I have always wondered what you were thinking that night, in your apartment, when I went there for support after my car had hydroplaned in the rain, jumped the median and ended up landing head on into oncoming traffic.
Miraculously, all of the traffic managed to stop, and neither I nor my car were touched. But my nerves were fried and adrenaline was rushing through me like a river during a hundred year flood.
You lived on the way home to my place, just down the street and across the way. It was a last minute thought I had, to stop and knock on your door, a decision I have regretted almost ever since I made it. I was rattled and anxious and I didn’t want to go home and be alone. I had been to your place before, with our friends from our acting class, so I thought it was OK to drop in. I needed a friend and I was under the impression that you were one of those…
I still remember your surprise, when you opened the door and I was standing there. You flashed that big, white, Hollywood smile, like you had just won an unexpected prize. I explained to you what had happened and you invited me in.
“Sit down,” you said, as you gestured to the sofa.
Grateful for the company and the friendly ear, I sat and elaborated on the details of my hair-raising automobile mishap-turned-miracle, just trying to collect myself and process them, so I could turn the page.
It was not long before you were kissing me. I was confused. I was in no state to be making out with anyone, much less someone who I was not even dating. Did you think I had come over to have sex with you?
In case you did, I told you very clearly that I did not.
You smiled and laughed and said not to worry… that you had no intention of having sex with me.
And then, you pulled my shirt off, and pushed me onto the floor, constraining me between the oversized sofa and the coffee table.
Before I knew what was happening, you had your pants down and you were straddling my chest… all 6’3, 220 pounds of you…your genitals headed right for me…
Maybe, since I did not scream, you thought that I was into it?
I wasn’t. I was already in shock when I walked through the door, and you had just magnified it times 1000.
Even if I had not been in shock, how could I have screamed when I was struggling just to breathe under your weight?
You rubbed yourself on my chest, while I looked up at you in horror, just telling myself that it would be over soon enough and I could go home.
When you were finished, you got up and sat back down on the sofa, leaving me there on the floor, covered in your mess.
I honestly don’t remember what happened next. I may have left right away, or I may have tried to save some semblance of my pride by staying for a while and acting “cool,” as if what had just taken place was perfectly normal.
And, in a way, it was, for me. You see, what you did not know was that you were not the first one to sexually assault me. Neither were you the last. But you were the first who treated me this way as an adult. I had hoped that I had left all of that behind in my childhood, but when you forced yourself on me, something in me died. My hopes for a future without sexual violence were gone. My confidence was undermined on every level. I believed that there was no escaping being abused by men. You were just one more man who could not keep his hands to himself or his genitals in his pants, and for some bizarre reason, thought that my body was where they belonged.
I must have had an invisible (to me) sign on my head that said “I am vulnerable to attack. Go ahead and take advantage of me,” because it was only a few days later that another guy in our acting class (S.J.M) full on raped me while we were working on our lines. I tried to bury my pain and keep going to school, but it was just too much acting for me… to have to be in the room with, sit next to and work with both of you and act as if nothing had happened.
In case you did not put two and two together, this is why I disappeared from class shortly after you assaulted me. Maybe you wondered where I went and why… or maybe you secretly knew that it had to do with what you had done to me. Or, maybe you never gave me another thought, because you thought it was no big deal.
Let me tell you though, it was a Big Deal. I know I am a talented actress. However, thanks to you, S.J.M., and the collective damage you did to me, I am the only one who will ever know that. Because I withdrew from acting school, my parents lost faith in me, labeled me as a flake and refused to pay for any further educational pursuits I had. I could not tell them the truth about what had happened.
You see, everything was more difficult after those assaults…. Waking up, going to school, holding a job, eating, feeling safe, believing that I could succeed at anything, sleeping, having a relationship, of any kind…it was all peppered with pain.
