My parents wouldn’t let me attend the college of my choice. I’d applied to and been accepted at Ohio State University. My grandma had agreed to let me live with her, in exchange for light duties at her house. It would be a short bus ride, doable even in the winter.
My parents, being what we now call “helicopter” parents, didn’t want me leaving the San Francisco Bay Area where we now live.
That left San Francisco State, a good choice for a would-be teacher. They also disapproved of that, as they refused to allow me to live on campus or commute into the city.
My brother and I both received State scholarships that would pay 100% of our tuition, to any college in the state. So I could have gone to SF State at no cost, but that didn’t matter.
My brother applied for USC, down in Los Angeles. I was told I could apply there as well, and if he got in, then I could go.
That’s how I ended up at USC, a rich-kids’ school. I was completely out of my league. My first roommate was so rich that she only wore clothing items once. She’d pile them up, then on the weekend her mother would appear with a rack, yes, an actual rack, of items still in plastic bags.
My clothes were mostly made by my mother, although I’d learned how to sew and had made bell-bottoms and one-yard skirts, both in style with what were then called hippies.
Academically I was fine. As a math major, as long as I stayed in my department, I aced my classes. I found Russian easy, but not any of the mandatory sciences, social studies and English courses.
Socially, I was a misfit. A painfully shy teen with large black-framed glasses just doesn’t seem to interesting to vibrant, do-everything classmates.
Although my brother was also socially awkward, he fit in with the engineering students who were just like him. He even got into a fraternity, composed of others like him.
I found them endearing.
The guys accepted me as a little sister. Every Friday night I gathered around a tiny TV and watched Star Trek with them. We drank, ate and talked about the plausibility of such things happening. It was great fun.
One of the “brothers” took an interest in me. George was a sweet guy. He took me out to eat, to movies, and to many of the fraternity’s parties. I felt a bond with him that no teen had ever given me before.
After a night of heavy petting, I told George that perhaps we should hold off on going any further until we were married.
He hadn’t proposed, mind you. I just assumed he would and I was prepared to accept.
He broke my heart that night. George was non-practicing Jewish while I was a devout Catholic. In my mind, it wouldn’t matter and my faith would be our family’s faith. George didn’t agree.
Our relationship ended amicably.
My brother knew I was good at languages. One of his brothers needed help with Spanish and my brother offered my services without consulting me first.
The guy was a creep. There was something about “Jim” that made me extremely uncomfortable. He’d never touched me or said much of anything to me, but I didn’t like being in the same room with him.
I agreed to tutor him.
The first time we met, I assumed we’d work in the dining room. Nope. He insisted in studying in his room, which he shared with another guy, claiming that he wanted privacy.
Nothing happened that night except for him scooting closer and closer to me as we sat on the edge of the bed.
I didn’t want to go back, but my brother insisted.
Reluctantly I agreed on a second meeting, on the condition that we’d be in the dining room.
Jim refused, taking my hand and dragging me into the bedroom. I should have left right then, but that would have caused a scene.
Throughout our session, more than once, Jim leaned so close to me that his warm breath tickled my neck. I’d moved away, but then he’d sidle over. When he grew tired of Spanish, he pulled me down on his bed.
Thankfully nothing happened. That night.
I refused to return.
What I didn’t know was that now I had a reputation of “putting out”.
I learned this from another fraternity brother, Paul. He was socially awkward like me. He was overweight like me. He was extremely smart, taking challenging classes, like me.
Paul took me to the opera and theater, my first time to ever experience a performance on a big stage.
We’d spend hours talking, sometimes until the early morning. At no time did Paul kiss me or attempt to kiss me.
I liked him, but more of as a friend. I assumed it was the same for him. Paul was the one who told me about the rumors. He said he enjoyed being with me despite what was being said.
After that I stayed away from the fraternity.
One summer I applied for an on-campus job that paid pretty well. I’d be able to stay in the Soroptimist House where I’d been living.
One afternoon I was outside on the balcony sunbathing, when a familiar voice called me. I looked over the railing, and there was Jim. He informed me that my brother had asked him to keep an eye out for me, to make sure I was safe.
I told Jim that I was fine, turned away, gathered my stuff and went inside.
Jim returned the next day and the next. I insisted I didn’t want or need his help. I told him to leave and not come back.
After that I didn’t see Jim for a long time.
One afternoon as I walked back from the Law Library, a building that I found peaceful and still, I was smiling and enjoying the weather.
A red convertible pulled up next to me. It belonged to Jim, who was now married. I continued walking and he continued following.
He insisted he and his wife wanted to share their wedding photos. That seemed fairly safe since she would be there, so I got in the car. Big mistake.
As soon as we were in the apartment, Jim locked and bolted the door.
The sofa-bed was open with clean sheets on it, as if he’d been expecting company.
I knew something was wrong and that I should leave, but the door was locked.
As an abused child, I knew about being trapped and that there was no way out except to just go along with the scenario.
Jim sat on the bed and patted the spot next to him. The album was on the bed. He showed a few pictures, and then he made his move.
At first it was just kissing, but then his hands went under my t shirt and then into my shorts. He pushed me backwards and fell on top of me.
I knew nothing about sex, had never seen a penis, and had little about rape, yet instinctively knew that something awful was about to happen.
Jim undressed me, then removed his shirt. He wore the most gruesome smile as he pulled down his pants. He bragged about his size and how good it would make me feel.
His fingers entered me.
Jim shot up, a look of shock on his face.
He said he didn’t know I was a virgin because of my reputation.
Things happened very quickly after that.
He got dressed, told me to get dressed.
While I was quickly putting my clothes on, he stripped the bed and then folded it back up. He then unlocked and unbolted the door and told me to leave.
His parting shot, however, was that if I ever told anyone, he would deny having stolen my virginity.
I ran to the next building and ducked into the lavatory. I slid to the floor and huddled there until someone wanted in.
For quite a while I wondered if that constituted rape. If I had seduced him, as he claimed. I understood that he had taken something precious away from me, but that if I told anyone, no one would believe me due to the reputation I had at the fraternity.
For my remainder years at USC, I kept a lookout for Jim.
I sometimes saw that red convertible, then would run down a closed-off section of campus.
One time, when back at home, my family took a trip to Napa County to visit wineries.
On the way there, my brother announced he had invited Jim and wife.
I panicked. My chest tightened and my eyes pooled with tears.
I announced that I would stay in the car. My dad, wisely said, it was too hot. True, but it meant that I had to see Jim.
Finally I told the truth, that he had raped me.
I got the response that many women, even today, get: that I must have done something to deserve it.
My mother said I was lying as no friend of my brother’s would do that.
So, as a supposed liar, I had to walk into the winery with Jim.
He gave me what I now know was a leer, a look that acknowledged what he had done and that reaffirmed that I could tell no one.
Back then I felt like a fool.
Now I know I was abused, this time not by my parents, but by Jim.