Last summer, just before dusk, my 15-year-old daughter, Liana, and her friend Kate were standing in front of Berkeley High School (BHS), waiting for Kate’s dad to pick them up. A car pulled up to the curb near them and parked.
The driver, a young man, b egan staring at them intently, making them feel a bit uncomfortable. As the girls chatted they noticed the guy shifting around in his seat, eyes glued on them. They looked at him, then looked away. They talked and laughed and looked again, somewhat nervously now as they continued to wait for Kate’s father, Dean.
The car edged a little closer and they saw the guy’s hand pumping up and down. Initially, the girls weren’t sure what he was doing but when he wriggled out of his pants and flung them across the passenger seat, there was no doubt. He lifted himself up and they could see the top of his penis, his hand steadily pumping away. The girls were shocked and disgusted and they didn’t know what to do.
After a few minutes, the guy left. “I guess he was don e,” Liana said. The girls spotted a police car nearby. Rather than look for the suspect, the officer decided to wait with the girls until Dean arrived, shortly thereafter. He typed something into his computer but for some unknown reason, he never actually filed a report.
A few days later, Kate was walking along M.L. King, Jr. Way. The same offender pulled up alongside her. Kate ran to a nearby porch, pulled out her cell phone and called Liana. “I’m looking at him right now,” she said. “I’m writing down h is license plate number.” Creepo saw her writing and took off. Kate walked to our house and I called the police.
Liana and Kate were excited about viewing the photo line-up (these girls love any sort of drama, although they could have easily done withou t this scene.) They perused the photos separately. Kate picked him out, Liana was unsure. While undergoing questioning at his home, the suspect claimed that in spite of Kate’s accurate identification of his mug and car, he wasn’t the one. His parents were in complete denial. However, when the policeman got him alone, he said that he could tell that the guy was guilty and told him so. The young man’s eyes welled up with tears as the officer warned him not to do it again. He wouldn’t want to ruin his college career, after all. That’s right, Creepo’s a college boy. It turns out that our public penis-wielder is a recent BHS grad and just completed his second year at a top Ivy League university—that is, if he hasn’t been arrested for sexual assault by now, or worse.
Has testosterone outgrown its usefulness? Of course, I’m not saying that all men are abusive or violent and women are not. To the contrary, young women are committing more violent crimes than ever before. However, when you look at incidents of sex ual assault—and I include guys jacking off in front of girls in that definition, even if there’s no actual physical touching, which is a legal requirement for sexual assault—it’s primarily a male thing. Our college sophomore may not have physically touched the girls, but he did assault their psyches, their spirits, their innocence.
Every woman I know has a story like my daughter’s; most have stories that are much worse. I’ve been assaulted by two jack-offs—I ran one of them out of the park, all the way to his car. Even with a description and license plate number, he was never apprehended either.
One woman is raped every two minutes in the United States. Eighty percent are under age 30. Fifteen percent are under 12. Two thirds of all victims know their assailants.
It almost happened to me. As a 17-year-old UC freshman, I was approached by a good-looking guy I’d seen around campus and assumed was a fellow student. Alonzo asked if I had seen Tilden Park and invited me for a ride. We drove around the beautiful, leafy hills to a secluded spot overlooking a valley thick with vegetation. I sat on the ledge, enjoying the view. Alonzo came up behind me and started massaging my neck. I was a bit startled. I’d never had a neck massage before. I tried to be cool but was suddenly aware of something being a little bit off. Then, Alonzo said in a steady, calm voice, “I could rape you right now if I wanted to.”
Whoah. Something clicked on in my head and I knew I had to get out of there and fast. I started talking a mile-a-minute as I moved to get on my feet. “Rape? Yuck. I don’t understand why guys do that especially when can have almost any girl they want I mean no one has to force anybody there are so many people out there why would a guy do that I mean really t hat is so disgusting I can’t imagine.”
I guess I turned Alonzo off with all that chatter. He backed off, shook his head and silently drove me back to campus. I never saw him again. I was lucky. Very, very lucky. Natalee Holloway, the American teen who is missing in Aruba, may not be so lucky. Out drinking and partying with friends, she left with some local boys and hasn’t been heard from since. Young girls seem particularly vulnerable to males who offer them attention, flattery and fun. Too often, though, when fun becomes frightening and girls try to say no, they are overwhelmed—physically and emotionally—and fun turns into something forced and terrible.
According to the Coalition Educating About Sexual Endangerment (CEASE), one out of 12 male college s tudents has committed rape, although most wouldn’t call it that. They don’t understand that psychological as well as physical coercion can be considered in the charge. And in most acquaintance rape cases, alcohol is involved. Sadly, most women do not repo rt their rapes, whether out of fear, shame or insufficient information. Perhaps Natalee Holloway will be brave and able enough to testify against her abusers. That is, if she turns up alive.
Where and how does sexual aggression begin and what can we do t o stem the tide? While not nearly as destructive as rape, public masturbation is more than indecent exposure. It’s a personal violation. I can only hope that Liana and Kate never experience anything worse.
(Note: All of the names, except Creepo, have been changed.)