It’s fabulous. Dangerous Liaisons level fabulous. Count of Monte Cristo level fabulous. Everyone should have to watch it. If you’re a woman and you haven’t been date raped yourself, you’ve come close to it or you know someone who has. These things don’t happen in a vacuum. People know. But why ruin a man’s life just because a woman drank too much and made some very bad decisions?
September 23, 2017
It’s three a.m. and I’m in bed at my sister’s house in Phoenix. The day before I’d driven to Mesa to see Jack Antonoff play with Bleachers at an open air amphitheater. I didn’t get to my sister’s until late because I’d hit on the sound guy (an amazing blues musician who happened to be Israeli) and we’d gone out for drinks. I was exhausted. Nothing happened. He’d been a gentleman and so had it. It was just that I’d worn a black pair of five inch jelly platforms all day. I loved those things even though they were precarious to walk in. I tripped in them because I’m a klutz.
Ready to fall asleep, I checked my phone one last time. There was a new comment on a post from a friend. A friend who was never up at 3 a.m. I texted her because this kind of out of the ordinary behavior rang alarm bells. Now, I can be dramatic. I intentionally have my phone beside me when I’m asleep in case someone dies in the middle of the night. But I was right to worry.
I texted her to see why she was up. The texts came in. She wasn’t making sense. Something about sitting on her friend’s couch. Not wearing her clothes because they were being washed. Because of the blood and the vomit. And her head hurt from where the blood had spewed.
The full picture wasn’t there, but I knew her well enough to know something was terribly wrong. I called her and got as many details as I could out of her and then forced her to wake her friend up, who was asleep in bed, and pass the phone to her. When the friend got on the phone I told her:
“Get out of bed. M’s been assaulted and you need to get her to a hospital. Take her to TMC now. Whatever you do, don’t take her to UMC. Do it now.”
She didn’t want to do it but she did. M got her rape kit done. Negative for GHB (it has a short half-life and goes undetected a lot) but positive for his DNA. The clothes couldn’t be collected for evidence because the friend had already washed them. My instruction about which hospital to take M came from the fact that M worked at the University of Arizona and I didn’t want UAPD called in to investigate. There’d be a conflict, and frankly, those monkeys shouldn’t be in charge of a missing psychology book investigation.
What I pieced together later was this much. M had gone to a football tailgate on the U of A Mall. It was her usual tailgate with the usual crowd. Everything seemed kosher. She remembered leaving to go back to her car, parked in a garage in her usual space, accompanied by a usual face at the tailgate, J. And then she remembered nothing until she was lying in a pool of vomit and blood on the floor next to her car. Someone had found her and UAPD came to assess. The cops knew her. They didn’t want to “embarrass” her so they didn’t call an ambulance. They just made her call a friend to take her anywhere…it didn’t really matter.
From their perspective, she’d drank too much and made a scene. Best to just get her home.
But I knew things about her. She wasn’t the type to drink too much. Definitely not the type to drink til she blacked out, puked and injured herself. And this guy who’d walked her to car? Where had he gone?
M managed to piece parts of the story together. But none of it made sense. And J was being cagey. His initial story was that she made the moves on him. They’d been making out up against her car when she hit her head and blacked out. There was blood. He got scared and ran away.
His story kept changing. But no one believed M but me. I’d met all those friends at a previous tailgate. Friendly people who knew each other well. Jovial party goers who planned their parties so well that they had grand buffets and a fully stocked bar, even though only beer was allowed at tailgates. These people partied together a lot. They seemed like they were super tight friends. But they’d all turned their back on M the minute she said something wrong had happened.
I could set my watch by M. She’s a good girl. We went to law school together. She went to church on Sundays. She loved baseball. She lived with her parents. And, at the age of 37, she was still a virgin. But even if she’d been the biggest slut of all time with a sordid past, I still would have believed her. Only because something similar had already happened to me the year before.
I was 36 and maybe two months out of the mental hospital. I know, so much credibility just flew out the window with that sentence. These things are never easy. Many women with less issues than me have questioned their sanity after such an event. Only I’m not prone to exaggeration or lying. So dismiss me as insane. You wouldn’t be the first. But it’s relevant.
Before Christmas, I’d joined the board of a local Tucson non-profit. I’d met members of the board while attending their annual fundraiser party the year before with M. They seemed cool.
The non-profit board served as sort of a feeder program. The purpose for its existence was to train young professionals in all the glorious offices and affairs of leading other Tucson non-profits. Everyone was more or less cute, more or less ambitious, and more or less fucking conventional. At the time I had no job and as many professional ambitions but a lot of time on my hands. I had a law degree and a real estate license, and I could snob it up with the best of them, so it wasn’t like it was too hard to join the group. I won’t say which because the organization they’re with does good work in Tucson but the people I met ran the gamut from quality to reject.
