“I know many of my friends feel like they don't know any women who were raped and assaulted, and it's just not true. They know lots of people. We're just not talking about it.“
I'm in my seventies, and this experience happened almost 50 years ago. I was married and my marriage was dissolving and I wanted to go to Cambridge to live with a friend for a few months. My husband dropped me off in upstate New York to visit some friends and they dropped me off at the entrance to the New York state Thruway. I was in my hippie phase. Hitchhiking was done by everybody—it was what people did, although I hadn't hitched much. I was picked up by two truck drivers. It was the kind of truck that had a bed in the cab and they told me I had to go lie down in the bed and take my shoes off, which they kept in the front. One of the truck drivers came into the back, asked me who I was and what my story was and where I lived, and then he tried to kiss me and I told him to stop. I didn't want that. I wasn't interested in that. And he did. So then he went back up front and the other guy came in and the same thing happened again. But this time when he started to kiss me, he wouldn't stop. And he started to rape me. And I knew that I was in a truck going 60 miles an hour and I didn't have any shoes. And there was no way that I was going to get out of that. So I made the decision not to fight and just mentally went somewhere else.
The scariest part of some of this was they were heading to California and they said they were going to take me with them and I said, no, I am going to Cambridge to Boston and I need to get out. And they said, no, we're going to take you to California. So as well as being raped, I felt like I was going to be kidnapped. So I told them I had to go pee and they stopped in a little town. Glen falls New York, and they decided that they would let me go. The truck driver wanted to give me $20 and I said I didn't want his money. And he shoved it in my pocket. And I knew he was doing that so I ever pressed charges, he could say that he paid for sex. I ran into the bathroom and I peeked out until I saw that the truck wasn't there anymore. I called a friend to tell my husband to come and get me because we didn't have a phone and I was going to walk to the bus station and grab a bus. I was also scared because I had told them where I lived, which was on a rural road with no lights in the middle of the woods in a cabin with no phones, no power, no anything. And I was scared that they could come back one day and find me.
One of the outcomes of this experience for me is I've always felt that this was my fault. I shouldn't have been hitchhiking even though everybody did it. I was asking for trouble. If anybody heard this story that I accepted a ride from two truck drivers, they would've thought that I was crazy. The fact that I didn't fight, that I didn't try to get out, that I didn't try to hurt him or resist in any way made me feel ashamed and made me feel guilty and it's not until years afterwards that I realized that this wasn't my fault, that this is not the consequence that I should have gotten for accepting a ride. Obviously I've never hitched again and I've never picked up a hitchhiker. I feel often unsafe when I'm in environments that are strange. I feel unsafe when I'm in big cities when I don't know what's going on around me. I know it's not an unusual thing for a woman to do a lot of things that men don't do to keep themselves safe, but I feel that this shadowed me for a very long time.
I was inspired to do this project because I wanted to give voice to other survivors in a time where people were starting to listen. I know many of my friends feel like they don't know any women who were raped and assaulted, and it's just not true. They know lots of people. We're just not talking about it. Now that I'm a photographer and I have some skills and some video technology, I feel this is the time that if many of us can speak up and add our stories to the chorus that's going on, we have the possibility to help ourselves heal, to help others not feel so alone and so ashamed to feel that they could give up some of that pain that they've been holding inside and let some air in and let some light in and in the sharing of those stories even raise the possibility of helping others heal and help to protect others.