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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Legitimate Rape?

           Though you have asked for forgiveness I would not pardon you Todd Akin for your appalling, shocking, insulting, disturbing, ignorant and arrogant remarks on rape, including your surmising—before your forced retraction—that rape is unlikely to result in pregnancy. I wish I knew that fact over four decades ago, when my dead husband’s best friend who was my friend too raped me. That information would have saved me an unnecessary worry on top of my agony. I am certain too that many infertile women would love to know that they are actually in control of their reproductive organs, a knowledge that may give them hope.
           And what exactly did you mean by “legitimate rape?” Is it the right of a husband to forcefully demand that his wife fulfills her marital duties to him? Is it a sexual act forced upon a woman who was dressed provocatively? Is it a sexual act forced upon a woman because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time? Is it a sexual act forced upon a woman because she did not yell "NO" loud enough? Is it a sexual act forced upon a woman too small to fight off a man twice her size or a man holding a gun over her head? Men too are rape victims, but here you assumption is right: the likelihood of pregnancy does not exist.
           Let me enact for you the scene of my own rape Mr. Akin, perhaps you’d learn something about that devastating experience.
           By choice I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, in a room at a well known, well respected New York City hotel, where a close friend whom I viewed as a brother was a guest.
          This is not happening, I thought alarmingly when Aaron began to force himself on me. Aaron, who held a high position in the Israeli military establishment, was on an official visit to NY and we planned ahead to meet upon his arrival. We were good friends since my boyfriend Yigal, later my husband, introduced me to Aaron, his wife Rachel, and their two young kids. Except for my sister and her husband, Aaron and Rachel were the closest people to me, especially after Yigal was brutally killed in war two years before the rape.
           Stay calm, I told myself terrified. Perhaps he is drunk; I’ll order some coffee for him. But he forcefully pushed me onto a bed and started to kiss me.
           “Stop it!” I screamed, trying to get away. But he kept at it.
           “I want you,” he exclaimed in a voice I never heard before.
           Please God, answer my prayers now. Don’t let this happen. You owe me! But God had nothing to do with what followed.
          “Get off me,” I shrieked, while trying to fight him with all the strength I had, but he was a tall, strong man, who must have weighed close to two hundred pounds, and I, the hundred-and-ten pounds that I weighed, had little chance. My physical struggle must have roused him even more, for he was fighting back excitedly, his pants off.
           “No,” I screamed repeatedly from the top of my lungs, but he was brutal. Change strategy; plead with him, perhaps he will come to his senses.
           “Rachel, what about Rachel?” I cried frantically.
           “She said that with you it was all right,” he said lying.
           “Yigal, what about Yigal? He was your best friend!” I screamed desperately.
           “He is dead,” I heard the devil say. 
           At that moment, the reality of Yigal’s death was crueler than ever, but I continued fighting till he let go of me after he had reached his sexual climax, only partially penetrated inside of me, for I managed to fight him off, however incompletely.
          Sickened, I ran to the bathroom to wash. More than anything else I felt dirty, but I was also afraid of getting pregnant. As I got out of the bathroom only minutes later, he was peacefully sleeping; while I, his prey, was shattered into pieces. I dressed and left the hotel. My world had crumbled.
           When I arrived at my apartment Yigal’s framed photograph was glancing at me. I hated him with all my heart for leaving me and for having the friends that he did. With anger and pain I smashed his picture into the wall with as much force as that with which I had fought Aaron a short while earlier. The glass on the frame shattered into as many pieces as my broken heart, but that was insufficient, for I also tore the photo into small pieces. I then fell on my bed and began to cry, sounding like a wounded animal.
           For the following two weeks I isolated myself at home.
           “I lost hope in mankind,” I told my boss as he was trying to console me.
           “You must remember that men are not all like that. You must repeat it as a mantra, everyday. We are not all like that. But Aaron should not get away with what he did. You should press criminal charges against him.” 
           “No one would believe me,” I said in panic. “What was I doing in his hotel room to begin with?”
           Like other rape survivors I feared that I would be accused of provoking my own rape. I was also certain that Aaron, holding the high position in the military and defense establishments that he did, would abuse his power even further. Nothing was beneath him, I assumed, my mind running wild imagining an army of false witnesses he would be able to recruit, who would assassinate my character.
           Nearly thirty years after the rape, able at last to openly and publicly talk about that experience, I began to inquire whether I could still press criminal charges against Aaron. But he soon died a dreadful death. I will not share with you my reaction when I learned about his suffering and passing.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

