Updated: Oct 25, 2022
What I Learned from my Near Rape
I was only 13 years old when I survived an attempted rape. I didn't view it as surviving a near-rape - instead, my focus
was on surviving my reputation and sparing myself a butt whipping. The names have all been changed to describe
my experience. Somehow, my friend, Zetta, would be hosting an unsupervised birthday party that exceeded the limits at her father's neighborhood
club. I knew I would be attending Zetta’s birthday party, so I couldn’t ask for permission and shift the odds. I anticipated my mother, a single parent of four children, would be asleep before the party started. All I
had to do was sneak out of the least creaky window and meet another fast-tailed girlfriend in front of my house. Young ladies did not sneak out at night time; only fast-tailed g
irls did that. I was certainly adventurous, free-spirited, and unafraid of my neighborhood. I knew where all the dogs lived, and if they were chained. I knew where all of the shortcuts were, I could run very fast, I could climb to the high branches on trees, I was always ready to play kickball, and I was always willing to participate with my friends. Elaine met me outside and the two of us walked the three blocks to the party. We went to the end of my short block and then turned right onto Franklin Road for two more blocks. We chattered excitedly the whole way. I recall admiring Zetta for having the pizazz to pull off the party in the basement of a huge house that her father ran like a club.
I was surprised at the number of guests there whom I had never seen. Instead of classmates, there were big kids in their late teens and early 20’s. Three guys who came together started flirting with Elaine and me. The one I got stuck with was ugly and old--probably 22. He stayed in my face all throughout the party. At 13, I did not know how to make him get lost, except to tell him that I needed to get home. As I recalled the incident later, I had naively answered all personal identifying questions he had asked. The two guys he’d come with were laughing and acting pretty friendly with Elaine. They ended up offering us a ride home. I had been taught that girls should not get into cars with men. Elaine urged me to let the three men take us home, but I stuck with my no, silently cautioning her that she shouldn’t go with them, either. Elaine, who lived two blocks further away than I seemed to have decided she didn’t feel like walking, and she was not in tune with any alarm bells. So, there I was, a kid out at 1:00 a.m. by herself to get home. The ugly guy insisted that he escort me, then. After all, it was late and I shouldn’t dream of leaving by myself. Elaine let herself be led away and into the car with the two friends, and I held m
y head high after making my gut’s decision. I was not scared; I was annoyed that Elaine and I were not sticking together. I was uncomfortable with Luther, but I had no clue that he would become brutal. Meanwhile, Zetta was an unseeing hostess, but she waved, pouting with the appropriate amount of sadness regarding our departure.
There were three houses on my street and a church on the corner. By the time we reached my street, I announced that I could make it the rest of the way by myself. The ugly guy made me point out which house was mine, and I did. Whenever we were just past the church and two houses away, he snatched my wrists, and dragged me along the side of Mr. Price’s house, past the green apple tr
ee into a dark grove. I tried as hard as I could to get away as soon as he grabbed me. I was convinced he would not have caught me if I could just run away! However, it was a tug of war disaster as I was being forced like quicksand into an abyss that would make hell look like a haunted house at a carnival As I was being dragged, I knew I had to fight this guy off quietly, lest I wake up Mr. Price or the nosey lady who lived next door to me. No one could find me being wrestled to the ground because I thought somehow that my curfew violation was more shameful than Luthor’s attempted rape. Essentially, his attempted rape was a result of my treacherous behavior, so we were both guilty. I was fast-tailed. I was guilty. Thus, I kept quiet. I fought him by twisting, wriggling, and thrashing mightily. Moments into the ordeal, Luther got my attention by whispering his threat, “If you keep moving or if you make a sound, I’m going to punch you as hard as I can right here.”
He used a finger to draw a can
taloupe-sized circle in the middle of my uncovered abdomen. I couldn’t make a sound. I couldn’t move. I knew enough to realize I was in grave danger and that the worst thing in the world was about to happen. But, I couldn’t make a sound and I couldn’t move because the neighbors might hear me, and for several seconds, I was distracted by thoughts of being punched that hard.
Next, he grabbed the
top of my pants and began pulling. I couldn’t make a sound. I couldn’t move. My terror erupted when I thought he would be successful. I had to make a sound. I had to move. I was scared to death of being violated. Fear made me scream at the top of my lungs. I no longer cared if he punched me. I no longer cared if Mr. Price or Ms. Mary would hear me and know I was for sure fast tailed. When I found my voice, I was grateful he did not make good on his promise. When I found my voice, he scrambled and ran away. Suddenly, I heard male voices. I dragged myself from behind the bushes and onto the sidewalk. Luther’s friends had dropped Elaine off and had come back to pick him up when they saw me emerge cautiously from the shadows. I was in shock and could not speak. One friend waved his hand up and down in front of my blank eyes. I walked home and they followed, taking turns asking me what had happened and where Luther was. Luther, my trusted escort, had disappeared. Finally, I blurted “He tried to rape me!”
In those eternal moments that wee morning, two pivotal conceptualizations about life
and fears blossomed in me. First, my adverse situation was interrupted by my own sense of self-preservation. I learned how powerful my voice was, and even in the face of fear, one’s voice when speaking against injustices is a mighty force more powerful than silence. Secondly, it occurred to me they were not like him. The assertion of my voice was supported by gallant men who sided against their friend upon learning of his wrongdoing. I was spared the misconception or distrust that could have germinated and lasted a lifetime. Friends can disagree and chastise those in their circle who caused harm to others. I would like to think those two friends who
made sure Elaine, and eventually I got home safely, were not traumatized themselves.
As for me, I was presented with a choice of taking a chance and using my voice or succumbing to fear. In moving forward with life, sharing tragedies with others is a viable and combative weapon that people who have not healed often miss. For example, my story went untold for decades. Meanwhile, I learned that Luther gathered as many victims as possible before finding one with an even louder voice than mine which landed him a cozy home in one of America’s prisons. According to the National Violence Resource Center, one in five women will experience a completed or attempted rape in their lifetime, and almost a fourth of all men also experience a variety of sexual violence. I did not know that seventy-five percent of victims were first attacked between the ages of 11 and 17. Another disturbing fact is rape has always gone widely unreported. This is a conversation that must continue because when survivors use their voices, it helps to create a platform of awareness.