I was 18 years old, a freshman in college, and a virgin, living away from home for the first time in the big city of Chicago. Believe it or not, there was a time when I was extremely naive - perhaps not innocent, but naive, definitely.
I had recently started work at my college's radio station, and as this was what I had wanted to do since I was about 10 years old, I was constantly happy when I was there. This day, however, was even more exciting - the group Erasure was coming in to the station before their concert! I had been promised that I would get to meet them! And then my best friend and I were going to the concert! I could barely contain myself that day in February. Somehow I managed to not make an idiot of myself and I did get to say hi to Erasure and get my CD signed (still have it). Then it was time to head back to the north side to my dorm to get ready and then wait for A to pick me up.
When I was in undergrad in Chicago I didn't have a car. To get around, I took either the school provided buses, which ran a particular (and often not convenient) schedule from the downtown campus to the north side campus, or I took Chicago Public Transportation - either buses or the elevated trains, otherwise known as "the 'L'." I don't recall the reasons, but when I left the radio station around 5 pm that day, I took the L. I walked the couple of blocks to the station, walked down underground, and then waited in the crowds for a train.
One came and I got on. It was so crowded I had no choice but to stand, and barely managed to find a bar to grab on to. The next few stops north are also underground, and often the lights go out completely - you get used to it. But this time was different. Someone was touching me.
At first I thought someone was just trying to get past me. I moved forward the little I could - which wasn't much, as the train was just too packed - hoping the person could get by or whatever. The person followed me, continuing to push into me.
That was when I realized what was happening: a man was rubbing his erection against my butt and back. Masturbating against me.
Horrified. Scared. Shocked. Disgusted. Embarassed. Shamed. I didn't know what to do. It seems stupid now, to have been so afraid of a penis, but I was a different person then. If something like this were to happen to me now, I know exactly what I would do - turn around, scream my head off, punch him in the face and knee his balls up into his abdomen all in one motion. But that's now - back to then.
It seemed like an eternity. And then, the train finally came up into the light - the first stop outside the tunnel in the elevated section. A number of people got off at that stop, and I was able to move. That was my first priority - to get away. I eventually turned around, but there was no one standing in that spot anymore. He might well have gotten off at that stop. I would never know. All I knew is that I had another 10 stops or so until I was back at my dorm.
I finally got there. Got off the train, rode the escalator down, walked across the street and up the stairs to the entrance to the dorm. Showed my ID and rode the elevator up to the 6th floor. Unlocked the suite door, then unlocked my room's door. My roommate wasn't there. I took off my leather jacket. There was something on the back of it. I started to cry. I took off all my clothes, crying constantly, put on my robe and went across the hall to the bathroom. I took the hottest, longest shower I could stand, sobbing the entire time.
I eventually went back to my room, somewhat calmer, trying to look forward to the evening. I think I thought that seeing A would help. He would make me feel better. I was wrong. You see, A didn't believe me. As it turned out, neither did my father. To this day, I don't know if this was a male reaction, thinking along the lines of "I should have been able to protect her and I couldn't, so therefore, I will not acknowlege that it happened," or to do with the belief that fat girls are not sexual beings or sexually attractive, and therefore would not be the object of a sexual assault (and yes, a lot of people, including law enforcement officers, believe that).
I don't recall having enjoyed that concert very much. It has occasionally occured to me that it's amazing I can listen to Erasure at all.
I don't remember if it was the next day, but it was that week. I had been seeing a counselor through the university's psychology department, because I already knew I had a problem with depression. I didn't know this therapist too well, and it was a man, but somehow, I told him what happened, just as I've told you here, all the details. It was extremely difficult, and I cried the entire session. He was actually really great - he told me that it wasn't my fault and that I hadn't done anything wrong, and more importantly, he believed me. I don't recall ever having been too keen on dishonesty, but I think my emphasis on honesty may stem from this incident and how I was treated.
It was a long time before I rode the L again. The bus often took 5 times as long, but I took it all the same.
Fast forward about 10 years later. I've told the story since, and feel I'm completely over it. It's the past and I've had good, positive sexual relationships. I'm fine. One night, I'm watching Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, alone in my room in San Diego. The show starts, as usual, showing a bit before the credits. What happens: a man comes onto a subway train, pushes a woman up against one of the doors, and rapes her standing up from behind, in view of onlookers who do nothing. I start crying hysterically.
It's now been another 3 years. Am I okay now? I think so, but I've also accepted that while my assault was not nearly as bad as those others have suffered, it's still something I will never be able to forget.
I can only hope that by reading this, some of you may be helped. The more awareness there is, the more people that believe what is supposedly unbelievable, the more chances we have that someday, none out of 3 will have a story.