He Was Going to Strangle Me and Dump My Body in the Desert
I was an independent student on full four-year scholarships during my undergraduate years at Scripps College, an “elite” liberal arts college for women in Claremont, CA. This college is one of the five Claremont Colleges, a high-priced group of schools theoretically based on Oxford’s college system. Scripps is often noted as one of the most physically beautiful campuses in the U.S.
I was sexually preyed upon by a Scripps faculty member (now deceased) and I was raped by one of his friends, who at the time, was the chair of Pomona College’s literature department. This man, too, is now deceased.
I’m lucky that I don’t remember all the things that evidence showed he had done to me — I was unconscious for the majority of the crime. I can’t say how it felt to be burned with multiple cigarettes (just one), have my clothes torn from my body, or feel my breasts being bitten, body hit and slapped, and genitals torn, bruised and battered. Afterward? Yes, I know the physical pain and the unbelievable shock.
Why would he hurt me? What did I do wrong?
Who did this? Why isn’t he in prison?
Here is the lesson. The hard, cruel, true lesson that I learned at age 21. This lesson is one of the hardest that survivors have learned, and one that is apparently impossible for those who haven’t shared our experiences — the ones who refuse to acknowledge facts, never learn — because they don’t want to. Although they may not personally commit rapes, the rape helpers and rape supporters make it possible for these crimes to continue with justice served only a tiny number of times compared to the vast number of crimes committed.
I can’t remember myself accurately because I am the Chameleon. But there is certainly a “before Amy” and an “after Amy.” The “before Amy” survived her encounter with killer CHP officer Craig Peyer. The “after-Amy” is the one who wrote stories, did all her jobs, had her babies, lost her baby, and stood trial accused of murdering him.
In a way, I’m becoming the “before Amy” again. I think it’s time and healing. Before this man did this to me, I was unafraid — the thought that somebody could hurt me only crossed my mind a few times. One of them was when Craig Peyer pulled me over. He frightened me badly. Unformed thoughts came into my mind that he meant nothing good. If I let him, he would have done something terrible.
But I was the same girl who broke down on Arrow Highway in Pomona in front of the after-hours Chicano club … and the guys came out and fixed my car and drove home beside me. Total strangers — they wanted to make sure I got home safe.
These guys, my husbands, my boyfriends (including one who could have been as rich and twisted as Armie Hammer — but he wasn’t). They aren’t the rapists. I believe rapists are a peculiar breed. One of them will do hundreds, possibly thousands of such crimes, in their lifetime. For every one Rape Professor there are many, many victims. That’s the flip side of the RAINN chart. For every increase in perpetrator put behind bars, hundreds and thousands of women will be able to live their lives without the permanent pain of knowing that in our world — it doesn’t matter what these people do to us. We don’t matter.
They do. In this world’s eyes, these rapists are more important than anyone or anything. They are more important than advancements in science, the arts, technology, and certainly more important than any values our “government” says it upholds. A lot of people say this is all about money, but no — it’s more about power. The Boy Scouts and even the Catholic Church are now paying out vast sums in judgments for the behavior of their rapists and sex pests: have they stopped having these people in their midst? Absolutely not. And to this day, we hear little about the female scout victims or priest-rape victims who became pregnant and yes — probably sent to Catholic homes for unwed mothers. No, it’s the male victims we hear of and that are receiving the cash payouts for the most part. Sandusky’s victims. Dennis Hastert’s victims. Oh, how we hear of them. Well, the one who raped me is still lauded as an important man. I, who have outpublished him 100 times over, out-awarded him, accomplished vast things? F-that-all.
They say Justice is blind. Yes it is — to victims of violent rape perpetrated by even average men. If the man is rich and from a powerful family? He won’t be stopped. He will continue his crimes unabated until or unless his unlucky lottery number comes up. It’s almost like the “Rape Draft”. It’s amazing to consider what Bill Cosby must have done for his number to finally be called up. Or maybe Bill Cosby’s in prison because he was so famous, so beloved by the public, that when the weight of his dozens of accusers finally weighed so, so heavy — that reluctantly, they had to pull the lever and incarcerate — just this one. This one old man whose damage followed his life for decades.
So here’s the order of business about my rape. I had been groomed and sexually preyed upon by a faculty member at Scripps College, my elite women’s college. All of these young male faculty members (most, if not all, deceased now — this happened in 1982–83) hung out together. They partied together. I was introduced to my rapist first when I won the 5-College writing award in 1982, as a junior. This was a blind-judged prize. I’m pretty sure this poem was part of the group — when I wrote it, my friends were so convinced I had had an abortion (and even that the sex groomer prof was the father … natch!). NO, I had not. I did not have an unwanted pregnancy nor would I have had an abortion. I’m the Chameleon and I was thinking about what it would be like to have to do that terrible thing.
This guy, my rapist, he was not handsome (neither was the one that groomed me). He was in his early 30s. Not fit, but not horribly unfit. He partied with students. By this time I had affiliated with the CMC boys (Claremont McKenna College, formerly Claremont Men’s College) and these up-and-comers were heavily connected with government and political officials at the state, local, and national level. CMC at the time, was massively Republican in case you’re wondering “which party” and yes, I did ride the “Reagan Train” (an actual train).
