A fitness trainer talks about memories, intimacy, and a trip to Mexico.
“Most of my friends were guys, even when I was 4 and 5. They could ride bikes way faster than girls, and I rode fast.”
From the time she started dating, Jamie never lacked a boyfriend. She is caring, pretty, athletic, and strong; a guy’s girl, good at everything, up for anything. When she dated a tennis player, they played tennis all the time; when she dated a musician, she hung out while he played in his band. Another guy drove a green Jeep; she laughs–
“That was really all that needed to happen.” Her voice is dry. “I’ve looked for him on Facebook several times, to see if there’s any pictures of that great green Jeep.”
She calls herself back then a flirt, but she was really after companionship and closeness. Her style wasn’t catch-and-release.
“I was a ‘catch-and-we’re going to get married and have four kids.’ When that didn’t happen, it was hard. All the time. Something about me always wanted to have somebody with me.”
Though she was a Christian, committed to the Bible and youth group and sexual purity, many of her boyfriends weren’t, or weren’t very.
“I think I thought I could change them. ‘I could make you see.’ I like to fix people, to show them the better way.”
Maybe unsurprisingly, the physical restraint in these relationships was all up to her. And there was a strange inability to say no, even if she didn’t feel right about it.
“Nobody ever really broke up with me. I would get guilty and say, ‘This isn’t okay. I shouldn’t be doing this, unless you want to become a Christian. And we need to stop fooling around.’ They didn’t ever want to.”
The word itself originates from the Latin verb rapere: to seize or take by force. The word originally had no sexual connotation, and is still used generically in English.
Jamie spent her first year of Christian college as the athletic trainer for the men’s basketball team. She traveled with them to away games and stayed courtside, taping ankles and correcting bent fingers. She got really close with all the basketball guys; it didn’t stop them from consistently making comments about how she looked.
How she looks is worthy of comment. Picture Scarlett Johanssen’s body with Jennifer Garner’s muscle tone, glossy auburn hair and freckles, and you get fairly close. It’s not a subject Jamie is super comfortable receiving compliments on–perhaps because for most of her young adult life, compliments came in the form of lewd comments. The fact that these came from members of a Christian college basketball team might be surprising, until it’s acknowledged that a good number of these players were “missionary” recruits. The idea was that the school recruited ballers with a nominal relationship to Jesus, and nurtured this relationship while winning games.
There were at least a couple of guys on the team who routinely defended her honor. Jamie’s own reaction to the comments was ambivalent.
“Part of me was like ‘Stop, I don’t want you to talk to me like that.’ And part of me was like ‘Talk some more.'”
Rape by strangers is usually less common than rape by persons the victim knows.
One of the team’s star players was a guy called [Morgan.] Besides being ridiculously tall, he was funny, he was smooth–everybody liked him. Before the season was fully underway, the cracks he made about Jamie’s body were tinged with the pride of ownership.
“I don’t think I liked him. I was just into the concept. He was the first black guy I ever dated–there was something intriguing about that for me, I guess. It was honestly more like a bad boy relationship. People even asked me, ‘What are you doing?'”
In true good-girl fashion, she’d respond that he was nice, really nice, people just needed to get to know him.
He lived with a few other guys from the team in a house where there were always people, hanging out, partying on a low-key level. One night, during a party, they went upstairs together. Jamie doesn’t remember what the pretext was, or if there even was one at all. She does remember having reservations, more on moral grounds than any intuition of actual warning.
As in her past relationships, Jamie had taken responsibility for all physical boundaries. The idea of restraint, she says, was always more important than the actual practice.
“It was like play, play, but just be careful…”
Consent need not be expressed, and may be implied from the context and from the relationship of the parties, but the absence of objection does not of itself constitute consent.
“I just remember being on the floor, and I remember he was on top of me, and trying to take my pants all the way off. Because if you kept it on a little bit, it was okay, right? He got them to the knees, and then I just remember telling him–because he would try to work his way in, and pretend like he wasn’t actually trying to get in me–just pretend ‘Oh, I’m fine, we’re not doing anything, we’re just exploring.’
“I told him ‘You need to get up,’ and he was like ‘No, no, it’ll be fine, it’ll be fine.’
“And I said ‘No, we’re not doing this.’ And he was like ‘No. It’ll be fine.’
“So I looked at him in his eyes and I’m like ‘Get off me.’ And he was like ‘No.’
