A few weeks ago, I was scanning the New York Times
when I saw that the Department of Justice had released new guidelines for forensic medical examinations conducted after a sexual assault is reported.
I clicked the link that opened the 145-page document,
wondering how I could have collected evidence of my assault nearly 20 years ago.
One dreary Tuesday in November, my phone rang at 10 p.m. I was 23, attending graduate school in Chicago, and living in my first apartment. It must be my mom or best friend, I thought. No one else called that late.
It was Jeff. I felt giddy. We’d just gone on our first date that Sunday. I thought we had fun, so I was glad he was calling me.
Could he come over? My smile faded. “What about dinner tomorrow?” I asked, telling him that I had gotten an awful cold (congestion, sore throat, the works).
Nope. He had to see me that night because he was about to leave on a business trip.
I was excited. He likes me! But I felt dreadful and had been planning to go to bed soon. I said it wasn’t a good time, but he kept pressuring me.
“Fine,” I said, “you can come over for a half hour. But I feel like crap, so we’re just going to talk -- no caving into our hormones.”
The daytime view from my 26th floor apartment, overlooking Lake Michigan and the Chicago River.
He showed up less than 15 minutes later. The doorbell caught me off guard, because McClurg Court Center
had a doorman and a visitor log book. But the doorman hadn’t called me to get my permission before allowing Jeff upstairs, so Jeff didn’t sign the log book.
I opened my door, asking Jeff he’d gotten in. He said he had a key. How the hell that was possible? The resident key to the garage entrance was one of those high-security keys that you couldn’t get copied at the hardware store. Did he sneak in through the back? Maybe a resident, trying to be courteous, held the door open? So why was he lying to me? Why didn’t he just say that someone let him in the back entrance?
The front (and only) door to my studio is to the right of the white wall.
By then he was sitting on my sofa. I went to the other end, pointing out my tissue box on the coffee table and trash can on the floor, which was overflowing with used tissues. I reiterated that I was feeling crappy due to my runny nose and sore throat.
He took off his shoes and socks. He wanted a foot massage, he said, and shoved his feet onto my lap. I did as instructed.
Then he put his arm around me and tried to guide my head into his lap.
“What?” I said, stunned. I sat up. “What about STDs?”
“You know I’m safe,” he replied.
I refused, saying I was too sick to do that.
Less than a minute later, he’d ejaculated on my chest.
It happened so quickly I wasn’t even aware until he grunted and got off me.
He had had his arm around me when he tried to guide me to his lap for the blow job, then he just pushed me back onto the sofa with the weight of his body. While I was pinned under him, he pulled up my shirt and bra and yanked down his pants to expose his already-erect penis. He came prepared: no underwear and exercise pants for easy access.
I grabbed some tissues to wipe off my chest, glad I had them nearby. Neither of my two boyfriends had ever done anything like that. Goopy gunk. All over. I grimaced. Gross.
I went to my bathroom and scrubbed myself with soap and water. I felt queasy. I heard Jeff say something.
I turned off the water and dried myself off. “What do you want?” I asked, not bothering to hide my annoyance. I refastened my bra and pulled my shirt down.
He asked if he could call his friend Neil, who lived in Florida.
What the fuck was he talking about? A long-distance call? At 11 p.m.? Why? What was so important that couldn’t wait until he got back to his own fucking apartment?
“Why? Can’t you call him when you get home?” I asked.
He said he needed to talk to Neil about something the next day.
“Fine, whatever. Call your friend,” I said. As he dialed, he said something about calling Neil every time he’s with a girl.
Why the hell would he do that? Is this some kind of game? They’re keeping score?
Jeff had barely said hello to Neil when I grabbed the phone. “When was the last time Jeff called you?” I asked.
Eight months ago, Neil said.
“Be sure he treats you well,” Neil said.
What the fuck did he mean by that?
I hung up the phone.
“You’re the 76th girl I’ve done that with,” he said.
The seventieth WHAT? What a weird joke. We’re done here. Get the fuck out of my apartment, I thought.
I later bought a beige slipcover for the checkered sofa, a.k.a. the scene of the crime.
He lay down on my bed, smiling, and pulled me toward him. He held me up using his feet and hands. I wanted down, and him gone. I didn’t give a shit how strong he was.
I wiggled away.
“OK, good night,” I said, holding my front door open. “You better call me.”
It was close to midnight, and I had a class at 8 a.m. the next morning. I went to bed, but had trouble falling asleep. My stomach was turning, and I felt like curling up on my closet floor with my favorite stuffed animal. What the fuck was that? I thought he liked me. Ha! He was using me.
In the weeks afterward, I kept trying to reconstruct what happened. Why wasn’t there any awkward fumbling of clothing? How did he get aroused so quickly, without any kissing or touching? Certainly not from the foot rub. Why there wasn’t anything between start to finish that would have given me a second to process what he wanted or what was happening, and verbally protest? Was I just a warm body after looking at porn earlier that night?
I thought I’d made it clear before he even set foot in my apartment that NOTHING physical was to transpire, that I was sick. The possibility that he would violate a well-established boundary simply didn’t occur to me. Weeks later, I wrote in my journal that he’d said during our date that he used to have a bad temper and could be selfish.
I filled two more pages in my journal with angry, agitated notes.
I felt nauseous whenever I thought about that night.
I brought an advocate with me to the police station, where the officer said it was my fault. After all, I’d agreed to see the bastard.
By then it was spring, and I didn’t know how long I’d be in Chicago after finishing my graduate program. I’d covered enough court cases to know how adept attorneys are at employing legal maneuvers to delay scheduled proceedings for months. I didn’t want to spend my savings flying for flights to and from Chicago for court appearances that would most likely be postponed, particularly for a case with no DNA evidence or even proof that Jeff was even in my apartment that night.
So I didn’t press charges. Well, not in the usual sense. By writing this, I’m pressing charges against him with the universe. May karma bite him in the ass. Repeatedly.
I’m sure I’m just a number to him, but if I do the math it’s terrifying. He was only 28. I shudder to imagine how many women he has assaulted since 1995.
I was horrified to discover through a Google search that he’s now a real estate agent -- a job that affords him unique opportunities to assault women in private, often undisclosed locations, day or night.
There is no ending to this story as long as Jeff is out there, targeting unsuspecting women, gloating to his friend Neil or to whomever he gloats these days.
I wish No. 76 were his last attack.
I doubt it.
Things did get better -- I met and married a great guy, and became a mom.