“The literary equivalent of a summer night, a good friend and a gin-and-tonic: Shannon is a deft writer; a natural storyteller with a wicked turn of phrase and frighteningly specific memory...”

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It Happened To Me: How Women Can Avoid Date in 9 Steps

“The thing about being murdered,” writes William Langewiesche in this May’s issue of Vanity Fair, “it usually comes as a surprise.”

The Same Can Be Said of Date Rape.

When I awoke that bright spring morning of March 21st, 1986 in a pensione in Venice, Italy, I didn’t expect the day to end on a dark, deserted beach with a boy I’d just met pinning me to the ground hissing in my ear that he had “un coltello” (a knife) and that “ho intenzione di ucciderti” (he’d kill me) if I didn’t “f–k” him.

how women can avoid date

(Our group on our first day in Venice, before the incident. I’m furthest to the right. What I’ll tell my daughters is that while traveling you may be anonymous, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be hurt. Be cautious, but unafraid.)

Getting dressed that morning I didn’t know I’d have an out-of-body experience where I seemed to float above the scene, looking down at the two bodies grappling on the sand below feeling profoundly sad that my mom might never know what happened to me after I died on that beach so far from home.

I’m a mother now. My daughters are 8 and 9. The thought of them ever being in a similar situation is intolerable. Bad things can happen no matter how prepared and careful we are. But when my girls are old enough I’m going to share this story with them and hope they’ll see the warning signs I missed.

My Story

In 1986 I was a privileged 20-year old college student studying journalism in London for a semester abroad along with 22 other students from the University of Southern California.

This was pretty heady, entitled stuff.

I’d left my college sweetheart behind and hoped he’d be there when I got back five months hence. But it wasn’t a great relationship. I’d spent most of it worrying he was cheating on me with other girls, so once I’d acclimated to living without him, the co-dependent umbilical chord was cut and I felt free in the best possible way.

I danced with friends till all hours at the Hippodrome. I got front row seats at Les Miserables for the 4 ££ student price, sitting so close I could see the actors’ spit fly. I choked down thick, frothy Guinness beers in pubs at Covent Garden not because I liked them, but simply because in England the drinking age was 18.

I didn’t need a car because I rode the Tube, the Thames, the taxis and the double-decker buses. I walked the busy London streets wearing a black beanie, headphones and gloves with the fingers cut out of them. Maybe I’d get a tattoo of Sid Vicious on my rump?

Gone was the preppy, conservative USC undergrad. I was anonymous and free to re-invent myself as the young unencumbered heroine of my own story where risks could be taken, but I would always be safe because they weren’t real.

One Night in Italy

Two of the girls in our group, Cassie and Alex, decided to go to Italy for spring break and asked me if I’d like to join them.

Italy for spring break? Why not?

It was cheaper than Fort Lauderdale in the states and it affirmed the new way I saw myself as a Woman-of-the-World.  An intrepid explorer.

I’d been to Italy once before with my grandparents as chaperones when I was in high school. I remembered how gorgeous the Italian men were. For a 16-year old hormone case all of those flashing white teeth, thick-lashed eyes and gorgeous olive complexions about made me swoon.

The British boys hadn’t impressed the USC women much. They didn’t seem to value the art of flossing and brushing, let alone the entire field of dentistry. They seemed pale, pasty, spotty and gangly.

None of us had had so much as a coffee date with a boy since arriving in London three months prior. We were a profoundly celibate group and admittedly a bit horny.

So the three of us struck a deal. The first one to be kissed by a magnetic Italian won free drinks for the remainder of the trip.

The extent of our vacation planning was to buy airline tickets flying us into Venice and then, ten days later, flying us out of Pisa. We wanted to hit Florence and Rome in between using Eurorail student train passes.

We didn’t have hotel reservations, but hoped to find pensiones and youth hostels we could stay in along the way. Audacious youth!

When we emerged from the plane with our duffel bags Italy seemed to greet us with open arms. The weather was impeccable, the sun bright, the sea briny, the architecture and history world-class and the men did not disappoint.

There seemed to be an unfair percentage of the world’s most delectable men living in Venice and they flocked to American college girls like proverbial bees to honey.

Alex, Cassie and I did do some legitimate sight seeing, but mostly we drank espressos in the Piazza San Marco, rode in a gondola under the Bridge of Sighs, bought Venetian glass earrings and masks in the Mercerie by the Rialto Bridge.

