The first thing I have to do is find out X.’s full name. I know his first and last name, but I want to have his middle name. Being able to say all three names has power. Like when I get mad at my kids and say all three names, they know they’re in deep shit.
I don’t even know how to spell X.’s first name properly—it’s a name with a couple of possible spellings. Since I figure he’ll be a practicing doctor now, I just Google him. I don’t think twice. I type his name into the search bar and Google takes me right to his home page. To the page of his plastic surgery practice in one of the wealthiest towns in the United States.
Cheesy synth-jazz plays in the background while I stare into the eyes of my rapist.
I am not prepared for this.
I am not prepared to look into his eyes after so many years. After one doctorate, one marriage, and two children. This is not something I could ever have been prepared for. I hit mute on my computer.
I hate this man. I hate that he has a plastic surgery practice. The menu for the work he does divides women into body parts like “thighs,” “face,” “breasts,” and “torso.” Women’s eyes stare at me through my screen. His homepage looks like a fucking porno site. I get his full name and shut the browser.
I type his name into the rape reporting notes that I’m preparing to bring with me to campus. The notes feel inauthentic when compared to the report of, say, an undergraduate in a moment of crisis. But I know I will fight similar battles to the young women reporting rapes after finding themselves naked in frat house broom closets or basements.
The rape reporting people on campus will want details (details I won’t have.) They will want to tell me what to do with my report (and I will have to resist them.) They will quickly form ideas about what kind of person I am the minute I walk through the door (and those ideas will likely be wrong.)
Because they will want details, I’m preparing notes. My first problem is that I don’t remember the date. Fortunately, I’m detail-obsessed. I’ve kept journals since age thirteen to record everything. So that’s the first place I look to find the date. But, for some reason, I didn’t write down much about X. raping me. I didn’t write down the date. This is very unlike me. (Note to Past Me: What were you thinking?)
No problem, though, because I also keep a detailed calendar. Like, if Adrian Monk decided to keep a calendar, he would be jealous of my calendar. He’d ask me for calendar lessons. I start flipping through my past calendars, year by year, to the calendar for 20– … and it is gone. Fucking gone. They’re all lined up on the shelf, and that one is missing.
Now, I wouldn’t have written in the calendar “Raped by X.” on whatever day in 20–. But I would have written down when I was flying to visit a guy that I’d just started dating. The reason I was in Chapel Hill at all, instead of in Greensboro where I was attending graduate school, was to stay overnight with my sister so I could fly out of the Raleigh airport the next morning on Southwest Airlines.
In the early morning hours before that flight, X. raped me.
I still caught that flight. No, I didn’t tell the guy I was dating that I was raped. How would that have gone? “Hey Y.! Great to see you! I know this relationship is brand new and that we’re long distance anyways so things are delicate but guess what! This guy I was having drinks with and got kissy with last night raped the shit out me at his apartment! Wanna talk about it?”
I keep thinking of X.’s smug-ass face on his creepy-ass synth-jazz website. His website needs a trigger warning for anyone with taste.
I start searching my hard drive for flight confirmations from Southwest Airlines for this 20– trip. I find it. The flight departed on July 27, which means I was raped around three o’clock in the morning on July 27, 20–.
Can this be it? The day? I imagined that I would feel something when I encountered the date.
I feel nothing.
I don’t believe the date is right. I have to be sure. Maybe I flew up twice out of Raleigh. But I can’t find any other saved tickets on my hard drive.
I call the airline. This takes forever. I can’t get through to anyone who has information. The last person I speak to on the phone tells me data that old has been “archived.”
I email my old boyfriend Y. For a minute, I can’t believe I’m doing this. I don’t tell him why. I just say that I need the dates that I came to visit him. He tells me that he doesn’t have those old emails any more. (Hi Y.! This is why I emailed you about those dates, by the way.)
Emails! I go into Gmail. (Google: Thanks for not being evil and for saving my old emails.) I keyword search by the airport call letters where Y. lives, and it pulls up a second itinerary on Southwest. There it is. That’s the day. I can feel it.
