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Where’s the outrage for her?

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John Gunyou
She was my teenage summer romance. It was a sweet and naively innocent passage in our young lives.

Separated by 40 miles of Ohio cornfields, we mostly shared our hopes and dreams through the written word. Every few weeks, my rickety Ford Falcon with three on the tree delivered me to her family farm for affirmation.

A year older, she left for college in the fall, and I started my senior year of high school. We had the non-exclusivity talk, and continued our faithful correspondence at a time when messaging was not so instantaneous. Our relationship was sustained by weekly snail mail.

Then her letters abruptly stopped. After nursing my wounds of rejection for a few months, I accepted the inevitable. High school boys were no match for worldly college men.

Thirty years later, we had a chance encounter, and I learned the real reason she had so suddenly disappeared from my life.

She had been date raped.

Of course we didn’t call it that in the ‘60s. In fact, we didn’t really call it anything, because such things were not talked about publicly.

Devastated, she withdrew into her private shame, dropped out of college and dropped out of life. Yet another faceless victim. Not even a statistic, because her violation was never reported.

Years later, my friend discovered her place in the world as a therapist, which seems altogether fitting. I only hope the recent congressional circus was not too painful a reminder of the trauma that forever changed her life. A violation she could never forget.

Memories of our lost relationship were recently triggered by “The Agitators,” a powerful play that recounts the lifelong friendship of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, and the impact they had on our lives by agitating the old white men who also governed their times.

One line particularly resonated with me: “From the day we are born, we women are pushed aside. We are told that our voices do not matter. That we are not citizens. That we are lesser.”

That lingering truism from nearly 150 years ago was poignantly reaffirmed by a brief interaction amid the embarrassing spectacle of a bitterly divisive Supreme Court confirmation.

A sexual assault victim admonished one of the men sitting in judgment over her lesser life to “look at me when I’m talking to you. You’re telling me that my assault doesn’t matter.” She was immediately condemned as a “rude elevator screamer … a paid professional only looking to make senators look bad.” She was told her voice did not matter to men who sanctimoniously lectured her to “grow up.” Chastised by men of senatorial entitlement who were offended that a sexual assault survivor would dare challenge their right to push her aside so they could “move on.” Apparently, there is time limit for victims to get over the trauma of sexual violence.

I wonder what my friend thinks about such arrogant indignation from men of power. My friend whose youth was stolen by a man whose life went on undisturbed and undeterred. The pain of her very real violation diluted to irrelevance by feigned political pique.

I know what I think. Where’s the outrage for her?

John Gunyou is retired and lives in Minnetonka. His daughter Emily Gunyou Halaas is currently appearing in “The Agitators,” at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul.


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Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Brian Gandt on 10/11/2018 - 08:53 am.

    Thank you for this.

  2. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 10/11/2018 - 03:55 pm.

    Amen, brother.

  3. Submitted by David Wheeler on 10/11/2018 - 07:03 pm.

    John, this was an outstanding piece – thank you for it!

  4. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 10/11/2018 - 11:30 pm.

    “A sexual assault victim admonished one of the men sitting in judgment over her lesser life to “look at me when I’m talking to you.”

    I believe that the man she was talking to was a United States Senator who I don’t believe thought that he was sitting in judgment of anyone’s “lesser life”. Certainly we can all appreciate that the young woman talked down to the Senator and put him in his place as an adult would speak to a subordinate child, even though that was not the case.

    It is good that the author shared this story, if nothing else perhaps women today will realize the value of promptly reporting such incidents lest they end up like the many who come forth today shattered from keeping their secrets close for decades.

    • Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 10/12/2018 - 10:59 am.

      People who, like Tom Anderson here, believe that the problem of men sexually assaulting women and girls will go away if the victims just report the violation when it happens, must step back and consider what happens to that report: It gets ignored, and the woman or girl sees their life destroyed.

      In Minnesota and nationally, the police seldom investigate rape cases (see the recent Star Tribune series on how police treat rape: they ignore the cases, have a sexist cop run herd on which cases to assign to investigation, they archive rape exam kits without even sending them to labs, and they interrogate victims and survivors as if they were the guilty parties, belittling and demeaning them, treating them like dirt). No one believes them. If someone accidentally believes them, the perps cry foul and claim that “she’s lying.” Everyone believes the guy. Even i gang-rape situations, like those nearly-a-dozen U of MN football players who lined up to “train” one girl, sometimes going on her three at a time, with their dads and team supporters calling the scene just “debauchery” that should have been ignored. Outrage, when it wasn’t ignored.

      It’s so easy and tremendously convenient for men and patriarchy-supporting women to push the Ford/JKavanaugh incident under the rug with a click of the tongue and pseudo-sorrowful “wish that she’d reported it at the time!”

      The social system punishes women who report a rape. Any rape. Very few men get punished for the rapes they commit.

      • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 10/12/2018 - 09:01 pm.

        People like me, Tom Anderson, see the thousands of women who didn’t report their assaults coming forward to say that their lives have been hell for decades, and say, perhaps maybe one of you could have been helped by reporting the assault (even to a friend or family member). I ask the victims, if you had it to do over again, would you have report the assault? Or better yet, what is your advice to the woman who is assaulted today?

      • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 10/12/2018 - 09:19 pm.

        While statistics seem difficult to find, it appears that 1% of people accused of rape are convicted here in the U.S. I think that 10,000 people per million, while a small percentage, is slightly larger than “very few men”. Since less than one third of women report their rapes, that number would be much larger than “very few”.

        It also appears that 2-8% of rape accusations are false (according to the Google). This is a small number, unless you are one of the 2-8%…

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