She remembers feeling a stubborn certainty that because she had said no, nothing could happen. With that certainty came paralysis.
“You try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes–‘If this was happening to me, I would get away! I would kick him in the nuts!’ When it was somebody that I trusted and that I cared for, somebody that I thought cared for me, it just froze me.
“I had tears streaming down my face, and I was telling him ‘Can’t you see me? Do you not see me?'”
Consent can always be withdrawn at any time, so that any further sexual activity after the withdrawal of consent constitutes rape.
Afterward, he tried to console her, to tell her that it had been amazing, that it was a fulfillment of what they both had wanted. Even with tears rolling down her face, Jamie felt strangely stoic. With her clothes bunched around her knees, she hobbled into the bathroom, turned on the fan, and sobbed for what seemed like hours.
“Physically, he hurt me a lot. He’s 6’9″ with a size 15 shoe, and the bigger the shoe the bigger the…” She pauses. “…is really true. So that can mess you up, to say the least. I was terrified.”
When at last she came out from the bathroom, he was waiting for her beside his bedroom door. He tried to hug her; she pushed past him and beelined for the stairs.
“One of his roommates, [Sam]–he’s an amazing guy–looked at me and could tell that something was wrong. We just made eye contact. So I left.”
The loss of chastity was perceived as severely depreciating her value to a prospective husband. In such cases, the law would void the betrothal and demand financial compensation from the rapist, payable to the woman’s household, whose “goods” were “damaged.” Under biblical law, the rapist might be compelled to marry the unmarried woman instead of receiving the civil penalty if her father agreed.
For a week afterward, Jamie didn’t say anything to anyone. She avoided seeing Morgan–no mean feat, since the school was small and he lived only a few blocks away from it. When she thought about it, she felt pissed off, mostly at herself.
“How could that have happened? I must have done something. In my mind, I had just given myself to somebody, I had” –she drawls like Blanche DuBois–“ruined ma-self. I’m thinking, I’ve just given myself to this guy, and ultimately I only want to do that with my husband. So I need to work this out, because maybe I need to stay with this person now.”
At length, she went back to him with the idea of making him apologize…or something.
“I didn’t use the R-word. I remember talking like ‘You hurt me, that’s not all right, I’m not okay with what happened.’ He was like ‘I’m so sorry, give me another chance, I’ll make it better, I’ll respect you more next time.’ He was a super sweet-talker. Maybe he even did throw out an ‘I love you’ or something.”
After another week or two, he invited her out on their first date since the incident. He was extra sweet, Jamie says, and if he wasn’t noticeably more restrained with his physical affection, what he said and how he acted toward her seemed like things were back where they ought to be.
She wanted to give him another chance. She wanted to believe that he was sorry, that he would make things right, that she could trust him. Before long, she was going back to the house to hang out with the guys.
He asked her one night if they could talk in private.
“I don’t know if you can imagine…I guess I was sweet-talked pretty easily. He was kind of a smooth guy–I don’t know how else to describe it.”
As they went up to the room, she felt a sort of calm contentment:
“He’s really great, I feel safe again, he’s said all the right things for the last month, we’re going to be fine.”
The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent.
“Can you totally picture things? I’m so visual. Here’s the bed, here’s the door, you walk in like this, his bed’s up against the wall, and he had a little dresser right here on the side, and he had a mirror right here.”
Saying this, Jamie makes a strange sound, a little bit like a laugh.
They sat on the edge of the bed, kissing, as if reunited after a long separation. This is where Jamie’s memory blanks out. She remembers sitting, facing him, making out; then there is a blank, and her next memory is facing the mirror, with his hand over her mouth and his mouth in her ear.
“You know those dreams, where you try to scream and you can’t? That’s what it was, that feeling of trying to scream, ‘Sam, why aren’t you hearing me? Am I making noise? Oh, the stereo’s playing so loud.'”
Lack of consent may result from either forcible compulsion by the perpetrator or an incapacity to consent on the part of the victim (such as persons who are asleep, intoxicated or otherwise mentally helpless).
As she was running from the room, she looked back and saw two things that imprinted her memory. One sight was a trail of blood she had left on the bed. The other was the mirror–she realized that the entire time, he might well have been watching himself rape her.
Sam followed her out the door of the house.
“I told him ‘I am never coming to this house again. I don’t want to talk to you right now, but that person upstairs just raped me.’ He was like ‘What the hell!?’ And I drove away.”
