I was raped 18 years ago by a famous guy- feeling like a jerk now.
November 26, 2014 6:36 PM   Subscribe

Is there something I can do to help any future victims of a rapist I failed to accuse in my youth? I'm haunted.

I was a 20 yo small town kid, he was a very famous guy, had a girlfriend, etc. I was a little drunk and alone with him at his free fancy housing at our local college. He was very handsome, but even more charming. We had been flirting for a couple weeks.

Jesus, I was the ultimate townie mark. And I feel like this already puts me so close to the line of calling him out I'm a little scared. I certainly can't afford an attorney...ever.

I fully intended to have sex with him. When I realized he had no plan for protection...I offered oral sex. Jesus... I was so young. He just flipped me over, pinned me down, and raped my ass. After pleading..um, pain!and no! and even less safe AIDS DUDE! and instead of trying to reason, which was clearly failing...just decided to start screaming super loud, he shoved me out his door and called me a silly little girl. Good times. Unfortunately, this took a hell of a lot longer to happen than it takes to tell. It was brutal and obviously rape while it was happening...and stunning in it's violence.

I've spent a great deal of time thinking about how I feel about what happened, how women, jesus...I was just a girl, really...are treated if they...realize the situation is dire too late. I'm not even that small...I was so completely physically trapped so rapidly it was shocking. Just...no chance of escape. Fully pinned.

Pretty much no chance I'd end up on the good side of any equation that put me on a witness stand. I was a poor waitress in a small town, he is a very, very big deal. So I just...wanted nothing to do with it. Live and learn, eh?

Now I'm feeling so insanely responsible for every possible potential thing he likely did to any/every next woman...I can't sleep at night. I am completely beside myself.

I failed. I know it. It was the 90's. It was soooo scary. I've googled to see if his name shows up with the word rape, but ...only in his movies. Jesus.

While incomprehensible, I understand that there is a statute of limitations. I'm way beyond it. Because, dude, get over it!? Riiight. It's bullshit. If I'd stabbed him afterwards, WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN SUPER AWESOME I'd still be on the hook for it 20 years later. He isn't.

Mostly, seeing all these women finally come out against that big famous dude lately, I'm feeling really bitter about not only my weakness as a kid, but also wondering if there are 20 other women who want to pull the trigger on pressing charges, and all they need is another woman to say "yep. He does that."

I can't come out now, without totally getting sued, right? I'm just...done here, until rape allegations come out from someone else, right?

True facts:
-it's been 17 years
-I cannot afford an attorney
-I was drunk. I wanted to have sex with him.
-game over.

right? I just can't sleep with the guilt of it.

So, is there something helpful I can do? Therapy is not, in my circumstance, a helpful suggestion. Been there, with a brilliant person, done...some of that.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (20 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Let's back up first, because there are some things you need to accept about yourself first:

Those "true facts" you mention DO NOT MAKE YOU GUILTY.

You may have wanted to have sex with him, but you still had the right to change your mind, and in fact you ACTUALLY DID change your mind when he said he didn't have a condom. The fact that he ignored you saying 'No" is not YOUR fault, it is HIS.

Also, the fact that you were drunk does NOT NEGATE the fact that you had the right to change your mind, that you did so, and that he ignored you saying you changed your mind.


That's really important, so I'm gonna say it again -

This was not your fault, and you are not guilty of anything.

You did not "fail". You are not "guilty". Maybe you had a lapse in judgement, but it was also on HIM to not take advantage of your lapse in judgement, and he didn't stop himself from taking advantage of you, so HE IS THE GUILTY ONE, AND HE IS THE ONE WHO FAILED. NOT YOU.

....Sorry to go all-caps on you like that, but that is REALLY, REALLY important for you to understand.

Now then.

I know that you tried therapy and it didn't work, but you may want to call the RAINN hotline for advice. They may suggest some kind of therapy or counseling; and you actually may want to consider it, because they know how to direct you to a counselor that can help you with rape recovery specifically. But if not, they may also be able to give you legal advice about what the statute of limitations are in your area, and what recourse you may have 18 years after the fact. (Oh, incidentally, it is also NOT YOUR FAULT for not reporting it at the time- you may simply not have been ready. And that is JUST FINE.) Calling RAINN is free - they're more like a front-line triage hotline that can help refer you to the right services in your area.

