is that the rapist performs an act that is in normal conditions supposed to be intimate and pleasurable, and forces his victim to associate it with fear, humiliation, violence, and perhaps pain.

Another point: one reason why it is wise for police and the justice system to handle rape victims with care is that they are more likely to be willing to testify in court, if any suspect is ever charged and tried.

It sounds as if you had a very bad experience of the justice system yourself, but surely you don't think that's how it ought to have responded?

Posted by: alias clio on March 24, 2008 1:44 PM

OK, alias clio,

My assailant obviously intended to murder me, and would have if I hadn't fought back. I did not know if I would "come out alive" either.

My late wife was forcibly prostituted and raped in the middle of a war. The circumstances of her prostitution and rape were horrific... really, beyond your imagination. I still struggle to understand the dimensions of the cruelty and suffering she endured. She rejected completely the notion that she couldn't differentiate between sexual pleasure and rape.

Her take on the difference between her own Filipino culture and American culture in this regard: If you tell somebody that they are likely to be psychologically crippled by rape, they probably will be. In a poverty stricken country in which there are few resources to comfort victims of violence, people are expected to carry on and be strong... and they usually are. In a wealthy society that encourages people to indulge themselves in victimhood, they will indulge in their victimhood. These are not my observations. They are my wife's. My wife's view was that a rape victim should, for the sake of her own health, regard rape as no different than any other kind of physical assault.

I don't know how the police should have responded in my case. This was in pre-Giuliani New York City. Violent crime was so widespread, particularly in Brooklyn where I lived, that the police didn't have a lot of time for hand holding. I don't regard myself as psychologically damaged by the experience, althought the experience did cure me of many silly notions I had about race. Until that moment, I really believed the liberal nonsense that only whites commit racial violence.

The issue of how the police and judicial system should respond is complicated by the reality that in a confrontation between only two people, the truth is hard to know. I've told you the truth of what happened to me. A person arriving one minute after I was assaulted could have easily assumed that I initiated the assault. I was trying to kill my attacker. In the same way, although Hannah is undoubtedly telling the truth about her experience, that truth does have to be proven in court, and it may not be easy to do that.

To assume that the judicial system should be comforting and make it easier on the "victim" is to assume that you know the truth. You don't. It is incumbent upon the judicial system to remain impartial.

All of this skips the most important issue. The reality of rape is that it is very predominantly a crime that black men commit against white women. The idiots amongst us can now commence calling me a racist. Feminists have incorrectly called rape a crime of power. In fact, rape in the U.S. is overwhelmingly an act of revenge by black men against white women. Until you face that reality, what in the hell can be done about it?

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on March 24, 2008 2:34 PM

ShoutingThomas, I agree with you, the response of police to my rape was appropriate, as was the immediate response of university officials. I think rape and attempted murder are both horrible and traumatic. I am thankful I survived my attack, and although I don't know you, I hope that you did not suffer lasting damage from your attack. I cannot speak to the actions of police in failing to apprehend your attacker. I have nothing but praise for the police who handled my case.
I did not want to report the rape initially. I dreaded going through the legal process. My roommate convinced me to report the rape to prevent this from happening to someone else. My ability to get through this was partly due to my belief that I could help prevent others from being hurt, through stopping this individual, informing campus residents of potential dangers, and making some areas of campus safer. If college administrators were concerned about these issues, they did not let me know, either in public or private. More on that tomorrow.

Posted by: Hannah on March 24, 2008 2:51 PM

ST, I didn't say, nor did I intend to imply, that you knew that you would survive the attack you suffered. What I was trying to say was that someone in the process of being raped is in the same position as you were. Your previous comment, "Before respondents get all irate... in what way do you think that rape is any more profound an assault on a person than attempted murder?", implied that there was some obvious difference between rape and a violent assault/attempted murder. I merely intended to point out that, while a rape is happening, that distinction may not be apparent. In both situations, it is quite possible that the assailant means to finish you off.

As for psychological trauma, I wouldn't be so swift to dismiss it as a kind of luxury in which the poor do not indulge. Poor women (and men) suffer psychological breakdowns too, to judge by those I have encountered here in Canada and elsewhere. Sometimes they respond to such assaults on their person by becoming violent to their children or others, sometimes by suicide, sometimes simply by a kind of permanent hopelessness or despair. Your late wife sounds as if she was an exceptional woman in every way; because she did not respond to the experience of rape as an emotional trauma, it does not mean that no others do.

