May 1, 1996

Student survivors expose three faces of date rape

The idea of rape is undeniably ugly in black and white. But somehow issues of acquaintance rape inhabit a boundless gray area spanning the spectrum of beliefs in sexual relations. Each instance is clouded by questions of intent and interpretation. A simple definition of acquaintance rape seems inadequate in the face of the reality: forced or manipulated sexual contact or intercourse by a friend or acquaintance.

Even statistics tell only a partial story of acquaintance rape at universities across America: one-fifth of college women experience forced sex by someone they know, and more than 80 percent of all rapes are acquaintance rapes (according to the National Institutes of Health Study and the US Department of Justice). At Yale, the statistics seem more reassuring at face value. No incidents of rape have been reported to the University Police department so far in 1996. An untold number of incidents are excluded from this statistic, however; they are either handled by Yale's Executive Committee for disciplinary action or simply dropped because of lack of evidence, publicity-wary authorities, or the victim's own shame. "When I talk to women's groups, they cannot believe that the official rape statistics at Yale are so low. They've heard of many more incidents by word of mouth. But people have to realize that acquaintance rape is almost never reported to the police," Yale Police Sergeant Patrick Wrinn said.

Amid these ambiguities, the only tangibles are often the lives disrupted by an alleged assault. In the following accounts, three female undergraduates tell of their experience with date rape. To protect their identities, their names have been witheld. Several common strands run through these accounts: the daunting prospect of reporting the violation, the survivors' former denial that rape could happen to them at Yale, and their tragic realization that fellow students could perpetrate it.

Survivor #1: I thought rape was violent

I had always perceived of date rape as a violent, purposefully hateful act. Date rape was something which occurred when a man's aggressions escaped his control, and despite ardent protests from his victim, the man carried out the sexual act. But I was wrong.

At the beginning of my sophomore year, I started dating "Josh." I had just broken up with my boyfriend of two years, and I was not ready for another relationship. That was okay, though, since Josh really didn't want one either. We would go out on weekends and enjoy each other's company. At the end of each evening, we would hook up; this didn't disturb me, however, because we only did what we were each comfortable with.

In one night, everything changed. That night we had attended a party where neither of us had had anything to drink. We returned to my room for the usual pre-hookup bantering. Josh asked me to dance, and as we swayed gently to the romantic medleys of KC 101, he asked me if I wanted to proceed any further with our physical relationship. At that point, I told him I was a virgin and did not want to lose my virginity to him. I had not slept with my previous boyfriend of two years; I certainly wasn't going to have intercourse with someone I had been seeing for barely a month.

Josh told me he understood perfectly. He began to kiss me, but then stopped abruptly. He asked me if I had any condoms. I began to get annoyed and firmly informed him once again that I did not want to have sex with him. Josh apologized, and explained his request. He told me that it is always good to have protection, even if you are not having sex. He explained that sometimes accidents can happen without having intercourse. His apparent concern for my safety convinced me to let him go out and buy condoms.

When Josh returned, we began to kiss. After some time, he put on a condom. We continued, and before I knew what was happening, we were having intercourse. Since it was my first time, I wasn't sure we were actually having sex. I asked Josh, and he said "Yes, but if it feels good, go with it." Too shocked, disturbed and frightened, I had no other choice.

When Josh left the next morning, I cried. I didn't know why I was crying, but I couldn't stop. I had had sex, but I had not wanted to. There was no violence. I didn't protest. In my mind, I had not been date raped; it was my fault I had lost my virginity. I was only angry at myself.

Nearly a week passed before Josh called me. During that time I felt guilty, cheap, and ashamed. I knew Josh didn't respect me or care about me, and yet I had allowed him to have sex with me. And after a week of these intense emotions, a mere phone call was not enough. It took me several months before I could stop feeling dirty.

What finally helped was admitting the fact that I had been raped. I was raped; I can say that now and not feel guilty about it. I know now that what happened was not my fault. I did tell Josh I did not want to have intercourse with him several times that night. He never asked for my consent to initiate intercourse. According to the law, non-consensual sex is rape. It does not have to be violent. It does not have to be hateful. Rape is what occurs when one person initiates a sexual act with another person without their permission to do so.

There are skeptics who think that naiveté is no excuse. These people argue that virgins know what they are getting themselves into when they date. They believe that virgins who cry rape aren't really raped, that these virgins are just naive. The skeptics are the ones who are actually naive.

No one deserves to have a sexual act forced upon them. Everyone has a right to say, "No." And everyone has a right to be heard and respected.

Survivor #2: I spoke up and lost

We were friends who met freshman year. We participated in the same activities, and consistently ate lunch together in SOM sophomore year. He was just one of the guys to me.

I remember when he first got rollerblades and fell so hard that he ripped his shorts. I was coming down Science Hill when I witnessed this incident and tried so hard not to laugh because he was just mortified. When I think of the fun we shared sometimes, I can forgive him long enough to really miss our friendship. But only sometimes.

I had made plans to meet my friends at Kamikaze because I was going to drop by another party beforehand. He was the first person whom I ran into. He offered me a jump to the head of the line for a shot. They were running low, so he got sent upstairs to get supplies. He asked if I'd mind coming along to help him. I agreed.

So as we went upstairs, we talked along the way. How was your summer, etc. He offered me another shot; I accepted. But it was more than I wanted-this shot was twice the size of a normal one. He poured too much, and it dribbled all over me.

