Prompt: Take a Traumatic Event and Write How You Would Change How You Acted

When I was nineteen, I was sexually assaulted. A boyfriend turned mean and perverted what had been a loving sexual relationship. I spent three days locked in his apartment with him terrorizing me. I will turn 59 in a few weeks. I have spent the last 40 years carrying those three days with me. I do not see myself as a victim. I don’t live like a victim. But I do recognize it’s healing for me to look critically at what I wish I had done differently at the time.

If I could go back and change the way I acted during that time, this is what I would do:

I would have not ignored the event before all of this happened when he bent my arm behind my back when I said I’d rather go for a walk first and then have sex.

I would have never gotten on a plane without anyone’s knowledge except my college roommate’s and flown to visit him for three days when I was at a different school for the summer.

I would have gotten out of the car right after leaving the airport when he said that I had gotten “too big for my britches” and “needed to be put down a notch.”

I would have gotten up and left the Indian movie we went to on the UT campus when all of the audience laughed after a man on screen hit a young woman who was “misbehaving.”

I would have left quietly and quickly the first opportunity I had after he showed the first display of anger in his apartment.

I would have recognized early on that my boyfriend’s roommate could not be counted on to help me.

I would have broken the second story window in the bedroom where I was locked in and dropped down to the empty alley below – even if I hurt myself escaping.

I would have gone straight to the police and reported what was clearly a crime: sex against my will, physical assault and hostage holding.

I would have stood up in court and testified against this man.

I would know that I had looked clearly at the situation, taken the appropriate action, and he had received the appropriate punishment: prison time.

I would know that I had kept any other innocent victim from experiencing my same fate.

I would know that I had broken through my fear and acted in a responsible manner.

I would know that I had the support of law enforcement and the judicial system.

I would know that I was safe from future harm.

I would know that there was justice for a crime that should never have gone unreported.

I would feel empowered by these actions and aware that no one could assume they could physically hurt me with impunity.

I would know that I was surrounded with people who recognized the severity of this event.

I would recognize the ramifications of such a profound violation and get myself adequate therapy.

I would know that just because my perpetrator was a “respectable” man, I still found justice.

I would be healed from this hurt.

My body would be healed from this hurt.

My spirit would be healed from this hurt.

I would not be afraid anymore of too quick movements or a rough touch.

I would forgive myself for being too passive.

I would forgive myself for not fighting harder even though fighting dramatically increased his anger.

I would understand that this was a terrible event and openly acknowledge that fact.

I would recognize that despite this unfortunate event, I can be whole, healed, open, and receptive to love.

My “boyfriend” let me go after three days because my college roommate had begun calling incessantly when I did not return on time. She also threatened to call my parents.

The year was 1972 and when I told my family after the fact, not one person – educated people – suggested reporting this incident to the police. They knew that I would likely become a victim to the system. After all, he had been my “boyfriend.” Instead, my mother said to my brothers, “Go beat that boy up.” They did not.

This is definitely a healing exercise – my willingness to openly acknowledge this event to others and also to myself. Alas, I am not alone. Read the statistics below:


