The horrifying part about "boys will be boys" is that they eventually become men.
She tells me how dirty she feels.
She shows me the teeth marks on her breast from where her rapist bit her.
She shows me the rawness on her legs where she scrubbed off her own skin trying to clean away the blood.
She says she feels like a "darkness, or a stench" has entered her body and "no amount of scrubbing will get it off." It's so dark and real that she says she can still smell it.
"Can't you smell it?" she asks, crying.
If you think I'm telling you another harrowing rape story about a young girl drugged and assaulted by a star athlete or fraternity brother at a college party, you're wrong. Although, sadly, the media is full of stories about such incidents.
THIS woman's story is different.
She was roofied* and then tragically raped.
But she isn't a young girl. She is an adult woman and a highly successful professional. And her assault occurred on a business trip.
And THIS is the thing no one is talking about as we discuss and debate "rape culture" in our society.
No one is saying aloud that these "boys will be boys" predators — who get away with violating girls while they're young — grow up. They grow up and become adult men who perpetuate the same vile behavior.
Being a rapist is not some college phase to grow out of. A rapist is a rapist and remains one for life.
My client wept in my office while telling me what she remembers about her assault.
She woke up on her hotel floor sore and swollen, with blood in her underwear and a bite mark on her breast. She was in pain, clearly injured from whatever happened. Only, what did happen? How did she end up on her hotel floor like this?
What she remembers is sitting at the bar of the hotel lobby sipping a glass of wine, just like she has on many of her other business trips. She had just closed a major deal for her company and felt confident and poised about a job well done.
At one point, a few men came into the bar area and sat down to talk to her. They seemed nice and non-threatening. The conversation was light and entirely casual. And since she is smart enough to know to watch her own drink and never accept one from anyone but the bartender, her glass of wine never left her sight.
But it was Halloween and there was a big bowl of candy in the lobby for all the guests to enjoy. The nice older man sitting next to her was eating a box of gum drops. She noticed him picking out the red ones and placing them neatly on a napkin on the bar in front of him, eating the other colors instead.
He looked over at her with a big smile and said, "I don't like the red ones."
She replied, "Oh, that's great! The red ones are my favorite!" So, he kindly slid the napkin with the tidy stack of red drops over to her and she ate them down.
Everything after that quickly faded from fuzzy to black, until she woke up on her hotel floor hours later.
Days later, she's in my office ... coming apart in front of me.
I am the first person she's told. Her body is shaking as the words come out, and as hard as her story is to hear, what happens next breaks my heart even more.
I asked if she reported it to the police.
She looks down, examining her shoes and chewing on her fingernail and says, "No, how could I?"
Then she begins to cry, crashing waves of tears again.
As a therapist, I am not supposed to rush to reassuring my clients (though my God, I wanted to hug her and tell her it would all be okay). As a therapist, my job is to join her in her experience and allow her to have it. But how do I leave her in that space, alone? Her pain touched memories in my own past and reminded me of the painful pasts of so many other women.
I say, "It's not your fault."
She looks up at me and says very seriously, "It is my fault! I allowed it to happen. I am so stupid! I allowed this to happen. This is only supposed to happen to young, naive college girls, not to someone like me! I'm a grown woman! I should have known better. How the f*ck did this happen to me? I must be so stupid!"
Like a broken record, I just kept repeating, "It's not your fault."
She explains that the bits and pieces she does remember are like a stop motion camera. Just a few flashing, vague, and foggy memories, not enough to even remotely piece together a coherent memory of her assault or how she ended up on that hotel room floor.
Still crying, she asks, "Why would someone do this to me?" Finally she calms a bit, lifts her head, looks me right in the eyes and asks me, "Jennifer, was it my fault?!"
Holding back my own tears, I take a deep breath and say one more time, "No. It is not your fault."
She asks, "Then who's fault is it?"
I answer, "It's his fault."
And what kills me is that I've had this same conversation with so many women I've counseled. Time and time again, a woman's default response to someone else's horrific and monstrous behavior is shame and self-blame.
And the sick part is that our society reinforces that. We bombard victims with stupid, insensitive questions like, "Why did you drink in public?" "Why did you go out alone?" or "What were you wearing?"
She's an adult woman on a business trip!
I mean, at what point in a woman's life is she ever finally allowed to relax and feel safe in the world?
These men sought her out, deliberately drugged her and forcibly raped her. How is "fault" in this situation remotely placed anywhere other than 100 percent entirely with those men? How do women (and society in general) even think for a second that it's a woman's fault?
And as casual as these men were about approaching her, I'd guess they've done this before. This could very well be a form of entertainment for them.
Why don't we take issue with that as a society? "Boys will be boys" in college; "Men will be men" on business trips. The excuses go on and on.
Meanwhile, we have a serious rape problem in America. And we're not talking honestly about it.
Because rape is not just a victim's issue, it's everyone's issue. Rape hurts everyone: men, women, and communities. So the conversation our society desperately needs to have is not just one about victims ... but about perpetrators!
If you're a victim of rape (either female or male) in any of its insidious forms, please speak up! Talk with someone who will listen. Start the conversation today.
*The medical name for "roofie" is Rohypnol. There are also other "club drugs" used to commit sexual assault such as gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) or "liquid ecstasy"; and ketamine, also called Special K. Learn more about date rape drugs here.
Jennifer Maddox is a Licensed Psychotherapist in private practice in Denver Colorado. Visit her website for more articles, tools and supportive resources.