7 Warning Signs For Date Rape

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couple-on-beachImage via Shutterstock

When I awoke on that bright spring morning of March 21st, 1986 in a pensione in Venice, Italy on my semester abroad, I didn’t expect the day to end on a dark, deserted beach with an Italian boy I’d just met pinning me to the ground hissing in my ear that he had a knife and would kill me if I didn’t “f–k” him.

Getting dressed that morning I didn’t know I’d have an out-of-body experience where I seemed to float above the scene, looking down at the two bodies grappling on the sand below, feeling profoundly sad that my mom might never know what happened to me after I died on a little beach so far from home.

I managed to survive my attack, and, all these years later, I’m a mother. My daughters are ten and twelve and the thought of them ever being in a similar situation is intolerable.

Bad things can happen no matter how prepared and careful we are, but when my girls are old enough I’m going to share my story with them and hope they’ll see the warning signs for date rape that I missed. Maybe these can help your daughters, too…

The Warning Signs For Date Rape That I Missed…

1. Your Date Tries To Get You To Ignore Your Instincts. When my friends and I were dining in Italy over our spring break, a handsome Italian stranger named David asked to join us for dinner. We were looking for a romantic adventure so we acquiesced. It was enjoyable, but as we were leaving with him, two of his friends, David and Marco, seemed to magically appear out of nowhere and asked to join us for a trip down to a little beach. My gut told me this was a bad idea, but after a lot of coaxing and cajoling we allowed all three boys to join us.

2. Your Date Wants To Take You To A Secluded Location. My friends and I accompanied the boys to the deserted beach even though we felt a little uneasy. We didn’t want to seem like uptight spoil- sports.

3. Appearances Lull You Into A Sense of Safety. David, the boy who attacked me, was very handsome and I must admit, because of this, I trusted him. The beach was cold so the boys ferried us into a little changing shack on the beach to light candles, drink and talk.

4. Your Date Encourages You To Drink Or Take Drugs. My friends and I were plied with wine from some bottles the boys produced and it wasn’t until after the attack that I recalled none of the boys were drinking.

5. Your Date Tries To Separate You From Your Friends. After about an hour my date encouraged me to stay inside the shack while the others went outside to look at the full moon. I was looking for romance and wanted a kiss, so I decided to stay.

6. Accomplices and Conspiracies: There may be multiple perpetrators who conspire to commit the crime. I believe all three boys were in cahoots about separating my friends and I in order to get us to have sex with them. What I didn’t know, while I was kissing David in the little wooden shack, was that Fabio and Marco were convincing my two friends to leave the beach with them.

7. Date Rapists Amp Up Their Attack Gradually So The Victim Doubts Herself. Again, listen to your gut. When David kissed me I enjoyed it, but kissing was all I wanted. I don’t know exactly when things began to go wrong, but at some point I realized the kiss didn’t feel like a kiss anymore. It felt like something hard and sharp, like a knife forcing me to the edge of a black pit. Unfortunately, my lapse in reaction time helped Marco and Fabio get my friends off of the beach. Shortly after that, my date made his intentions clear. He had planned to rape me all along.

What will I teach my daughters to do differently? 

1. Make a Game Plan With Friends and Have a Signal if you Need Help. My two girlfriends hadn’t wanted to leave me alone on the beach, they wanted to go back and get me out of the cabin. But Fabio and Marco pressed them, suggesting I probably wanted to be alone with David. The girls didn’t know me well enough at the time to be sure that wasn’t true and we hadn’t made a game plan beforehand. It’s imperative that girlfriends have each other’s backs in social situations, so be sure to talk and make safety rules before you go out.

2. Stay Sober and Aware. The wine I consumed muddled my judgment. It’s so common for young, inexperienced women to get inebriated or high in social situations because maybe they need to quell their nerves and want to be confident. Unfortunately, this gives the perpetrators free reign to exploit and injure you.

3. If you are Being Attacked, Engage your Vocal Chords, Scream and Yell as Loud as you can. I didn’t realize it, but from the moment David’s kiss turned bad I hadn’t engaged my vocal chords. I had whispered, “No, no, no, let me go.” But I hadn’t actually made a sound that anyone but David could hear.

Years later I went to a friend’s self-defense course graduation. I learned there that when women are attacked they frequently become paralyzed and don’t speak. I learned that engaging the vocal chords loudly actually ignites adrenaline, which allows women to fight back. Women are often raped and killed without making a sound.

After grappling for what seemed like hours, when David was finally able to jerk me onto my hands and knees and get my pants down, a wild, hysteria and a refreshed panic to get free overtook me. Sensing I was going to fight again, David threw his arm around my neck from behind.

Suddenly I found my voice and screamed “Rape!” for all I was worth. Adrenaline shot through me. I threw my elbow back and caught him smack on the nose. I saw blood spurt and then I saw nothing but sand and a solitary streetlamp on the distant street as I ran headlong up the beach.

It was the scream that gave me the surge of power I needed to escape. David chased after me, but I was able to get to the lit street before he could get to me. Then he disappeared as quickly as he’d appeared.

When I think about how close I came to becoming a Natalee Holloway or Meredith Kercher or Jennifer Levin, it makes me shudder and catalyzes me to share this story to help young women heading out into the dating world.

