Nearly forty-five years ago, I was raped by a music executive in his office after business hours. I told no one, not even my boyfriend. I blamed myself for accepting an appointment at an hour when the building would be nearly empty. I blamed myself for not fighting back, for freezing. When I finally spoke up, decades later, it was because Christine Blasey Ford gave me the courage to do so with her testimony about Brett Kavanaugh. I basically told the world then, writing about it in the Washington Post in 2018. What I didn’t write about was my fear that I might end up pregnant. By then, Roe v. Wade was a reality, although I had grown up in a time when girls often mutilated themselves to end an unwanted pregnancy. Inserting coat hangers isn’t a myth – it happened. 

 I remember trying to figure out where exactly I was in my menstrual cycle; how likely was it that I could get pregnant? In my twenties I was not terribly diligent about keeping track of my cycle, so I wasn’t sure. I took an herb called Pennyroyal, a common home remedy to induce abortion. I took it for days and days until I saw blood. 

While I was resolved to have an abortion if it turned out I had gotten pregnant, I didn’t want to think about that night anymore. I wanted to close the door and not look back. I didn’t even use the word rape until many years later when I decided to write about happened to me. Now that the Supreme Court has sent us backward, taking away a right that women have had for fifty years, I think about that young, immature twenty-something girl. What would I have done if abortion was not an option? How many risky attempts at self-abortion would I have tried? The answer is, probably a lot. Sometimes those attempts worked; often they didn’t. Girls ended up scarred. Girls died. 

 If I had gotten pregnant and been told back then that I was required to carry my rapist’s baby to term, the desperation would have undone me. So would the depression. I would have been carrying inside me an indelible memory of one of the worst nights of my life. A night when a man held me down and forced himself inside me. There are some women who have been raped and can get past the memory, separate the birth of a child from the way in which that child came to be. I admire them, and I celebrate the fact that they have a choice in the matter. I would not have been one of those women. Many aren’t, and they should have a choice too. 

 When Clarence Thomas was defending himself against Anita Hill’s accusations of sexual impropriety, he said that the whole procedure was a “high class lynching.” What he and the other justices on the Supreme Court have done now is a high class rape. The reality of rape is more than the physical violation. It’s the powerlessness, the helplessness of someone forcing themselves on you with no regard for what you want or don’t want, for your welfare or even your life. Six justices have used their power, their position, their infallibility to hold women down and force their opinions into the most intimate parts of their lives. In the process, because democracy depends on freedom, they have also raped democracy. 


  1. Rio says:

    Amazing and so timely

  2. Gracee Arthur says:

    Good Piece. Thomas is such a hypocrite! Would he like to go back to the days when his family would be enslaved and even talking to a white woan could get him hung???
    The 5 members of the current court are not worthy of their positions. And 4 of them lied under oath at their hearings!

  3. liz pollock says:

    dear patti,
    i’m so glad you wrote this piece – thank you for being brave and for publishing it.
    best to you,

  4. Ian Lobell says:

    Thank you Patti for sharing your truth. Violence against women will sky rocket now.

  5. Brad Berger says:

    My friend I empathize with you and believe you are a true crusader. However I believe that the media and others are missing the real point of this terrible decision by five men who want to control women and their pregnancies. None of these men was ever pregnant and they are not medical doctors. Without the ERA men will continue to rule women. The ERA is the most important action women can take for Constitutional equality and to block controlling men who have taken advantage of women for over 235 years.

  6. Lori Miller says:

    Well stated.

    I want to commend you for these words published in your NYTimes essay in reference to the death of Queen Elizabeth:

    “Death holds up a mirror to everything — moments of love, stretches of strife, memories that punish and exalt.”

    That last phrase, punish and exalt, could not be better stated. Having lost a beloved grown daughter and experienced, and still experience both emotions, I have to say that you captured the essence of loss with those two starkly opposing words. They endlessly battle for dominance.

    Write on, girl!

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