Stranger assault is a type of sexual violence in which the victim does not know her/his perpetrator.
The unexpected nature of stranger assault often leaves the victim disoriented, fearful, and in a state of shock.
“I was walking to my car…”
“He came out of nowhere and…”
from Portland, Oregon|
When I was 16 years old, I had ran away from a foster home and went to Los Angeles California, you know for the dream. My second week there I was sexually assaulted. I endured about 3 hours with this man on a stretch of mountains where I was assualted repeatedly. After he was finished he drove off and I walked with clothes hanging from my body battered and bruised and bloody I walked 4 miles. Cars passed and didn't stop to help me. I finally made it to a gas station where I stumbled to the attendant and he called 911 for me. Well to make a very long horrible story shorter, in the end I was put in jail for being a runaway for 3 months, the guards in Los Padrinos, the juvenile facility, were absolutely disgusted with the police work and court system. I am now 30 years old and every day I do remember this as it plays back in my mind like an old record. I don't know what I could have done differently to make people care that I got raped, but now I know that no body does.
from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania|
(Names have been changed.)
Sorry if this is long, but it's the details that hurt. They're what I remember most.
The first summer I returned home from college, I went to a party at a friend's house. I was about to turn 19. I got to the house around 11:00. I remember this because my friend Ryan told me to show up at 9:00 and laughed that I was two hours late. I was late because I had been running. I was running every night back then, at least 5 miles. I had developed an eating disorder while at college and was trying to kick it, but not very successfully.
I drank that night, which was atypical of me. In fact, I transferred out of my first school after the first semester because there wasn't much to do there but drink. My sister even got annoyed that I wouldn't drink at her parties, but I don't like the taste of alcohol, don't like drinking around people I'm not comfortable with, and don't like drinking when I'm not already having fun.
But like I said, I drank that night. I was with my friends, I knew everyone there, I was having fun, I was staying the night. I mixed crystal light with vodka--low calorie!--and could barely taste the alcohol, not realizing how much I was consuming. Apparently, it was more than I'd planned. I vomited that night, the first and only time I'd ever gotten sick from drinking. My friend Dave sat in the bathroom with me and took care of me while I was sick. Adam stopped in to give me gum before he left, and they both helped me over to the couch, took off my boots for me, tucked me in. I fell asleep. I'm told this was around 3 am when everyone else was settling in.
I woke up around 5:00 because I could feel someone fondling my breasts. I didn't know who it was. I was still pretty out of it. I kept my eyes closed and pretended I was still sleeping. I was hoping he would just stop, but I was also worried that he would hurt me if he knew I'd woken up. He must've noticed something because he lifted my arm and dropped it. I let it fall. He did this five or six more times. Satisfied that I was still asleep, he continued to rub my breasts. Then he lifted my shirt up so it covered my face and took pictures with his digital camera of my exposed chest. He must've heard something, because he stopped, covered me, and went to the bathroom on the other side of the room. People were both upstairs in beds and in the basement on couches, and he must've been pretty worried that he would be caught. He left the door open. I didn't want him to know I was awake--what would he do to me if he knew I knew what he was doing?-- so I didn't get up.
By the time he came back, I had started shivering uncontrollably. I'm not sure if it was more from fear or shame or the cold. He saw this and shook me "awake." Asked if I was okay. Went downstairs to get me a blanket. Gave it to me. I said "thank you." Tried to stop shivering. Pretended to fall asleep.
A few minutes later, the blanket came off. My arm was lifted and dropped again. My shirt went back over my face and my bra was lifted. More pictures of my breasts were taken. He went back to the bathroom. I peeked out, and looked around. It was starting to get light out. I looked for the camera on the coffee table but it wasn't there. He had taken it with him. He came back, started removing my pants. He took them down to my ankles, took pictures between my legs, put his fingers inside me. Then he heard one of the doors open upstairs, and quickly redressed me. I've always said that I would have "woken up" and tried to stop him if he had tried to rape me, but I was so scared that I'm honestly not sure if I would have. I am sure that he would've tried if he had not been spooked.