They're also really good at dealing with people too - I once had a friend who confessed some sexual assault in her own past to me when she kind of flashed back to it, and even though my friend was taking on going to a counselor herself, I was still kind of freaked out and wanting to do even more and I called them as "a friend of a survivor wanting to know what else I can do", and the person I spoke to was just fantastic about helping me brainstorm what more I could do to support my friend (and at the same time she was getting me to chill out, which I probably needed more). And it was totally free.

Please, first accept that this was NOT your fault and you are NOT guilty, and please consider calling RAINN.

God luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:51 PM on November 26, 2014 [43 favorites]

Now I'm feeling so insanely responsible for every possible potential thing he likely did to any/every next woman...I can't sleep at night. I am completely beside myself.

You are not responsible in any way. He is.

Your inebriation does not make you more culpable. Once you said no, the boundaries were clear, and he chose to violate them.

You had/have no power in this situation, both because of your gender and your economic status. That, too, is not your fault. We live in a society where powerful men get away with all sorts of crimes because of this disparity, and where those with less power are taught to internalize the responsibility for these abuses.

I have struggled for years over the shame of things that happened to me, even knowing everything I just said.

There probably isn't a chance in hell that you could make this person pay, not with the way things currently are. But if you feel powerless, maybe you could direct some of these emotions into volunteer work? I was going to suggest working for some kind of rape- crisis center, but that environment might be too overwhelming. But this man has made you feel like you don't matter, like you're the one who is doing harm. Working for the benefit of others might show you (a process of reaffirmation, not change) that you are a force for good in the world. I know volunteering at an animal shelter helped immensely when my self-loathing was almost incapacitating.

Stay strong.
posted by bibliowench at 6:58 PM on November 26, 2014 [7 favorites]

You're not responsible for him raping another person. He is. Surviving his attack is a full victory already. Going further is a second act and sometimes people have enough resources, emotionally and socially and financially, to do that which is wonderful, but sometimes - often - the first battle to survive the assault has taken all those resources already. Don't measure yourself against a Lifetime-idealized heroine who doesn't exist. Most of us have to work for years on surviving and healing first before we can do more. That you're even able to start thinking about doing more to this bastard is a triumph. Be kind and don't take on responsibility that is his, his alone.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:01 PM on November 26, 2014 [10 favorites]

Civil suits rarely require paying for an attorney--they most often work on contingency, meaning they take the case if they think they can win, and when they do, they take a cut of the settlement. That may or may not be an option for you.

If--IF--you are in a place where you are ready, willing, and able to stand the onslaught of attention (and if you are not that is totally okay), go public. Look at the women who have gone public about Bill Cosby and Jian Ghomeshi, for example. Their bravery (and, again, I know I'm a man and I hope I'm not mansplaining but what I am trying to convey is that this is your choice and what I am saying here is just presenting an avenue that you may or may not choose depending on what is right and appropriate for you) enabled other women to come forward and right now Ghomeshi has been charged and pending the outcome of the trial to come could face life in prison. Being that brave face could empower women for whom the statute of limitations has not expired to come forward.

Whatever you choose to do, you deserve credit right here and now for saying anything at all.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:53 PM on November 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

And just want to echo, when it comes to rape, the fault only ever lies with the person who isn't asking for 'yes.'

He assaulted you. That's his behaviour. Not yours. You are not responsible for behaviour not your own.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:55 PM on November 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm not at fault for what happened. However, I'm not asking to be forgiven for not reporting...I'm asking what do I do with the weight of not having reported someone who may very well have done it many times after me?

What do you think, realistically, would have happened if you had reported?
posted by jaguar at 9:20 PM on November 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

So my situation is lower profile for sure. But my abusive ex is Kind of a Big Deal in the small small world we are both in. And everywhere I go people ask if I know him, what he's like. Girls have tried to get me to hook them up with him in the past before he made our relationship public.

This man, my ex, is a disgusting and pathetic excuse for a human being. Yes, I believe he raped me. Yes, he physically assaulted me on multiple occasions. Yes, he's a bad person.