I did not suggest that the court-room process should be given over to comforting the victim. I think that would be a mistake, for the reasons you suggest. But the police are another matter: they ought to be prepared to listen carefully and with restrained sympathy to all accounts of crime. By sympathy I don't mean "feel your pain" emotionalism; I mean only a respectful and courteous attention. It sounds as if the police in your case were dismissive and lackadaisical. I had this experience myself at one time. (I wasn't quite actually attacked, but - well, you can read about it here:

Hannah, I made no comment on the appropriateness of the police response in your case because, as far as I could tell from your story, it was appropriate, and you were satisfied with the way they handled it.

Posted by: alias clio on March 24, 2008 3:37 PM

For the sake of clarity, I wanted to mention that the part of the post to which I was referring in my previous comment was the section called "The Sackful of Garbage That Wasn't There".

Posted by: alias clio on March 24, 2008 4:59 PM

Clio said: " that the rapist performs an act that is in normal conditions supposed to be intimate and pleasurable..."

When you strip away what society and religion characterize sex as, it's really a biological function for reproduction. Our society has designated it as "intimate and pleasurable." I'm sure it wasn't that back in 500 BC.

There is a controversial book called "A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion." It takes the position that forced sex is a strategy for males to bypass the usual process for reproduction and take a short cut. Since this book is based on studies, not feminist theory, I'm inclined to think the authors are on to something.

Before there was society, what was sex? Was it forced? If so, that may explain why men and women are able to "perform" sexually during an act of violence -- because this act, in some form, may have been the original way we procreated. It also explains -- contrary to feminist doctrine -- why the huge majority of rape victims are young fertile women, because reproduction (not amorphous concepts like "control") is the goal.

This doesn't justify the crime, of course. Pre-historic man probably also didn't have laws against murder.

I don't get the sense of shame women feel though. I think religion and the alleged self-help industry causes that. Society has designated sex as something dirty and advertising has made it into something "sacred," when it's really a necessary function -- like urination.

Our society has it backwards: Women should feel shame when they leave their kids in cars and prostitute themselves for governors, not when they are the hapless victim of a crime ... one that likely would have been committed on someone else had someone else been in the same place at the same time instead.

Michael, I thought this one out and won't ask you to delete it!

Posted by: Days of Broken Arrows on March 24, 2008 5:38 PM

Hannah, thanks for your sharing. You are a great example of courage to many. I really appreciate that.

Posted by: Mark C on March 24, 2008 9:04 PM

When you strip away what society and religion characterize sex as, it's really a biological function for reproduction. Our society has designated it as "intimate and pleasurable." I'm sure it wasn't that back in 500 BC.

I'm not certain what you are trying to get at in bringing up this point in this context, DoBA. First, if the evolutionists are correct, all animal behaviour has its origin and purpose in reproductive strategy. The fact says nothing about any particular action's impact on individual members of a species. Second, surely we have to assume that both society and religion serve a purpose in "reproductive strategy", as do the very common social and religious prohibitions against rape, if you insist on providing purely mechanistic explanations for human and animal behaviour.

The kind of shame that some rape victims feel is not willed and deliberate, and not rational. Providing rational arguments against it, and suggesting that it is the result of social or religious instruction, cannot do much to relieve a distress which is not rooted in a logical response in the first place. In any case, much of the distress that rape victims do feel (the ones to whom I've spoken, at any rate), has little to do with shame, and much to do with fear: their ordinary sense of being secure in their persons has been broken, and it may take years for them to recapture it.

Posted by: alias clio on March 24, 2008 10:32 PM

Amazing how a person can tell about an assault, and everyone begins to spin barriers around it -- pulling up all sorts of theories, opinion and studies. Mine was not quite a rape and not really on campus. It was Evanston, Illinois, on a warm rainy Sunday afternoon in June, 1961, not long before graduation. I had just taken a gift to a male friend who turned out not to be home, but someone let me into his room at the boarding house so I could leave the present. He was going to be a psychiatrist and we had met as biology lab partners. He had been telling me about Inca skulls, decorated with mosaic, so I had made him my version of one with a plastic kit from a toy store. The jaw had a spring on it and now it clenched a graduation card in its teeth.