On the Wonders of America

This past week, when I stood on the rim of the majestic Grand Canyon, I couldn’t but marvel at the forces of nature that had created the awe-inspiring ravine some 1.7 billion years ago. On a group tour out west my husband and I were to continue to Powell, Brice, and Zion canyons, ending our trip in Las Vegas, from where we’d return to New York after eleven days of traveling.

But a disturbing phone call, and a heat wave combined with high altitude, made my husband felt momentarily ill. Because we were to continue to even warmer weather, higher altitudes and places with no medical facilities, we ended up at the park’s clinic. After a thorough checkup by the attending physician and a consultation with our cardiologist in New York, we all agreed that under the circumstances we should cut our trip short and go home. I would return another time to visit these nature’s wonders which I so anticipated seeing.

 The concierge in the park hotel where we stayed booked us flights back to New York and arranged for a taxi that took take us on a ninety minute drive to the nearest airport at the town of Flagstaff, from where we were to continue to Phoenix, then to Vegas to get home. But because of what amounted to the antithesis of America’s wonders, namely the inefficiency of misinformed airline employees, we missed the flight to Phoenix that evening, ending up spending the night in Flagstaff, a town we would probably never see if it were not for the saga of our trip back home.

 The next morning we arrived from Phoenix in Las Vegas only to find that we missed the connecting flight to NY. Having to stay six hours at the airport to get on the next flight, we decided to spend the following two nights in Vegas.

 I was in this wondrous city forty four years ago after arriving in the States, on a trip I took with three guy friends to the West Coast’s National Parks, San Francisco and Vegas (I almost killed us all when I nearly drove off a cliff), and I had no intention of visiting Vegas again, in spite of or because of what I heard about the new hotels that has been built there in the last few decades at the cost of billions of dollars.

 My husband and I checked in a quiet, elegant hotel away from the tumult of the Vegas Strip. How colonial I thought, when an East Asian member of the hotel’s pool staff offered to spray us with a cool mist of Evian water as we sat comfortably on fancy beach lounges covered with lush terry sheets. Like four decades ago, I balked at the ostentatious nature of Vegas, though living in Manhattan I am exposed to expensive stores and restaurants where two can spend $500 on dinner; and may be, in New York, the two men dinning at a table next to us in Vegas with two young attractive Brazilian women, girls really, would be more discrete fondling these women while talking about their wives back home.

 The following morning my husband and I explored some of the newer hotels . Within a matter of half a day we visited Rome, Venice, Bellagio and Paris. Where else could we do that other than in the grandiose Las Vegas hotels?

 On arrival at the Venetian Hotel with its canals and singing gondoliers, I burst out laughing at the site of instant Venice and the unmistakable kitsch. But then I looked up and saw the replica of St. Mark’s Square with its grand architecture, and I found creativity, ingenuity, entrepreneurialism and even beauty.

 Hopping from Venice to Paris via Rome and Bellagio, one can’t help noticing the diversity of the tourist body that visits Vegas. In a matter of two days I heard a multitude of languages, including Assyrian, French, German, Hebrew, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and more; and there was an apparent class differentiation as well. All sharing the dream of escapism however they define it. Here in Vegas, one can hardly recognize that a war is still raging in Afghanistan, or Syria, and that women and children still suffer the consequences of conflict and war.