The concept of raptus was applied to the abduction of a woman against the will of the man under whose authority she lived.
Jamie told her roommate about it, when she got home–at that point, it would have been impossible to hide–and not only about this night, but about the first time. Her roommate suggested that the first time might be considered rape, as well; it was the first time Jamie had thought of it.
“So then it was like, what do we do? Do I tell the coach? Sam wanted me to explain it all to him. He’s like ‘Are you sure? That’s pretty big, what you’re saying. Maybe I can help you think about this.'”
Sam went and talked to Morgan, and came back to Jamie saying that Morgan had denied any using any kind of force.
“So I told Sam, ‘Ask him to show you his bed.’ He believed me immediately.”
Sam’s next step was to help Jamie confront Morgan face-to-face; her roommate came along as collateral support. She told him that if he didn’t admit to it, she would tell his coach about it herself.
“And he was like, ‘He’s not going to believe you.'”
At the time, Jamie was sure the coach would support her.
“But the way this particular coach was…” She pauses. “I think he would have hushed it. He was a great, great guy, but he really cared about his team. And Morgan was really good.”
A number of gender role stereotypes can play a role in rationalization of rape. In the case of male-on-female rape, these include the idea that power is reserved to men whereas women are meant for sex and objectified, that women want to be pushed around,and that male sexual impulses and behaviors are uncontrollable and must be satisfied.
Within days, while waiting outside the gym, Jamie saw Morgan approaching the gym with another girl, one she had not seen before, one who didn’t go to their school.
“I was feeling a little bit confrontational, let’s just say. I was like ‘Who the hell is this?’ And he was like ‘This is my girlfriend, Jennifer.’
“I looked right in her eyes and said, ‘Just so you know, that”–she points–“raped me about three weeks ago. I would run if I was you.’
“He just smooth-talked his way out of it to her, right there. I remember telling her, ‘Don’t listen. That guy is crazy. Run, if you can.'”
The resulting scandal, and the news about Morgan’s relationship, circulated quickly. Nearly the whole team knew about it, and the cracks about Jamie’s body stopped. She wouldn’t treat Morgan’s injuries, either. Hearsay told her that Morgan and the girlfriend went through a rocky time after that–they had been “together” the whole time Morgan and Jamie were involved, though the only one who knew of the other girlfriend’s existence was Morgan’s brother.
Still, there was no official reporting of the incident. Before Jamie and Sam had decided what to do, holiday break had come.
When Jamie told her mother about the rape, her mother took it as an exaggeration, a way to cleanse her guilty conscience about something she was complicit in.
In 2007, 40% of the 90,427 forcible rapes reported were cleared by arrest or “exceptional means.” Exceptional means refers to situations where the victim refuses to provide information or assistance necessary to obtain an arrest.
When they returned to school, Sam asked her if she’d decided what to do, and she said she wouldn’t be telling anyone. If her mother didn’t believe her, who else was likely to? Though the whole team knew about what had happened, it never got around to the coach. Jamie doubts now whether it would have had the result she wanted, anyway.
She wanted him kicked off the team. She wanted him kicked out of the school. She wanted restitution. But knowing her mother didn’t believe her convinced her that no one else would believe her, either.
For the duration of the year, Sam guaranteed himself as her personal guardian angel. That he’d be on call anytime, and he would hover whenever she had to be around the basketball team.
Individuals may endorse rape myths and at the same time recognize the negative effects of rape.
Within about three months of the rape, Jamie noticed that her mental processing of the event was accompanied by a strange sense of familiarity…especially the unshakeable feelings of guilt about the first occasion.
Once she acknowledged those feelings, memories began to appear of the next-door neighbors from her childhood home.
Several months later, Jamie asked her mother “Why didn’t you believe me when I told you about this?”
Her mother said it wasn’t that she truly didn’t believe; she just didn’t want to believe that it had happened.
Then Jamie asked her,
“Did this happen to me also when I was a child? This doesn’t feel like the first time I’ve felt this guilt, like it’s my fault that I let something like this happen to me.”
Her mother, Jamie says, lost it.
“You know–‘Why are you all of a sudden bringing this up? How are you remembering this?'”
After being raped, it is common for the victim to experience acute stress disorder, including symptoms similar to those of post-traumatic stress disorder, such as intense, sometimes unpredictable emotions, and they may find it hard to deal with their memories of the event.
