No. This can’t be true.
It’s a bad dream. I’ll wake up soon and…and…
God, don’t let this be real.
No…Please, no…It’s not happening.
But…but it is.
Someone help me.
God, just make him stop…
Please help me. Someone…
I’m being raped.
February 21, 1987:
The radio was blasting as I pulled up beside the apartment building at 10 p.m. and parked my red Fiero next to that damned blue pickup truck that no one seemed to own. “Damned truck is always there, right in front of the door. Who the hell owns it, anyhow?” I muttered as I got out of the car. Struggling to gather up the three torn grocery bags wedged into the passenger seat, I pushed the door closed with my hip and headed toward the apartment. Balancing bananas, milk, a variety of luncheon meats, bread and potato chips, I pulled out my keys, dropped them and, shifting my load to retrieve them, finally managed to get the key in the lock and open the door.
Dashing across the dark living room, I switched the kitchen light on with my elbow and set the groceries down on the table. Turning, I started back to close the door and jumped, bile suddenly filling my stomach. There was a figure standing in the doorway, silhouetted by the streetlight inching in around his body.
I’ll close my eyes and he’ll be gone.
In the dim light I could see his torn blue denim jacket, his worn jeans and dirty white T-shirt, his white Converse tennis shoes, tied loosely with broken laces and without any socks. His oily, shoulder-length hair and acne-scarred face, his dirty fingernails. The image froze in my mind like a Polaroid snapshot. Terror—a gut-sickening terror—crept into my bowels.
Then I could see the flash of the large pocketknife he held comfortably in his right hand and his threatening smile as he reached behind himself, shutting and locking the door.
His eyes never left me as he moved into the room.
“Get out. Who are you? Whaa…t,” I asked, my voice drifting off into a hoarse whisper, fear spilling out, quickly soaking my gray Ohio State sweatshirt and favorite patched jeans.
The room seemed terribly small and his presence grew. I edged away from him, but he continued steadily forward, holding the knife out—menacingly—rolling its handle back and forth smoothly with his fingers. He controlled my stumbling steps, backing me with the tip of the blade toward the old brown couch.
“Please, just leave. Take anything you want, anything…just please don’t hurt me…plea…”
“Shut up, bitch,” he spat out and swung, hitting me hard on the left side of my face. I went reeling, spinning toward the floor, my head fuzzy.
“And if you say one more word, just one more sound outta you—you’ll never talk or see anyone again,” he said, and then he kicked me away, the sneaker landing squarely in my stomach.
Grabbing my hair, he pulled me to my feet and up close to him. Pulling back my head, he put his thumb over the lid of my right eye and forced the lid up. “You better understand what I’m telling you, bitch, or you’ll never see anything again, understand?” he said, holding the tip of the knife less than an inch from my open eye.
Salty tears glided uncontrollably down my cheeks and into my mouth.
Pushing me toward the hallway, he slammed me against the bedroom doorjamb and, forcing me against the white frame, fired three punches into my stomach. Doubling over in pain, I was fighting to hold on to consciousness as another blow on my head toppled me to the floor like a rag doll, limp from abuse.
“Please…” I whispered as he picked me up by the hair and threw me onto the bed.
His answer was a powerful slap across the face.
No, he didn’t want money. Or my great-grandmother’s jewelry that I kept hidden in a felt-lined box on the shelf. He wanted to hurt me for something I hadn’t done, for reasons I would never know…
I was going to be raped.
Help me…Please, someone’s got to help me.
He’s going to kill me.
God, please don’t let this happen.
This just can’t be real…
Goddamn it, don’t let it be real.
His cruelty became a game. He seemed to enjoy the terror in my eyes as he sat on top of me and touched me with his calloused hands. He watched my eyes follow the knife—his knife—as he dug its tip against my skin, scratching the length of my arm again and again, each time drawing a thin line of blood to mark its path. He slowly ran the blade up to my neck, where he dug out a small piece of flesh with its jagged tip, and told me to take off all my clothes.
“Take off your goddamn clothes now. I want them off in 10 seconds or your ass is dead,” he said in a slow, harsh whisper, getting up and stepping back to watch.
Shaking, I quickly stripped off everything I had on, my shirt and pants, my bra and underwear, shoes and socks. Everything.
He just watched silently, smiling, spinning the knife slowly. Spinning, spinning the blade. The sharpened blade flashed in the light as he turned on the red desk lamp next to the bed.
I stood there naked in front of him, my tears choked off by the sobs shaking me.
Saying nothing, he motioned to the floor, unzipped his pants and pushed them down, exposing his genitals. He stepped forward, pushed me back against the cold wall and ran the blade up the length of my torso. Reaching my shoulders, he raised the knife to my throat and, grabbing my arm, forced me to my knees.
