The Knock That Changed My Life
It was the winter of 1999, my first year of college. Everything was fresh and new. I was enjoying my independence. I had made new friends and was enjoying my college classes. Life was good. I had grown up in a sheltered, religious home in Fairfield County, Connecticut. My childhood was fun and loving but I was very enthusiastic to begin my adult life.
Everything was going smoothly and then an experience opened my eyes to a completely different world. I began innocently chatting online with a man I’d met through the internet. He was a flight attendant and lived in Chicago. I found him very intriguing. He was older, in his early thirties, cultured, charming and experienced. I was none of these things. However; behind a computer screen I chose to portray myself as a fun, open and experienced college student. I pretended to be a completely different person from who I really was. These online conversations quickly developed in to phone conversations and eventually to a meeting in person. The choice I made to meet with this man is one I can never change. I didn’t really think anything bad would happen from meeting him. He seemed nice in our online and phone conversations. I believed that meeting him would open the door to fun times, laughter and a blossoming friendship. I naively thought only good things could happen. I never expected this man I met online to turn my world upside down.
It was a Saturday evening, close to Christmas, with freezing cold temperatures on the East Coast. The flight attendant told me he was flying into New York and staying overnight at a local hotel. “We should meet up,” he said. “Okay,” I said, my voice cracking. I started asking myself what would a thirty year old man want to do with a twenty year old? What excuse would I give my loving, protective parents to let them know where I would be? Coincidentally, I was supposed to babysit this same night. I told my parents I was going to be babysitting all night so not to expect me home until morning. This would give me time to visit my online friend at his hotel without informing my parents. I left my babysitting job close to midnight. I got in my car and headed towards the hotel to meet this stranger. It was scary and exciting at the same time. All the way to the hotel I kept saying to myself – go home, go home, bad things can happen. But did I listen to my gut? No, I did not. Instead I pulled my car over to the side of the road. I changed into a flashy mini-skirt, plunging top, black sheer nylons and heels.
I parked my car in front of the hotel and proceeded to the stranger’s room. I asked myself why am I doing this? Why I asked myself? Did I want to be loved? Did I want to feel attractive? Did I want someone to want me? Would I return to my car the same person – a changed person or even a victim? Without any answers to my questions, I stood in front of the hotel door. My knuckles rapped on the door. Knock, knock, knock. The same knocking sound resounded in my heart. I was extremely anxious. My plan was simple. I was going to meet this stranger, watch some television and go home in the morning. Pretty simple, right? Well, nothing happened like I’d planned. The choices I made brought me to the room of a man I didn’t know. This night would change my life forever.
The door opened. I was shaking with fear and nervousness. I had never before been alone with a man. He was very nice to me. He tried to ease my fears. “Would you like a drink?” he asked. He tried to make conversation asking me a lot of questions. I was getting more uncomfortable by the minute. A very bad feeling started to come over me. I wanted to leave. I was afraid but at the same time I didn’t want to look like a loser. I was trying to figure out how to get out of his room when he grabbed me.
Before I could say NO, he pushed me face down on the bed with my face pressed into a pillow. He was on top of me, ripping off my underwear and nylons. He proceeded to rape me. I was terrified. I remember screaming no into the pillow. He said coldly, “Stop that. The neighbors will hear you.” I hushed. After the rape, he let me up off the bed. I felt so dirty. I wanted my mom. I wanted a shower, and I wanted my bed. I walked into the hotel bathroom and felt blood on my legs. I am no longer a virgin I thought to myself in disbelief. This stranger has taken it away from me. I didn’t give it to him. He stole it. I could barely look at myself in the mirror while I was wiping away my tears. I cleaned myself up as best I could and walked back into the room.
This man who had just raped me said, “Well, it’s time for you to go. Wish we could have breakfast but I have a flight to catch.” And lastly, he said, “Oh, were you a virgin?” I will never forget those last five words – ever.
I put my heels and coat on, picked up my car keys and walked out the door. I walked down that long hallway back out into the cold lobby. I hung my head in shame with tears filling my eyes. I drove to the ocean and got out of my car. I watched the sunrise. I was hoping the sun rising would be a symbol that someday I would be able to move past this horrible event. Maybe I will become a stronger, more vocal woman. Just as the sun does not rise quickly, so went my journey. Thirteen years later, I can finally talk about what happened to me that night. I can write about it and help others who have been through traumatic events in their life. I am still surprised how one choice made in an instant can change your life forever. Just when I feel this terrible night is finally behind me, something brings back those nasty, dirty images of what happened to me in a hotel room with a man I didn’t know. Tears fill my eyes when I think of that cold December night. I still feel shame. The pain continues to shape my life today.
If I could change one decision in my life, it would be to have never knocked on that hotel door. I have learned our past does not determine our future. Our choices do not always reveal the person we are to become. But our choices do help mold us into the people we are today. I am now a strong, courageous, vocal, loving, and empathetic woman because of a poor choice I made on a cold, winter’s night many years ago.
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