We ate pizza for breakfast, gelato for lunch and bottles of Limoncello for dinner.

At the end of our second action-packed day the girls and I hopped a water bus to the Lido de Venezia; a little island 12 minutes south of Venice.

We arrived at the main touristy thoroughfare, the Santa Maria Elisabetta, and immediately found a restaurant that met our spartan budget.

We’d just managed to finish our first bottle of 5 dollar wine when a young, blond-haired, blue-eyed Italian man sat down at the empty seat at the end of our table.  He introduced himself, in broken English, as Fabio.

The arrival of Fabio immediately injected novelty and romance into our all-girls trip. Had we been in the states we probably wouldn’t have invited him to join us, but getting to know the natives was an integral part of the fantastic story we were weaving for ourselves.

Throughout dinner Fabio charmed us with his enthusiasm and willingness to speak English badly. He seemed to come straight from central casting; the outrageously flirtatious Italian, passionate, but benign.

After dinner, when we were at a loss what to do next, Fabio suggested we allow him to take us down to the beach where we could stick our feet in the Adriatic Sea.

He assured us it was walking distance. We immediately agreed.

Would the Adriatic somehow be more luminous and magical than the Pacific? We stopped into a liquor store first to purchase two more bottles of cheap red wine to embolden our journey.

When we emerged from the liquor store we noticed two young men leaning up against a telephone booth smoking. Fabio said something to them in Italian that none of us could understand.

It was a strange exchange, somehow furtive, as though Fabio hadn’t wanted us to see them.

As we moved on I asked Fabio who they were.

“Just some friends,” he said dismissively. There was something about them that struck a discordant note in our light-hearted evening. They seemed dark and brooding, sizing we women up like pieces of meat.

But soon they were out of sight and out of mind.

The four of us walked away from the well-lit, bustling main streets of The Lido into the ancillary roads which were sparsely populated and under lit.

I felt a little uncomfortable walking away from civilization with a boy we barely knew, but shrugged it off. There were three of us and one of him. He was our age, our size, a student like us. It would be an insult to his hospitality to turn back now.

How Women Can Avoid Date Rape in 9 Steps

1. Follow Your Instincts

We emerged onto the frontage road that ran parallel to the beach. It was completely deserted and equipped with only one street lamp.

The beach stretched a good half-mile into the distance before it touched the Adriatic. It wasn’t luminous or exotic. But dark and frigid under a crescent moon.

“I’m getting cold,” said Alex, a note of uncertainty in her voice.

“Come on,” said Fabio, his enthusiasm amped up a notch, “I find you somewhere warm.”

Suddenly two shadows disengaged themselves from the dark appearing in our circle of light.

A gasp of surprise stuck in my throat. For a moment I thought we were about to be mugged. Then I recognized the faces of the two young men Fabio had spoken to in town.

It was an ominous moment. We three girls instinctively recoiled. The boys must’ve noticed our collective hesitation because they transformed from poker-faced strangers, into smiling charmers greeting us in broken English.

2. Accomplices and Conspiracies: There May Be Multiple Perpetrators Who Conspire to Commit the Crime. Particularly in Social Settings.

Fabio introduced the young men as Marco and David. They were both dark-haired and dark-eyed. Undeniably handsome. They no longer peered at us from beneath hooded eyes, but reached out their hands to shake ours and asked us where we were all going.

Fabio told them he wanted to show us the beach. We had wine, would they like to come?

Another red flag. Something in Fabio’s delivery seemed rehearsed. This thought barely registered, but is remembered now by me years after the fact.

3. Do Not Let Appearances Lull You Into a Sense of Safety

I have to interject an observation here, there’s an animal instinct hard-wired in our DNA which makes us respond positively to beauty. Had these young men been unattractive the night might’ve ended there. Beauty equals Good. Beauty equals safe.

Killers like Ted Bundy were able to lure their victims more easily because they were handsome.

Alex and Cassie looked to me to see what our next move should be. I was, by some biological imperative, the alpha in our trio.

This was a pivotal moment where we could’ve turned back. But I was an “experience junkie,” I wanted the story, the adventure and, now I can admit, the kiss that would make me victor in our competition for male conquests.

Cassie and Alex read the decision in my eyes and soon we were following the boys down that remote beach even farther away from people and help.

