The Gambit of The Helpless Female
•(in chess) an opening in which a player makes a sacrifice, typically of a pawn, for the sake of some compensating advantage.
• a device, action, or opening remark, typically one entailing a degree of risk, that is calculated to gain an advantage
And so I became absolutely impassive. I didn’t volunteer to do anything, but when they tried something I controlled my outrage and let them do it. I just…shut up, and shut off.
In between these moments there were cigarette breaks. Then I became an actor in a play, drawing on what I understood of Philippine society’s attitudes toward rape, and played the part of the raped Catholic girl in a chauvinist country: Whimpering, scared and helpless as a rabbit, obedient, very respectful, and somehow complicit in what was being done to her.
“Will you tell anyone about this? Will you report us to the police?”
Snivelling: “Oh, no, no, please…I swear I would never tell anyone about this…I would be too ashamed, it would bring shame to my family…my father would kill me, I would be disowned…”
Amazingly, this worked like magic: they calmed down, believing me completely. This, after all, was the sort of self-effacing modesty they’d expect of their own sisters. Had they been fathers, they would have beaten their own daughters to within an inch of their lives if the girls were stupid enough to “get themselves raped”. I wasn’t a threat to them, they started to get friendly, talked about pop songs playing on the van’s radio, the mobile phones they wanted to buy, about where they lived (not really, of course) and who they were (more lies). We played these cat and mouse games, while one guy rummaged through the contents of my backpack, the other stared out a window (pricked by a guilt conscience, I actually believe), all three of us smoking my Marlboros, not a stitch of clothing on. It was, however much a cliché, unreal.
All the while, though, I was taking my bits of jewellery off and tossing them under the seats. I would run my hands over my face (mainly my oily nose) as though tired, and then later press my fingers firmly against the window glass to leave prints. I pulled strands of my own hair out and let it fall to the carpet. If a forensic hunt was made of passenger vehicles soon after, I hoped they would find something of mine. I memorized the dark shapes of walls and trees, silhouetted by the glow of a settlement beyond (we were in a very large, unlit area of level earth, long grass, mounds pushed up by bulldozers…the beginnings of a development site) and the steady drone of vehicles, even at this hour, told me there was a busy road nearby.
I didn’t know it then, but looking back I can spot so many advantages gained by dealing with these two young men in this way.
The thrill of the conquest was gone. Because I wasn’t fighting like a hellcat anymore, it wasn’t exciting anymore. They made a few lazy attempts to “get what they came for”, but neither man could get an erection (the effect of drugs, the policewomen later told me)…they kept pawing me and sticking their fingers into me (while I clenched my teeth so hard, holding back a furious scream, that I chipped my front tooth), with wistful looks on their faces, but didn’t actually manage to penetrate, or have an orgasm, themselves. Which is why I wrote, in Part I, that they “sort of” had their way with me. I was so grateful for even these small mercies—the danger of becoming pregnant had already crossed my mind, and what a horrendous prospect that was (because there’s no way on earth I’d carry it—over my dead body—and it would be another nightmare, possibly worse, looking for a place to get it aborted.)
Because I was calm, looking them in the faces, talking to them like human beings, they had become self-conscious about their own bodies, their looks, their performance as “sex fiends” and “criminals”. One of them said to me, “I don’t know what to feel about you…this is awkward. You’re being so nice about it.”
They had lost the element of faceless savagery that masks and protects most rapists. How can you keep a woman deathly afraid of you, when you have just told her over a cigarette that you like The Eraserheads, and Prodigy? I saw that they were just two stupid kids.
I also believe this is the main reason that I didn’t come away from the evening with some violent psychological trauma, or develop a long-term neurosis afterwards…talking had unmasked the monsters, revealing Beavis and Butthead. It didn’t make being raped by them any better, but I have never, in the past 10 years, had a nightmare about the incident, so something deep inside me has come through this thing unscathed.
I know how lucky I was. I am so grateful that I got these two, and not a psychopath, or a really murderous criminal who would just as soon kill me as say one word to me. No, I was not brave, not clever (I hate being told that I have been either), I was just fucking lucky.
It was 5:30 in the morning. Still dark, but the sun would come up soon. They didn’t want to let me go, they hadn’t really done “it” yet, there was this unfinished business hanging in the air—to their shame, and my relief.
They toyed with idea of keeping me longer. I was ready to scream, I was so sick of them. I simmered. Valentines Day was two weeks away…the more aggressive one asked me if I would be his Valentine—*the idiot*—I just stared out the window. There was just one more thing, though: did I have any money? There was nothing but small change in my wallet. They gave me some sob story about traffic fines and impounded vehicles…here I was, naked, raped, punched, and violated…and they were trying to come up with an honourable and justifiable reason for needing money from me. Their stupidity was like a beautiful golden light in that dark van…it gave me so much hope.
They were a couple of meth junkies, and that’s really why they wanted the money. At that point I just wanted to go home. I told them I didn’t have any money on me, but if they didn’t hurt me and I got home safely, I would see to it they got some money. Satisfied by my fervent promise, they let me dress. They made me lie in the back seat again, but I could see the signs and tall buildings outside the window now, so I knew where they’d taken me…we were 10 minutes away from the subdivision where my parents lived.
(Note: You spend your whole life confined at home because your parents are afraid that if you travel too far, or to unfamiliar places, something bad will happen to you…and then you are raped in your home suburb. *LOL* Now, there’s a message from the universe, if you’re listening…)
Outside my parents’ home, the street was still dark. I explained that I would have to ask my mother for the money, I didn’t have enough of my own, but she would still be asleep and it would make her very suspicious if I woke her up now. It would have to wait till later. “Okay,” the men told me, they would come back at 10AM. They wrote down my phone number, said they’d call first, then told me I could go. I bolted out of the van and ran for the front door. I had left my bag behind, and my shoes. They took off. My brother—up and wandering the house, looking for me, because he’d heard me calling his name (ooh, creepy!)—opened the front door before I touched the brass knocker. I threw my arms around him and told him right away what had happened. In five minutes the household was in turmoil.
Okay, that’s the next batch. I will be honest and say I don’t know how much more of this there is…I write until I am exhausted, or feel that I have come to a major “break’ in the story…so there’s definitely going to be a Part III, and I don’t know, maybe even a Part IV or V…I haven’t written about the rape since it happened, I am finding it a little bit hard to remember things, to face up to things, to write them down for others. But it feels good, too, because I have wanted to do this for a decade. Get it out, get it down, all of it. See you tomorrow. Thanks for your patience.
P.S. Comments have been disabled until it’s all done. Please let me conclude my story, before you start coming to your own conclusions! Cheers.