Something terrible happened to me, and I’ve told no one about it, because they will blame me and say it was my fault. It happened one night on a date with someone. I don’t even remember how it happened, except how I found myself after. Until today I couldn’t even say the words to myself. He raped me.
He told the shadchan the next day that I’m not for him, and I didn’t tell the shadchan anything about it.
I can’t eat or sleep since that night, I stay home, and people say that they see something different about me. I haven’t been on a date since that time, and I tell people who call me to talk that I’m on a break from shidduchim. I don’t know what to do. I can’t go on like this.
YOU ARE NOT AT FAULT. Please, please believe me that you did nothing to bring that vicious attack on yourself. You were a victim. That creature who attacked you chose and targeted you because he saw you as vulnerable prey. No different than a cold-blooded animal in the wild that attacks a weaker animal. It had nothing to do with what you said, what you wore, or how you presented yourself to him or to the public.
Your reaction is normal. It is common for people who are attacked as you have been to withdraw and seclude themselves. Please understand that not eating or sleeping while living with this painful secret can harm you in the long run. You cannot function because your emotions and thoughts are filled with tremendous pain over what has happened. You are likely replaying the events in your mind, trying to find a way where you could have done something to alter the sequences leading up to the horrific episode. And, as is natural in such a circumstance, you are likely feeling shame.
Moreover, because you are frum, you fear that if someone finds out it will affect your future shidduchim. It is specifically the knowledge that frum victims may be afraid of repercussions and not report that gives that extra confidence to frum perpetrators. In all probability you were not his first victim and most likely you will not be his last victim either.
You are not alone in the tragedy you have endured. Therapists, experienced dating coaches, and knowledgeable shadchanim will tell you that date rape happens to frum people too. More importantly, there are Orthodox organizations specializing in assisting frum victims of rape, precisely because frum victims of rape exist. They field calls and offer referrals regarding cases similar to yours on a regular basis.
The reality is that those who cannot control their criminal urges to harm an innocent person can be the same people who will also rush to not miss a minyan, wear tztitzis prominently, give tzedaka, check and criticize hechshers, and even walk around with a holier-than-thou-attitude. That outward frum appearance is one reason a woman may feel more secure when she is on a date with such a man. I will say that fortunately this does not happen with great frequency. However, even one among us is way too much, and should never be taken lightly.
Here is what you now need to understand. Your body has become a crime scene, no different than if your home had been burglarized. Please do not be ashamed of what happened to you. You cannot hide that atrocity any differently than if another crime would have been committed.
You don’t state how long ago this has happened. I will assume from the way you write that it is more than a few days. Get yourself to a hospital and tell them you were raped. The medical professionals there will make a decision whether it is past the time frame for them to perform a rape kit and if they can find any evidence on you to collect. Regardless, you need to be examined to make sure that you are treated for anything you may have become exposed to. They will also notify the right officials to interview you and take the necessary steps towards justice. You must, without delay, get a therapist who specializes in working with victims of rape to help you work through this and get you back on your feet.
You need to get this secret off your chest in order to begin your healing process. Tell your parents or someone close to you the entire story of what happened to you. Now, more than ever, you need support from those who love and care about you. This will also be the time you will find out who is true to you and who is not.
An attack such as yours needs to be reported and investigated, and there are many rabbonim nowadays who will agree, because there could be another victim in the making. Additionally, it will be helpful to your recovery when you see he is being taken to task for what he has done.
There will be ignorant people who will deny your claims and some who may even blame you. Some people deny it because an attack of this nature is so horrendous they cannot imagine a frum person being capable of doing that to somebody. Others may ignore your claims because by admitting rape happens in the frum community, they would become fearful that it could happen to them or a loved one. There are people who prefer living with the notion that “ignorance is bliss.” Don’t let those people get to you. Ignore the haters and focus on your healing.
Expect that the man who did this to you will deny that he attacked you and that he will even say terrible things about you. You state that the following morning he told the shadchan that you are not a match for him. That was his first tactic of defense, which is exactly typical in such cases. Once he is formally accused, he will use the conversation he had with the shadchan and claim that you are retaliating as a woman scorned. Your therapist should be able to help you deal with that.
You state you don’t know exactly how it happened, but you found yourself violated. It is possible you were drugged. There are drugs that a would-be rapist can put in a date’s drink. These drugs can affect you very quickly and cause victims to become weak, confused, and even pass out. You may not remember what happened while you were drugged. Your date could have put a drug in your drink if he got a drink for you or you left your drink alone for a bit. In the future, never leave anything you drink unattended while on a date.
Based on your circumstances, you may not have enough evidence for your date to be charged with a crime. But at least it will be on record, and if he has previously been accused, or if he does this again, it will only be a matter of time before he is caught and will be shunned by the community.
I am so very sorry for what you have been through, and I hope you will heal enough so you can trust another man. This is something you will need to work on with your therapist. Moving on with life in a positive way is your best weapon and retribution.
Even if you do not report the attack to police, stories may circulate about you anyway. When you are ready to get back into dating, you need to be prepared that rumors may circulate regardless of whether you name your attacker for what he has done to you. You need to be prepared for the possibility that he has already been spreading negativity about you. The incident could become public without your consent and told in a way that is not true to what you know.
Therefore, it is of utmost importance that you find a rabbi, teacher or another respected member of your community who will vouch for you as a person of integrity. Do not volunteer to share what happened with every nosy person questioning you. Rather, discuss the particular details very briefly only if it comes up and as a means to tell your side of what happened — if you feel comfortable doing so.
Please try to live your life as you have before. Do not allow what happened to identify you. Reach out to friends and initiate socialization. And when you feel up to it, get the word out that your break from shidduchim is over and you are ready to accept suggestions of appropriate eligible men. You will overcome this terrible challenge, and with Hashem’s help, you will meet an honorable man who will become your husband and be zoche to build a family of your own.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis and shidduch consultant. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com.