Editor's Note: A version of this story appeared in the February, 2015 edition of Illinois Issues.
Three different men sexually assaulted me when I was a sophomore in college. That was 30 years ago or so. In that time, I've come to re-evaluate what it means to be to be raped. And I've kept in mind what I can do to help protect my daughter, who, at 22, is a little older than I was in the early 1980s when I was assaulted while a student at Eastern Illinois University.
It is rape when a woman is passed out during an attack, as I was two of the times it happened to me. I was very drunk and high those nights I was attacked. On two occasions, I awoke during rapes, not remembering how I came to be in the situation. In one case, my attacker was a date. In the other, the man assaulting me was a teacher. Naively, I followed him to a hotel. While he was raping me, I awakened, horrified. The same wakeup call came for me on the floor of a darkened apartment where I had gone with a date. We had been kissing, but before I passed out, I had not managed --nor wanted -- to give my consent for sex.
At the time, it did not occur to me in either case that I been victimized, and there was little encouragement from society at the time to do so. As I recall, few of us had heard the term date rape.
I have since come to realize that rape is rape any time there is no consent. It took me years to overcome feeling guilty because I had "let" myself become a victim. I was dead wrong. Whether the woman has been drugged by her assaulter or imbibed at will and forced to have sex, it is
rape. It is a violent, hate-filled act worthy of prosecution.
Not seeing the men in the encounters as rapists, it didn't occur to me all those years ago to report the incidents. As I have said to my daughter, and my son, it is never wise to drink or smoke to the point of extreme inebriation. I was blasted out of my mind, but in no way did it excuse either man from rape, especially not the college instructor who found out that I had been attacked on the street after the incident in his hotel room. As if it had just occurred to him, I remember him saying, "I raped you, didn't I?"
I don't remember whether the other rape by an acquaintance occurred before the night I was sexually assaulted by a stranger while walking home from a party at about 4 a.m.
The man crossed a street to where I was walking and asked for a lighter. As I reached to get it for him, he wrapped his arm around my neck and told me that he had a knife. He pushed me to the ground, pulled my clothes down and assaulted me under a streetlight. This time, I pulled my clothes back on and ran screaming back to my apartment, which was just a block or so
This time there was no disputing whether I was assaulted. But I found several excuses to not report it -- which created good reason to feel guilty. I knew that reporting the incident might help the police to catch my attacker, whom I had gotten a pretty good look at. For days later, I would see men who remotely looked like him, feel as though they were looking at me, and shudder. I made the excuse that if my parents had known about the attack, they would pull me out of school. I have no idea whether this would have happened because I never uttered a word to police, much less my family. I also made the excuse there was no physical evidence because of the nature of the assault.
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