I left his boarding house and went down the wet cobbled alley in my rubber flip-flops and thick lobsterman's yellow raincoat, like a great big baby duck. I heard running behind me, got over to the side to let the person pass, and was totally astounded when I was grabbed by a black man a bit bigger than me, reeking of whiskey. I fought him, losing my glasses like Hannah, losing my flip-flops. He got one finger in my mouth and I bit it as hard as I could -- then eased off. I didn't want to HURT him!

I tried to knee him, the way they do in movies. I'm glad Hannah said not to try that. The raincoat interfered. But it made him angry and he began to strangle me. I was blacking out when I signaled surrender. We stood there leaning together and panting. I was thinking about the advice not to yell for help but to yell "fire." I yelled my friend's name, thinking he might have come back. A black cat came and walked around us in a circle, meowing.

My calling made some men come out of a garage down the alley. My strangler ran off. Rubbing my neck, I asked the men what they thought I ought to do. They said to call the police. Then my friend came and the police took my report in his room, looking askance at the Inca skull. I think the police assumed my friend was my lover, but I was a virgin at that point -- totally inexperienced. Just a big baby duck. Had barely been kissed. Never dated. The police kept asking if the man had "touched me." I couldn't understand what they meant and anyway I couldn't see how anyone could touch me through that big stiff raincoat. I still couldn't get why he would grab me.

At the police station I looked at photos -- lots of photos. In those days they arrested gays in restrooms and I recognized people. My major was theatre. Some of the men were grad assistants, teachers. My friend came with me and we were both more sad than anything else. The case that sticks with me was an old deranged woman who was arrested over and over for indecent exposure at the El station, because she would pull the skirt of her dress up over her head and didn't wear anything under it.

In a while they brought in a black man about the right size with scratches down his face and a bite on his finger. He had excuses. I looked at him through a one-way glass but I honestly couldn't recognize him -- his skin was very dark and it was a gray day. In a few days my parents would come to take me back to Oregon. We all just gave up. I can't remember whether I told my parents. Probably not. The police were nice to me. I was very relieved that my glasses weren't broken.

Such an event is so surreal, so set apart from normal interactions, so physically disconcerting if not outright damaging, that it's hard to think about. Hannah's attacker was evidently living in some parallel universe in which she was his girl friend. It's lucky he didn't have a horror film in his mind, full of maiming and torture. Because for him it really didn't have anything to do with Hannah as a human being. She didn't "ask for it" -- she just happened to be there. A puppet in his show. I wonder whether it mattered that she was white, but probably it did because of his girlfriend.

For her the sensory event will remain. What she does with it is what makes the story about her, because it's about HER choices.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on March 24, 2008 11:46 PM

The lowest depths of hell are reserved for the scum that gathers around any campus preying on the callow students. The Hannahs of the world, unfortunately, are the perfect victims-small town, bright but relatively naive and trusting.

Hannah shows that violence happens on all campuses, whether her bucolic college or mine, urban and violent during basically the same time (late 70's). My university's police pretty much admitted they couldn't keep the campus safe, so the administration, in a tremendously forward-thinking move, instituted a campus escort service. You called the escort line and a large fellow student, wearing a fluorescent vest and carrying a flashlight and whistle, would escort you to your destination. And that was all it took; the fact that the a potential victim accompanied by a large man is no longer a potential victim shows the inherent cowardice of the predators. Campus assaults dropped by 75%, and I believe the program is still in force 30 years later. It amazes me that so many college administrations are still denying their students a safe environment, though without the leadership of the university president (maybe the last right-center academic in America) mine probably would have been no different.

Posted by: Brutus on March 25, 2008 8:39 AM

One of the things that sickens me about these stories is the evidence that the attackers simply did not feel they were doing anything wrong. Oh, they knew it was illegal, but then so is jaywalking, and everybody does it if they can get away with it.

I wonder if that attitude toward rape is still prevalent in the black community today (at least rape of white women). I call it the "OJ defense". The black people kneeling and praying for Simpson's acquital, then exploding with joy when he got it, knew perfectly well that he had done the killings. He'd slit the white whore's throat and done the same to the interfering jew-boy. So OJ wasn't innocent--he'd done the deed, yessiree. But he was not guilty, because he'd done nothing to be guilty about.

I can't help but feel that that kind of pre-civilized attitude is far more prevalent in the black community than we earnest whites believe.

Posted by: PatrickH on March 25, 2008 10:10 AM

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