Surviving the Silence

Nightline
Monday, March 27, 2000

CHARLOTTE PIERCE-BAKER, AUTHOR, “SURVIVING THE SILENCE” They took everything that wasn’t nailed down and I was raped.

MICHEL MCQUEEN, ABCNEWS By both men?

CHARLOTTE PIERCE-BAKER By both men.

AARON BROWN, ABCNEWS Every year thousands of women in this country are sexually assaulted.

PATSY EVANS (ph) I had just jumped into this river of victims.

AARON BROWN And the violence ravages their partners as well.

JAMIE KALVEN (ph) Men do this and you’re a man.

PATSY EVANS Rape doesn’t just happen to a woman.

CHARLOTTE PIERCE-BAKER And he was a victim too.

HOUSTON BAKER (ph) How responsible did I feel about—about this? The answer would be 200 percent guilty and responsible.

AARON BROWN Tonight, Surviving the Silence, men and women struggling to stay together.

AARON BROWN This is a broadcast about survival, about rebuilding lives and relationships that have been attacked in the most brutal and inhumane way. It is a look at rape and its victims. Rape is common in this country. We saw one survey today that estimated that 12 million American women had been raped and each one of them has been scarred in ways that are very difficult, if not impossible, for men to understand.

But while there is no doubt that the woman is the rapist’s first victim, the one brutalized and invaded, the one who’s left afraid to go out at night and fearful of being home alone, the one who may never see physical intimacy the same again, she is not the only victim. Her man—a husband, a boyfriend, is often a victim too. There is guilt, a need to lash out, frustration at not being able to make everything right again.

So tonight we look at couples trying to survive, trying to find what psychologists call a ‘new normal.’ The old normal, the life before the rape, is gone. The new normal will include the scars of the assault, it will include the fear and the distrust, the revulsion, the anger. But life can’t be just those things, for that would be no life at all. It is no easy journey we are taking and we are grateful to the two couples who talked so openly with correspondent Michel McQueen. We warn you that some of what you will hear and see is graphic and painful. Rape, and survival from it, is that way.

JAMIE KALVEN With one hand he yanked her head back by the hair, blood streaming from her face, as he forced his other hand inside her.

MICHEL MCQUEEN (VO) After his wife was attacked, author Jamie Kalven started writing about men’s hands, hands that harm and hands that heal.

JAMIE KALVEN “Yet there is another kind of touching she welcomes, now massage has become a lifeline between us.”

MICHEL MCQUEEN (VO) His journal became a book, “Working with Available Light,” about the pain and confusion of a man who loves a woman who has been raped.

JAMIE KALVEN “Lying beside my wife, I’m confused by my maleness, so hard, so insistent, and feel somehow implicated in her wounding.”

MICHEL MCQUEEN (VO) For Kalven and his wife, photographer Patsy Evans, life changed forever on September 21st, 1988.

PATSY EVANS I was running on one side of the road...

JAMIE KALVEN Actually, a friend notified me to call the hospital.

PATSY EVANS ...but I knew he was there. My eyes were always moving across the landscape as to who was there.

JAMIE KALVEN ‘Your wife has been—has been assaulted.’ She didn’t say sexual assault, she didn’t say rape. ‘She’s very upset and do you think you can...’

MICHEL MCQUEEN ‘Can you keep it together?’

JAMIE KALVEN Yeah, ‘Can you keep it together?’

PATSY EVANS During the attack itself, so many images went through my mind, you know, so many images of the kids. I had the sense of my head being just full of things.

JAMIE KALVEN Somebody just tried to annihilate her.

MICHEL MCQUEEN (VO) The physical pain of the assault, it turns out, was only the beginning. For Jamie and Patsy and their two children, the emotional pain followed for years, rushing in when they least expected it in wave after wave after wave.

PATSY EVANS It becomes embedded in your life and the problems you had before.

JAMIE KALVEN I had a sense of Patsy having been—been ripped out of our lives and our family life.

PATSY EVANS I was no longer independent and I—and it sometimes meant I would get angry at him because he could just walk out the door at night, he could just walk out the door and run whenever he wanted. I couldn’t do any of that.

MICHEL MCQUEEN (VO) While Patsy didn’t always recognize what was happening to her, her photographer’s lens did. Here, before the rape, carefree and relaxed with her daughter. Here, after the rape, she seems fearful and protective and the feeling is mutual. What about the kids?

PATSY EVANS It had much more affect on my daughter. She felt much more protective of me, like it was now her job, as a five-year-old and a four-year-old to make sure nothing happened to me.

