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High Life : Date Rape

August 18, 1989|LORENZA MUNOZ | Lorenza Munoz is a recent graduate of Capistrano Valley High School and regular contributor to High Life

It was a sunny, beautiful summer afternoon. Kerry, a freshman last year at Capistrano Valley High School, sat on the lawn and painfully told the story of her experience with date rape.

Kerry (not her real name) was raped by a friend she was dating about a year and a half ago.

"It happened in the Mission Viejo Mall parking lot," she said. "He had parked really far away in a dark spot. I didn't really think too much of it. I've always led a sheltered life and always learned to trust people.

"He wanted to leave halfway through the movie and when we got in the car, he just transformed. I did nothing to lead him on in any way at all. There was no way to defend myself. I was pinned down. I've never felt so helpless in my whole life."

Another girl, Tina (not her real name), 18, a recent graduate of Mission Viejo High, said she was twice the victim of date rape. The first happened about a year and a half ago.

"I was at a party, then I decided to leave, alone, and this guy followed me out," she said. "He asked me if I was going to kiss him and I said no, but he did anyway. Then he grabbed me and threw me on the ground. He wouldn't let me up. . . . He molested me and raped me, then he finally let me go. I got to my car and ran away.

"For so long, I denied it happened. I found out two weeks later that this guy was high on acid when he raped me.

"The second time happened with this guy I was seeing. I had told him from the beginning that I didn't want to have sex with him, but then one night I got really drunk and passed out, and he took advantage of me.

"I confronted him a week later. I was waiting to see if he would say something about it first, but he didn't. I yelled at him. I didn't feel mad at myself (unlike the first rape), I was angry at him."

Rape is considered "any sexual assault that is committed against a woman's (or man's) will," said Judy Tucker, who works as hot-line volunteer for a crisis intervention service in Santa Ana. "The moment one person says no and the other person does it anyway, it is considered rape."

In the United States, more than 75,000 rapes are reported to the FBI each year, more than half of which are "acquaintance rapes"--meaning that the victim knew her assailant, often romantically. And law enforcement officials estimate that only one in 10 date rapes goes on record, because victims harbor irrational feelings of guilt.

This was the initial reaction of Kerry and Tina. Both girls believed they had somehow provoked the attack.

"I felt it was my fault for so long. I felt dirty, like scum . . . just awful," Kerry said. "I blamed it all on myself. After it happens, that's all you think.

"I always felt bad about something, but I didn't know why or what. A couple of months later, I figured out why," said Tina, explaining how she had mentally blocked out the rape. "I just started thinking about it and I saw it as it really was. Before, I felt like I let it happen somehow. Now I realize I had no control over it."

Tucker explained that date-rape victims "feel that they've done something to deserve it. They think, 'Well, maybe if I wasn't wearing what I was wearing he wouldn't have raped me or maybe it was something I said.' . . . That comes from not understanding what rape is and that we, as women, have a right to say no. It is our body."

Kerry and Tina have not told their parents about the rape. They are afraid their parents won't understand, perhaps deny it or blame their daughters.

"I would feel bad (telling my parents) because they would ask me why I didn't tell them before," Tina said. "Or they would say something like, 'Why didn't you scream or call out for help?' I've never really talked about it before. I never told anyone because it sounded so serious. It was hard to talk about it. . . . I always tried to forget about it."

Kerry believes her parents "are real understanding, but I can't shatter their image that they have of their daughter. I was afraid of what people would think. One of my biggest fears was not being believed."

They have, nonetheless, confided in a few friends.

Tucker advises rape victims to talk about it with someone they trust. "It is very healing, if you're raped, to talk to someone," she said.

Wally Ernsdorf, the resident psychologist at Capistrano Valley High, agrees.

"There's a lot of help in telling a significant other," he said. "A support system makes you feel less isolated."

The psychological effects of date rape can be tremendous. Kerry was so traumatized that she contemplated killing herself.

"I just wanted to stay in bed," she said. "I considered suicide because I thought, 'You are so low. I can't believe you let that happen to you.' "

She also went through a period of time when she pretended to be sick, so her parents let her stay home from school.

"I felt that if I went to school and saw my friends, they'd know. . . . They'd be able to see through me," she said.

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