It was in August. I know it was in August. Believe me if you’ve ever lived in North Carolina then you know when something happened in August.
August 23, 20–. My day.
I have to write the narrative of what happened that night to give to UNC. As I write it, I think about the genre of the rape narrative. This is a document that so many women have to write. We should gather these horrible documents together and publish them, these tortured little stories that must comply with the parameters of procedure.
I decide to push the genre boundaries a little bit. I wonder how much I care what these people are going to think of me. I’m not sure I know the answer. What has started out as a clinical exercise has stopped feeling so clinical.
Next step: How does a person who’s been raped report a rape at UNC these days? Back to Google!
I type, “report rape UNC.”
The first hit reads like this: “College student could be expelled for reporting her rape…,” a New York Daily News story on a UNC student apparently facing expulsion for reporting her rapist.
The second hit takes me to SAFE@UNC, which seems to be the right place for reporting a rape.
(The next four hits are also about UNC students getting in trouble for reporting rape. UNC needs some SEO help.)
The SAFE@UNC website has major design flaws. But the “get help” link is right next to the webpage name, so I click it.
This “get help” page is even worse than the home page. At the top are three bullet points telling you what to do in an emergency: “Call 911” is first, followed by calling campus police, and then going to the hospital emergency department. These are fine instructions, though not helpful to me. I read on.
The three bullet points are followed by a page of text so dense it looks like it was written by Don DeLillo.
I read it all. There are no subheadings, just random phrases in boldface. Under the paragraph that tells me, “The University can provide help and support,” the first person named has this title: “Deputy Title IX/Student Complaint Coordinator.” I don’t understand what it means to coordinate Title IX in a deputy fashion, but I do know that I want to file a complaint.
OK, I think. I’ll try him. (And yes, he’s a man.) I get his voicemail. His recording says to call 911 if there is an emergency, otherwise to leave a message.
I don’t leave a message.
The second person named in the DeLillean paragraph has this title: “Title IX Coordinator.” I’m guessing he’s the boss, since the first guy is only a deputy. I call the second guy. (Yes, also a man.)
This time a woman answers the phone. From the tone of her voice, it seems she answers phones for a living.
“Hello! Equal opportunity!”
I’m not sure I have the right place, since she didn’t say anything about Title IX, but I forge ahead.
“I need to report a rape,” I say. Also, I realize now that my heart is racing.
The woman has no idea what to say to me. I’ve totally thrown her off. After a few moments, she articulates that she needs to figure out who to transfer me to. She puts me on hold with really fucking loud marching band music. It’s like the music you would hear at half-time at a football game. I’m glad I wasn’t raped by a football player or a member of the marching band.
If it had been synth-jazz, I would have lost my bananas.
She comes back and tells me she’s going to transfer me to a person named Camille. I don’t know who this Camille person is, but I don’t ask, because the secretary seems so flustered. She’s having such a hard time figuring out what to do with someone who wants to report a rape.
Camille, conversely, has her stuff together.
“I want to report a rape,” I say, and Camille doesn’t hesitate. She asks me to tell her more about myself. I tell her I’m a current UNC professor, but that the rape happened a few years ago when I was a graduate student.
At that point, Camille tells me I’m in the wrong place. “I hate to transfer you,” she says. Because X. and I were students at the time of the rape, my case has to be handled by the Title IX office. I tell her that only my rapist was a UNC student—I was UNCG student. She tells me that doesn’t matter, the Title IX office handles the case.
She takes my name and number, and tells me that she’ll have someone from the Title IX office call me. Then she asks me, as though she still can’t quite believe it, “And you’re a professor here?”
“Yes.” I say. I feel an iota of joy. This is the only power I have in this entire affair.
I tell her, just before we hang up, that it was the Title IX office who transferred me to her in the first place.
She sounds exasperated and tells me that she’ll just take the “details” herself.
I say okay, and then I ask, “What details?”
She means she wants to take my report over the phone.