“Do it,” he said, teasing the muscles in my neck with the knife blade. Grabbing my hair, he forced me toward him. There was nothing I could do. Struggling against the vomit in my throat, I gagged and obeyed.
Just let it be over…I can’t stand it. Please let me die…Please. This can’t be happening…no. No. Somebody, please. I just want to die. No…No.
He dragged me to my feet, backhanded me toward the bed, and I crawled onto the mattress on my stomach, praying that my nightmare was over. Straddling my buttocks, he continued his knife game, scraping my back, scratching my shoulders and my neck and my thighs with its blade. He laughed when I cried out when he ran the broken tip between my legs. I knew he was going to kill me, because the scratches got deeper and his enjoyment seemed to increase.
Pushing me over on my bleeding back, he told me that I was a whore, trash, a cheap slut. He said I was a woman who didn’t know her place and deserved this. “You make me sick just to touch you, you bitch. Goddamn whore. Thank God I brought this,” he said, laughing at his games. “Put it on me, bitch, so I don’t have to touch you. That way I won’t catch nothin’.” He pulled a wrinkled condom wrapper from his pocket and dropped it on my stomach.
“I said put it on, bitch,” he yelled, slapping my head to one side and pushing the knife harder against my neck. I could feel the blade biting into the skin, into the soft folds under my chin.
I tried to open the foil wrapper and finally managed to pull out the condom. I fumbled to put it on him, struggling to hold back the looming insanity that tried to close in and take over.
Just don’t think about it…Don’t think.
God, I’m going to be sick…
No…no…you can’t lose control, hold on. It’s got to be over soon, just don’t think about it.
No… Don’t think.
“Now, if you say one goddamn word, I’ll start with this eye and push my blade through nice and slow, and if you make any more noise, I’ll finish my fun by doing the same to your other one,” he said quietly, leaning forward and pressing the blade against one of my closed eyes. All I could think about was the pain of that knife slowly piercing my eyelid and slicing into the soft ball underneath and my terror.
That’s what I was thinking as he sat back and rammed himself inside me. The burning, tearing pain brought welcome tears. They seemed to reassure me I was still alive.
There was no longer any time. Everything continued forever, everything seemed to stop.
And finally, it was over.
Rolling away from me, he got up, took off the used condom and pulled up his pants. Looking at me, he laughed.
You move off that goddamn bed until I’ve been gone at least half an hour and I’ll be back. Just stay where you are. Remember, I know where to find you, and if you move your ass, I promise you I’ll be back,” he said, pushing his hair back as he silently strolled around the room.
Then, humming, he began to spin the knife with his fingers again.
I said nothing. I couldn’t feel anything. I didn’t want to feel anything. I was numb, and it felt safe wrapped in that numbness. I just wanted him to leave. Just leave…
Moving toward the bedroom door, he turned and pointed the knife at me. “I promise you, I’ll be back,” he repeated. Then he backed out. I could hear him moving around the apartment for a few minutes—in the bathroom, down the hallway, in the living room—and finally I heard the sound of the front door. Closing.
He was gone.
I didn’t move. I thought about how pretty it was last summer, and how I loved to swim in the ocean. I didn’t move. I thought about how I loved to play with my dog, and how I hoped to have a child someday, but I didn’t move. I thought about my grandmother, about my favorite movies, my favorite books, a glass of wine. And somehow time passed. Slowly I rolled over, got up and put on my clothes.
I thought about being alive.
Crying, I prayed, out loud, “Thank you, God. I’m still alive, thank you.”
Twenty minutes after the assailant fled, Maria’s roommate returned to the apartment and found her sobbing so hysterically that it took nearly an hour to determine what had happened. Police arrived minutes later and questioned her only briefly before taking her to the hospital, where a police photographer spent an hour recording her wounds before she was treated for countless gouges, cuts and bruises. Maria and her roommate moved the next day to an undisclosed location away from the campus, and she has been undergoing extensive psychological counseling ever since. She keeps four large dogs inside her house and missed three weeks of classes and work because she was terrified of going anywhere alone. If she even tried to go to the grocery store, she became sweaty and nauseated.
One of the most difficult problems she has encountered has been the response of friends. “They don’t know how to deal with me,” she says. “I make them uncomfortable. Eventually they shy away completely. Others want to give me gifts all the time—candy, clothes, money. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me, I just want them to treat me as they did before this happened. That’s what would help me most.”
Though she helped a police artist in drafting a composite sketch of the suspect and has been shown numerous mug shots, the rapist hasn’t been found.