Friday, August 31, 2012

I Held Her While She Cried...

Back in 1988 (or thereabouts), I was managing a bar in Houston, Texas.  It was a fun setup: the owner and I were the only males.  All the employees were young, attractive women.  Just girls, most of them - they got carded when they went to other bars.

Of course, I had to do all the heavy lifting, from hoisting beer kegs to acting as the bouncer.  But it was a fun place to work.

Until the night that one of the girls was raped.

It didn't happen in the bar.  It was several blocks away.  This was long before cell phones, so we had no idea what had happened until she stumbled into the bar, bruised and weeping.

It was almost closing time, and I was doing the monthly inventory.  I put down my clipboard, went to her and helped her over to the sofa.  The owner wasn't present, but three of her co-workers (all female) were.

To this day, I don't understand why she wanted me to comfort her.  I was her boss, not her boyfriend. She told us she had been attacked by four Hispanic guys, who pulled their car over when they spotted her walking home alone from a friend's house.  They were forcing her into their car when another car drove by, slowly.  Caught in the other car's headlights, the men got scared and drove off, leaving her behind.  The other car never stopped to help, though.

So: she had just been attacked by four men.  There were three women, her co-workers and friends, there to comfort her.  Instead, she held onto me and cried for three solid hours.  To my way of thinking, she'd want to get as far away from males as possible.  But she choose me.

She wouldn't let us call the police or a rape crisis center.  At least I knew enough to tell her that it wasn't her fault.  And not to complain when she vomited on me and the sofa.  (I told the other girls to fetch the champagne bucket for her to vomit in, but they were too late.)

I also knew NOT to say what I was thinking.  I didn't ask why she was out alone, walking in a dangerous city after midnight, wearing a two-piece terry cloth outfit that looked like it didn't have enough material to make a decent wash towel.

When she calmed down, two of the other girls and I took her home.  She rented a room in a house owned by - I'm not making this up - a little person.  A dwarf, I suppose.  He had three young female boarders.  He, too, told her that it wasn't her fault.  Unlike me, he'd been through this before.  His other two boarders were strippers, and they'd put him though some unpleasantness.

The girl eventually did make a report to the police, and even showed up to work the next day.  She seemed to put the whole thing behind her very quickly.

What brought this incident to mind was an article on by Rebecca Rogers Maher titled "What to Say If Your Best Friend Tells You She Was Raped."  It's not exactly the same situation as the one I experienced, but I wished I had known SOMETHING back then, while I was holding a weeping woman and wondering what to do.

I hope you never need this information.  But better to know it and not need it, than to need it and not know it.


  1. Wow, what a powerful story -- I've been in this situation, too. More than once. And I remember vividly, trying to choose my words carefully, and being so young I wasn't sure I had. I wonder if people gravitate toward writers for comfort -- do they know we understand the power of words? And that we truly try to find the right ones? Maybe that's why she chose you. :-)

  2. Thanks, Kelly. Yes, it's a tough situation to be in. Not as tough as the victim's, but not easy, either. As for people gravitating towards writers, at that point I had only been published in my college newspaper. But she knew I was a writer - before I was hired as bar manager, they got to know me because I would sit alone in their beer garden, reading or scribbling in my journal. (I read the collected works of Robinson Jeffers in that beer garden. After a couple of beers, it's easy to think he was the greatest poet who ever lived!)

  3. It's because we need to be protected and comforted by strong guys that we know aren't like the rapist. That's a natural reaction to it. I went to my dad - more than my mom - when it happened to me too.

    1. Thank you for helping me understand why she went to me. And, of course, I'm so sorry you had to go through that experience.