4. Avoid Secluded Places/Don’t Spend Time With Someone Who Makes You Feel Uneasy

As we came close to the shoreline Fabio pointed out several changing cabins that were used by wealthy patrons of the nearby luxury hotels during the frenetic summer months. He knew just which cabin was unlocked, pushed the door open and the three boys went inside beckoning us to follow.

“It’s warm in here, viene, viene!”

Again I hesitated, prey instincts flaring, but then I thought “Oh, what the Hell.”

In I went, Cassie and Alex followed and Marco closed the door behind us. We were thrown immediately into pitch-black darkness.

I couldn’t tell who was in front of or behind me. It was a jumble of elbows and shoulders intermingling until one of the boys lit a candle with his lighter.

I don’t remember who it was, but I do recall thinking this wasn’t the first time they’d brought girls to this cabin. It even made me smile a little. “Boys will be boys,” I thought.

The bottles of wine were quickly uncorked and we settled in to drink and talk. Initially the six of us sat in a round circle, but inevitably we paired off.

5. Stay Sober and Aware

I sat next to David. I can’t see his face in my mind anymore. I just remember thinking he was gorgeous and wondering why I’d thought he was a little scary before.

We conversed in a mixture of Italian and English. I was pleased we seemed to understand each other. David frequently passed me one of the wine bottles and each time I took a swig. But when I offered it back to him, he always declined.

I found out later that none of the boys drank. We three girls – with a great amount of prompting from the boys – finished both bottles of wine.

6. Know Ahead of Time What You Want

As the wine warmed my belly and dispelled my inhibitions I decided David was the Italian boy I would kiss to win the bet with my friends. But a kiss was all that I wanted. I thought it would be safe with the two other couples nearby.

Abruptly all of the wine from dinner and in the cabin caught up with me and I had to pee. I excused myself as discreetly as a moderately drunk person can and went just outside the cabin to squat ladylike in the sand.

When I was done and stood to zip up Alex emerged from the cabin looking troubled.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Fabio’s been saying he has a girlfriend but that he sleeps with other girls, then he asked me if I have a boyfriend and if I sleep with him.” She said she felt uncomfortable and wanted to leave.

I was annoyed. Why was she being so fragile? Couldn’t she tell Fabio she wasn’t interested in sex, she just wanted to enjoy his company? Why did she have to ruin my good time?

I’d hoped our evening would evolve like Prom night in high school, three couples making out, but ultimately protected from going “too far” by sticking together.

Alex, Cassie and I weren’t close friends. We’d only known each other casually those brief three months, but instinct told me I didn’t want to be on this beach without them. I agreed we should leave.

Alex and I returned to find  Cassie already attempting to exit the cabin with all three men trying to persuade her to sit back down and stay, grasping her arms and elbows. She practically fell into our arms in a state of semi-panic.

My senses were still sodden and her discomfort failed to register until later.

Alex and I picked up our purses explaining it was time to go. It all happened very quickly, we girls trying to leave and the boys trying to dissuade us with charm, entreaties and subtle body blocking.

But a tenuous etiquette to social norms held, allowing Alex and Cassie to exit the cabin, followed immediately by Marco and Fabio still trying to plead their case.

I wouldn’t see any of them again on that beach.

7. Go Out With a Group of Friends and Watch Out For Each Other.

David and I were alone in the cabin. I could hear the voices of my friends and the other boys just outside. I had a choice. I could step through that door and follow them or I could turn back to David and collect my kiss. I stepped into his waiting arms.

The kiss was electric. Hungry, passionate, I felt beautiful, desirable.

While I loved my boyfriend at home he hadn’t always appreciated me and at times made me feel insecure and unattractive. It had been three years since another boy had touched me.

I don’t know exactly when things began to go wrong and I have no sense of how much time went by, but at some point I realized I couldn’t hear the voices outside anymore and the kiss didn’t feel like a kiss anymore.

It felt like something hard and sharp, like a knife forcing me to the edge of a black pit.

I tried to pull away, but David held me tight. My arms pressed to my sides. I stopped responding to the kiss, but David didn’t seem to notice.

I inched my hands up his chest and pushed steadily expecting him to get my signal and back away. Instead he pinned me to the wall and held me there with his full weight against me, both my wrists trapped in one hand.

Men Are Much Stronger Than Women. Period. The End.

David wasn’t physically intimidating. We were the same height and roughly the same size. He might’ve had twenty pounds on me in muscle mass, but I remember being shocked at how strong he was, how I was pinioned to the wall and couldn’t seem to move no matter how hard I tried.