MICHEL MCQUEEN (VO) If her daughter wanted to protect her, Jamie wanted to make everything right again. So you felt powerless?

JAMIE KALVEN I felt real limited in my power to change things, to improve things, to make them better.

MICHEL MCQUEEN (VO) But what should he do? Even simple gestures between husband and wife became fraught with complication. You hesitated to put your arms around her, even at that early stage?

JAMIE KALVEN Yeah.

MICHEL MCQUEEN Why do you think that is?

JAMIE KALVEN Not knowing how she would respond. Not knowing what would be comforting.

MICHEL MCQUEEN Did you hesitate because you’re a man, and you’re thinking, ‘Oh, no, I’m a man, and this could be threatening’? Or is it more specific to her that you know that perhaps she wouldn’t want that?

JAMIE KALVEN I think the sense of—the sense of being a man. A man did this. I’m a man.

PATSY EVANS But the fact is that rape and sex are all mixed up, and it gets, you know, it gets very mixed up for you, emotionally, and that—that part takes a very long time.

MICHEL MCQUEEN How do you regain your intimate life after the woman you love has been traumatized in this way?

JAMIE KALVEN Slowly, patiently. But points in a sexual encounter were—what had been loving and affectionate and comforting, felt to her like something else. And—and at that point, the need to disengage, lie holding each other, be close, but back off.

MICHEL MCQUEEN Did you always back off?

JAMIE KALVEN Unless she indicated otherwise. Unless she indicated otherwise.

MICHEL MCQUEEN She indicated, actually—in fact, you indicated in the book, that there were times when she was ambivalent, yet she seemed to be feeling both things at once?

JAMIE KALVEN Right.

MICHEL MCQUEEN (VO) It was, you know, ‘Come hither, go away.’

JAMIE KALVEN Absolutely. I think—I think, actually, there was a lot of that. I think there was a lot of that.

MICHEL MCQUEEN Was there ever a time when you didn’t go away and that your persistence felt like assault?

JAMIE KALVEN Yeah. Yeah. For me, what those moments were like was feeling like I was doing harm, like I was—I was doing injury.

MICHEL MCQUEEN (VO) But Patsy says Jamie’s persistence may be one reason their marriage survived the rape, when so many others do not.

PATSY EVANS We had to fight getting stuck in some place and not moving forward. And my guess is that the persistence, you know, whatever he was describing is that you want to find a safe place and just stay there, you know? Which may mean just holding each other, but you know, that there is also—there is also a feeling that you have to keep pushing against, you know, where you feel comfortable.

JAMIE KALVEN There are times when you can’t do anything, but you can be present. You can listen, and you can listen deeply. It may not have been possible to be there, in most instances, of course, it’s not, to have been there, to intervene to somehow protect this person you love. But you can be there later on. The violence is still going on. There still is an occasion to intervene. There’s still an occasion to be a man.

AARON BROWN When we come back, another couple’s struggle to stay together.

(Commercial break)

HOUSTON BAKER The title of the poem is “After All That Happened. For my Wife Who Survived the Rape.”

CHARLOTTE PIERCE-BAKER Our home was burglarized on Labor Day weekend, 11:30 at night. We were watching the news.

HOUSTON BAKER “You have come back to me through legends, rumors, wars of the self, analysis, tears and real blood.”

CHARLOTTE PIERCE-BAKER Our son was asleep in bed, and we heard this horrible noise downstairs.

HOUSTON BAKER “The mightiness of your suffering is beyond question or doubt.”

CHARLOTTE PIERCE-BAKER They took everything that wasn’t nailed down, and I was raped.

MICHEL MCQUEEN By both...

CHARLOTTE PIERCE-BAKER By both men. They—one had a gun, one had a knife. And they took turns, and they took my husband upstairs and tied him up.

HOUSTON BAKER “And you took residence outside your skin to behold their sick violence.”

CHARLOTTE PIERCE-BAKER And they tried to keep our son in the room and...

MICHEL MCQUEEN With you?

CHARLOTTE PIERCE-BAKER Yeah. And I made up a crazy story and got rid of my kid.

HOUSTON BAKER “I heard your tears but could not move.”

MICHEL MCQUEEN Do you remember how long the whole thing lasted?

CHARLOTTE PIERCE-BAKER Forever. How about that?

HOUSTON BAKER “You touched my forehead but cringed when I reached for your face. You knew it was no longer there.”

CHARLOTTE PIERCE-BAKER I had bruises on my body, and he held a gun at my head, the one with the gun, while he was raping me.