And when I left him I was insanely preoccupied with his future victims. He took me - a wonderful person, an intelligent woman with charisma and gumption and a lot of great qualities - and he ground me into dust. Me. Me! How was that even possible? No one ever thought me weak. No one could imagine it. I have always been strong. I literally faced death square in the face twice for long periods of time before meeting him. And he still ground me down.

How could I leave him, because he would do it to another woman who was certainly not as strong as I was and am? How could I let him loose on the world? An abuser like him?

And to be honest, this was part of why I stayed. I could handle it and I could hack it and I was strong enough to withstand what many others would simply not be able to bear. His ex-wife attempted suicide. His future girlfriend might succeed, and it would be my fault. So I stuck around.

It was over two years ago when I left him. Finally. And I came to peace with a bunch of stuff before I left, specifically that his future actions were not something I could control, and that I couldn't go back in time and protect myself, and that trying to protect an anonymous woman or women in the future from him was absolutely futile.

I really wanted to have avoided him and all the hell he brought me. And my worrying about his potential victims was really, for me, a way to keep punishing myself for the awful mistake I made in dating him in the first place. And it was a mistake. And I stayed with him for years. I didn't walk away the first time something went sideways. I didn't even leave when he pushed me out of a moving car because the sun was in his eyes. I didn't leave and part of me hated myself and blamed myself for all the abuse I endured.

This story is different from yours but I think the lesson is similar.

I still feel tremendous concern and guilt when I think of his new girlfriend (if he has one - no contact is a blessing and I only interact with him by verbal chance, when people ask me about him because he's famous in our tiny circle of the world).

One way I deal with this concern and guilt is by volunteering for a domestic violence shelter. That helps a lot. I can't help his victims but I can help some victims. There are lots of men like my ex. The women I help don't have to have gone through what I went through with the same exact man for it to be just as horrible and just as worth my time and support. Perhaps this might be something to pursue?

All the best to you as you work through this. I understand. I know our stories are different but the emotions and surrounding circumstances are similar enough that I hope my story helps. Take care.
posted by sockermom at 9:40 PM on November 26, 2014 [12 favorites]

I'm fairly sure I wasn't the first person L raped, or the last. He works on a college campus now - that tears me up inside. How many young people - because I wouldn't be surprised if he extended his victim range to include men - is he in contact with? How many is he grooming? How many has he assaulted?

I try and be mindful - is what I am thinking and musing on helpful to me? In this case, no. Even if I had reported, the chances of conviction, hell of going further than the cops, were small. And even that, even incarceration, would that have done a thing? Or would he just be raping other young men behind bars?

The magic wand of prison doesn't actually fix anyone or anything. And with sexual assault the chances go even further down if 'not reoffending' is your goal.

But the guilt, the spiritual weight I carry, isn't so concerned with reality or logic. So I treat it the same as I treat any irrational guilt/worry I have - mindfully do something else. That might be a useful something else, like when I miss the bus so I try and be more punctual, or it might be a less 'useful' thing, like prayer, or arguing on the internet, or commenting so other survivors know they aren't the only ones struggling like this. Arguably the latter have little to no real life effect but I think their impact on me, and on the world, is more positive than beating myself up for not reporting.
posted by geek anachronism at 9:40 PM on November 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

Maybe this will sound like I am making this all about me, but I am only telling this story about me to come back around and make it about you.

I'm a tranny, a lefty and a feminist, but growing up I never understood why so many women seemed to feel so much shame and guilt after they were raped. I mean, if they grew up in a really conservative environment maybe that kind of explained some of those guilty feelings, but I couldn't understand it otherwise. Why be ashamed over something that was forced on you?

And then there was a night in a drag club when a huge guy got really, REALLY grabby with me. Like, he wouldn't take no for an answer, and was sticking his fingers in bad places while I was squirming to get away for what seemed like a really long time. It wasn't a rape, and it was in public, but it was WAY over the line and I walked away from it feeling really shaken and violated and scared. I was scared to leave the club that night, because I thought he might jump me outside. Just a bad, bad time.

And the crazy thing was, all of that stupid shame stuff kicked in for me. I literally found myself sobbing, blaming myself for wearing such skanky clothes, asking myself what I'd expected for going out alone dressed like that. I KNEW that stuff was bullshit, and I fell prey to it anyway.

Even if you know that kind of post-assault self-loathing is total BS, it can still come bubbling up and fuck you over anyway.