Date Rapists Amp Up Their Attack Gradually So the Victim Doubts Herself.

There was a split second, when David planted his feet apart in order to maintain his leverage over me, that I could’ve kneed him in the groin.

Two things stopped me.

The first was the fear I might be wrong about what was happening. Maybe he was too swept away by desire to realize I wasn’t having any fun and if I kneed him I might feel bad or even worse, embarrassed for hysterically over-reacting.

The second reason I didn’t knee him was because I was afraid I might miss. And if I missed he might really hurt me. I didn’t dare to think it, but in retrospect I realize I was afraid he might be capable of killing me.

The opportunity to hurt him passed.

I continued trying to push him away. I told him I wanted to go. He kept saying all he wanted to do was kiss and that he’d let me go in a minute and I wanted to believe him.

What I didn’t know then was that he was buying time so that Fabio and Marco could get my friends far enough away that they wouldn’t hear me if I screamed.

And I didn’t scream. I desperately hoped he would come to his senses. I felt myself getting weaker and weaker as I tried to push him away, now with my forearm against his throat.

I don’t remember how I managed it, but I knew I had to get out of that cabin at all costs. Somehow I must’ve caught him off balance because I managed to fling myself out through the cabin door where I could be rescued by my friends.

But they were gone. The beach was completely deserted.

That’s when David tackled me from behind, knocking me face-first into the sand, rolling me over and climbing on top of me. Imprisoning me once more.

8. Engage Your Vocal Chords. Scream and Yell as Loud as You Can

I didn’t realize it, but from the moment the kiss turned bad I hadn’t engaged my vocal chords. I had whispered, “no, no, no, let me go.”

But I hadn’t actually made a sound anyone but David could hear.

Years later I went to my friend Laura’s self-defense course graduation. I learned there that when women are attacked they frequently become paralyzed and don’t speak. I learned that engaging the vocal chords loudly actually ignites adrenaline which allows women to fight back.

Women Are Often Raped and Killed Without Making a Sound.

My struggle with David continued on that empty beach. I wonder how long we were there? It had to be longer than five minutes in the cabin. It would’ve taken at least that long for the others to hike up the beach to the road above and disappear. But was it ten minutes, twenty? Half an hour?

It seemed like a lifetime.

There was still a small piece of me that hoped David would stop. I was so weak and out of breath from straining to break free that I could hardly move. It’s how I imagine hypothermia must feel to someone struggling to stay above water in the ocean, until their body gives way and they drown.

David tried to kiss me again and I bit his lip. This infuriated him. He held my head down and bit me twice on the chin, drawing blood.

Then he put both of his thumbs in my eyes and pressed as if he would gouge them out, muttering unintelligible threats in Italian.

I lay very still. He took this as acquiescence and ripped my shirt open, buttons flying everywhere and shoved his hands under my bra. Then he reached down and ripped my jeans open, breaking the zipper.

I began to struggle afresh. This is when he told me that he had a knife and he was going to kill me if I didn’t fuck him. This was when I left my body.

My spirit wanted to be anywhere other than where it was in that moment.

I didn’t actually see scenes from my life, but I thought about everything I’d achieved; graduating high school with honors, being senior class president, entering college with 8 credits thanks to AP exams.

I thought about the plans for the future, my future. The one I’d worked so hard for that might come to a blunt end at the hands of a stranger.

And I thought of my mom.

How devastated she’d be. Would they ever find my body? Would she always wonder what had become of me?

It seems strange that I thought of my mom. We hadn’t lived together since I was 9-years old. She didn’t loom large in my life anymore. I’ve come to think that when we are terribly frightened we just want our mom.

I used to say I’d never “allow” anyone to rape me. I said I’d fight to the death first. Not true.

I quit trying to figure out how not to get raped and started thinking about what I had to do to stay alive.

I tried to help David pull my jeans down. They were stuck. I’d put on weight over the last three months and they wouldn’t budge with David lying on top of me.

He sensed I wouldn’t fight him anymore so he levered himself off of me and jerked me around onto my hands and my knees, his pelvis pressed against my backside as he pulled my jeans down over my hips. This was the first time my arms were free and his weight wasn’t pressed against me.

That brief moment of physical freedom unleashed something primal in me. I had one rational thought, if he has a knife, why haven’t I seen it?

I pushed up off the sand and threw my fist back trying to hit his crotch. I made partial contact and felt for the first time that I surprised him.