It has been 30 years now since this took place. Every now and then, I look you and the other guy up to see what you are up to. I think maybe I am hoping to see your mug shot, or news that some horrible tragedy has befallen one or both of you. Instead, I see that you seem to be living a pretty good life. You are married to an attractive woman and run a successful business in Central Arkansas. You are active among several charities and like to play golf and volunteer. You have a lot of dogs, and you are still offering up that flashy Hollywood smile.
The other guy is a softball coach for a small college in Southern California. He was married a few years ago, but I am not sure if he still is.
You might be wondering why, after 30 years, I would want to bring this up again? Well, lots of reasons. For starters, I want you to understand that actions like yours have a lasting impact on the lives of those who survive them. Maybe you thought it was just about getting off, but if you understood at what cost your little power trip of momentary pleasure came about, then perhaps you would have thought twice about doing it… or, at least I would like to think so. Because for you, it was a one night event. For you, it ended when you sat back on the sofa. But for me… well, it became woven into the very fabric of my life, devastating my ability to trust even the people I thought were my friends.
As I recall, you and S.J.M. were not very close, but something you both have in common (besides having both once-upon-a-time studied acting and assaulted me) is that you both have a daughter. That’s right. A daughter. Have you thought about what the future holds for her? Would you like to know that there are men out there who might do to her what you did to me? Would you be OK, with that? Would you think it was no big deal if it happened to her?
I don’t think so. I think you would want to keep her safe, like the good father you probably are. You might even want to kill a man if he treated her the way you treated me.
But you did not want to keep me safe that night. You did not offer me the friendship I was seeking. To you, it may have just been another notch on your belt, but that night changed the course of my life.
I wish I could get back the hours I spent dealing with the pain that you caused me. I wish I could get back the chance at a career that became too painful for me to pursue (not to mention the money I had to pay even though I stopped attending school). I wish I could get back all of the sleepless nights. But those things, and a long list of other things, are gone. Forever.
I have worked really hard to build my life into what it is now. As a result, it is a pretty great life. I have learned a ton about loving myself, forgiveness, compassion and living in the present moment. I have had to learn how to forgive you, and S.J.M, even though neither of you have ever apologized. I did that for myself, by the way, not for you. Otherwise, I would be giving you too much of my energy, and I have already done enough of that. I can’t make you apologize to me, so instead, I put my attention toward things over which I have some control. Perhaps one of the most valuable things to come out of the pain you caused me is that I have helped a lot of other women learn to process their pain and move past their assaults. I would not have had the tools to do this, had I not had to learn them first hand.
The thing is, I would rather not have to do that. I think it would be a much better thing if men just stopped assaulting women and started respecting them as their equals.
I am curious…are you doing this now, in your business leader, charity-ball-going, family-man life you are living? Maybe you are, and maybe you aren’t. Your wife calls you her “perfect husband” on her Facebook page. It seems a stretch to me, but evidently she is happy with you. I wonder if she knows what you did to me, and maybe to other women as well?
I have no way of knowing if you will ever read this. If you do, I am sure you will recognize yourself, and you now have a small glimpse into the chaos that became my life after you forced yourself on me. And if you don’t… well, now the rest of the world does. Maybe some other guy who has forced themselves onto a woman will find her and apologize. Or maybe another man still will read this and think twice about conducting himself in this way. And if this letter can stop even one man from forcing himself onto someone else, even one time, it will have been well worth sharing.
If you want to reach out to me and apologize, that would be OK with me. I would welcome a sincere gesture of atonement. But if you are even thinking of denying what you did to me that night, well, you can just keep that to yourself. You can keep on with your perfect little life built around a lie and God will handle you when your time comes.
My wishes for you (and S.J.M) are health, happiness and an unburdened heart…and for your daughter (and everyone’s daughter) to be treated with respect and have their bodily and sexual integrity honored by all of their fellow humans, all of the time. It’s a big dream, I know… but we can try.
Your Former Classmate at K.D. Studio (now K.D. Conservatory), Class of ‘88