I say, “Can I come in person to report?” She says nothing. I say, quickly, “I have the whole day free. I can come this afternoon.”
She says she’ll call me back to set up a time. I ask if she has my phone number. She reads it back to me, and she’s written it down incorrectly. I give her my correct number, we hang up, and I wait.
I hate waiting.
About twenty minutes and one plate of microwave nachos later, the phone rings, and it’s Camille again. She says she calling to make sure that someone from the Title IX office got in touch with me. I tell her no one has called. She tells me that she spoke with “Howie” directly, and so I should be hearing from someone soon.
I say, “Howie?”
And then I realize she’s talking about Howard, the Title IX Coordinator. She tells me he’s “in charge over there.” I’m still not clear about where these different offices are located, and why there are multiple offices in the first place. But I just say thank you, and we hang up.
I ask myself, if it were back in 20– right after I was raped, at what point in this process would I have lost my cool and given up reporting this rape at all?
Somewhere around the nachos.
I want to report a rape. How do those words that not create a DEFCON 1 situation in our rape reporting office?
I don’t know. I’m just eating nachos and waiting for a phone call.
I called at 10:50 a.m. Camille called me back at 11:20 a.m.
At 2:15 that afternoon, the Deputy Title IX/Student Complaint Coordinator finally calls me.
When you are waiting to report a rape, with your neatly typed rape narrative frying a hole in your purse, waiting three and a half hours to finally talk to someone is more like waiting three and a half years. I can’t concentrate on anything. My heart won’t slow down.
I didn’t know it would be like this after so long.
On the phone, he tells me that he’s leaving town tomorrow and the soonest he can meet with me is the end of next week. Or, he tells me, I can meet with one of his associates in his office sooner than that, and he’ll follow up with me for more details. My head spins with all of these meetings I’m supposed to have and the fact that I have to wait so long to have them.
I tell him that I’ve set aside today, Tuesday, to report my rape, so I would like to meet with someone this afternoon. “That’s why I called this morning to make an appointment,” I say. I realize I’m panicking a little.
He seems taken aback by my request, but quickly recovers.
He tells me where his office is located. It’s actually off of campus in an office building that I’ve never heard of even though I’ve more or less lived in the area for twenty years.
“Where should I park?” I ask.
He says they don’t have reserved parking spaces, but I can parallel park on Franklin Street—the busy thoroughfare through town. He says, unfortunately, that his office can’t validate the parking fees.
He asks me how long it will take me to get to his office. I tell him five minutes. I’m relieved that he seems game to meet with me so quickly.
On my way down Franklin Street, I pass the bar where X. and I were hanging out the evening before he raped me. It’s still there, on the same street as the place where I’m going to report being raped.
After I find parking, I enter the double glass doors of the building where his directions tell me to go. I get on the elevator and head to the top floor. I step off and find myself in a long hallway like any long hallway in an office building. I can’t believe I’ve never seen this place before.
I head into the office suite. There’s a woman entering in front of me. She asks me who I’m there to see. “E.W.” I say, pronouncing his name the way he said it to me on the phone. She steps into an office and tells someone I’m there.
He comes out to greet me. He’s a white man as tall as I am, maybe more, and has blond hair and fair skin. We shake hands. He invites me into his office. One wall is composed of windows looking into the office suite. They’re covered in open mini-blinds.
We sit at a round laminate table. The office furniture is brand new. The outlets on the baseboards don’t have outlet covers on them yet.
He first tells me it is part of his job to take in complaints like mine, but he assures me that the word “complaints” is a “policy term.” He seems worried I might get hung up on it. But I don’t know if he thinks I’ll take the word too seriously, or not seriously enough.
Then he says that everything I share with him will be “private” but not “confidential.” I ask him to explain. He says that he shares information with his team, gesturing through the glass windows at the other people in the office. He’s also required to report rapes to the UNC Department of Public Safety, but he doesn’t give victims’ names unless victims want him to. He says that DPS keeps track of the numbers of rapes for Clery Act purposes.