4. Finally, if the worst happens, RAPE IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Over the next months, and even years, I blamed myself for the attempted rape.

I should’ve listened to my instincts. I shouldn’t have gone down to the beach with boys I didn’t know. I shouldn’t have drunk any wine. I shouldn’t have wanted a kiss. I was too flirtatious, too bawdy, a slut.

I deserved it.

All too frequently rape begrimes a woman’s reputation. There are still many countries around the world where “honor killing” of rape victims is allowed due to cultural and religious beliefs, which victimizes the victim twice.

Although my attempted date rape shook my confidence about moving freely through the world, ultimately I became more street smart and savvy, far better able to protect myself and take necessary precautions to stay safe.

And I hope that’s what this story will do for my daughters. And perhaps yours, too.

Comments

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    • 2

      Glkra says

      I hope you will change the last statement from, I deserved it, to I invited it .. While your actions may have emboldened your attackers, having bad judgement did NOT mean that you, nor any woman, deserved wat happened! Only that through bad judgement and lack of enlightenment, that you may have encouraged it, although unwillingly.

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  1. 3

    Trisha says

    The exact same scenario happened to me, in Italy, in 1990. We met the boys at a restaurant beforehand, they cajoled us into walking along a deserted beach at night, and then we all got separated off, one of us each with a boy. I, too, was able to escape, but I still struggle with the guilt. Thanks for writing this.

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  2. 8

    says

    It shouldn’t be called “date rape.” It’s just rape. Also, this article is excellent and well written. But, I’m forever disappointed with our culture that insists on teaching girls how to not get raped instead of teaching boys to not rape.

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    • 9

      says

      Agreed, boys should also be taught respect, but I understand gearing towards girls as they are the ones who suffer the repercussions — better that they learn to defend themselves than count on boys having been taught well.

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    • 11

      Sherry says

      Although I agree that men should have the larger responsibility, life has taught us that we have to take responsibility for ourselves and not rely on others to do right. Because more times than not, the only people looking out for you is yourself. So its best to talk about how to help prevent rape from happening than telling people that men just shouldn’t be doing it. I also would like to add that the author should note, going with strangers is probably not a good idea in that type of situation. Even adults need to be wary of going off with people they don’t know. Its just not a good idea with anyone of any age.

      Bottom line, girls look after yourselves and try not to put yourselves in dangerous situations, and parents teach your sons and daughters to have respect for all people.

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  3. 17

    says

    Learn self defense. Karate, tkd, judo. Whatever. Too often women are made fun of for wanting to learn how to fight. If I had a daughter, she’d be in self defense classes starting at a young age and stay in them until college.

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  4. 18

    says

    I am so sad that you had to experience that. I don’t have daughters, but I promise you, I am doing everything I can to raise my sons into men who were taught that enthusiastic consent from both parties is the only yes. And without it, they’ll have to respect her, themselves and the limits no puts into place with dignity and character(no matter which party says no) So daughters won’t live in a world where the default is to expect a girl to have to defend herself and be on guard. And so we have a new generation of young men that will know they have no right to violate another, ever. So we have young people that respect each others bodies completely. It’s my job as a mother of sons. I take that responsibility very seriously.

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  5. 22

    says

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I never realized why I could never speak up or scream until I read #3 on what you will teach your girls. I have blamed myself for the past 17 years.. Thank you.

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    • 23

      says

      I have been going to counseling to work past all of the pain and the guilt and I could never understand why i could never scream. Until I read her blog post..I really am starting to realize that it is not my fault for what has happened to me.

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  6. 24

    says

    Yes parents absolutely have an obligation to teach their daughters a) how to proctect themselves, b) that no one has the right to make them do things they don’t want to or take advantage of them and c) that if something bad does happen they should fight back, seek help and not blame themselves.

    But I think parents should also be teaching their sons these same messages – male rape wether by a male or female perpatrator is more common then the media and society is aware of and boys are also more likely to get into fights.

    Let’s teach all our sons and daughters how to stay safe, respect other people and look after their mates so that no parent ever has to deal with the grief of their child being assaulted, raped or murdered.

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  7. 25

    says

    It’s awful we still live in world we have to teach our daughters this. My own experience was not this traumatic, but I was scared of backing out. Scared of what may happen. I fear this discussion with my daughter more than anything else.

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  8. 26

    Jo says

    Sadly, I wasn’t able to get away. It was a first date with a boy I’d known for months. He picked me up at home and met my parents. It was awful. He told me no one would believe me and my parents would think I was a whore. It was his word against mine and my reputation would be ruined. I have never told anyone about it until now. My husband doesn’t even know.

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      • 29

        Meg says

        This is the same scenario that happened to me almost 20 years ago. My friend and I were together, had a few drinks and were separated by two well-dressed, affluent men. Unfortunately, I was unable to escape as it was dark and I could not find my way back to my hotel. This was the worst thing that has happened in my life and I dread having to come to terms with these possible scenarios with my daughter. It took me many years of counseling to overcome my fear of men and date again. But, it is never, ever the woman’s fault in these crimes. They were predators who enjoyed their sadistic tendencies.

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