HOUSTON BAKER I was exalted, because I said ‘We’re alive,’ but Charlotte was not speaking. And she said, ‘I was raped.’

CHARLOTTE PIERCE-BAKER And he looked at me and he said, ‘I loved you before, I love you now, and I’ll love you always.’

MICHEL MCQUEEN (VO) Like Patsy Evans and Jamie Kalven, Charlotte Pierce-Baker and Houston Baker, both college professors, were just beginning the long road to recovery from the trauma of sexual assault. But unlike Patsy and Jamie, Charlotte and Houston had another burden to bear, history and race. Their assailants, like them, were black.

CHARLOTTE PIERCE-BAKER Why would somebody like me do this to me, you know? Why? Why, why, why?

HOUSTON BAKER It produced a—a—a bizarre—a weird world, because to hate black men, as a category, or as a group, was to hate myself.

MICHEL MCQUEEN At some basic level did you think it was your fault?

HOUSTON BAKER What I thought was my fault was that I had not acted in fantasied ways as a man. And I say “fantasied ways,” because there is a loop, a visual loop, that formed in my head of alternative ways, different ways things would have come out. I wouldn’t have gone downstairs. And instead of a vase, I would have gotten a baseball bat, and I would have stood surreptitiously quietly, out of sight at the stairway. And when the first intruder came up, I would have swung it, you know, driving him into a concussion. We would have then called 911, and this would have all been averted.

MICHEL MCQUEEN How long has this tape been running in your head? Is it still running in your head?

HOUSTON BAKER Sometimes it does, at the most unexpected moments. And it’s relentless. I mean, it—it—it grabs and holds you.

MICHEL MCQUEEN Does the tape ever stop? I mean..

HOUSTON BAKER No.

MICHEL MCQUEEN Is it ever over or...

HOUSTON BAKER It’s never over.

MICHEL MCQUEEN How did you tell your son what had happened? Or did you...

HOUSTON BAKER I did.

MICHEL MCQUEEN Tell him?

HOUSTON BAKER I did. I said the people who came into the house not only hurt your mother, they raped her. They did violence on her body. And they did it in a way that only men can do it. And his response was a very shrill high-pitched sob.

MICHEL MCQUEEN (VO) The Bakers decided to go into therapy, both separately and together. Both credit therapy with helping to save their marriage, but for Houston, the first therapist he saw was anything but helpful.

HOUSTON BAKER And I explained how I was feeling and he said to me, ‘You know, where this thing,’ and I took it, by that he meant rape, ‘is concerned, I’m really more qualified to deal with the perpetrators. I don’t know what to say to you. I mean, you could join our group with the perps, but I just—I’m really unqualified.’

MICHEL MCQUEEN (VO) And for Charlotte, the challenge was living up to a cultural commandment, thou shalt be strong. You think for black women, there’s a special responsibility...

CHARLOTTE PIERCE-BAKER I do.

MICHEL MCQUEEN ...to be stoic, to be...

CHARLOTTE PIERCE-BAKER I do.

MICHEL MCQUEEN ...a rock?

CHARLOTTE PIERCE-BAKER I do. Oh, yeah. So I think that if we turn it around and realize what strength it takes to say ‘I need you to help me to do this,’ even if it’s walking down the street, even if it’s getting to your car, it took me an awfully long time to get there.

HOUSTON BAKER “You have come back across deserts of loneliness and depressions set in stone. You are moving across gleaming mirrors. Your image rejoined to solid flesh. Your mind is in a flowering garden now. And I love you more than ever, and I love you more, more, more than ever before all that happened.”

MICHEL MCQUEEN Thank you.

AARON BROWN Most men, most husbands, want to do the right thing. They want to be supportive and helpful, and they don’t necessarily know where to begin. In a moment we’ll be joined by an expert who is trying to help husbands and parents deal with the aftermath of rape.

(Commercial break)

AARON BROWN Joining us from Dayton, Ohio, Alan McEvoy, a professor of sociology at Wittenberg University. Professor McEvoy has written several books to help couples and families recover from sexual violence. Professor, good evening.

Mr. ALAN McEVOY (Wittenberg University): Good evening.

AARON BROWN As I watched the pieces, I thought, here—here are two couples who are smart and thoughtful and sensitive and tender, and I wondered how typical they were. Tell me in what sense they were typical and what sense they weren’t.