A wild, hysteria and a refreshed panic to get free overtook me. Sensing I was going to fight again David threw his arm around my neck from behind. Suddenly I found my voice and screamed “Rape!” for all I was worth. Adrenaline shot through me.

I’m not a martial artist, or slick or cool, this wasn’t a scene from Charlie’s Angels, it was just plain good luck that when I tried to throw his arm off of my neck my elbow caught him smack on the nose. I saw blood spurt and then I saw nothing but sand and that distant streetlamp as I ran headlong up the beach.

Running up that beach was like the recurring nightmares I’d had about being chased by someone I couldn’t see and not being able to run.

My legs felt like they were wading through molasses, my jeans were down around my thighs and my vision was blurry. I found out later that when David put his thumbs in my eyes he’d shoved both my contact lenses behind my eyeballs.

I kept expecting him to grab me before I could reach the street.

I remember sobbing “this isn’t funny anymore.” Already angry with myself, blaming myself for being a victim who’d wanted to have a fun adventure.

A girl who wanted to be kissed by an Italian boy so she would have a romantic story to tell. My name could’ve preceded so many missing girls …

Natalie HollowayMeredith Kercher, Jennifer Levin, to name a few.

I achieved the street finally pulling my pants up and stepping under the streetlamp where David and Marco had appeared so suddenly an hour or so earlier.

And here was David again, materializing under that streetlamp like an evil specter.

He’d cut down the beach laterally and run parallel to me probably hoping to cut me off before I reached the street.

Now he was walking toward me, arms outstretched.

“Amico, amico.” (Friend, friend).

I was so exhausted I couldn’t run any more or scream. I just stood in the middle of the road as he approached me.

I must’ve looked dead because my mind went blank. Until he tried to put his arm around me as if to say, “let’s let bygones be bygones.”

Under the light with the possibility of a car or people coming by his power to hurt me was diminished. He touched me on the shoulder.

Anger and fierce hatred coursed through me. I was completely unhinged. If I’d had a gun I would’ve shot him dead without hesitation.

Rape isn’t just a physical act. It’s a spiritual one. It’s meant to completely dehumanize and destroy its target.

I ducked under David’s arm and started screaming, “Get the fuck away from me or I’ll kill you!  I’ll kill you!”

David saw the madness in my eyes and I could literally see him decide I wasn’t worth the trouble. He disappeared into the night as quickly as he’d come.

I made my way back up the narrow, dark side streets of the Lido and emerged onto the Santa Maria Elisabetta thoroughfare. Cassie and Alex stood on the sidewalk, flanked by Marco and Fabio, nervous, indecisive expressions on their faces.

When they saw me I could tell what I must look like by their horrified expressions.

My hair was matted with sand and blood (mine?  his?). My shirt was in tatters, my bra fully exposed. The zipper of my jeans sagged open and my pants were still down around my hips. My chin was bruised, the blood crusting where David bit me. My blinded eyes were wild.

Fabio and Marco instantly disappeared into vapor. As though they’d been a hallucination.

9. Make a Game Plan With Friends and Have a Signal If You Need Help

Cassie and Alex ran to me. They hadn’t wanted to leave me alone on the beach, but Fabio and Marco pressed them, suggesting I probably wanted to be alone with David.

The girls didn’t know me well enough at the time to be sure that wasn’t true.

They shepherded me to the nearest restaurant bathroom where they helped me dig out my contact lenses and put them back in properly. They helped me pull my clothes back together and wash some of the sand out of my hair.

Slowly we made our way back to the pensione where I showered until the house matron yelled at me to get out and stop wasting all that water.

The next morning I discovered bruises in the shape of fingerprints up and down my arms, the bruises on my chin were already turning purple. There were scratches on my ribcage. My entire body was sore, as if I’d been dead lifting weights in a Mr. World competition.

I didn’t report the attempted rape. I didn’t have a clue what any of the boys’ last names were, or even if the first names were real. And I don’t know if I would’ve recognized them in the light of day.

My self defense mechanism and denial were already kicking in and their faces were a blur. If I hadn’t written about the story in my journal the next day – discovered by me and reread last week – I probably wouldn’t have remembered many of the details of that night.

In the United States, only 40% of survivors report the crime. Of those, “a mere 7 percent go to trial.  Only 1% of rapists are convicted.  As I write this the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) may not be renewed by Congress.

If David had jumped out of the shrubs, a stranger attacking me, I think I would’ve fought immediately.

