Trigger warning: This post contains description of sexual violence.
Pickup trucks, VW Buses, Smart Cars and Maserati's were snug together, as if they were friends. Forced contact resulting from finite minutes to complete a commute. An awkward menagerie of diversity. Out of their cars, and back to comfort zones.
The road was sweating. The windows were down to let in the dust and warmth. I was sticky. The first drivel had moved down the inside of my right thigh. I gave my body eight minutes to end up committed to the pleather seat. I wondered if his air conditioner was broken, but didn't ask.
"I moved 3,000 miles to get away from her." He looked toward me as he spoke, not fully completing the 90-degree rotation. The college's Vice President had picked me up from the airport to take me to my speech. Sexual assault awareness week and Take Back The Night. My chauffeur did not seem to mind that he was over-qualified for his current task.
I had met him on the East Coast five years ago, and had been to speak at his prior institution five times.
"I needed to not have to see her, or see the spaces where we'd been. This job came up, and I took it." I asked him if he had found someone new yet. He was only in his forties and academically handsome. Quick with banter and astute with analysis. Psychology background. He said maybe. They'd only been out once so far.
"How do you enforce a policy you're guilty of breaking yourself?" Pause. "It wasn't wrong back then." Justification?
I look at him now. Full rotation of face and neck, but not my shoulders. My shirt is wet. The guy in the BMW next to us in the traffic has air conditioner. His windows are up.
"She was 18. She was drunk. And, I raped her." I heard him. I don't think I moved. He self-confessed what he had done over 20 years ago. That part came out faster than I thought he could talk. Like a half of a single breath.
"You'll like the hotel where I booked you. Order whatever you want. It's the suite where I put up our VIP's."
It was a mirage. It was the sweltering. I imagined the preceding lines.
"I knew she was a virgin. We were at a Catholic school." So the oasis is real. "I got her pregnant. I paid for the abortion. I took care of it." There, he said it.
I say nothing. I am in the passenger seat of the car of a rapist. I am wearing my seatbelt. I am firmly affixed to his car. I wonder if he moved 3,000 miles away from the divorce or his victim?
He is extra brave. He has the windows down so that the secret is spoken more loudly. If your confessional is more public, is it more satisfying? I hear about 10 stories of rape at every school I visit. This morning in Colorado at a high school, there were closer to 20. Most are from women. Some are from men. I am white and heterosexual, and I always feel privileged when someone who is gay or not white shares his or her story with me.
Sometimes it takes years of hearing the same sound, to grow the ear hair follicle that will be able to hear it. Better is when I don't shimmy out the window on the freeway and can hear a rapist acknowledge what he did. Best is when he is sober, it is daylight and he tells me he's going to start enforcing policies after that. Recidivism averted.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Take Back the Night in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month. To learn more about Take Back the Night and how you can help prevent sexual violence, visit here. Read all posts in the series here.
Need help? In the U.S., visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN. For more resources, visit theNational Sexual Violence Resource Center's website.