After he redressed me, he went back into the bathroom. He shut the door this time, and I sat up. Grabbed my boots, grabbed my purse, grabbed the camera that he had left on the table, and went for the door. The handle stuck, as always, and I was freaking out trying to open it. Dave had just come downstairs and opened it for me as I mumbled something about getting home and walked quickly to my car down the street.
I got in and looked at the pictures on the camera but I didn't see any of the ones he had just taken. I cried, went home. It was about 6:30. Went to sleep. Got up at 8:30 and made it to work by nine.
The rest of the story involves a whole hell of a lot more. As I discovered, what happened was only the beginning of the pain. The psychological aftermath was much, much worse for me. I never saw his face clearly. He had gotten to the party well after I'd gotten drunk and I'd never met him before. I told Ryan what had happened and he figured out who it was based on the shirt he was wearing. His name was Luke. Three years later, I still have no real idea of what he looks like. Brown hair, glasses, average build. I wouldn't go out in public for months because I feared I would run into him and not even realize who it was.
Ryan helped me find where Luke had stored the pictures on his camera, and had me delete them. That was all the help I ever got from him. He and Adam and Luke went on a camping trip the next weekend. He swore that he did it to question Luke, but I found out last year that they are still friendly with each other. That summer, I lost every friend I had because I couldn't be around Ryan knowing he betrayed me like that. But then I also couldn't be around his girlfriend, or best friend. He told 3 or 4 people we were friends with and they never once called me to see if I was okay. Ryan was such a fun person, and for some goddamn reason, even now I still miss him. Coming home every summer is still so painful the memories are that much more vivid. That summer my eating disorder got really really bad, and it took me another two years to recover completely.
As much as I knew what had happened to me, I struggled with my depression resulting from it. My best friend had been raped a year before. My sister was raped later that summer. I felt like what happened to me wasn't that bad. That was the worst part.
from Ottawa, Canada |
I want to tell my story, not because I want sympathy, but to
show other rape survivors that they don't have to be ashamed.
When I was 17 years old, I spent my last year of high school in Europe
at an international school. I lived with a French-speaking host family
while I attended regular high school courses in English.
One day, I had decided to go for a walk by myself along the lake, which
I liked to do sometimes after a stressful day. As I was standing at a
look-out point, a man standing nearby introduced himself as
Alessandro.*[Not his real name]. He looked to be in his thirties, with a
short black ponytail and small brown eyes. He appeared to be of Latino
or Spanish heritage, and spoke French with an accent of some sort. I
didn't find him to be any threat, as he was of average height and build.
He was very polite and kind, and as we talked we kind of understood each
other because we were both foreigners in the country. He was from
Brazil; I was from Canada. French was neither of our first languages,
but since I didn't speak Spanish and he didn't speak much English, we
spoke in French.
I felt comfortable walking along the lake with this stranger, but I also
had to get home. So I told him I had to catch my train and he walked
there with me. But when we arrived at the "gare" (train station) it
turned out my train had already left. Seeing as I had an hour to wait,
when Alessandro told me he could show me a great view of the lake from
the top of a hill. I agreed, mainly I guess because I had nothing better
to do, and I trusted this man. When we arrived at the spot, we viewed
the lake together.
But when he began to walk into the nearby woods, I held back, suddenly
feeling uneasy. I decided it was time to leave, and told him so. But as
I turned to walk away, he grabbed me around the waist from behind, and
pulled me into the woods. I was so startled, I couldn't even speak. He
proceded to pull my pants and underwear down, holding both my wrists
tightly. He gave me oral sex. I remember saying, "No, please..." a lot,
but he continued nonetheless. He then pulled his pants down, to reveal
an erection. He told me to copulate him. When I refused, he became
angry, and forced me to touch his penis instead. He became even more
excited, and knelt down once more to give me oral sex again.
I was crying and shaking by this point, but he didn't care. Then he
pulled me to face him, and literally directed his penis to my vagina.
But he couldn't get it inside, and instead stuck his finger into me. I
screamed, it hurt so much, but he didn't stop. He tried once more to
have intercourse, but this time I was less afraid and more angry, and I
was able to squeeze him very hard that he stood back and hit me. I took
the chance to pull up my pants, and for reasons I still don't
understand, he did the same. He apologized and asked if I was
"disappointed" in him. Considering I was hurt, and alone in the woods
with a strange man who just raped me, I said "no". I didn't know if he
would beat me up, or if he had a weapon or something. I was so scared.