So I was an art and literature (creative writing) major so I did not care or even think much about the Reagan Train. This was my boyfriend, a very wealthy young man, and his friends, not me. I was just a good-time hanger-on.
This is how stupid I was — I started that college ($11,000/yr tuition at the time) with the full four-year scholarships, the reason I had chosen it in the first place, over Stanford and Reed — and I didn’t realize that this damn Reagan Train was the reason why by my senior year, I was working full-time to pay my unpaid tuition bills due to massive cuts in Federal aid. I do remember sitting around with my first boyfriend and all the other boys and how scared they were they’d be drafted to fight in the … wait for it … just hold on …
The Falklands War
These kids were ready to go to Canada to avoid the draft. Or so they said. But nobody drafted anybody. I just ended up working fulltime at a variety of crazy jobs to pay my large, ever-growing college bills. OK, this is getting to be unserious and what happened to me was deadly serious.
So, anyway, I was quite the serious, tortured artist and “honey-haired youth” as well as under huge financial pressure, and if you drank as much as I and my boyfriend did …
Hey Men’s Rights Advocates here ya go — you know how only “attractive” women are raped and it’s “their fault” right?
I think there must be some reality to my black humor. I don’t know. This guy Brian Stonehill who raped me was this “popular” professor at Pomona College. He seemed very important. Although I attended the women’s college Scripps, not Pomona, this man was a “big man on campus” with a big following of kids. He was young/young-ish. I wasn’t interested in “older men” (but his friend, the Scripps professor who groomed me — got his sexual way by his grooming behaviors — I was never “attracted” to him at all physically) but many of the girls seemed to like him.
So, so check this out. I won the 5-college literature prize in 1982. Brian Stonehill was pretty nice about that, although the prize seldom went to a student who did not attend Pomona College, the larger school where he was in charge of these things. In 1983 the next year? For me to win that again — I got the impression that he and his cadre of geeky lit boys and coven-like witchy lit girls did not like that. It’s not that I hung with those kids much. As I previously stated, I was part of the socially more “elite” crowd of rich trust fund kids from Claremont McKenna and Scripps Colleges.
I really wasn’t, but I was innocent and didn’t understand that.
Also, I think these days — I wouldn’t have won that blind-judged prize two years in a row. Today’s version of Brian Stonehill would have simply selected his favorite student or one that fit the racial/gender/sexual ID criteria needed that year and put the name in the envelope with the scholarship. One and done.
But I did do that. I did win that prize 2 years in a row. I was also in the running for a Rhodes Scholarship and a Watson Fellowship and I’d managed to improve my grades enough that I had received the Millard Sheets scholarship to attend Claremont Graduate Institute in art, and I’d been admitted to the UC Irvine graduate writers program, and received preliminary admission to the Iowa Writers Program.
A bright future for me, right! And — my fiance was the heir to Conoco-Phillips oil fortune.
I am making none of this up and at the time I was also working 40 hrs a week at various jobs (and the prior year, had been the first female editor and publisher of the 5-college newspaper) sorry sorry where was I?
So Brian Stonehill partied with students. All the time. And, he partied with Mr. Groomer the British Literature Expert and with Mr. Hippy Dippy the Pitzer College Expert in (I don’t know). And — a large group of mostly Pomona College students, almost all underage.
So my 21st birthday was kind of a big deal. It is for most kids, isn’t it? It wasn’t like I hadn’t been drinking and partying continuously during my few leisure hours. I basically didn’t sleep which made it easier to accomplish all this crap. I was so bad off that one of my good (believe me, I had many, and I have written about them) instructors, the beautiful woman and gifted poet Karin Swenson, grabbed me by the arm while I was staggering down the hall in my dorm, a bottle of warm beer in one hand and cigarette hanging out my mouth (she lived in the dorm as poet in residence) and pulled me into her room and confronted me with alcoholism. She asked me to go to AA with her and told me she was in recovery.
I look at this lady and I remember her every word and gesture and maybe if I am half as good a person and writer as her someday …
Of course I did not go to AA with Karin Swenson.
I kept drinking, kept messing around, kept burning the candle at both ends, told myself daily “Live fast, die young, leave a goodlooking corpse.”
Those were my values and John Starr and I were young, drunk, he was rich and I was the “honey-haired youth” with delusions of Percy Bysshe Shelley.
So I went out with this crowd of Pomona college dorks while John studied (he was drinking Wild Turkey …) on his rare study night along with the partying student-affiliated named chair of literature Brian Stonehill. It was a long night at several clubs in L.A. I specifically remember the “Peanuts” Disco — and I had run out of cash. Brian Stonehill paid my cover: $11.
The following Sunday (my only day off) I called this guy (how did you have his phone number? Well … I had previously gone to dinner with him and his parents, a wealthy couple from Washington, DC. They were very polite; his mother wore pearls — fucking a this is what they call “grooming” — but what did I know?).
