I struggled to lug my books, my outfit for the day, and a poster for a history project. My car, parked in a space by the science building, stood lonely in the lot. Most of the other members of the dance team entered the school in the predawn hours from another part of the school, but I always used this isolated slot since it made leaving at the end of the day faster because my final class of the day was biology.
I didn’t see or hear him.
In seconds, he covered my mouth and began to pull me down while his hands pulled at my pants. My books and clothes flew into the air. Instinct kicked in, and my elbow connected with his stomach; my fist swung down into his groin. I heard him grunt as he shoved me away. My knees hit the cement, the impact causing me to gasp as pain shot through me. His footsteps pounded as he raced away. I kneeled in place, my hands against the cool concrete, tears splattering the gray surface. Cautiously, I eased back and scooted crablike against the wall. I closed my eyes, not wanting to see anything, waiting for my pulse to return to normal.
Somehow, I collected my belongings, organizing them fanatically into a neat pile. I pulled out tissue from my purse and dried my tears. Once I could breathe again, I made my way into a nearby bathroom where I washed my face and smarting hands.
I told no one of the attack. In my confusion, I felt that I’d get blamed because I elected to park in an isolated place, different from the other girls.
I wasn’t raped, but I felt shame.
I wasn’t physically hurt beyond bruised knees, but I felt damaged.
In a matter of moments, I knew what it meant to be a victim of violence.
And so my tolerance these days with men spewing mindlessly about women, rape, and choice brings to surface an experience I’ve neatly tucked deeply away. For four years, I kept my experience private. I confided in no one, not even my parents. I carried with me the haunting possibility of what could have happened that early morning. A different reaction on my part, a little more determination on my attacker’s part, and everything would have changed.
My personal experience left me knowing that choices must always exist for women. Period. No discussion. No debate.
Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman