My Dog Was My Therapy After I Was Raped
I wasn't kissed until I was 17. I lost my virginity two weeks before I turned 18. Two months later, I became one more victim of rape.
During my first year at a Northern California college, I moved out of my strict Catholic home in San Jose and into a stranger's house on the other side of town. At 18, I was a live-in nanny and housekeeper for a young married couple with two kids. I was a part-time freshman with a full-time and very isolating job. As a result, I didn't have any friends. Even worse, my boyfriend had just dumped me. I was all alone -- except for my beloved dog.
A hippie chick at heart, I dressed in blue jeans and peasant blouses, going braless and barefoot. Carefree and trusting, I used to hitchhike to classes with my 70-pound black Labrador retriever. I never really thought twice about catching rides with strangers. I always felt safe. And though my mom had show me gruesome newspaper articles about girls getting raped and killed, I always thought, "Nothing like that will happen to me. I'm different."
So I didn't think twice about hitchhiking to the homecoming dance, without my dog this time. I met a young man I danced with for most of the night. He was a hefty, wannabe football player -- not my type at all. But he was nice, and I felt comfortable with him. We talked casually about relationships, and I told him I was looking for Mr. Right. Toward the end of the night, he asked me if I wanted to go to an after-party. Since the dance wasn't crowded and I hadn't met anyone I really liked, I said yes.
As we were leaving, he introduced me to his redheaded, studious-looking, quiet friend, who was going to the party with us as the designated driver. I hesitated to go with both of them (my sixth sense was telling me something wasn't right), but I figured I'd be fine since they were students at the same school as me.
On our way to the party, I sat in the front seat between the guys. The three of us made small talk. Everything seemed pretty normal.
It was then that I realized we'd been driving forever but going nowhere.
"Are we almost there?" I asked eventually.
The guy who'd befriended me at the dance clammed up. I suddenly felt uneasy sitting next to him. He mumbled that he was trying to find the right house. That was when I knew something was very wrong -- very wrong. But I tried to put those thoughts out of my mind. All I knew was I wanted to be anywhere but inside that car alone with two men I didn't know.
Just then, the man who had been my friend turned into my foe, whispering a threatening sexual proposition in my ear. My eyes welled with tears. I protested, telling him "no" over and over.
"I'll bash your face into the dashboard if you don't shut up and do what we want," he warned.
My body was frozen, my heart was racing and my head was spinning. I couldn't believe what was happening.
The driver stopped the car and parked it on a dimly-lit residential street.
"I have to go to the bathroom," I whined but I was ignored in the midst of the guys' unwanted gropes and kisses. I felt sick and I wanted to run, but I couldn't. I was trapped.
Then, the hefty man told the redheaded driver to take a walk because he wanted to have me first. In a strange way, part of me was relieved. At least it wouldn't be two of them at one time. When the driver disappeared, the friend ordered, "Get in the backseat."
At that point, I was crying uncontrollably. He didn't care. And then, it was over.
I struggled to put my clothes back on as both guys decided it was time to go, and they let me out of the car. Disheveled and disoriented, standing outside in the cold, damp autumn fog, I tried to fight back the tears.
For a long time, I believed I'd asked for it. So how could I report it? I told no one.
Through all the pain and trauma, I did confess what had happened to one close confidant: my dog, Stonefox. He was there to comfort me through my frightening flashbacks at night, and he kept me company through the cold, lonely days. He was consoling and nonjudgmental.
After I was fired from my domestic job because I was "too unstable," my dog helped give me a reason to survive. He needed me. I decided what I needed was a change of scenery to help me get my life back, to feel like me again.
So I traveled through America with a knapsack, sleeping bag and Stonefox and learned to heal my wounds, find my sense of self and trust in men once again.
After more than 30 years, I am another survivor of rape. I live in California. I'm an author who is called "supersensitive" because of my heightened sixth sense. I've had three long-term, live-in relationships with men, but they all ended because of my fear of intimacy.
Today, I live with my two trustworthy Brittanys, Simon and Seth, and my Siamese cat, Zen. I know firsthand about the healing benefits of dogs. Mine helped me ward off loneliness and depression at a time of great trauma, and have served as my guardian angels and loyal companions. Dogs truly are man's -- and woman's -- best friend.
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