How Often Does Rape Happen to Women?
• One in Four college women report surviving rape (15 percent) or attempted rape (12 percent) since their fourteenth birthday. (1)
• In a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease control of 5,000 college students at over 100 colleges, 20% of women answered “yes” to the question “In your lifetime have you been forced to submit to sexual intercourse against your will?” Thus, one in five college women has been raped at some point in her lifetime. (2)
• In a typical academic year, 3% of college women report surviving rape or attempted rape. This does not include the summer, when many more rapes occur. (3)
• In the year 2000, 246,000 women survived rape and sexual assault. This computes to 28 women every hour. (4)
• A survey of high school students found that one in five had experienced forced sex (rape). Half of these girls told no one about the incident. (5)
• Rape is common worldwide, with relatively similar rates of incidence across countries, with 19%-28% of college women reporting rape or attempted rape in several countries. In many countries, survivors are treated far worse than in the U.S. (6)
Are Men Raped?
• 3% of college men report surviving rape or attempted rape as a child or adult. (3)
• In a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control of 5,000 college students at over 100 colleges, 4% of men answered “yes” to the question “In your lifetime have you been forced to submit to sexual intercourse against your will?” (2)
Who are the Perpatrators?
• 99% of people who rape are men, 60% are Caucasian. (7)
• Between 62% (4) and 84% (1) of survivors knew their attacker.
• 8% of men admit committing acts that meet the legal definition of rape or attempted rape. Of these men who committed rape, 84% said that what they did was definitely not rape. (1)
• More than one in five men report “becoming so sexually aroused that they could not stop themselves from having sex, even though the woman did not consent.” (8)
• 35% of men report at least some degree of likelihood of raping if they could be assured they wouldn’t be caught or punished. (9)
• One out of every 500 college students is infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. (10)
• First-year students in college tend to believe more rape myths than seniors. (11)
• Sexual assault offenders were substantially more likely than any other category of violent criminal to report experiencing physical or sexual abuse as children. (7)
• In one study, 98% of men who raped boys reported that they were heterosexual. (12)
Who are the Survivors?
• 41% of college women who are raped were virgins at the time. (1)
• 42% of rape survivors told no one about the rape. (1)
• False reports of rape are rare, according to the FBI, occurring only 8% of the time. (13)
Circumstances of Rape
• 57% of rapes happen on dates. (1)
• 75% of the men and 55% of the women involved in acquaintance rapes were drinking or taking drugs just before the attack. (1)
• About 70% of sexual assault survivors reported that they took some form of self-protective action during the crime. The most common technique was to resist by struggling or chase and try to hold the attacker. Of those survivors who took protective action, over half believed it helped the situation, about 1/5 believed that it made the situation worse or simultaneously worse and better. (7)
• 84% of rape survivors tried unsuccessfully to reason with the man who raped her. (1)
• 55% of gang rapes on college campuses are committed by fraternities, 40% by sports teams, and 5% by others. (15)
• Approximately 40% of sexual assaults take place in the survivor’s home. About 20% occur in the home of a friend, neighbor, or relative. 10% occur outside, away from home. About 8% take place in parking garages. (7)
• More than half of all rape and sexual assault incidents occurred within one mile of the survivor’s home or in her home. (7)
What Happens After the Rape?
• In a study done in the 1980s, 5% of rape survivors went to the police. (1)
• Throughout the last 10 years, the National Crime Victimization Survey has reported that approximately 30% of rape survivors report the incident to the police. (4)
• Of those rapes reported to the police (which is 1/3 or less to begin with), only 16% result in prison sentences. Therefore, approximately 5% of the time, a man who rapes ends up in prison, 95% of the time he does not. (4)
• 42% of rape survivors had sex again with the rapist. (1)
• 30% of rape survivors contemplate suicide after the rape. (1)
• 82% of rape survivors say the rape permanently changed them. (1)
• The adult pregnancy rate associated with rape is estimated to be 4.7%. (17)

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12 Comments Add yours

  1. Shirley Patterson says:

    Beautifully written, Len, and the beauty of your soul is reflected in the honesty of this account. Your smile and your love are other reflections of the real Len. Do forgive yourself anything that you might have done differently and did not do. When the sun shines, what a world about us! Shirley

    1. Thank you, sweet friend. I appreciate your kind words. And to think you and Ray drove all the way from Arkansas for just one night with us. That was a true gift. Love to you.

  2. You may not have done anything then but look at beautifully you did today. That was POSITIVE actions. It counts today. Good for you.

    1. Thank you so much. And please know that I enjoyed reading about your very good year in 2011!

  3. jaredtredway says:

    Courage! You have so much courage to share this. Others who’ve had similar experiences are so courageous to share what they’ve been through. When I learn about experiences like these, it makes me want to be a better person.

    This is a life defining experience, all be it a negative one. It reminds me of the story by Zora Neale Hurston, “Their Eyes were Watching God.” After the central character had lived through both beautiful and challenging experiences, Hurston writes:

    Here was peace. She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see.

    Peace to you, Len.

    1. I love that quote. Thank you for sharing it, Jared. Peace to you, my friend.

  4. I am speechless. What courage!. There is no telling how many people you have helped by posting your story.

    I wish you the best.

    1. Thank you, Susan. I hesitated for a moment before hitting send, but then thought, “It’s okay to tell the truth.” I appreciate your kind words.

  5. buddhafulkat says:

    I admire your honesty and candor. It was moving to be able to read something so personal to you. People are resilient and you are incredibly so. Wishing you the best and hoping you receive all the healing you need.

    1. Thank you so much. It is surprising how healing it was to write all of that. Purging can do a person good!

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