Before It Was Date Rape

I grew up in a university town and was dating and partying with college boys while I was still in high school. These boys had gone to high school with me and my friends and several knew our older brothers and sisters. It felt safe. We knew their parents. It was small town familiar, yet at the same time held the thrill of opening some forbidden doors. The doors of frat parties. If you were a senior dating an SAE, well, status didn’t get much better.

But some girls, and maybe me, did not realize that there was a wide chasm between a high school, kegger in the desert and a frat party with no boundaries.

I do remember my last years in high school, but somehow this particular memory escaped my mental scrapbook until recently. It could have been because I thought I did something wrong or because it was just too embarrassing to remember it so I shoved it away in my unwanted memories file.

But this is what happened and this is the third time I have told this story.

My best friend Penelope and I were at a college party at a house which one of the boys rented near ASU. Our parents were not in on this plan–we never would have been given permission from them. A good number of the boys there we knew. Some we did not. We spent the night watching Saturday Night Live reruns, smoking weed, and drinking. I remember there were snacks being passed around, and for a joke, one of the guys, Skipper (how much of a threat could a boy named Skipper be?), passed around a bowl of dog kibble to gauge exactly how loaded this group was. Fortunately, I knew what he was up to and passed on the snack. Not everyone did. Oh, bark.

As the night ended, a few of us paired up and ended up in bedrooms. Penelope was with a boy she was dating. The bedrooms were side-by-side. I went into a bedroom with a boy I knew believing it was going to be a make out session.

Mark–he deserves at the very least to have his first name used–had a different idea. Within half an hour, I was trying to push a very drunk Mark off of me and telling him things like don’t, get off of me, and stop it. He was so much stronger than I was and determined as hell. Fortunately, the walls were thin and the door flew open. Penelope’s boyfriend had stormed in after hearing me, yanked him off of me, and told him to go home.

Penelope and I kept this to ourselves for two reasons. One, we thought our parents would kill us for lying about where we were and going to a college party. And then there was this. Mark was the son of a very prominent Phoenix businessman who owned a string of restaurants. His last name was recognizable to nearly anyone. Who would believe me?

Our circle of friends was very small at the time. I gave the story a little test by throwing his name out to a completely different set of friends who also knew him. Friends from where I went to school at St. Theresa. Who could doubt their judgement? It was a fail. As soon as I dropped his name, a few people went on and on about what a great guy he was. He was engaged! No! I wanted to tell them. He’s a predator! But I didn’t. I was complicit in this secrecy because I blamed myself for putting myself at risk. I did not realize at that time that no meant no.

Life went on. I moved away and never thought much about it for years, except for the rare times Penelope and I would bring up those wild party years and roll our eyes at the absurd idea that Mark was a decent person. Sometimes we speculated that “the incident” was just a drunken mistake on Mark’s part. But what if it wasn’t? Rinse and repeat. Drink and attack. Life continued.

So what is the point of this story?

I did not tell anyone what happened to me because I was afraid no one would believe me. His family was Phoenix society. I did not know that what he did was wrong and that there were consequences. Although, in reflection, I wonder if there really were back then. Thirty odd years later–not much has changed.

According to a CDC report, 1 in 5 women will be raped in their lifetime. This report comes out as the debate over preventing, addressing and prosecuting rape and other incidences of sexual violence is in the spotlight on college campuses. Many point to a rape culture bringing on a mindset that encourages sexual violence.

A number of universities have come under fire for their handling of sexual assault cases. Some tend to handle complaints through their own internal processes. I say these complaints should immediately be reported to local law enforcement. Because of this internal reporting process, who can even gauge the number of assaults that have gone unreported because of this reporting system tipped in favor of the perpetrator?

Thanks to the bravado of one certain Stanford University rape victim, and the public outrage over the ridiculous and insultingly short sentence her attacker received for his crime–it might make a dent in the prevailing campus rape culture and encourage more assault victims to come forward.

Perhaps I would have, perhaps I should have, told someone.

 
Photo Credit: Nadja Tatar via Compfight cc








Dori Owen

Dori Owen is a storyteller, writing from small town Arizona, after living a few decades in California as an LA Wild Child, with a brief stop in Reno. She settled into grownup life as a project manager, collecting an MBA and a few husbands along the way. She is a shown artist and her favorite pastime is upcycling old furniture and decor she finds from thrift stores. She lives with her rescued terrier, Olivia Twist, and the cat who came to visit but stayed. The love of her life is her grown son who lives in Portland, Oregon. Her essays and poems have been published in RAW&UNFILTERED VOL I, StigmaFighters Vol 2, and Love Notes From Humanity. Her blogs have been featured on The Lithium Chronicles, Open Thought Vortex, Sudden Denouement, and The Mighty.

15 thoughts on “Before It Was Date Rape

  1. doriowendoriowen Reply

    Awwww, thank you my friend for reading this and taking the time to comment. I’ve been embarrassed and guilty for years about it until I thought–wait. I’m the victim here! On a lighter note, I’m really looking forward to teaming up with you on some political columns once the conventions are over! Thank you again……D.

  2. Alexander Becker Reply

    I love Feminin Collective … it gives many a chance to talk about something, that society yet does not want to talk about, nor aknowledge it to its full circle … the more humans are brave to talk about it … the more can come forward, feeling accepted … so keep on going, to open it`s possibility of “sharing, therefore caring” !!!!

    1. doriowendoriowen Reply

      I love Feminine Collective, too, for this very reason. I can’t imagine telling this story anywhere else. Anyplace where I’d feel safe enough not to be judged, and to be surrounded by people like you with such nice words of encouragement! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment….D.

  3. Kitt O'MalleyKitt O'Malley Reply

    Not only perhaps I should have reported my two experiences, but perhaps I should have left the room rather than feel trapped. Perhaps I should’ve called a taxi even though I didn’t have money. Date rape is horrible. The victim feels complicit.

    1. doriowendoriowen Reply

      Kitt, this is SO true! And I did feel trapped. Not to mention that no one talked about date rape, much less educated you on how to handle yourself in these situations. To tell this story 30 years later is strange, but if I could go back in time and tell the younger me advice….there would be quite a bit on this situation! Thank you for always reading what I write…I do appreciate you so much! xoD.

  4. Rachel ThompsonRachel Thompson Reply

    Brava, my friend! I’m so proud of you for sharing this difficult, scary story. You did nothing wrong, and no always, always means no, regardless of the circumstances. Sending you love.

    1. doriowendoriowen Reply

      Well, I wrote what scared me! I really did blame myself and believed I did something wrong for a long time. I sent the story to my childhood friend, Penelope, who I’m still very close to. She remembered the night very well and the horror we both felt trying to get out of there afterwards. I had never heard of date rape….but I did know enough that what he was doing was wrong and I didn’t like it. I suppose I’m fortunate that it didn’t end up worse. But to this day, the thing that angers me the most is how everyone thought he was such a WONDERFUL guy. I’d love to paint a billboard and write, no, actually, he’s not! Thank you for the righteous courage! xoxo D.

  5. Stephanie Ortez Reply

    You’re my hero Dori. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for you to write something like this, but still, your testimony is going to help many women who are victims of rape. I love you mom

    1. doriowendoriowen Reply

      I still can’t believe I said it out loud! I gave Penelope a link to the story and she said just reading it brought back all the bad memories of that night. Now that I’m back in Phoenix I want to rent a billboard and say Mark G. Is an asshole! How can I ever thank you for believing in me and that what I write is worthy of reading? I love you so much, my friend……D.

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