They held board meetings every month. I’d missed January because I happened to be in Palo Verde, like I said. But I went to an all day inservice to plan they year’s events and met everyone. They seemed like fun. And then I went to February’s meeting which involved a tour of a medical center. After the meeting, we went to happy hour at a nearby bar on the west side (again, vagaries to protect the innocent). I had two drinks. Whisky gingers. I was lonely and bored and didn’t want the night to end at seven p.m. So I stuck around until it was two guys and me. They wanted to play pool, so we took two cars to another bar on the west side. They ordered a pitcher of beer and started playing. I didn’t see who poured my drink but it wasn’t me. The last thing I remember was Selena playing on the jukebox. And then…nothing.
I can tell you what I was wearing. I was dressed in business goth. Eyes rimmed in kohl. Dark lipstick…almost black. I can also tell you that it had been five years since I’d had sex with anyone. And only on two occasions had I made out with anyone since D. I was sober both times. I can also tell you that I don’t generally get drunk. Even tipsy takes concerted effort. I’ve blacked out twice, maybe three times.
So why did I wake up, suddenly completely alert, sitting on the center compartment of a BMW X5, making out with a stranger as he drove through traffic? He kept asking for my address. He wanted to go back to my place and have sex. We’d been driving for a while, by the looks of it, because we were already in midtown, just blocks from my place.
In the few minutes it took to go from Grant and Swan to my house, I tried to figure out what had gone on. He pulled into my driveway. I said I just needed to use the bathroom and clean up a bit and he could come in. He was pushing hard. Like he was adamant about the sex. He asked if I wanted any coke and poured some onto a mirror from a vial. It looked like little crystal rocks. He started cutting it with credit card. I’d never seen cocaine before.
I again said I needed to go to the bathroom and this time make sure my sister, who was visiting, was asleep (my sister was not visiting…but I had to stall for time). I went inside, splashed some water on my face and stared at myself. My makeup was everywhere. I was a total mess. I took a deep breath and gathered my thoughts so I go back outside and face this guy I’d met twice before. But when I went outside, he was gone. My purse and meeting notes were on the floor. I was very confused. Something had happened but I couldn’t have told you what. For some reason, thankfully, I sobered up before anything truly regrettable could have happened.
I stayed on the board for a few more months and would see this guy every time. He refused to look me in the eye. He acted cagey. I quit sometime that summer. I couldn’t deal with having to see him and face this shame I’d claimed as my own.
Later that year, one of the board members threw a giant Western themed birthday party at Pinnacle Pete’s. I ran into T, the president of the non-profit board there. I told him what happened, down to the slightest detail, and why I’d quit. He listened, thankfully. Later he would tell me that the only reason he believed my story about that night was the detail about the cocaine. This guy, apparently, only used top quality cocaine, and the fact that I had mentioned that made my version of the events ring true.
So, yes, I believed M. But, like I said, her friends did not. UAPD botched the investigation and made M’s life hard. Her mother wanted nothing to do with her. Her friends turned their backs and supported J. They would call her and try to shame her into dropping the charges. They asked her to see it from J’s perspective. His life was being ruined by her accusations. Suddenly her whole social life was gone. And she questioned herself in a way that we do when we don’t know for sure what happened but we blame ourselves.
By the next year, things had not quelled. She asked if I would go with her to the non-profit’s annual party. I did. I told her I’d dress to the nines and protect her from J or anyone else who had the temerity to confront her. I wore my jelly platforms. No one hurt her that night. But I did stumble and fall in those shoes. I wasn’t drunk. They’re just huge and we were walking over power cords in the dark parking lot of the masonic temple at night.
A week later, the guy who ran the tailgate again harassed M. He told her that she needed just to accept the fact that she’d made a mistake by getting drunk and hitting on J. J, who by now had changed his story several times and lawyered up. And in these texts he mentioned me…being drunk…at the non-profit party the week before. I guess he’d seen me fall. As if that were enough to condemn me. As if that were enough to condemn her.
I wrote to him and made it plain. I knew about his new restaurant and his trouble with getting a liquor license. I wondered, what would the liquor board think if they knew that he had personally overserved a woman at his regular illegal tailgate and then harassed her after she had been sexually assaulted leaving the tailgate. I mean, maybe they wouldn’t care about such a thing. But then again, maybe they would.
I told him to keep my name out of his fucking mouth. That he didn’t know who he was dealing with. If he wanted to ruin my reputation, good luck, I didn’t have a reputation anymore to ruin. I had nothing left to take away. But he had lots, and I would dedicate all my free time to making sure that it all got taken away. That was, unless, he left M alone and made sure that none of the other assholes who’d been harassing her ever bothered her again.
He wrote back and said, “Ok.”
It wasn’t the Count of Monte Cristo and it wasn’t Dangerous Liaisons. But it was about as much as I could do to protect her from people who blamed her for taking away their fun and protected a man who, at a minimum, watched a woman hit her head, pass out, bleed profusely on the third floor of a parking garage and then just simply…ran away.
J left Tucson after that. There wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute him. There usually never is.