Some people asked me afterwards why I swallowed that shot if I didn't want so much. Two reasons: the shot is poured directly in your mouth, and it's impolite to spit out something a friend gives you. I know it sounds silly, but those were my reasons, and many people would have reacted the same way in my situation.

I started feeling dizzy because I had drunk more than I had originally intended to, so I decided to ask a person whom I trusted to walk me home. Since none of my girlfriends were in sight, I asked him to walk me. He said "sure."

On the way back, I was still dizzy so he offered me an arm. It was sprinkling, and he suggested going back to his room in Berkeley because it was closer. I agreed, figuring that at least I could sit down until the world stopped spinning, and maybe I could borrow a sweater to wear on the trip home.

His roommates were watching a film, so we went into his bedroom to hang out, but the rest is a semi-haze. I experienced my first and only blackout that night. I remember thinking he was taking off my shoes so that I could go to sleep. I was too dizzy to sit up, and my limbs felt like lead. I remember my terror when I realized what he really wanted.

When he started taking off my clothes, I asked him sharply what he thought he was doing. He said, "You're just imagining it. It's all a dream." Panic. Fear. I was frozen. I couldn't stop him. It was taking all my strength not to pass out from the alcohol. I silently pushed him away, but he kept coming at me. I had never felt so degraded, so betrayed. I couldn't comprehend that this was happening.

Afterward, for some strange reason, I demanded that he walk me home-he owed me that much. I only wanted to be walked home. I got home, and as soon as he left, I called the friend whom I can call at 3 a.m. when I'm panicked and hysterical. I remember trembling uncontrollably. When he asked me what had happened, I just cried. He finally got the story out of me. He caught a flight the next day to come out and look after me for a few days.

I reported what had happened to the Executive Committee, Yale's board for disciplinary action. Privately, my attacker admitted to me that what he did was not kosher, but he didn't think that it was rape because it was not violent-he never hit me. In a moment of clarity, I had begged him to use a condom, so I had no evidence. I lost. What gets me is that I was not notified of the decision for a week; I found out from the Daily News' editor who called for a statement. Harsh.

I was pretty messed up for a semester. Depressed. Suicidal. I tried to regain control of my sexuality by being oversexed. When I told my close friends, the number of people who came forward and said that it had also happened to them was astonishing. And scary. None of them had felt strong enough to file a complaint. I did and lost. I couldn't figure out which was worse. I wanted to transfer out of Yale, to get away.

Eventually, with the help of my closest friends, I started to remember myself. I felt that he had stolen my self from me, but with the help of my wonderful sorority sisters and my boyfriend, I began to realize that my attacker could never again take from me what I didn't choose to give up.

I'm still the person I was before the rape, and I'm still who I want to be. That remains, as it always was, in my control. One friend had betrayed me, but I was not alone-I still had true friends ready to support me.

I am forever indebted to my Kappa sisters for the strength they gave me; I couldn't have done it without them. They are the people who keep me happy and sane. As for my Love, many thanks. I'd hop on a plane on a moment's notice to take care of him, too.

Survivor #3: It couldn't happen at Yale

When my freshman counselor asked me why I wasn't at the group discussion on date rape, I remember telling him something like, "I was busy. I think I was trashed at some frat party with a bunch of horny senior guys, but I don't remember," and laughing. The date rape discussion sounded like a waste of time to me.

Aside from the fact that date rape doesn't happen at a place like Yale, it certainly wouldn't happen to a person like me. Because I don't believe in premarital sex, I'm careful about the kind of guys I date. I hardly ever drink, and when I do, I make sure that I'm with friends who are going to take care of me. In other words, being drunk at a frat party isn't characteristic of my behavior. No, I'm definitely not the date rape type. If you're smart about who you date and how you carry yourself, you don't have much to worry about. Especially here.

Take the night of the winter formal. I didn't even get a date. I went with my best friend instead. He seemed like one of those classic "nice guys," the type that calls everyday, sympathizes with your problems, and brings you soup when you're sick. He stayed at my house over Thanksgiving break, took my sister to the movies, and went grocery shopping with me and my mom. He could have gotten a real date to the dance, but instead he went with me just because he's a "nice guy." The world needs more of that type, doesn't it?

He brought me flowers...after riding his bike in the rain for 14 miles to find just the right type...because he's a "nice guy." He took me to the Chart House for dinner...because he's a "nice guy." He held all the doors, made perfect conversation, and kept telling me how nice I looked. Yes, he was definitely a keeper. What a gentleman! Everyone should have such a great date. Everyone should have such a great friend, I thought.

Because I had friends like him, I never even imagined date rape could occur at Yale. How could a date rapist be on the same campus as my sensitive, thoughtful, caring, wonderful friend? Yale men are simply too intelligent to do something that barbaric and stupid.

After the dance that night, he asked me to come over for a minute because he had a surprise for me in his room. He'd decorated his room with roses and candles, and he had bought a bottle of champagne. What a nice guy. If you pick the right type of people for friends, you get roses and champagne, not date-raped.

Normally I don't drink, but this was one of those times when it seemed OK. Sharing a little champagne with a friend hardly seemed dangerous. I even ended up drinking most of the bottle because I felt so safe.

By the way, if you don't drink often and have a really low tolerance, drinking a bottle of champagne quickly can get you pretty drunk. I don't advise it...unless you're with a really good friend. Then it's safe because at least they'll take care of you.

It was 4:00 in the morning by that time though. I was really tired so I passed out on his couch. Normally, sleeping in some guy's room isn't advisable, but when he is your best friend, it's fine.

When I woke up, he was having sex with me.

It can happen to anyone.

Introduction by Cam Hoang



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