I did *not* know enough not to cash a check at the grocery store down the road, get $20, break it, and drive back to this man’s house to pay him back for paying this cover charge the previous weekend.
It was about 11 a.m. I rang the doorbell. He let me in and he was poorly-dressed (sweats, hair messy). I walked past him through this house that the school paid for and saw to my left, a coffee table full of the remains of the Saturday night. Empty cans and bottles, lots of white powder streaks, even some pills, obviously weed. And cigar butts. And cigarette butts.
I had my hand out with the money — I was just going to pay him and leave.
He asked me if I wanted some iced tea and I said, “I don’t think so,” but he insisted. I moved a few steps farther into the house and looked at a framed black and white picture of some famous man. To this day I don’t know who it was but maybe somebody like Roland Barthes. A literary figure.
I saw him go into the kitchen but I didn’t see what he did next. I just felt a terrific blow on the side of my head and then — that was it.
I’d passed out one time before, falling down a lot of stairs. That was due to the well-known college girl condition of “not eating for three days.”
Yeah I had an eating disorder — wtf do you think I was — abnormal or something?
I wasn’t looking at that picture when I woke. I was in a small room at the back of the house: bedroom. He was right over me, breathing sour smoke breath into my face. Agonizing pain in my left forearm — that’s what it feels like to have a lit cigarette ground into your skin. His eyes were blank and glassy like a doll’s. But — I’m not sure if they were gray. I think they were. An ugly watery gray color.
I tried to scramble away but got only a few inches. My arms and legs were tied to the bed. My mind has turned the bed into a cheap metal bed with a blue Army blanket that was scratching my body. He used surgical tubing to tie me and yes, he was an IV drug user. Oh, the romance of IV drug use, so chic.
As I twisted my head to get away as far as my neck would allow, I saw the paned window behind me. I could see, into the backyard. There was a fig tree. I thought — this is it. There was a fig tree in both my yards growing up. My grandfather (Bampy) warned me about bad men while we were pruning the fig tree in Mentone.
He’s going to strangle me and dump my body in the desert.
Well Lord, I thought, please take my soul.
He put his hand on my neck.
I struggled as hard as I could but I wouldn’t look at him, especially not his eyes, those dead inhuman eyes.
But then he rolled away. There was a table behind him, so I could see his naked white back and see he was doing something.
And when he turned back, his eyes had changed. He quickly cut my arms and legs free.
I should have leapt at him, I should have clawed his eyes out. Where was Helbitch then?
She was in shock.
He threw my shirt and jeans at me. They were horribly torn, and I had no idea where my underwear was.
“Get dressed,” he said. “Get out.”
And so I did. My suitemate Darcell saved me. But that’s a story for another day.
I did go to the campus police (hilarious, really) and to the city police (not at all funny). And I did have a rape kit (no semen — condom use) and pictures taken.
Here is what happened in the aftermath.
I want to make it crystal clear that the police (one might have been a county prosecutor — I can’t remember 100%) sat down and practiced with me what a defense attorney would do if the case went to trial. After this session, I told them, “No, I don’t want to prosecute.” I knew I couldn’t go through that. And after what I have just written, I’m sure everyone can see exactly what type of material the attorney would have to work with.
And the nicer of the two cops (there always is one, isn’t there) said, “We believe you. You were lucky. We think he’s done much worse.”
That school still has awards named after him, he has all kinds of recognition, and his “papers” are even in state archives.
I left that place. I didn’t get those scholarships, and I declined admission to the graduate programs. I never wanted to be near any place like that again. I associated colleges with evil. But even then I didn’t understand just how much, or the fact that there is one or more people like Brian Stonehill or Jerry Sandusky or Larry Nassar on every campus. It took decades for me to understand just how great a lie our whole culture is.
I served as the alumna in residence at Scripps College in 2013 and was stunned to read students writing of similar experiences to mine — 30 years later. I told the then-officials it was unacceptable and related my experience, saying “A lot of scholarship money and many hours of decent, professional faculty time had been invested in me — all could have been totally wasted, only because of one man’s sexual violence.”
Then, in 2015, a talented, gifted, beautiful young woman, a Resident Advisor at Scripps, took her own life following an incident of predation. No change.
This is now nearly 40 years later and I’m sorry, media mavens and news reporters and blue check trash:
Nothing has changed. Oh wait — it’s gotten worse. The cops don’t even give a shit now and then they were angry and sad. Yeah, I’m a Helbitch now. But why do I have to be that way? It’s no way to have to live.
At this point, take the crime off the books. You might as well since it appears to be a job requirement for elected or appointed government service or work at a college or university. I wrote this because my rapist was the same type of guy as “Armie Hammer,” the cannibal anal rape sex strangler.
Give him all the movies he wants and let him get on with it. He’s got enough money.
Wow. Look at the 11’s. I never saw them before. 11, 11, 1:11. A message. And the message is: stop. Stop this now. Stop letting these people hurt other innocent people. Stop. Now.