I remember the night you were raped. I remember some of the details clearly, other details not so much.
My parents were gone and I had friends over when I shouldn’t have. We were seniors in high school and you were a freshman. You were my younger sister’s friend, but I don’t remember if she was there. When some of the jock boys showed up, they had been drinking. One of them, Brian was flirting with you. He took you out on the back deck. The few girls who were there were sitting at the dining room table by the sliding glass door, and I remember watching you talk with Brian on the deck for a while. I thought you were okay. I thought he was a decent guy. After a while I got distracted and didn’t watch out the window anymore. Several of the football players were in the living room and we were all talking and laughing.
Some time later, you made a quiet entrance back through the sliding door. You were disheveled and muddy. You had leaves and dirt in your hair. Your clothes were wet and crooked. Your face was red, and you had obviously been crying.
Everyone got quiet. The girls sat you down at the table and started cleaning you up, asking what had happened. You choked on your words at first, but then you said it again, louder.
“He raped me.”
I remember your voice was thick with tears and fear and disbelief.
That was all you said, but you said it again and again, whispering to no one and everyone. You didn’t make eye contact. You sat with your head down, tears streaming down your face.
I remember hearing the boys in the living room scoff in derision when they first heard what you said. One of them snorted in laughter, which set off the others.
We kept trying to clean you up and comfort you, gently shushing you in order to turn the boys’ attention elsewhere. Brian never came back in, and I can only assume he left through the yard gate.
I don’t know how the gathering ended. I don’t know how you got home. I can’t remember what, if anything, happened from there. I would guess that you didn’t tell anyone, because Brian never got in trouble. He kept playing his sports. He was voted Homecoming King or maybe it was Prom King, I can’t remember which. I think he got a scholarship. Finished college. Went into business, got married and had kids.
Did you tell your parents? Did you report it to the police? Or did you listen to the laughter of the boys and the shushing of the older girls and decide it was your fault, that you were to blame.
Maybe you did tell someone and no one believed you. Or maybe they knew it would be the word of the well-liked football quarterback against that of a freshman girl.
Lacey, I’m so sorry I didn’t know to defend you. I’m so very sorry that all I did was pick the little sticks out of your hair and tell you to “Shhhhhhhhh.”
I wish I had then the rage I have now. I would have known that’s not how it’s supposed to be. I would have known that even my first time, when I said No again and again but never physically fought him off me, wasn’t how it was supposed to be.
I’ve often wondered over the years how that night impacted you. You shared on Facebook not too long ago that you struggled with alcohol addiction in the past, and I see that you’re a single mom and have had hard times. Me, I went through my next two decades of life believing men were entitled to sex, that it was mine to give, but that No didn’t mean all that much. I still have trust and self-esteem issues. Do you? I had my own problems with alcohol and finally gave it up about three years ago.
I haven’t seen you or talked to you in more than two decades, but I friended you for the sole purpose of apologizing. We both have little girls. We’re both sober now. We’ve both worked very hard on ourselves. And I’m sure we’re both committed to making sure our daughters are better armed to face this world of dangerous boys and men than we were.
I don’t remember how that night ended, but I want you to know that I do remember your words and your tears and exactly who it was that raped you. I would stand beside you if you ever required that.
Your rapist won’t ever be appointed to the highest court in the land, but that makes no difference. He committed a crime against you. He assaulted you. He may have very well taken everything from you for years to come.
You deserve to know that someone believed you that night even if I didn’t know what to do. And you deserve to know that you didn’t deserve what happened. It wasn’t your fault. You are not to blame.
I believe you, Lacey.
I believe you.
I believe you.
(Column 104 published October 2nd, 2018 in the Warroad Pioneer)