My first year in college I got way over my head in a relationship. As many first relationships are, it was at times sublime and other times horrific, and what stands out now almost 30 years later is its brutality. It scarred me, and one of the experiences that came out of it has come to mind with all the talk about rape on campus. One night long ago in Chicago my girlfriend and I had one of our many rows. She left the dorm and disappeared for several hours. When she returned she was bloody, bruised and crying. She had gone to the beach to cool off alone and while she was there she was gang-raped by two black men.
I remember her best friend and I taking her to the hospital, and the police laughing as they interviewed her. I screamed at them for their insensitivity and was held against the wall with an arm on my throat and threatened with arrest for my trouble. For days after that our lives were turned upside-down. There is nothing like having a loved one recoil from your touch, or waking up in the middle of the night screaming. It shredded me, and made me feel powerless. It became the beginning of the end of our relationship, one that gradually spiraled down into a pit of loneliness and despair. She took to cocaine to forget; I took to cheap vodka. Eventually my mother had to mount an all-night rescue mission where she drove non-stop from St. Louis to Chicago, put me and the few things I had left (that my girlfriend hadn’t pawned) into her car, and headed the 333 miles back home.
Whenever I read stories about rape, whether of women or men, I am touched by them. I’ve seen the damage the violence causes first hand, and as a man who has held a woman screaming in his arms as she relived her rape, I’ve been damaged by it. All these years later the scars are still there and they still hurt, but as I get older I’ve learned that as one ages the pains of aging and Life increase. You just suck it up and keep living.
Rolling Stone’s recent piece detailing the gang-rape of a freshman at the University of Virginia received a lot of publicity when it was published, followed by scrutiny. Now the story is falling apart and it appears likely that the protagonist “Jackie” was not raped as she claimed to have been. There have been other cases where women have gone public with rape claims only to later have them proven lies. The most horrific case was the Duke Lacrosse Rape case where a stripper’s lie ruined the lives of three students she accused of the crime. There’s a kind of masochistic sainthood that comes with claiming to have been raped when you haven’t, an ego boost that doesn’t come to those who actually were raped. In my girlfriend’s case she buried the event under the sedation of alcohol and cocaine; the last thing she wanted to do was talk about the rape.
I grew up with four older sisters and a mother who ran the financial affairs of the house. I was taught to respect women by the same women in my life who value me as a man. The girlfriend survived. Last I heard she was happy living in the Midwest, having put her drug abuse and her rape behind her.
But “Jackie” and her enablers do women like her a disservice by lying about rape. It belittles the real victims of rape and those who have been injured in the aftermath. There is nothing good that comes out of rape. There’s nothing heroic or noble about surviving it. The only thing worse than claiming to have been raped when you haven’t is to be falsely accused of rape. That’s something the Duke Lacrosse players and an entire fraternity on the UVA campus have experienced first hand. Will Rolling Stone do an in-depth article on the hell they’ve gone through? I’m not holding my breath.
Jann Wenner’s Rolling Stone has brought this disaster upon itself, proving once again that the best days of that rag lay at least two decades in the past. Peter Suderman at Reason.com writes, “And by failing so thoroughly to corroborate so many essential details of Jackie’s account—and by insisting, even after reasonable questions were raised, that the story had been verified to be true, they have made life much harder for the same victims of assault and advocates of awareness that a story like this ought to help.”
Nice job assholes.