It sounds like you are still dealing with a lot of post-assault shame. It's not manifesting as hating yourself for what you wore and all that, but it's the same deal. It's toxic and you have to try and fight it. If somebody else told you that story, you would probably have total sympathy for her. You wouldn't snark at her about what she should have done, or what an idiot she was. This guy acted like a monster, and he brutally assaulted somebody. HE did the bad things, and HE's the bad person.

Many, many people don't report these things, for many, many reasons. You weren't equipped to deal with it then. It sucks that he's famous and you have to be reminded of him. Sometimes really shitty people get famous, because life is cruel and random like that.

I do wonder if there is some way you can anonymously reach out in the theater community, and connect with other women or girls who may have been assaulted by this man. I don't know what to suggest, but if you contacted feminist theater organizations I'm guessing you would at least find a sympathetic ear. If you could talk to other women who survived this creep, maybe together you could do something to get the word out that he's dangerous. Even if you can't get him sent to jail, a good whisper campaign could probably do him some massive PR damage. Just think about if you got that ball rolling and then one woman after another came forward. There's a lot you could possibly do, with a few totally anonymous phone calls and emails.

But you don't HAVE to do any of that stuff, and maybe it's all a lot more complicated than I know. All you really have to do is try and show yourself the respect and sympathy you'd show to somebody else who survived this. He deserves your loathing. You don't.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 11:00 PM on November 26, 2014 [8 favorites]

Okay, think of the cases you've heard lately of earlier attempts at reporting Those Famous Rapist Abuser Dudes In The News. They weren't believed, they got shit from the cops, they got slandered in the media. You know your situation: you had no power and he had all of it. If you'd reported, it's highly likely all of that would have happened to you and he'd STILL be merrily raping away for the next 20-40 years.

Things are somewhat different now--there's the Internet broadcasting everything about you and about him. Tipping points were hit-- and in the case of Cosby, this whole thing didn't get much press until a man made a big deal about saying something about. Note that everyone was ignoring it until a man called it out.

I don't think you have to be the number one person who comes out as being raped by this guy. You don't have that strong of a case/status all by yourself, but if someone else comes out first, or he does something that kicks off suspicions, then maybe it'll be a better situation for you to step up. If you're not number one, you might get more respect, especially if you're one of twenty women.

Goddamn, it's depressing that our world is like this.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:34 PM on November 26, 2014 [10 favorites]

Not a lawyer. What everybody has said about the emotions behind coming forward is wonderful. The mechanics are thus, as I understand them. It's doubtful you could be sued for speaking out if you can't be proven to be lying - truth is an absolute defense to libel. You could almost certainly get an attorney on contingency (which means they only collect fees if you win a case) to pursue a civil suit. A civil suit for a crime victim lets you and your lawyer call the shots, rather than being at the whim of police and prosecutors to decide when/how to go forward - and you have to prove it's most likely you were assaulted (not beyond a reasonable doubt). I think in many ways civil litigation is a powerful tool when the criminal justice system is so inadequate! Such attorneys who specialize in sexual assault civil cases exist - google knows I'm in Seattle and told me about these guys - the blog may be useful to you nonetheless. It is an option. But nthing you aren't required to babysit (and have babysat) that dude.
posted by sweltering at 12:45 AM on November 27, 2014

You could consult your local rape crisis center. They will know what your options are, practically, and have resources to help you through it emotionally.
posted by tel3path at 1:07 AM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I took a high status abuser through the courts. It nearly fucking killed me. Yeah I did it and think for me in was 'the right thing' but that said if I knew what I was letting myself in for I'd likely never have done it. A bastard like that will do everything to break you in a system that strangely tilts in their favour. There is little justice in the courts. I got the most I could.. but it was still laughably unjust and took almost 3 yrs of my life.

This bastard has had enough from you. It was not and never will be your fault. Years ago I trained as a student 'samaritan' which was mainly listening. We were told the one time we could step in was to say "it isn't your fault" when dealing with a rape victim.