But the way this attempted date rape happened was so incremental and stealthy that I felt complicit. Like many women, I felt I owed this boy something because I went down to the dark beach with him.

Rape is Not Your Fault

Over the next months and even years I blamed myself for the attempted rape. I should’ve listened to my instincts. I shouldn’t have gone down to the beach with boys I didn’t know. I shouldn’t have drunk any wine. I shouldn’t have wanted a kiss. I was too flirtatious, too bawdy, a slut.

I deserved it.

I had every stereotypical victim’s reaction; the same reaction many juries have.

All too frequently rape begrimes a woman’s reputation. There are still many countries around the world where “honor killing” of rape victims is allowed due to cultural and religious beliefs.

Regardless of circumstances, I know how fortunate I am that David ultimately wasn’t successful in raping me.

Through luck or some guardian angel I’d managed to get away. I suspect had he succeeded in raping me the devastation and shame would’ve been far greater.

As it was, for the next 10 years, I panicked every time I found myself alone with a male acquaintance, or a man I didn’t know. In an elevator, an office break room, the library stacks, a stairwell.

My confidence in moving freely through the world was dashed, my trust in men destroyed. It was a loss, but ultimately I became more street smart and savvy, far better able to protect myself and take necessary precautions to stay safe.

And I hope that’s what this story will do for my precious girls and perhaps yours too.

Be sure to keep up with Shannon’s updates here. You can read about How to Avoid Teen Dating Abuse here and share this story with every woman you know! xo S



50 comments

Write a comment
  1. V
    V 17 May, 2012, 07:01

    This is wonderful, thank you for sharing. I will print this out for my daughter to read one day. Thank you for trying to help others.

    http://2bestfriendschubbyroadtoskinny.blogspot.com/

    Reply this comment
  2. Shannon
    Shannon Author 17 May, 2012, 07:56

    Hi V — thanks!

    Reply this comment
  3. Andy
    Andy 17 May, 2012, 10:33

    I’ll accept the compliment about how well your Prom night went…thank you very much…or is that some sort of slight at my Manhood…Did I play it too safe? Anyway, great article Shan. I’ll share it with Amanda.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 17 May, 2012, 13:00

      You didn’t get much action on Prom night as I recall.

      Reply this comment
      • Andy
        Andy 18 May, 2012, 09:46

        Ok, don’t rub it in. I like to think I was just your Italian gentleman on Prom night.

        Reply this comment
        • Shannon
          Shannon Author 18 May, 2012, 10:03

          You were, you were! I should mention here that there were many gentlemen who didn’t take advantage of me when I put myself in questionable situations. I many times depended upon the kindness of strangers and got very lucky.

          Reply this comment
  4. Ingrid
    Ingrid 17 May, 2012, 22:36

    This story is a great example of how as young girls, we can be too trusting of a guy you don’t know, and the fact he can easily overpower you doesn’t usually spring to mind until it becomes important. I’ve put myself in some seriously dumb situations in the past too but things worked out okay, fortunately. Hindsight definitely is 20/20.

    I have a daughter now so I have to try to impart to her how things work and how to stay safe without being sensational or making taking risks sound glamorous. (She’s only just turned one but I’m worried already) So, I thank you for this story, it tells it really well and was probably difficult to write, emotionally. Sincere thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 17 May, 2012, 22:56

      Hi Ingrid — I was already worried about my daughters at 1 as well. I’m hoping, when they’re older, that this story might be easier for them to absorb than me verbally warning them about life’s dangers. I think my oldest daughter’s second word was, “careful!”

      Reply this comment
  5. Morgan (The818)
    Morgan (The818) 1 June, 2012, 19:37

    Shannon, this is an incredible gift you have given women everywhere. Your ability to describe your experience, pinpointing those fleeting concerns I’m sure so many of us have felt — only this time they amount to a terrifying end — not only is this a lesson for my daughter, but for myself as well. Even in my adult years I’ve doubted my instincts and find myself putting courtesy ahead of safety. Thank you, my brave friend.

