Updated: Jan 9

I didn’t get raped, but I sure made it easy for them

Photo by Jody Halsted on Flickr

I spend a lot of time thinking about how we can protect ourselves better against sexual assault, particularly young girls and women. Especially what us older and more experienced women can offer, because the earlier you teach women how to take charge of their own safety, the less likely they’ll be sexually assaulted. An ounce of prevention, etc.

Female psychology, some biological, some socialized, makes us vulnerable to male predation. We want to be liked. We want to be nice. We value relationships. We’re good at communication. We recognize an actual feeling when we have it. I wrote something a few years ago about some whiny female celebrity who got hacked and her nude photos seized, then cried publicly when Whoopi Goldberg informed her quite clearly that you can’t do dumb shit.

I guess being scolded by your symbolic mother in public is worse than having your nude photos stolen.

I don’t know how many times this has to happen before young women come to understand that just because you have a right to privacy doesn’t mean others will respect it. You don’t have to be a celebrity; teenage girls have been ‘slut shamed’ and sometimes committed suicide over such events.

If someone can violate your privacy, they will. It will probably be a man.

My mother raised me to not do dumb shit. She taught me some great lessons about how not to become victimized. She drilled into my head that if I had sex, I was the one who’d get pregnant, and the man had the option of skipping out on the whole thing and leaving me holding the baby. I could handle it however I wanted, Mom said, except for one unavailable option: Living with my parents and the baby. “I’m not going to raise your child for you,” Mom told me. “I did my bit raising you and your brother, if either of you have children they’re you’re responsibility.” My brother’s non-option was skipping out on the girl. “If you get someone pregnant,” Mom told him, “she makes the decision and you will support it. If she wants an abortion you help pay for it. If she wants to keep the baby, you either marry her or you pay child support.”

Neither my brother nor I made any little bambinos before our time.

Mom also taught me never to let a man abuse me. She made it perfectly clear that I had a lot of say in the matter. She said never let him hit you a second time. If he hits you a first time, there WILL be a second time, and many more after that. She said her ex-husband never hit her and my father never had either. She said the sooner you get out of a bad relationship the better.

Point taken. I’ve never been in an abusive relationship and I recognized early on where the potential abusers lay.

Honestly, I don’t know where my Depression-era mother got this stuff. Her generation was raised to be good little helpmeets to their husbands. Maybe it was marrying the wrong guy at 19, a manchild who couldn’t handle the responsibilities of adulthood and marriage, despite having survived one of the toughest outfits — the 82nd Airborne — in World War II. When they parachuted down from the sky the German soldiers made a game out of trying to shoot their legs off. Mom’s ex escaped from the war with his body, but not his mind, intact.

Nevertheless, sometimes, despite Mom’s best advice, I did dumb shit. I did things that she warned could get me raped and/or murdered. Sometimes it was a mental lapse, or an unwarranted opinion of my own good judgment. Sometimes, I think, I was lulled into a false sense of security because I did have pretty good judgment overall about men. I avoided the ones that created trouble for my friends and came to recognize toxic male subcultures before ‘misogyny’ became a household word.

I made mistakes. We all do. I got lucky and nothing bad happened.

“Don’t get in a car with a strange man. Never hitchhike!”

Before I could read, Mom saved newspaper articles about young women who came to a bitter end because of bad judgment. It might be drinking and driving; excessive speeding; not watching your drink at parties; drug-taking; and one of her favourites, the perils of hitchhiking or otherwise getting into a car with a strange man.

Diary of a Teenage Hitchhiker — 1979 TV movie

I never did hitchhike but one extremely rainy evening I ignored Mom’s warnings, and all the 1970s TV movies too, and I did some dumb shit.

My uncle had just passed away and I needed to drive down to Long Island for the funeral. A nor’easter was blowing up the East Coast and making the drive quite miserable. I drove carefully, but traffic was horrible on the Merritt Parkway (as always) and at New Rochelle I had to rethink my route as the Merritt had flooded under an overpass and there were cars stalled in the middle of the mini-lake with water halfway up.

(Never try to cross a very deep highway pool with your car. That’s some seriously dumb shit.)

I pulled off to a diner, grabbed dinner, and got directions on how to re-route myself (this was in the days before ubiquitous GPS-enabled mobiles).

All was fine until I pulled off somewhere on the Long Island Expressway for a potty break and to gas up. When I was ready to roll, my car wouldn’t start.

I accepted a ride from two brothers from Guatemala who were also headed out to my end of the island, against my best judgment. They seemed nice. I didn’t want to spend the money on a motel. And, to be perfectly honest, I’d always felt a little bit invincible.

Long Island is well-named and to drive it takes even longer in a nor’easter in the dark. I sat in the back, with the two brothers upfront. Almost immediately, one of them began trying to get a date.

I kept hearing how beautiful I was. How he wanted to see me again. How he wanted to see me again. How he wanted to see me again. How he wanted to see me again.

I explained I had a partner in Connecticut. I told him about my uncle’s death and how I was down here for the funeral. I said I’d be very busy and couldn’t meet up with him.

But I was so beautiful. And he really wanted to see me again. But I was so beautiful. I was so beautiful. I was so beautiful.