You were young /curious /starstruck whatever.. he choose to do what he did. Sickening. Yep. Getting in touch with the energy in your anger will be cathartic for you. You will need a lot of safe soothing too. Look up the empty chair technique and inner child work. Get therapy if you can. I'm so very sorry the world can be this sick :( :(
posted by tanktop at 2:07 AM on November 27, 2014 [7 favorites]

I'm going to second the earlier recommendation in thread of contacting RAINN.
posted by Ninevolt at 3:48 AM on November 27, 2014

I'm so sorry this happened to you and that we live in a world where men can do stuff like this and get away with it. Sadly, I think they do because other men (mostly) choose to look the other way.

Where I live (not USA) the situation is the same. I've been through something similar when I was 15 and I understand how you feel. I hate to see this guy's face (he's a Big Deal here and internationally) and hear people say how cool and great he is. He's not.

I can't say anything because I don't have proof, but I know for a fact that other girls were in the same situation. If I were to say something, as I once kind of tried to (testing the waters I guess) the answer I would get was "nobody's perfect, everybody has a dark side", meaning, shut up and let the guy be famous. I'm sure they would believe me, because they know, but they wouldn't do anything about it.

I hope you find a way to deal with this. Talking about it is a huge step, I am sure lots of people reading this are shocked to find out that many of us went through similar stuff and that Famous Guy Abusing His Charm is very common. People need to talk about this so that we can start to speak up and have more support.
posted by divina_y_humilde at 4:52 AM on November 27, 2014

I'm pretty sure that you were not the first person he raped, and probably not the last. The fact that other women before you didn't report what happened to them, or even if they did, didn't change the outcome of what happened to you. What you decided to do in that place and time was the right thing for you. You were in shock, you were hurt and frankly you weren't clear-headed. It's understandable and forgivable.

What I think is going on here is that in retrospect to change that feeling of helplessness, you think of what you could have done, and didn't do, and since you're strong now, you're beating yourself up because, "Sure, I couldn't have changed what happened to me, but I could have been Wonder Woman and reported it and I could have saved other women." You feel guilty because you're applying today's strength to yesterday's weakness.

You didn't report it then, for perfectly valid and good reasons. Now that you have experience and strength, you regret not reporting it.

Please forgive yourself. You were young, scared, freaked out, inexperienced and didn't want to go through any more trauma. This was the RIGHT decision. It was, it's okay.

Nothing this piece of shit did to anyone else is your fault. You don't owe anyone anything.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:15 AM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another thing to add - I heard this on an episode of Oprah, of all places, in an interview with someone who was also talking about feeling bitterness over "why didn't I do something about [x] sooner". And what they and Oprah both said is that, well, look, you can only act in a given moment with the resources you have available to you IN that moment. The fact that you have the strength and hindsight and knowledge to deal with this now doesn't change the fact that you DIDN'T have those resources back then, nor is it your fault you didn't have those resources then.

You don't regret not going for solo road trips when you were only eight years old, right? Probably not, because you didn't know how to drive when you were eight, so it makes sense you didn't take yourself on road trips then. And you probably don't blame yourself for not knowing how to drive when you were eight. This is the same thing - you can only act in a given moment with the resources available to you in that moment, and you can't blame yourself for simply not having acted on resources you didn't have yet.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:28 AM on November 27, 2014 [19 favorites]

I came here to say something about Cosby and Ghomeshi, too. It's really sad and hard to accept, but people who exploit others in that particular way have not only been given countless passes for the behavior, but they are reinforced and enabled in it, and their victims are isolated. They often have friends or employees who will help them cover it up or indeed persuade or pressure their victims to keep quiet. The very nature of the experience makes you feel like you are the only one. But you're not! It's been awful reading about Cosby and Ghomeshi but hopefully there is some measure of empowerment for the people who have spoken after realizing they were not alone. And hopefully for you too.
posted by BibiRose at 7:33 AM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't know if this will help but I thought I would write it anyway in case it helps. I felt much the same way you do. I was molested by my uncle over 20 years ago. I was so worried and felt responsible and couldn't reason my way around it. I felt I needed to take action. So when I found out he has 2 little granddaughters , I reached out to their parents (my cousin and his wife) and told them what happened to me. It was the hardest bravest thing I've ever done and I can sleep much better now knowing that other people will look out for those girls. You might not be able to do the same thing as I knwl this is a bit different but if you ever get a chance to offer a warning, I say take it.
posted by PeaPod at 11:47 AM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

On a related note, I liked this post about not reporting.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:01 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

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