By Mel Currier
In 1965, when I was seventeen, I moved to New York City to attend secretarial school and lived at The Barbizon Hotel for Women. Men weren’t allowed past the lobby, so that provided some security and sanity for my parents. But what happened outside the walls of The Barbizon was another story.
Malachy’s, the first singles bar, was around the corner from The Barbizon, in an exclusive upper East side neighborhood. It was a dingy, hole-in-the-wall bar, but it was the place to be.
My friends and I went there frequently, but I rarely saw anyone that appealed to me – until I saw John. His tall, blonde, preppy look instantly attracted me. He said he was in prep school and was a year younger than me. We saw each other at Malachy’s a few times before he asked me out for a Saturday afternoon date to meet his brother who lived in Greenwich Village.
When the day arrived, I was thrilled to be on a date with John and I remember how wholesome I looked in my cranberry cotton slacks, madras blouse and Bass Weejuns. We took a cab to his brother’s brownstone and after walking up the steep front steps, John unlocked the door. As we walked into the apartment, it was chillingly quiet. John nonchalantly commented that it looked like his brother wasn’t home and ushered me straight into a bedroom. Before I knew it, he was violently ripping off my clothes and forcing himself on me. I screamed “NO!!!! NO!!!!,” but John was focused on one thing as he repeatedly slapped my face and raped me. It was over in five minutes, but it seemed like forever.
As I put my clothes back on, I was overcome with a surreal feeling of anger and strength. He took a passive role and seemed pleased with my new-found power. I had entered the brownstone a naïve, trusting virgin and in less than half an hour I left physically, mentally and spiritually violated. John insisted on getting a cab for me. I never spoke to him again.
In those days, going to the emergency room, or to the police, after being raped didn’t occur to me. Little sympathy was given to rape victims by health care workers, the police, the court system and society. The victim was often blamed for the rape — it was assumed she “asked for it.”
The first thing I did when I got back to The Barbizon was take a shower, the second was look at my calendar to see if I was ovulating. I was. Next I prayed like I never prayed before. Abortion wasn’t legal then, so back alley abortions – or having a baby – were the two options available. Two weeks later I got my period. Thank you God!!!
I had no emotional support system at the time, so I didn’t mention it to anyone. I put it out of my mind as if it never happened. My denial was my protection.
When I eventually remembered that October day decades later, I realized John pre-meditated the rape and I was lucky to be alive.
Even though I was an expert at finding people on the Internet, his name was so common, I was unable to find him. I almost lost faith of ever finding him when I got the idea to check Facebook’s “people finding” feature. I typed in the name of his prep school along with his name and…..Bingo!
His Facebook “info” page revealed he ministers to people at his church, is on the Board of a Christian school, his favorite book was The Bible and he had been a police officer for ten years!! I was shocked and outraged.
I thought about contacting him, but what good would that do? Ultimately I decided to let the issue go and give it to the Universe to handle.
Now that I have had time to reflect, there were three red flags I wish I would have observed. First, I should have wondered why John wanted me to meet his brother since it was just our first date. Second, when I saw that his brother wasn’t home, I should have immediately left the brownstone. And third, I never should have allowed John to usher me straight into the bedroom.
There are many other ways you can protect yourself if you’re in a dangerous situation, including:
- Always let someone know who you are going out with and where you are going;
- Avoid going to secluded locations until you know each other well;
- Emphatically tell the perpetrator you will call the police if they don’t stop NOW;
- Don’t be afraid to cause a scene if you feel threatened;
- Bring cash on your date in case you need a cab;
- Put speed dial numbers on your cell phone for quick help;
- Immediately go to the nearest emergency room if you are raped (do not get rid of the physical evidence).
Women need to take control. The next time you go out on a date, make sure you have a plan of action in case the date takes an unexpected turn. It may just save your life!