January 31, 1983 12:00 PM

It was the holiday season, a time of goodwill, so actress Diane McBain had no reason to anticipate danger. Her career, in fact, was soaring. Signed by Warner Bros, in 1959, right out of Glendale (Calif.) High School, she starred with teen idol Troy Donahue in the 1961 movie Parrish and in the TV series Surf side Six. Over the years she added film credits—Ice Palace, Spinout and Mary, Mary—and appeared in more than 200 TV episodes, including Dallas, in which she was cast as Sue Ellen’s best friend, Dee Dee Webster. At age 41 (and “proud of it”), McBain also plays the madam, Foxy Humdinger, in NBC’s Days of Our Lives. Last month, while returning alone to her West Hollywood home, the divorced mother of a 9-year-old son was raped. As police continue the search for her two attackers, Diane has chosen to go public with her story, hoping that it will help other victims to deal with such crimes. Her voice was unwavering as she recounted her ordeal to PEOPLE’s Gail Buchalter.

I was coming home from a Christmas Eve party at about 1:30 in the morning. My garage is in an alleyway behind my apartment building. That day I had taken the car to be washed, and the attendant had broken the door lock. To open it, I had to roll down the window and grab the handle from the outside. So I was vulnerable when two men suddenly ran into the garage.

“We’re the police,” they yelled. I knew they weren’t, but I couldn’t lock the car door, and there was nowhere to run. They dragged me out of the seat. I started to scream. That’s when one of them put his fingers in my eyes. I was struggling, trying to get free, when the other man closed the garage door. They hit me and threatened me with more violence.

When they said, “Get down,” I did. I didn’t want to lose my life. They didn’t say anything as they began ripping away my clothes. I was repeatedly raped. It lasted 30 to 45 minutes. It seemed like an eternity.

Having listened to stories of women who had been raped, I long ago made a decision that if it happened to me, I would try to stay calm, try to remember what I could. Five years ago, when I lived in a different home, a man broke in at night through my kitchen window, took my money, and then woke me up. He was sitting on my bed. I didn’t fight but just kept talking to him. I asked him who he was looking for and, in answering me, time went by, and he just left. I was physically unharmed, but I decided if it ever happened again, I would be prepared to look and listen—and remember.

So in the middle of the rape I began to observe. I know I was in shock, but I burned into my memory what I could. They were Latinos, one named Luis, the other Ricardo. They were medium height—I’m 5’7″, and they weren’t much taller. Both were in their 20s, with trimmed mustaches, fairly nice clothes and very new shoes.

Luis was the more brutal. He was the one who put his fingers in my eyes. He was really into assault and robbery. Rape isn’t a sexual trip, and rapists sometimes have difficulty getting an erection, though those two violated me again and again. I kept saying, “I don’t think you want to do this.” Ultimately, I believe, that’s how I got out of the situation. If I were a rapist, I’d be embarrassed.

In the middle of all that, one of them asked me what I did for a living. I told them I was an actress. People have since asked me if my television role as a madam had anything to do with my being raped. Obviously not, since those two didn’t know my occupation.

Finally they tied and gagged me. They took my panty hose and wrapped them around my throat and mouth, all the time saying, “You’re lucky we’re not going to kill you.” After they left, I could barely breathe. I struggled desperately and got loose, then went to my apartment. I called the operator, who connected me to the police and also to the Cedars-Sinai Hospital Response Center for victims of violent crimes. Then I called two close friends, [TV actor] Ty Henderson and [artist] Vera Desmond. They came, the police arrived and so did the ambulance, which took me to Cedars-Sinai. My lips were cut and required four stitches. They took X-rays because I’d been battered. My eyes were swollen shut. I’ve had a tubal ligation, so I didn’t worry about pregnancy.

Everyone was wonderfully supportive. The doctors and nurses were outraged. The policemen assured me right away that any questions pertaining to the rape itself would be asked by a female officer. The West Hollywood sheriff’s department and the Response Center provide such good counseling that it makes it possible for a victim to survive the ordeal.

When I got home, I called my ex-husband, Rob Burke, so he could tell our son, Andrew, who’s 9, that I had been in an accident, to prepare him for the way I looked. He was visiting his dad for Christmas. When he arrived home the next day, I was straightforward with him, explaining what had happened at his level of understanding. Rape wasn’t a word I had to explain. He had heard it on TV; he could see by looking at me. It was a touching moment.

Andrew’s a resilient child; he’s handling it well. The Response Center encouraged us both to go for therapy. He sees a man; I see a woman. We are bothered by our anger and the terror, which is more mine than Andrew’s. He’s afraid something may happen to me again, and then what would happen to him? He’s trying to be protective. Andrew is small and can’t scare anyone, but when we’re walking and approach a corner, he does a Bruce Lee stance. He thinks it will scare anyone away.

I do find myself looking over my shoulders all the time now. I’m far more cautious, dressing more conservatively and being more careful about the people I talk to. Unless I know someone very well, I’d never give them my phone number. My nightmares have to do with those rapists and what I’d like to do to them. In one dream I had a broken bottle in my hand and was going to smash it in their faces. That’s when I woke up.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this. Because others who had this terrible experience spoke out, I was helped greatly. Maybe I can help someone else. The day after Christmas some women friends and I decided to go ahead with a party we had planned with our kids. While the children were outside playing, we couldn’t help but talk about rape. Each told of her experiences: One had been raped continually over several years as a child by her stepfather, another when she was 8 by a teenage boy. A third was raped last October when she went to a customer’s house to show him Oriental rugs she had for sale, imagine, four of the six women sitting in my living room had been rape victims!

I hope this hasn’t changed my feelings toward men. Two specific men did this to me, not men in general. I’m not planning to move. I think those guys would be crazy to come back because I haven’t been outside since Christmas without seeing a policeman or police car. I’m not getting any special protection from the police, but they really want to catch those guys; they have their fingerprints.

Friends have suggested I get a gun, but it wouldn’t have helped. I couldn’t have gotten to it, and if I had, there was no way I could have kept it from them. They would have used it on me. The only way to survive with a gun is to be ready to shoot, and you can’t be ready 24 hours a day.

I don’t believe rapists should be castrated. I hope we’re more civilized than that. Nor do I believe in capital punishment. But I do think the men who raped me should be locked up and the key thrown away—forever.

Yes, I’m angry. I’m trying to get over it. I had thought it wouldn’t happen to me, or if it did, that I could get out of it somehow. Now I realize I’m not as indestructible as I thought I was.

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