He let me go.
I immediately went to my principal's house, which is above the school. I
was crying and vommiting; scared to death. He told me i should go home.
If I had been thinking straight, I would have insisted on going to the
hospital or the police, but I was too confused and in too much shock. He
had another female student take me home in a taxi. It wasn't until two
days later that my principal agreed to let me speak to the police; he
was afraid of the school's-and his-reputation. I told the two detectives
(one male, one female) the whole story, crying in parts but continuing
til the end. They've never arrested him, but I know I did the right
thing for me. I am angry my principal didn't call the police
immediately, but I know I can't dwell on it.
It's been three months now, and I am slowly moving on. I have only
recently gotten up the courage to see a counsellor. When I think back on
it, I know I did what was right for me; that I made the best judgements
and decisions I could with the knowledge I had at the time. It's not
easy to think in a situation such as that, and I am actually beginning to
feel proud of myself that I got out alive. I also applaud my strength
afterwards, facing police and giving a statement in my second language,
with no family or close friends around. Believe me when I say I am not
trying to brag here, but I am trying to show other survivors of sexual
abuse that they shouldn't let anyone tell them they did something wrong.
That they made the wrong decision. Because I know all too well that when
your body, your life, is in danger, the only right thing to do is get
out alive by any means possible. Whether that means submitting to the
abuse, fighting it, or a combination of both, whatever you chose was
right for YOU. And no one has the right to tell you otherwise.
*I am currently 18 years old and attending university in Ottawa. I am
hoping to graduate with a major in English and a minor in French. I live
with a roommate in an off-campus apartment, and am part of my school's
Womyn's Centre and Equality Services.*
Bakalar from Lindenhurst,
Revision, Composed 20-April-06
After my brother died, dozens of people tried to comfort me with those familiar words, “everything happens for a reason.” I accepted their attempts with a gracious smile, all the while spilling curse words under my breath until I exhausted my vocabulary. It didn’t make sense to me – life was horrible, and that was it – no reason for it. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time being bitter, unhappy, and fake. It’s only after eight years that I finally understand the purpose and meaning behind the events in my life that still somehow seem unimaginable.
It was my third week of my freshman year of college. I wanted to be alone, so I went for a walk…at night. A man grabbed me and brought me into the woods. About an hour later, he let me run away. He raped me. This random man stuck his penis inside of me, through no choice of my own. He took my clothes off, and forced me to do things that I had never done before. I still remember my mind escaping and watching from above while my body stayed to be abused by this monster. I can still feel my legs shaking uncontrollably, barely able to hold the weight of my body. I can still hear the meek sound of my whimper as the penetration caused pain to run throughout my entire body. I can still smell the stale cigarettes on his breath, and I can still taste his semen.
The years following that night were filled with drinking, depression, self-mutilation, self-pity, anger, resentment…the list goes on. It wasn’t until my friends found me passed out drunk with a knife in one hand and cuts on the opposite wrist that I decided to get some help. I spent a solid two years in therapy before I could actually say that I was happy again. But I got there. Through dealing with rape, the true “me” came out. And who is the “true me” you might ask? Well, that’s a dissertation in itself and I won’t bore you with those details, but it’s a wonderful feeling to be able to be the person you actually are. I spent years pretending to be someone I wasn’t, and to finally be true to myself is freeing, it’s liberating, it’s relieving, it’s euphoric in its own right. I get to wake up each morning, and not have to pretend… I get to go to sleep every night knowing that I spent my day being totally true to myself… I live my life and actually feel as though I’m doing just that – LIVING…not just going through the motions like I was before. And now I understand the reasons behind me being raped. Through that unfortunate night, I have been able to admit my sexuality; I am able to speak and act with complete confidence; I suddenly do not care what other people think of me; I am finally able to be the me that I always was but was afraid to be. And that is an amazing feeling…
The night was understatedly horrible. And the first time I saw his face, which was in the courtroom as I testified against him four years later, was also horrible. And the years that followed that night were also horrible. But the horror ends…and your whole life lies ahead… Everything does happen for a reason, and while I clearly would have chosen not to be raped that evening if given the choice, I didn’t get to decide that fate. And though it was a terrible event, I wouldn’t trade my life now for anything…and I believe that it’s because I was raped that I am able to be as happy with myself as I am today…everything happens for a reason…cliché I know, but somehow quite accurate.