Then the rest of the memories began to show up:
- The crawlspace under the neighbor’s stairs, where the kids used to play.
- The neighbor’s dad standing in front of her.
- The injunction that if she told anyone, he would let them know it was her fault.
- The sight of her dad storming from their house, pulling the neighbor out of his car (where he had just got home from work) and beating the living shit out of the guy.
In ancient history, rape was viewed less as a type of assault on the female, than a serious property crime against the man to whom she belonged, typically the father or husband. In the 12th century, kinsmen of the victim were given the option of executing the punishment themselves.
Jamie’s mother didn’t fill her in on the details, and Jamie didn’t feel like she wanted them. After having her memories simply confirmed, Jamie says,
“I felt like I needed therapy.”
Jamie transferred in her third year to UC Davis, where she found herself talking to a Campus Crusade counselor about her confusion–why did she still feel guilty about it, why couldn’t she hold back from dating anyone, why couldn’t she guard herself?
The counselor told her that after a rape, women usually veered toward prudery or toward promiscuity. He suggested that since she was 5, she was instinctively on a search for an experience of intimacy to correct the understanding that had been forced on her. For Jamie, this idea explained her entire dating life–why she had never been able to be alone, why she consistently “missionary-dated,” why she found herself getting physically intimate even when she didn’t feel like she wanted to. She now understands it as an instinctive way to redress “that place, that soul feeling–‘Don’t you see me?'”
The lingering element of the experience, Jamie says, is the feeling of not being protected or cared for–that if she’s going to be protected, she has to do it for herself.
She talks about her parents not being spiritually wise enough to do more than caution her to be careful. She does this rather than lay blame with them–they weren’t morally or spiritually mature enough, she was the spiritual leader in her home, to a large extent, even in things like going to church. In a sense, the only way she can forgive them is by absolving them of responsibility, and she has to take that responsibility on herself.
She also looks back on her dating history with a mixture of feelings. She somewhat regrets the impression she might have left of Christianity with the boys she went “too far” with.
And sometimes it hampers her thoughts about the guy friends she has now–wondering if she is being overly affectionate, if her friendship is tempting them in a way she doesn’t mean.
“Victim blaming” is holding the victim of a crime to be in whole or in part responsible for the crime. In extreme cases, victims are said to have “asked for it”, simply by not behaving demurely.
After speaking with the counselor, Jamie felt God was giving her a desire to be alone.
“It was probably one of the better things I did for myself, but one of the harder ones.”
She remained alone until she reconnected with one of the guys from the Bethany basketball team–the only other guy who had defended her from the team’s lewd comments.
“[I] pretty much knew that he was the person I was going to be with for the rest of my life.”
Physical intimacy wasn’t and still isn’t easy for her. Her husband was the first man she’d had sex with since being raped, which may be why she still struggles with feelings of being used during sex, even with someone she loves and who she knows loves her.
More than anything, the feeling of not being protected or cared for seems to be the stain she can’t shake. This comes out in her own admission, as well as in her marked unwillingness to blame her parents for not protecting her in high school, or the boyfriends she had for not taking any responsibility for physical limits.
She says maybe that’s the only way she can allow herself to forgive them. It certainly has engendered a tendency toward taking all responsibility, needing to have control, over any given situation.
“There was that time in Mexico.”
She remembers the Gypsy Kings on the stereo, the waves pounding outside, and an element of being far away from anything that she needed to control or be in charge of. Inside her, she felt something relax, like releasing a muscle she hadn’t known was there.
That release has happened again, since then, but it’s rare. Generally, she says, her head goes somewhere to business, like her to-do list; sometimes it feels begrudging, like she is too tired. Sometimes it takes her all the way back to the moment of being violated, and she breaks down.
In 2012, the FBI changed their definition from “The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” to “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” for their annual Uniform Crime Reports.
Jamie doesn’t spend time regretting much. She chalks it up to God’s plan for how to make her stronger.
“I have no idea what I’d be like if I hadn’t experienced it.”
The experience also informs her own parenting, settling her on the idea of making rules and sticking to them, even if doing so elicits hate from the person you most want to love you.
One of six U.S. women has experienced an attempted or completed rape. More than a quarter of college age women report having experienced a rape or rape attempt since age 14.
Sexual assault may be prevented by secondary school,college, and workplace education programs. At least one program for fraternity men produced “sustained behavioral change.”
—All statistics reprinted from Wikipedia entries on rape and related articles.