*This was begun the week of the Brock Turner rape trial, but I just finished it tonight.
I’ve been trying to write this piece for months, but I just couldn’t figure out how to say what I wanted to say, the way I wanted to say it. I was afraid that my experience was a thing of the past, and that to address it as if it were still a problem would make me seem petty and unforgiving. Then a girl was raped behind a dumpster like she was garbage, and those in the position to hold her rapist accountable are more concerned about preserving his future than trying to salvage the future he ripped from her. The argument is basically this:
What’s done is done, right? How do more shattered lives do anyone any favors? We can’t take away what happened to this young woman, but we can stop short of ruining another promising young person’s life.
Are you fucking kidding me?
I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW TIRED I AM OF THIS ATTITUDE. EVERY MAN WHO HAS EVER TAKEN A PIECE OF ME HAS USED THIS BULLSHIT RHETORIC IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER TO AVOID TAKING RESPONSIBILITY.
This was originally supposed to be a letter aimed at men. It was not accusatory, because the truth is, with a couple of exceptions, I never considered anything that happened to me in college to be assault. The things that happened to me were results of errors in judgment brought about by excessive alcohol intake. And in 1993, we weren’t having the conversations about consent that we’re having now. We didn’t draw lines like the ones being drawn today…no one ever said,
You know, if she can’t walk, you probably shouldn’t fuck her.
We didn’t use the term “rape culture” then, but I know now that is exactly what it was.
I remember discussing date rape. I do remember that. But if you were hammered, and you woke up with a strange dick inside of you, well, that was just the price you paid. You put yourself back together, and braved the walk of shame, and you put it out of your mind. I mean, it’s not like he wasn’t hammered, too. He wasn’t expected to make good decisions hammered, was he? And so I had a lot of therapy, and I did a lot of forgiving, and all I wanted to say to them was,
If you have a son, teach them to be better than we were. And if you have a daughter, teach her to expect better than we did.
But that just seems so woefully inadequate after what happened behind that dumpster. Because I read the rapist’s self-serving, unrepentant letter. And I read the letter his father wrote to the court. And I’ve read the judge’s ruling. And to be honest, nothing any of those men said surprised me in the least.
But then, I saw this. And I realized the friend in question was a woman. And I realized it wasn’t the men I wanted to talk to, after all. It was my sisters.
Because I fucked up, in a big, big way and I was so steeped in alcohol and weed back then that it took me reading a letter from a rapist’s female friend — A letter justifying rape — for me to remember something I’d left behind lock and key all those years ago.
I need to make some amends, and this is the only way I can think to do that. So, here goes:
I betrayed you and then I forgot about what I’d done. It was very convenient. I’m writing this letter as a way of being accountable for my actions.
In 1993, I was a sophomore in college. My friends and I hung with the basketball team; some girls in my little group hung , if you know what I mean (wink, wink), but my roommate, MJ and I were just their friends. I had a serious boyfriend at the time, and MJ was saving herself for JFK Jr.
Being off limits has its perks. MJ and I were treated with what we thought to be respect by those guys ( her even more so than me), and I guess we just took that for granted. We’d hear them talk, sometimes, about running a train on some drunk girl from another dorm, or about double-teaming some freshman. And MJ would give them hell, because she was the only person I knew who could shame them into a little remorse for their actions. But it was lip service on her part. She adored those guys, and I don’t think it ever really occurred to us how messed up the stuff they were doing was. We were nineteen years old that winter. So young and so naive.
We had an exchange student from New Zealand that year, and he was a Hottie McHotterton for sure. His name was Kayne (not to be confused with KANYE). He became good friends with another player, Chris. They liked to party together. One night they stopped by our room really late and really drunk. They were talking about screwing some girl on another floor and I don’t remember much of what they said, but the next day, the police came and took them away.
The girl had filed charges against them. Rape.
And here’s why I’m sorry.
I immediately hated that girl. MJ and I wrote character statements for the guys’ attorneys to use at trial. I did exactly what the girl who tried to justify the dumpster rapist’s actions did.
We talked openly about what a whore that girl was, and how she was just trying to get them in trouble because neither of them wanted to be her boyfriend and she felt stupid for letting them have sex with her that night.
We visited them in jail. For over a year. Eventually, enough other victims came forward to convince us that these young men, who we felt had never been anything but gentlemen in our presence, were rapists. I know now that there was nothing gentlemanly about their behavior towards anyone, but I didn’t see it then.
Anyway, here’s the thing:
We knew what they did to women. We heard it all the time. Somehow, though, we managed to pretend it wasn’t happening.
And until I read the letter Brock Turner’s female friend wrote to the court a while back, I’d managed to forget the rest of it, too. And I owe that girl an apology.
But I don’t remember her name.
And I’m so ashamed.
And I’m so sorry.