by Elisa Strange
My husband has been asking me for a month now to write a guest spot for his blog and up until now, I had nothing really pressing to say or anything beyond the mundane happenings of my life (Laundry! Scrubbing toilets! Netflix binges!) to write about.
In light of the Brock Turner incident, however, I (and it appears everyone else out in Internet land) have many opinions and assertions about this case and the lack of justice obtained by the poor victim and her family. If you have not read the victim’s impact statement, I strongly suggest that you do so (warning: graphic language/depiction of her harrowing account) You can find that statement here.
Before I write about my own experience with a near-rape situation, I must insist a couple of things:
- I am not a professional writer or blogger. I am not always the best at getting the full breadth of my feelings, thoughts and opinions out of my head and onto a monitor, so if I appear at any time unsympathetic to rape or rape victims, please excuse me. I 100% SUPPORT THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN VICTIMIZED MENTALLY, PHYSICALLY, EMOTIONALLY OR SEXUALLY IN A RELATIONSHIP. Period.
- Please, please, PLEASE do not think that I am by any means comparing my own experience with that of the Brock Turner victim, or any other man/woman who has experienced a rape. My situation is not one that keeps me up at night, keeps me from eating or enjoying life to the very fullest. It isn’t something I think about frequently or even harbor ill feelings toward the guy who made a very dumb decision one night a very long time ago. In fact, we were able to remain acquaintances and classmates (the boundaries sure became a lot different afterwards though).
So I grew up in a small town in the ’90’s where it was still assumed that you could leave your doors unlocked at night because ‘stuff like this doesn’t happen it our town”. I have inherited a sense of a love for the macabre and murder/crime stores always fascinated me. People always muse the kinds of questions they will ask God upon gong to Heaven and all I basically wanna know is, ‘Who was Jack the Ripper?!!!?‘. I’ll be a little disappointed if I never know..ha. I grew up glued to the television on Friday nights watching this creepy guy:
I’m kind of a weird person so sometimes I would imagine myself in a scenario where I was being attacked or raped and of course I always imagined myself scratching (!), kicking (!) and punching (!) the evil, burly, creepy man with everything that I had and of course defeating him and throwing him in prison myself. All of these factors combined made me: a. being naive to the reality of being raped/attacked and b. not having an adequate ‘radar’ for potential threats (meaning that I assumed that only child molesters were capable of rape).
So, fast forward to 2005 and I am completing my junior year of college. I am in a wonderful relationship with the man that I would eventually marry and I am happy but busy. I had a 19-credit hour workload and worked 25 hours at Wal-Mart. I never partied. I never even let loose and had fun because I was so focused on achieving a perfect 4.0. Since my major was health studies, I had most of my classes with the Eastern Illinois University athletes in the Lantz building (which holds the campus gymnasium). I had every.single.class with C.J. He was a wrestler on scholarship but I believe that he was hurt at the time we met because he wore a back brace so I can’t be certain he was wrestling at the time that we met. But I know he was on the team. C.J. was definitely not a guy I was interested in as more than a friend, mainly because I had a boyfriend and also because I am not typically attracted to athletes. We did have a lot in common: He was an outspoken Christian, was kind to everyone in our classes and was just an overall amiable and charismatic person. He was also one that did not attend parties and was focused on his GPA.
One night in October of 2005, we agreed to meet up at the library on campus to work on a project that was due the next week. Yes, we were those people who worked on projects on Friday nights..or at least I was. I got a text from him about a half an hour before we were to meet up asking if he could just bring his stuff over to my apartment and work on it. I didn’t think anything about that. Zach has always given me the freedom to hang out with whomever I want, including the opposite sex, so that wasn’t a big deal. So C.J. comes over, rings the doorbell and when I go to meet him…he is holding takeout and the movie, A Walk to Remember. I love that movie. That was kind of a red flag for me…but it was a Friday night, so whatever. I knew that C.J. was still a virgin because he had given a class-wide presentation on abstinence and how he was saving himself until marriage so he couldn’t possibly have ill intentions, right? So I don’t remember a lot about the night other than I feel like he maybe tried to play wrestle me once and I kept moving away from him. I don’t like to be tickled or touched by anyone other than my husband and family so that weirded me out–ha. So it’s starting to get late (midnight?) and I was like, ‘Well…I’m going to bed…so…’ hoping he would get the hint and leave. He did get up to go and I even showed him out of the door and we agreed to work again on Monday on the project. I go into the bathroom of my small apartment and get ready for bed…teeth brushed, face washed…and go into my bedroom to change and when I go to turn on the light on my nightstand…C.J. is there. He says nothing and with the light still off, pulls me onto the bed and lays on top of me. When I say ‘lays on top of me’ I mean exactly that. His full body weight…I would guess 225 pounds (?) is pressing itself onto my 135 pound frame. I will never forget that trapped and suffocated feeling. The whole time he is saying nothing, doing nothing except for panting. Hot and short breaths really hard into my ear.
This is the part I need any girl/guy to pay attention to: Those thoughts I use to have about being the heroine of my attackee story? They all go out the window when you realize the limitations of your strength compared to those of your dominator. My single thought was, ‘Don’t move. Let him do what he wants and then run like hell to Zach’s house”.
I have no idea how long he was on top of me, in the dark, panting. Was it 5 minutes? 15? A half an hour? I have no idea. In reality, probably just a few minutes…but at that point, ‘reality’ was skewed and intangible. Was he mulling the idea over of taking this further? I assume so but I am glad that he made the decision to stop.
See, Brock Turners of the world, there is always an out. Even if a girl initially SEEMS like she is into you, but eventually blacks out or even subtly pushes you away, you STOP what you are doing to her sexually.
Without a word, he got up and left. I laid there for a long time and wondered what on Earth had just happened. Again, NOTHING has happened as far as a court and a juror of my peers would be concerned. But something had happened to me and the feeling it left me is one that I won’t forget. How quickly something like that can happen. How a nice, clean-cut, wrestler on scholarship, ABSTINENT guy could overpower someone like that.
I did go to Zach’s house. At 2 am. Sobbing. He of course, is pissed and wants me to go to the police. I didn’t because, “He didn’t do anything!” & “I have classes with him..it’s so embarassing!”. Honestly, 12 years ago this wasn’t something that would be considered a big deal but I appreciate that now more is being done to make things like this a big deal. Women and men who have been victimized are speaking out and I applaud them. Do people get falsely accused of rape? Yes, that happens and makes me so sad. I don’t have the answers for how to solve that problem although I wish I did.
Zach confronted C.J. the next week and he didn’t have much to say other than, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you guys were serious”. What a douche bag answer. I wish I had gone to my super supportive advisor and health care studies professors because they were/are awesome and compassionate people. I had to be around C.J. all the time for the next year and that sucked but I never again let him come over and never again worked on projects with him.
Anyway..this is nothing as serious or impactful as what Brock Turner’s victim wrote. But since I listen to a lot of sermons and know that at the end of a lesson are points of application, here are a few:
- Rapists, or potential rapists, don’t always look creepy, get drunk, are black, are men, are athletes, etc etc. They come in all packages; intentions are the same.
- We need to teach our sons and our daughters about being decent human beings and pounding the Golden Rule into them..and probably applying it to our own lives, as well. Modeling it, I suppose.
- We need to stop making excuses for our kids. If a teacher tells you that your kid is acting like a jerk at school, BELIEVE IT. Caleb Strange (my son) is sweet and precious but you better believe that boy gets a spanking when he treats other people like crap.
- Let’s not be scared of the world, but prepared. I love the organization started by a fellow EIU alum Girls Fight Back. You can get more info about this organization here.
I must admit too, that since I can be a Judgey Jane, that I too once thought that there were several factors that contributed to a rape (drinking, going to frat parties, dressing provocatively, being out too late, walking alone in the dark, etc) so I apologize for ever thinking that anything other than someone being a rapist contributed to the act of rape. I really appreciate this handy dandy pie chart since I am a visual person.
So no need to say, ‘I’m sorry that happened to you’ because again, it’s nothing I think about apart from times like this when it is strewn all about my facebook feed. I appreciate the discussion surrounding this topic and want to hear more from you all! Comment below or share on facebook and twitter and let’s discuss.
Have a nice day 😀