I feel defeated. I know that universities must keep Clery Act logs of all crimes reported to them for seven years. If the UNC DPS only keeps logs for the maximum amount of time the Act requires, then my rape will not be logged at all.
But he’s sitting in front of me with a very official looking form. Something official is happening here in this Title IX office. He, and his form, reassure me that what I’m doing isn’t for nothing.
I have my typed-up report on the table in front of me. I’m hesitating to hand it over. I realize why.
“Honestly, I’m scared of libel,” I tell him. I’m afraid X. will somehow find out about the report and come after me because of what is in it. I think about those search results on Google for “report rape UNC.”
I tell him I don’t want to pursue any legal action against X. Even though North Carolina has no statute of limitations for felonies, I tell him, laughing, that I know no prosecutor would take my case. I also don’t want to pursue University action. (I don’t even know if University action still exists.) I don’t want to do anything but report being raped and have it recorded.
It seems important to tell him these things before I hand him my report. I want him to understand I don’t have any motive for acting against X. other than having my rape counted. I’m not trying to bring the good doctor down. I’m not a vindictive bitch who is having “regrets” after having “one too many.”
I can’t believe I’m even thinking these things.
I hand him the report.
“Do you mind if I read this through?” he asks.
I shake my head.
He reads it. While he’s reading, I feel nervous and exposed. I feel my body in strange ways. I stare at the outlets with no outlet covers.
He finishes reading the report. He asks, “This website is his current business?”
“Do you remember the location of his apartment?”
He asks me if there’s anything else I’d like to add to the report. I don’t understand the question and ask if his question is meant to imply something else. He says no, that sometimes people want to add things when they talk. I say no, everything is typed in the report.
He asks me, “Why now?”
I try to figure out what he wants to know. Does he want to know why, after all of these years, I want to report at all? Does he want to know if something changed in my life? Does he want to know why this year instead of last year, or today instead of yesterday?
I do my best to explain. I start by telling him why I didn’t report at the time I was raped. I didn’t report because I was flying out a few hours after being raped to visit my sort-of-long-distance-boyfriend-person. I just wanted to pretend being raped didn’t happen and focus on the other guy.
(To that Southwest Airline flight attendant who brought me the three gigantic plastic trash bags to fill with vomit during that flight and gave me my own row to sit in and then brought me fifteen cans of ginger ale, and the whole time made jokes to cheer me up while you hauled away my mess: Bless you. I hope you are a Gordon-Gekko-level boss now.)
I didn’t report at the time because I was a lawyer. (A young, newbie lawyer, but still a lawyer.) Because I was a lawyer, while I was vomiting into trash bags on that plane, I coldly assessed the merits of my case. If you were a prosecutor, would you take on your case? NOPE.
I didn’t report at the time because I knew that rape reports that didn’t get prosecuted ended up in the hinterlands of this-makes-the-school-look-bad-let’s-ignore-it.
(Plus, you know, I hated myself and wanted to die.)
I tell him that since the Title IX office has started informing the UNC faculty (that means me) about the new Title IX office and their fiercer rules about information-gathering—no more hinterlands or burying of complaints—it seems like a good time to say something. So that’s why now.
He asks me, “Are you okay?”
“I’m okay,” I say. I feel tears rush to my eyes. I force them back. Then I wonder if it would be better to just cry. Would that make me seem more genuine? I mean, I am genuine. But do I seem too cold because I’m not crying? Does he expect victims to cry? But if I cry, will I seem less believable because I’m too emotional?
I don’t cry.
He tells me about counseling services, the rape crisis center, the women’s center, and the woman who runs the crisis unit at Chapel Hill P.D. He asks if my husband is supportive.
In short, he was great, once I was finally able to get over the hurdles that (1) I had to wait for hours (2) to speak to a dude about being raped (3) in a strange building off campus with no parking. He even listened to me when I told him how unfortunate the SAFE@UNC website is. (He inherited it. They’re working on it right now.)
Before I leave, I warn him about the creepy synth-jazz. I tell him to prepare himself, because that shit is terrible.