ALAN MCEVOY Well, they’re typical in the sense that the event of rape is like a scythe that cuts in a swath through people’s lives. And in the aftermath, all the rules that governed how you interacted before seem to be suspended. And no one quite knows how to deal with that. So they’re alike in that sense. They’re different in one sense. I think that these gentlemen had an emotional vocabulary to express what they’re feeling and dealing with, and a lot of men don’t have that. Most males do not anticipate the possibility of rape, and they don’t know what to do, and they are confused, and often are well-intended but do the wrong things.

AARON BROWN Give me a one, two, three, if you can, of what the husband, the boyfriend, ought to do in these situations.

ALAN MCEVOY I think that there are several core messages that he needs to communicate. One is that he believes her version of events, he believes her story. Because so many people do not believe her account. They distrust what she says, they think that she is somehow responsible, which is the second thing. He needs to communicate to her that he does not blame her for what happened, that she’s not responsible. And the third thing he needs to communicate to her is that he’s going to stand by her throughout this ordeal, that this is a crisis they are going to endure together. Oftentimes, there’s a lot of unfinished business in a relationship that comes to the forefront in the wake of a sexual assault. So if there are problems of communication and how people relate to one another before the event, they tend to be exacerbated or complicated by—by the event. And that’s one of the struggles.

AARON BROWN As the pieces were airing, I was watching you most of that time, and I noticed a couple of times you were scribbling notes. Let me ask you about one or two. Jamie says at one point talking about rekindling the physical relationship with his wife, ‘I felt I was doing harm.’ Typical?

ALAN MCEVOY That is very typical. That’s one of two basic responses that males often experience when they’re trying to resume lovemaking with their partners. One response is the fear that he’s—that she’s been assaulted and she’s not going to want to have anything to do with physical intimacy. Consequently, he’s afraid, and he withdraws, or may withdraw emotionally and physically from her at a time when she may need intimacy, but not necessarily the consummation of that intimacy sexually. And he may unintentionally communicate that she’s damaged goods or that she’s diminished as a lover in his eyes as a result of this.

AARON BROWN But—but there are mixed messages in there, aren’t there? I mean—and I don’t mean this in any sense critically, but she may not, in fact, be sure what it is she wants in any given moment and he has to understand that too.

ALAN MCEVOY That’s correct. And it’s really critical that they’re able to talk openly with one another and perhaps through relationship counseling, about their—their intimacy issues. The other mistake that males often make is in a sense just the opposite of the first. One of the things that they’ll do is try to resume lovemaking before she is ready. They may unintentionally pressure her into it. And the idea is if they resume lovemaking it’s a way of, quote, unquote, “normalizing” the relationship. And she may agree to the resumption of physical intimacy before she’s ready because she indeed wants to be close. But it may come to feel that the physical intimacy is rape-like—rape-like. There are other things that may not even occur to the male. For example, the smell of alcohol or certain kinds of clothing may remind her of the assault and he’s not aware of that. So that’s a—a very important reason why they need to be open about their feelings.

AARON BROWN Does strike me that there’s a trap here for the man in the sense that he—what he really wants to do is make things right. He wants to solve everything, doesn’t he?

ALAN MCEVOY Yeah. I think that’s in a sense a mistake that males make. They want to take charge of her recovery. They want to solve things for her. Rape robs a woman of a sense of control over her life. And the way men want to respond is to take charge of her recovery. And I think in a sense it’s better for males to play, in effect, the more passive role, to—to help her to find her voice and to set the stage to empower her to take control of her life again and not to do it for her.

AARON BROWN The couples that don’t make it don’t make it because what?

ALAN MCEVOY A part of it is the anger. Quite often males are understanding or try to be understanding and supportive in the initial aftermath of the assault, but these guys have a lot of impotent rage and—directed towards the rapist, they want to seek revenge against the rapist. They have revenge fantasies. And, unfortunately, because of some of the dependency needs that emerge in the wake of the assault and other communication problems, they sometimes turn their anger toward the person that they love. And that’s when the relationship tends to fail.

AARON BROWN And just a—a final question, we’ve got about a half a minute here. When Houston says to his wife after the assault, ‘I love you now, I love you always,’ you scribbled madly at that point.

ALAN MCEVOY He said, “I loved you before, I love you now, and I love you always.” I think that that is one of the most powerful statements I’ve ever heard a male say to a woman in the aftermath of an assault. Congratulations. It was very courageous and it was brilliant.

AARON BROWN And you could hardly do it better, could you?

ALAN MCEVOY No.

AARON BROWN Professor, thanks for joining us. You were very helpful tonight. And I’ll be back in just a moment.