Original Version, Posted 03-May-05
I was 18. I had been at college
for three weeks. It was the
one-month anniversary of my
brother's death, so I wanted
to be alone. I went for a
walk. I wandered off campus,
a couple miles from my dorm
room. I passed by an old abandoned
paper mill, and a man ran
up behind me, grabbed me,
stuck something in my side,
and turned me around. He walked
me back into the woods. He
then directed me to remove
all my clothing. He took his
shirt off and put it over
my head. I couldn't see anything.
He raped me. He performed
oral sex on me, he touched
me, he forced me to perform
oral sex on him. He raped
me in more than one position.
He slapped me. He came in
my mouth. Then...he stood
me up, and told me to put
my clothes back on. I ran
I ran back to the dorm. We
called the police. I went
to the hospital, experienced
the "rape kit" and
equally as painful, I called
my parents. I got back to
the dorms at 4:00am. At 8:00am
I woke up and went to class.
from Elmhurst, IL |
I laid down after having too
much to drink and shut the
door behind me. Assuming the
boy who brought me to the
upper classmen party was coming
to check on me, I did nothing
when someone entered the room.
I was a bet. Eight to ten
boys listened outside the
door as my clothes were ripped
off, I was dragged across
the floor, head slammed against
the head-board, etc. Fortunately,
someone heard my screaming,
came in, and brought me home.
I awoke the next day, a 14
year old girl, covered in
blood without a shirt wondering
how I could possibly explain
my wounds to my parents when
they returned home from a
This experience led me away
from a lifestyle and brought
me to Christ where I have
since found my true womanhood.
I've since committed my life
to following in His ways and
find that my encounter with
sexual violence, among a laundry
list of hardships has allowed
me to be particularly compassionate
to young men and women enduring
life's struggles. I'm part-time
staff for both high school
and middle school youth ministries--
I know where I was, I know
how I got there and I know
where I am and know that Christ
brought me here. After all,
"'twas grace that taught
my heart to fear and grace
my fears relieved."
from Long Island, NY |
When I was growing up, I didn't
have many friends. I remember
sitting alone in the corner
of class in kindergarten,
with a self-esteem the size
of my tiny hands. Maybe it
was a combination of things.
All I know is that my alcoholic
father beat me. I can't remember
particular incidences. Only
the fear that stuck out in
my mind is a memory of yelling,
and my mother's face covered
in blood... I was deathly
afraid of him. Only particular
incidences would I remember...
like sitting next to my door,
blocking the screaming coming
from outside... his voice
approaching... and sobbing...
rubbing welts and scars on
This alienation that I felt...
made me confused as to who
I could trust. When a family
friend... two years older
than me... decided to slip
his hands under my pants when
I was seven, I thought affection
was supposed to be something
I was supposed to be fear.
My body froze... I let someone
take control over me. I felt
his tongue slip in my mouth,
and I lay like a stone. Other
girls my age nervously giggled
on the subject of kissing.
I was six.
My mother couldn't be there...
she was too busy dealing with
her own abuse she got from
my father. She would leave
me to spend nights there,
where I'd lay frozen at 4
in the morning, with his hands...
rubbing a numb, limp, lifeless
body. He'd enter me with his
fingers... see how many he
could fit... tell me this
wasn't pain... I wanted something
other than the pain I felt
at home. He'd wake me at night,
where I wouldn't budge as
he would rub his genitals
on my body. He'd take me aside
during games of "hide and
go seek", and make me touch
I hate him for it. I hate
how he tried to control me,
like other male figures in
my life. I hate how he made
me feel for six years... and
how I felt so dirty... so
worthless... with my hateful
ugly breasts... vagina...
face... ((body)). I was n
o t h i n g .
You made me who I am. Fuck