The Situation and Circumstances
I was traveling alone in France. One afternoon, a street hawker began following me, saying lewd things, and finally put an arm around me and began to grope me. I pushed him away and hurried on, very shaken. Maybe an hour later, it had started to rain, and I stopped under an arch. A man asked me the time, and when I answered he could tell I was a foreigner. He was very charming, asked to buy me a coffee. I was happy to have the company of someone nice. But coffee became flirting, flirting became kissing. I tried to leave, but he followed me, and refused to leave me alone. In the end, this "nice man" tried to rape me.
The Aftermath and Post-Rape Trauma
I was very inexpereinced with men. For the first few minutes in the cafe, I was captivated by the charm of this man, and also sort of amazed at my "luck"--here I was in France, with a Frenchman trying to seduce me. But at some point his flirting turned ugly. He began telling me what he wanted to do to me in bed. I was shocked. I wasn't thinking of that at all. So I told him I had to go. From the time I left the cafe with him following, the man told me it was my fault that he was so worked up, that he couldn't help himself. I was looking for a phone box to call a friend. I had to push him off over and over again, and repeatedly said no. When I found the phone box, he pushed into the box with me, and his hands were everywhere. I was numb at this point, trying to think how this had gotten so beyond my control. I remember thinking to myself, "Just let this be over soon." In the end, I was saved by the fact that it was unseasonably cold, and I had on more layers than he had patience for. In the end, he pulled out his penis and rubbed and grinded until he came all over my skirt. He apologized for the mess, but continued to tell me it was my fault for getting him worked up and then not cooperating with him by going someplace else. He tried to clean up my skirt and shoes a bit, but even as he did so moved his hands under my skirt and tried to continue. I don't remember how I got from there to the cab stand, but I did. He decided to come too. I think he saw himself as a "gentleman" seeing a lady home after an evening out. He kept touching my hair and face, especially a cut he had caused on my lip. He was really gentle. But as soon as the cab stopped I bolted out and away. To this day, I wonder if the man ever saw what he did was wrong.
I was angry for a long time. There are still parts I replay in my head, wondering, "When did it all go wrong?" I felt dirty and used. And certain touches, sensations, images, even a cerain song woud send my mind back to the scene. Even today, ten years later, it still surfaces in strange ways.
I saw a counselor for a year, but more therapeutic for me was 1) studying martial arts and through that regaining a sense of dignity and assertiveness and 2) sharing parts of my story with significant people in my life. I remember the first time I told a guy friend. His anger on my behalf was so healing for me, because I could see finally that I didn't deserve what that man did to me.
- Talk about it--not with everyone indiscriminately, but with someone you trust. People are people; they won't always respond perfectly, but sharing with someone who loves you means you don't have to fight back the shame, fear, and anger on your own. You'll have allies.
- I didn't report the assault to the authorities, because I figured they would call my behavior into question, and I was already ashamed of having been as weak as I was. But in the years since then, I have regretted that. If the man didn't think his actions were wrong, he has probably gone on to do the same to others. I wish I'd taken steps to stop him.