Finding My Voice

Warning: This post has possible triggers for sexual abuse, assault, and rape.


Last Wednesday, Bug and I celebrated our fourteenth wedding anniversary in Prague. Since we’re both huge history dorks, the thought of delving into a place so rich in culture and historical significance excited us. Bug even booked a two-day private tour for us.

We arrived around 11am and our guide, Tereza, met us in the lobby of our hotel at 2pm. She immediately lead us straight up hill, past an orchard. As we sat on a bench overlooking Prague, Tereza gave us a rough overview of the history of the Czech republic. Some of it I knew, but most of it was surprising. I had no idea how important this tiny country had been time and again throughout history.

The view from the hill overlooking the Little Quarter

After viewing the different palaces and official buildings, we stumbled back down the hill and said good-bye to Tereza for the night. My feet ached from four hours of hiking uphill over cobblestones, so Bug called the spa to book massages for the two of us. Unfortunately, only one masseuse was on duty that night, and Bug thought I needed it more than him.

About an hour later, we went down to the spa. Bug wanted to visit the hammam while I had the massage. The masseuse met us in the lobby, and both Bug and I hesitated. I’ve had many massages, all over the world, by male and female masseuses, but I’ve never gotten a weird vibe like this. Bug squeezed my hand and asked if everything was okay. “Yeah, fine,” I said, before slipping into the room.

The masseuse followed me into the room and kept telling me to take off my clothes. I stared at him, waiting for him to leave as is customary. He said, “I don’t speak English.” Ah, okay. This should be interesting, I thought. I pointed at the door, and finally, he placed a hand towel on the table and left. There were no blankets, no large towel. Nothing but a hand towel for me climb under. I’d never experienced that before, but told myself, Hey, it’s Eastern Europe. Maybe it’s cultural.

I arranged myself on the table, face-side down, and strategically placed the towel so it covered my butt and upper thighs. Not that it mattered. As soon as the masseuse came in, without knocking, he ripped it off me, laid it over my calves and proceeded to give me the most inappropriate massage ever, spending almost the entire time rubbing my ass and inner thighs.

About thirty minutes in, I heard Bug walk past and leave. The masseuse left the room, and I swear, I thought he was going to lock the door and rape me. When I looked down at my hands, they were white because I was clenching them together so tightly. And still, I didn’t say anything because I was worried that I was being culturally insensitive. Maybe this is normal for Czech massage, I kept thinking. Hoping really. Praying.

He never touched my arms, hands, or shoulders. At one point, he forced my legs apart and actually placed his forearm into my butt crack while he rubbed the side of my right breast. He caressed my face and neck. He pushed his groin in my face until I turned my head away. When I rolled onto my back, with the towel now length-wise so it covered my breasts and groin, he grabbed my ankle, pushed my knee to my chest and “rubbed” my hamstring. Everything below my waist was on display.

And then I began to freak out. Fourteen years ago, over Memorial Day weekend – six weeks before my wedding – I was raped by someone I had had a relationship with (I’ll call him X). He knew Bug had flown back East for a wedding and showed up at my apartment. Because X kept shouting outside my door, I let him in – I didn’t want to bother the neighbors. When he entered, he calmed down, studied a wedding favor I had been working on, set it down, picked up Bug’s gym ID card and flicked it at me. When I bent to pick it up, X grabbed me around the waist. I could smell alcohol on his breath.

He told me I was making a mistake. That Bug was just a little kid and I could do better. When he let go of me, I told him he should leave.

And that’s when things got bad.

X threw my futon mattress across the room. He knocked all the wedding favors on the ground and destroyed most of them. For some reason, I thought my 105-pound, 5ft tall body could take on a 6’1″ 200lb+ guy, and I launched myself at him, slapping him, and trying to shove him toward the door. He just laughed.

The next thing I knew, we were wrestling on the ground, with me pinned beneath him, and he kissed me. After a while, I gave up. I just stopped fighting him and let X do what he wanted.

Afterward, I didn’t tell anyone. Partly because I was ashamed that I didn’t fight more, and partly because I feared Bug wouldn’t marry me if he knew. Most irrationally, I didn’t want to get X in trouble because I was stupid and should have known what he wanted when I let him in the door. So I pretended like it never happened, even though I saw X several times a week (he was dating one of my professors and was always conveniently around after that class).

Anyway, when the massage was over, I quickly dressed and ran from the room. To my surprise, Bug was sitting in the spa waiting area. He took one look at me, threw me our room key, and told me to go upstairs. I couldn’t get away fast enough.

Once he came back to the room, I told Bug what the masseuse did. But I kept saying, “It could be cultural. I don’t want to get anyone in trouble.” I felt terrible for possibly misunderstanding the masseuse. And besides, he wouldn’t be that stupid, would he? “I just laid there.”

Bug held my face in his hands, our eyes locked. “Don’t ever make excuses for how you feel.”

I blinked hard, keeping my tears inside. As much as I wanted to cry, I couldn’t.

But this time, even though I was embarrassed, I reported it.

10 thoughts on “Finding My Voice

  1. Such a brave post, Dawn. I’m so sorry you’ve had such horrible experiences. 😦 Did you ever find out what happened to the masseuse?

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