On the night of my eighteenth birthday, I heard a loud knock on my door. It was approximately 11 p.m., and my roommate had no plans to return until morning.
“RA’s! Open up!”
I peeked through the peephole. Two men, not much older than myself, sought entrance. In my naiveté, I opened the door.
“We heard complaints of noise. Are you having a party?”
I was stunned. Only three weeks into college, and I was already in trouble. But, quickly, my real error surfaced: I had unknowingly granted two strangers access into my room late at night.
It was 2 vs. 1, and I was in no position to win.
I think this is the problem with rape. In our minds, we too often conjure up images of scantily clad women parading their bodies for any male spectator who may show interest. Perhaps there is alcohol involved. Regardless, it’s always the woman’s fault.
Let’s be clear: No woman asks to be raped. Ever.
For myself, this lesson was a hard one to learn. As it turns out, even fully clothed women who are in the privacy of their own “home” can fall victim.
The recent Stanford rape case has reminded me of how very lucky I am. Rape doesn’t always knock. On a night that could have so easily rerouted the course of my life, I was able to experience God’s amazing grace. My boyfriend at the time had surprised me earlier in the day and was still in my room at the time of the incident.
All it took was a single wave to protect my honor – and future.
Over the years, I have met women who have been sexually violated. And, yes, some of their circumstances, though certainly not all, involved collegiate athletes. Unfortunately, the deep pain and shame that rape produces often silences these stories. And, with no story, there is no consequence.
In the years that followed my dangerous encounter, I did spot – on two occasions – one of the young men who had posed as an RA. I will never forget his face and the fire, to this day, it fuels in my heart.
More than a decade later, I still live with the regret of having been so paralyzed by fear that I did nothing. But I am a parent, and I have the responsibility of using my hardship for good. After all, if I don’t teach my children to carry the weight of their own decisions, who will?
Humans, especially those who are young, will most certainly do bad things. But “20 minutes of action” can steal a woman’s core. In an increasingly self-centered world, respect has never been needed more.
An eighteenth birthday – and all the life that follows – may even depend on it.