    Reply this comment
  6. michelle
    michelle 21 February, 2013, 16:18

    Growing up, I was never told about the spider’s web, luring his victims in with his beguiling words, swagger, and drop-dead looks. Rather, rape was something that happened to other people, in dark, scary allies, or abandon parking lots, not on dates, and never with friends. My mother’s advice always seemed to be about finding the right man (what that was, I’m not sure). But, as a mother myself now, to a boy and a girl, I try to balance the conversation by asking them what they want and don’t want in a relationship. I tell them to make a list with 3 columns: 1. Wants/needs, 2. Non-negotiables, 3. deception. The latter, I say can happen to both boys and girls. It looks something like this: Ungodly flattery, manipulation on all levels, uncomfortable coaxing, and your intuition whispering very loudly “This doesn’t feel or seem right,” and at the end of that column, I tell them to add “I have a choice. No is not a bad word.” Not always, but sometimes, the charming prince really is an ugly toad, and the beautiful princess is a scary witch-bitch. We learn from our experiences and from the experiences of others. Thank you for sharing yours.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 23 February, 2013, 08:01

      Thanks for this Michelle — The tricky part is when a man or woman seem so nice — trust must be earned, not given away immediately. xo

      Reply this comment
  7. Carol Bodensteiner
    Carol Bodensteiner 11 April, 2013, 12:54

    Thank you for so boldly sharing your experience. I’m sharing this with my son and daughter-in-law for the benefit of my 4 & 2 year old granddaughters. They need to know.

    Reply this comment
  8. DC
    DC 11 April, 2013, 21:20

    Thank you so much for writing this and sharing it. I have a middle school aged daughter and am planning to have this talk with her soon. I will share this with her (& also with my son when he is older, boys need to be educated on this as well).
    I had a similar experience when I was in college and wrote about it for The Sun magazine a few years ago. It’s still online here for anyone who would like to read it: http://thesunmagazine.org/issues/409/narrow_escapes (mine is the very first piece). It was rather severely edited for space, but you get the idea. Reading your article, I was so struck by the similarities to my story to many of the women I know. I especially want to teach my daughter to trust her instincts, we all have them and why we don’t listen is a mystery. That’s like turning off the voice of God, IMO. Not good.
    A great book for all on this topic is “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin DeBecker. Excellent.
    Thanks again, Shannon. These stories need to be told.

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 11 April, 2013, 23:29

      Hello DC — I’m going over to read your piece now. Thanks for checking in.

      Reply this comment
  9. aimee
    aimee 15 January, 2014, 10:02

    thank you for sharing your story- I heard it on NPR and your points are SO relevant and critical when speaking to my 2 daughters. Especially the part about (not) isolating yourself and the red flags to watch out for…

    Reply this comment
  10. Stacia
    Stacia 27 May, 2014, 14:11

    Jesus.

    Reply this comment
  11. Carol Cassara
    Carol Cassara 20 June, 2014, 11:01

    So many women have stories like this.
    Carol
    http://www.carolcassara.com

    Reply this comment
  12. Angel
    Angel 20 June, 2014, 11:17

    You don’t have to go to Italy to be raped. And it doesn’t have to be by a date. I remember all the times I was lucky. And I remember the time I wasn’t. Thank you for trying to help other young woman.

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 20 June, 2014, 13:37

      Hi Angel — I’m so sorry for what happened to you. There’s no feeling more lonely that being attacked. But you are not alone. There are so many of us struggling with the aftermath of rape. Ask for help if you need it.

      Reply this comment
  13. Audrey
    Audrey 20 June, 2014, 14:39

    Thank you for sharing your story Shannon. I put myself in many, many dangerous situations – both at home and in foreign countries. Somehow, I was always fortunate but there were some close calls. We need to always remind our children to listen to their instincts and make sure that our sons understand that no, means no.

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  14. Liv
    Liv 20 June, 2014, 15:48

    I have been made to feel uncomfortable in a man’s presence before – but never had something so terrible happen to me. It may sound terrible to say – but I’m glad it turned out as well as it did. It could have been so much worse for you, and it has been for so many others. Thank you for speaking up. Stories like these are what I’ll share with my daughters – and my sons. No woman should be treated that way. Ever.

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 20 June, 2014, 16:54

      Hi Liv — I really was fortunate. The worst part is feeling so angry with yourself after something like this and feeling like such a fool. I think that’s a victim’s knee jerk. It must’ve been my fault.

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  15. Jana
    Jana 20 June, 2014, 17:09

    I had a similar experience when I was 17-years-old. Luckily, my attacker was drunk and after I fought back for several minutes, he let me up and I was able to leave. I still remember the shaking – I couldn’t stop the shaking. It’s a miracle I didn’t wreck the car on my way home.

