Yaffa's Story: Attacked on an Airplane

Dear Dr.Patti

I wanted to share my story with you.

I read some of your book at the bookstore the other day. You challenged me and reminded me to see past this pain. Thank you. I have been in counseling and now go to schools and speak about my experience. My experience with rape is usually one of the first things I tell my close friends about and the burden lessens a bit every time. I wanted to share my story with you so I don’t feel quite so alone right now. Thank you for being willing to love young women like me even though I feel very unlovable sometimes.

I had been away at college for a few months by the time December 2005 rolled around and was looking forward to going home and hugging my family members. During my time away, I had really tried to forget my past of being sexually abused as a child or struggling with an eating disorder so severely as a teen. I wanted a fresh start. I was in a serious relationship and doing well in school. I was standing in line preparing to board an airplane when an older man began to talk with me. I was uncomfortable but used to the attention so I made polite conversation. I wasn't very surprised to have him sit next to me in the back of the plane. It was a short plane ride so I settled in my seat next to the window. This man had been drinking but we kept conversing about our families, our goals, and dreams. He offered me a drink and I considered it but I knew I shouldn't accept because that would be my way of numbing my pain before I headed home for the first time in a few months. All of a sudden, his flirting became much more aggressive and I tried to change the subject. I turned my head and stared out the window because I felt trapped with familiar feelings of panic rising in my chest. Suddenly, his hands were on my thighs and I was frozen there desperately trying to remain "there." I tried to push him away. I said no and attempted to move from my seat continuously but he put his leg between mine to block my exit. His words telling me I was as "beautiful as a model" and how much he "wanted a wife like me," I wish someone around me on that plane had gave a damn and helped me stop him. With him kissing me and his hands everywhere, I felt like the smallest human being, a piece of filth because I was letting this happen again. I asked him to stop repeatedly and he told me I was just “too pretty.” I was so far from being in control. I even asked the flight attendant if I could move and she said there was “too much turbulence” so I had to remain where I was. I wish I could tell you that that was the end of this story.

After I got off the plane, I headed into the nearest bathroom so I could wash up before seeing my family. I chose the wrong bathroom that day because it was the family style bathroom where you are able to lock the door from the inside and be alone. Ken followed me in there. He ripped my shirt. My pants were thrown aside on the floor in an angry heap. As I was raped and hit and such ugly words were spoken to me, I was floating above it all. It didn’t matter how much I fought back or cried. As I choked on sobs, I also choked and coughed as he shoved his penis into my mouth. I had flirted with him and “deserved it” for “leading him on.” When he finished, he left the bathroom after blowing me a kiss saying, “Goodbye beautiful.” He left me his business card and I didn’t take it out of my wallet for a few months. My sister asked me how my shirt got ripped and why my pants were wet and I said I just wanted to get out of there. He was 15 feet away smiling and gesturing at my sister. I begged my sister almost at the point of tears to just forget my luggage and leave. We didn't. I saw him leave with a woman and young girl. I knew they were friends of his. I spent 2 days at home for Christmas break. My mother told me it was my fault. A police officer told me it was a “case of he said, she said” and to keep my legs crossed next time. After flying back to school, my partner told me just to forget about it and that it didn’t matter, needless to say, that relationship didn’t last.

That shame has haunted me for a year and a half now. I ran into him at the grocery store down the street from my college a few months ago. He had the audacity to wave and smile at me. But you know what, Dr. Patti? I just studied abroad for a few months and was almost assaulted by a man while on a night train but I fought back. I decided enough was enough for that moment. That was the most freeing moment I’ve had in the last year and a half.

Thank you for letting me share this with you.


Dr. Patti responds:

Hi Yaffa;

         First of all I want to tell you that are a very good writer. Your story was written in a very visual - visceral way. I truly hope you don't just look at my book in a book store, but that you buy it for yourself and write in it, bend back pages, make notes and use it to heal yourself. You can also use it in your counseling. I am very glad you are in counseling. It sounds as if you do have issues that you are holding on to. When I read stories like yours I get sooooooooooo angry!!! Let me tell you if I were on that plane and I heard what was going on I would have had a huge pleasure in getting you away from that animal! The flight attendant should be fired! I totally understand everything you said, of course, because you are a survivor and you were not able to "deal" with the whole situation. Of course you "floated away" - I am so sorry you were raped after being sexually groped on the plane. This man is an animal and I am pretty sure he does this pretty often - You do not seem like the first he has attacked.

         It is also very sad that your family did not want to help you press charges and that they accepted what the police officer said. You had the right to press rape charges. You had his business card. The truth is that it is a "he said" "she said" - and that going to court may have been a terrible trauma for you, especially without fierce family support. Congratulations on fighting back in Europe! I see young women heal and get strong every day, I am sure you are one of them.

................................xxx, Dr. Patti.

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