Heartbreak

I Was Raped By An Electrolux Vacuum Salesman And Kept It A Secret For 25 Years

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woman looking depressed

Trigger Warning: The content of this post may be emotionally challenging for some readers due to its subject matter of sexual assault.

The year was 1985 and I was a few weeks shy of my nineteenth birthday. Dick, my fiancé, and I were living in a small apartment on the main floor of a large house that had been converted into suites.

Every weekday morning, I worked as a waitress at a truck stop on the outskirts of Swift Current, Saskatchewan.

I enjoyed my job and was good at taking food orders, pouring coffee, chatting with the regulars, and being friendly. I smiled a lot. At everyone.

Dick and I had been planning our wedding which was two weeks away. Nearly everything was ready. The ceremony was going to be at the Lutheran church, followed by a reception at the banquet hall of the local Legion. My wedding dress hung inside the closet of his best friend’s parents’ house, where I was going to get ready on the morning of the wedding.

We had been together for three years and engaged for two.

He wanted to be married more than I did, but I didn’t object. I didn’t pay much attention to the niggling thoughts that insisted I was too young and this was too fast.

I love him, I’d assure myself, and shove any doubts aside.

Glenn came into the restaurant mid-morning with a group of three or four other men. Dressed in starched shirts and sports jackets, ties loosened beneath the undone top button of their shirt collars, they were different from the typical morning farmer crowd.

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They’d take over the booth facing the gas pumps, their sharp laughter cutting through the quiet conversations at the other tables.

I’d refill their porcelain coffee cups a few times, careful not to spill onto the saucers and Glenn would engage me in small talk. “What’s a pretty little thing like you working at a place like this?” He’d wink. Or, “How much do they pay you? Minimum wage plus tips? You should come to work with me. You could make $200 in a day.”

He and his crew were the local Electrolux Vacuum Cleaner Reps. They had a large territory and an office in town. 

“Come for an info session this Saturday. No pressure. There’ll be others there and you can decide if it’s something you’d like to try.”

I attended the info session and the following Tuesday, on my day off from the restaurant, joined Glenn on his sales route. He took me under his wing and told me I could do the presentation. “I’ll be right there if you need help,” he said. “If you make the sale, you can keep the commission.”

It was a sunny July morning as we drove down the country road toward the farm 20 minutes out of town.

The air smelled of dew and manure and I felt confident and grown-up riding next to Glenn in his Honda Prelude.

Wouldn’t Dick be proud of me, I thought when he got back from his sister’s house in Regina tomorrow and I’d tell him about my first sale? $200 bucks would help. It would cover the Greyhound tickets to Edmonton after the wedding.

I stumbled through the presentation. I said all the right things, had the lady bring out her vacuum, a FilterQueen, and compared its suction power with that of our Electrolux. She was disgusted by the dirt her old vacuum left in the carpet and the mighty Electrolux sucked up.

I made the sale.

“Let’s get pizza and beer to celebrate,” Glenn offered up on the way back into Swift Current. “Your beau is away, right? We could visit at your house for a little while and then I’ll be on my way.”

I didn’t see anything wrong with his suggestion. Glenn was easy to talk to and kind enough to let me keep the full commission from the sale we made that afternoon.

“Okay,” I said.

We ate the pizza sitting next to each other on the living room sofa. Glenn asked if I could turn on the TV. The Major League Baseball All-Star Game was on and he wanted to watch it. I liked baseball on account of Dick playing for a local league.

A couple of hours later, the six bottles of Labatt’s sat empty on the coffee table. I had drank a couple, and Glenn the rest.

What happened next returns in flashes. Glenn’s mouth on mine. His yeasty breath. Me trying to push him away.

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I didn’t want his tongue in my mouth. Still, I was careful to not hurt his feelings. I told him he should go, that I had to be at work early the next morning.

The baseball game continued on the TV, the thwack of the bat making contact with the ball and the roar of the crowd. He pushed me down onto the sofa and pinned me under him.

“No!” I said. “Stop!” I said.

“You owe me!” he said.

And then it was done. He was pulling up his pants and looking for his car keys. The baseball players were high-fiving each other on the TV screen.

I cleaned up the empty pizza box, plates, and beer bottles from the coffee table, and sobbed. What had I done? How could I marry Dick now? I couldn’t tell him what happened. What I did! I had to get out. He could never know.

I called my parents in Edmonton. My stepfather was over the moon excited that I changed my mind about getting married. He never liked Dick.

“We’re leaving right now,” he said through the phone. “Pack your stuff, we’ll be there in the morning.”

They drove through the night and were on my doorstep at 7:00 am. I wrote Dick a letter and left it propped up against the salt and pepper shakers on the kitchen table.

Dick drove to Edmonton to see me the following month.

“Why? Was it something I did?” he asked, his face wet with tears.

I told him I fell out of love with him. Plain and simple. He drove home with his broken heart in the seat next to him.

Twenty-five years later, I am hiking with my friend, Gail. She and I met years ago while working for Wawanesa Insurance. I was a young claims examiner then, wet behind the ears, and she was an experienced independent adjuster whose reports I reviewed.

By the time of our walk, she had left the insurance industry and got a degree in pastoral counseling. We maintained our friendship. She was my friend and a wise, maternal mentor.

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As we walked through Elk Island Park, she told me about the time she was raped as a young woman. Her story sounded familiar.

For the first time in twenty-five years, I found the courage to speak about what happened to me.

When I finished, she stopped walking and turned me to face her.

“You were raped,” she said. “There was nothing consensual about it. Did you report it to the police?”

I couldn’t stop crying. She held my hand as we kept walking. When we reached the shore of a pond, she bent down and picked up a fist-sized rock.

“Throw this in and as you do, yell, It wasn’t my fault!”

I felt embarrassed at first. Gail insisted.

Stone after stone I picked up and threw into the water. My shouts grew louder and louder. Anger made a fire inside my chest.

“It wasn’t my fault!

It wasn’t my fault!

IT. WASN’T. MY. FAULT.”

Gail held me through my wails. She cupped the back of my head with her hand and whispered loving words into my ear. She was an angel that day.

If you are keeping a similar secret inside your bones, know it was never your fault. You are not to blame. Find a friend, a therapist, or a nearby body of water to throw stones into. Tell someone and set yourself free.

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Judy Walker writes about the gritty, lovely, naughty, and joyful bits of humanhood. She has written extensively for Medium and Elephant Journal.

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.