I am a woman with no children of my own. I am a universal mother of children born to other mothers. I am a woman and mother who wants her daughters to stand proud.
In your lives, you will experience success and failure. Learn from both.
You will find times when you aren’t strong, don’t want to do the right thing―because doing the right thing can be hard. It can bring condemnation down on you. It can bring haters out of the dark. It can hurt.
I hope you never have to experience what I did when I was in my twenties. If you do, I hope you will do what I did.
When I was a teaching assistant at a major football university, I had a student who never attended classes, never turned in homework. I didn’t know what he looked like. I had no idea how to reach him, but since he had not dropped my class, I had to carry him on the rolls. He showed up at the end of class three weeks before the end of the term. He handed me a paper, saying, “Sign this. I need to be eligible for the big game.”
I stared first at the paper and then at the behemoth standing in front of me. I was 5’8” and weighed maybe 125. He had me by a head, outweighed me by 150 pounds on a good day. More on game day. I assumed that he was on the football team because he needed C grades to play in the upcoming bowl game.
I asked how he planned to make up the work in order to be eligible. He laughed. He had no intention of making up the work, he said. He wanted me to sign, “or else.” My brain didn’t compute what “or else” might mean. I tried to explain that while he was still registered, without making up the work, I couldn’t sign the form. He was officially failing my class.
I held out the paper, smiled my regrets, and turned to my desk to load my bag and leave the classroom.
In an instant, he shoved me onto my desk, lifted my mini-skirt, and ripped off my underwear. He unzipped his pants. That’s when he made a huge mistake: he put his hand over my mouth, smothering my cries for help. I bit him. Hard. He raped me, pulled out, and walked away, leaving his eligibility form behind.
Every cell shook from the assault. I sat for a long time, glad that no students had a class the hour after the attack. Ultimately, I dried my eyes, wiped off raccoon make-up, and went to my office. I ran into my faculty advisor who immediately took me aside. I didn’t want to tell him what happened.
Then, anger set in. I had done nothing wrong. I was the victim, not the perpetrator. And I was mad as hell.
My advisor asked how he could help. By rights, I should have been suspicious of all men, but he was kind and concerned. I told him every detail, gave him the student’s name, showed him the eligibility form. He asked me what I wanted to do.
I was now mad enough to want revenge. He called another teaching assistant, who took one look at me and said, “We’re going to the health center. And then we’re going to the police.”
My friend was one of those dynamos who at 5’ tall brooked nonsense from no one. She took me to the health center, where I was examined. I demanded and got a rape kit. My friend demanded the campus police be called.
The campus policeman was useless. He said it was my word against the student’s, I must have wanted it because I wore a mini skirt, the fashion at the time. He took notes and advised me to go home.
My friend called the city police. They were a little more interested in my story, but in essence said the same thing: “No one is going to believe you.”
My friend drove me home and stayed with me. Thursday night passed into Friday, a day when I had no classes to teach or take. By the end of the weekend, mad morphed into icy rage. I decided to tell the football coach.
I marched into his office early Monday morning and planted myself outside his door until he arrived. I followed him inside, threw the unsigned eligibility form on his desk, and said, “This player raped me in my classroom on Thursday.”
He didn’t believe me.
I had proof, I said. I asked him to call the player to his office.
He didn’t believe me.
I took my Wonder Woman pose, fists on hips, eyes glaring at him.
He asked his assistant to bring the player to his office.
“What proof do you have?”
The player walked in, shot me a dirty look. He had a thick bandage on his right hand.
“I bit him when he raped me. Check under that wrap.”
The coach, to his credit, told his player to unwrap the hand.
Do you have any idea how filthy the human bite is? His hand was infected, red lines climbing his arm.
I had my revenge. I had exposed a rapist. I had stood up for myself. I was a survivor of something no woman, no daughter should have to survive. No one was going to put the blame on me.
Years later, I wondered what had happened to the player. I found a news article. He’s doing thirty to life for multiple rapes, many when he was armed with a knife. With that, I wiped his name from my memory.
Shaking set in again. He could have killed me. He could have killed my spirit. HE DID NEITHER.
My daughters, if you ever find yourselves in such a situation, maybe not rape, but something that you shouldn’t keep hidden, tell someone the truth and only the truth. Act. Be proud of your strength. Stand tall. Relish it. You will feel better about yourself. And I’ll be proud of you.
I love you all,