By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
|Photo by Jack Gould|
When Serena K. was an undergraduate at UCLA last year, she found a good friend in her boyfriend’s roommate. In fact, she and “B.,” as she calls him now, shared so much common ground that they stayed close even after she dumped the boyfriend.
“We’d talk on the phone at least once a week and go out to clubs or dinner together,” says Serena, now 22. On his birthday, she organized a party for him at a pub and invited all his friends. Serena got drunk at the party. So did nearly everyone else. When the group decided to head back to B.’s place to spin records — “they’re all DJ types,” says Serena — she joined them. “I was too drunk to drive home,” she admits, and then — realizing her story might inspire a chorus of “What were you thinking?” — quickly clarifies: “On two previous occasions, at least, B. spent the night at my place when he’d had too much to drink, and nothing ever happened. Absolutely nothing.”
When they got to B.’s, Serena felt like she was about to pass out. Since the living room couch was occupied by friends, she asked to sleep in B.’s bed, trusting that he’d wake her so she could move to the couch when everyone went home.
“That’s when I started getting weird feelings,” Serena remembers. “Not 10 minutes later all of his friends left. He turned off all the lights in the house and he came into the bedroom. Then B. started trying to kiss me. I kept saying ‘no’ and turning toward the wall. He kept trying anyway, but he wasn’t getting anywhere with me, and I was passing out, so he stopped.”
When she woke up sometime later, “he was jerking off, and trying to pull my hand over to his penis. This had to have happened at least three times. Each time I said, ‘No, I don’t want to do that. Let me sleep,’ and I turned back toward the wall.
“I’m sure you know what it’s like when you’re so drunk you’re passing out — it’s hard to move. It didn’t even occur to me to leave the bed because that would have meant climbing over him and navigating a dark house, and that felt impossible. I remember I just kept saying, ‘God, B., just let me sleep. I’m passing out.’ A half an hour later I woke up and he was on top of me, and pulling down my pants. I tried to push him off but was so tired and weak I just couldn’t.
“I’m trying to remember if I cried,” Serena says. “I don’t think I did. I think I was just in shock.”
A few days later, Serena called B. “I need you to know that I didn’t want any of that to happen,” she told him, “and I tried so hard to make that clear to you, and I feel really taken advantage of.” Invoking the anti-violence rally slogan of the ’80s, Serena says she asked him, verbatim, “What part of ‘no’ did you not understand?”
B. claimed he was drunk and stoned, “But I think he did come to realize, in some small part, the gravity of the situation,” Serena says. “He apologized and said he felt horrible. I told him I really wasn’t sure if I could ever talk to him again; he said he understood.”
Like many young women who find themselves in Serena’s situation, Serena didn’t report the incident to the police. “I felt it was a messy, unclear situation in some ways,” she says. “And he did feel remorse — he and I were good enough friends that I could tell that. And I also felt that the best way for me to deal with it was simply to cut off all contact with him.”
A few weeks ago, the situation got worse: Serena found out that B. had given her human papilloma virus (HPV), more commonly known as genital warts, a sexually transmitted disease that isn’t serious in itself, but has been linked to cervical cancer. “I actually called him, after much prompting from my friends, who said, ‘Who cares what happens to him, but think about his future girlfriends.’ I was shocked that he immediately said, ‘Oh yeah, I have that,’ but would not admit to having given it to me.”
When Serena told me her story, she refused even to use her assailant’s first name, but never asked for anonymity herself. Later, I had qualms about publishing her story with her real name attached and wrote her an e-mail to ask whether she really meant for me to use her name. “I guess anonymity would be better,” she wrote. “Funny — I protected his privacy, and not my own.”
Flashback to another time and another young woman, a friend of mine. I’ll call her Karen. She was raped in much the same manner as Serena — this time by an ex-boyfriend of one of her friends. It was 1985.