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I Know What Rape Really Looks Like; How Can the Media Glamorize It?

Rape is vicious, cruel, painful and damaging. I shouldn't have to explain this to you. But from the way our media treats rape, apparently I do.

Rope burns circled her wrists, her fingernails were bloody and torn and she had a deep purple bruise on one forearm that inappropriately made me think of hoagie sandwiches, such was its size and shape. But what was most haunting were her eyes. They were not bright with tears, nor flashing with anger, nor did they even show animal fear -- they were just still. And dead. Those dead eyes would haunt me for months afterward.

I was a new "peer counselor," an internship I did my junior year of college to fulfill the requirement for my Psychology degree, and even though I had been trained in dealing with suicide threats, eating disorders, depression and even rape, I was not prepared for what happened at that frat house that winter night. Having got the call after the police had untied her from the bed, I missed the most horrific part of her gang rape but once her statement was filed they handed her unceremoniously over to me. My job was merely to be there. Be there with her while they did the rape kit -- surprisingly not as neat and orderly as one might think after hearing about them on T.V. (for one thing, there is no actual "kit"). Be there while she peed in a cup to check for evidence of roofies. Be there while she tried to call her mom in another state only to get no answer at one o'clock in the morning. Be there while they gave her antibiotics, a million different shots and then the morning after pill (pills actually, there were two of them). And then to just be there while she suffered for hours through the effects of the benignly misnamed pill.

I sat with her all night as she shook and sweated and threw up. We didn't talk much. At last, desperate to say something, say anything to break the quiet that screamed in my head, I pointed at the oddly shaped bruise on her arm. I'd never seen a bruise that looked that awful. "How did that happen?"

Staring back at me with those dead eyes she answered shakily, "I don't know." And then burst into hysterical tears. As did I. Even though this was a couple of years before my own sexual assault, I cried too. There was no other response.

After she finally fell asleep in the wee hours of the morning, I became aware of a shadow in the doorway. I recognized the boy. He was from the frat house. Standing quickly, I pushed him out of the room. "Are you crazy?" was all I could think to say.

He looked drunk still. "I just... wanted to see if she was okay."

The gall. I couldn't process it. "You guys almost killed her."

"It wasn't supposed to go down like that. I didn't think..."

"Leave," I demanded, not willing to be party to whatever rationalizations his inebriated brain was going to manufacture. For a split second, his eyes flashed and I saw anger. I thought he might push past me to get to her. Or perhaps even hit me. "Now. Or I'll call the police," I added with confidence I didn't have.

"F*** you," he muttered at last, dismissing me with a wave. As he stumbled down the hallway he added over his shoulder, "Tell her to give me a call."

The "Glamorous" Rape

I tell you this story to show you exactly how unglamorous rape is. Whether it is a tied-to-the-bed knock-her-unconscious atrocity like the one just detailed or merely a silent, stealthy minimally violent assault like mine, rape is vicious, cruel, painful and damaging.