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  16. Eileen
    Eileen 20 June, 2014, 18:37

    Thank you for sharing. I also got into tricky situations studying in Italy and at home in the US, several of them resulting in stories like this. But instead of realizing and fighting like you did, I just sort of let it happen, convinced once it got that far that it was something I’d brought on myself, not wanting to offend, always the polite Midwestern girl. I will be clear if I have daughters that it’s totally acceptable to walk away when you know it’s not right, and I’ll keep reminding myself that I’m acceptable even though I didn’t always walk away.

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 20 June, 2014, 23:11

      Hello Eileen – thanks for coming by. Brandon was certainly a beautiful man who touched so many. His loss makes no sense. I’m glad to know this story is helpful in some way. XoS

      Reply this comment
  17. Frugalistablog
    Frugalistablog 20 June, 2014, 22:06

    Dear Lord woman! I am on the edge of my seat and I am so amazed at your survival of this whole ordeal. Yes, somehow you were protected that night. I am making sure my daughter reads this. You describe everything perfectly, the thoughts leading up to the encounter, your guilt and ‘obligation’ you felt to this boy. So glad you’re okay girl.

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 20 June, 2014, 23:20

      Hello my Rebecca- just saw you with your gorgeous baby! Anyone looks at her cross-eyed and I’m getting out my Nunchucks

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  18. Wendy Byde
    Wendy Byde 21 June, 2014, 06:45

    Oh this is so awful. I, of course, had to read the whole thing and practically felt it! 🙁 Thank you for sharing. I had a similar experience. If only we were the women we are today…back then. 🙁

    Reply this comment
  19. Mrs4444
    Mrs4444 21 June, 2014, 15:23

    I was date raped in college by a tall, dark, handsome asshole. Fortunately, it wasn’t violent or anything. I, too, lost my voice, and he ignored my tears. I’ve told my son and daughter about it, but I will be sharing your post with my daughter, who is now in college. Thanks for sharing your story. It’s an important issue.

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  20. Claudia Schmidt
    Claudia Schmidt 22 June, 2014, 16:17

    This is my worst fear for my 18 year old daughter. I’m so glad you were able to get away, what a horrifying experience. I’ll be sharing this with my daughter, thank you for sharing the very scary lessons you learned.

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 22 June, 2014, 16:20

      Hi Claudia— I’m fully recuperated from the experience. There’s no emotional charge left. But I have daughters I want to educate as much as I can and i hope this story will help because they don’t necessarily want me communicating my concerns verbally bc the older they get the less they’re going to want my input.

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  21. Roshni
    Roshni 23 June, 2014, 11:16

    Thank you for sharing. This is a very important message that, I hope, will reach many many people!!

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  22. Serena Belva
    Serena Belva 1 July, 2014, 09:03

    Excellent post. Trust your instincts always!

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  23. Jen
    Jen 5 August, 2014, 17:40

    Wow Shannon, it takes a lot of courage to share a story like that. I graduated high school in ’84, so we are pretty close in age. I was pretty wild at certain points in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and went off with more than my share of boys/men I didn’t know. I had a couple of bad experiences, not on the level of yours, but ultimately was lucky that most of my “adventures” ended well. My worst experiences were actually while I was married to an abusive man, because who thinks to cry “Rape!” with your husband?? It happens in a similar fashion to what you described though, it starts slowly and builds until you question yourself and wonder, “How in the hell did I get here?”. It’s a horrible, belittling, crazy making, mind numbing experience, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, male or female. I am now married to a wonderful, gentle and caring man who knows my past and shows me daily what it means to love and be loved. He too had an abusive, alcoholic ex spouse who continues to abuse people. One thing I know, I don’t believe I will ever be 100% recovered. There are times when my husband comes up behind me to hug me and I still flinch. I am thankful though that said former husband, who I have a 14 year old son with, has completely disappeared from our lives and we have moved on. Thank you so much for sharing your story, it’s such an incredibly important message for women and girls to know.

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 6 August, 2014, 00:43

      Hi Jen — thank you for your story too. And I appreciate you mentioning that women aren’t the only victims of abuse. There are plenty of men who’ve been victimized by abusive spouses or partners. I think it’s so important for people to know that there is a methodology to rape and abuse. Once we can know what to look for we can do better in protecting ourselves. It’s tricky being a parent because you’re not always sure when to share what information. We don’t want to traumatize our children by frightening them, but I do wish I’d known then what I know now.

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