Mariah waits in the Arlington Hospital emergency room, dreading what she knows is coming.

When the doctor walks in, she cringes. Christ, another man. The last thing she needs.

“What seems to be the problem?”

What a dumb ass, she thinks. I’m sitting here with my face bruised and puffy, my ripped clothing laying on a chair and this fruitcake wants to know the problem?

“I’ve been raped.”

“I see.” So clinical. So cold. He examines her face. “Are you in pain?”

Of course I’m in pain you idiot.

“Yes, my face, my arms, my chest and my, uh, well my…”

“Your vaginal area?” Yeah, that’s it.

For the next 40 minutes or so, the doctor pokes and prods and examines, takes smears and samples. Occasionally she cries out when he pokes an area that is already sore enough.

He is finishing up and leaving when Kelly Richardson walks in. Richardson looks at the departing physician and shakes her head.

“I see you got Mr. Sensitivity here. Sorry you had to go through that. How do you feel.”

Mariah manages a bitter laugh.

“How the hell do you think I feel? I’ve been raped.”

“I know. That why some of the exam was so painful. It’s called a rape kit. It gathers the evidence they need in case they catch the bastard who did this.”

Mariah laughes again. “I mean I didn’t really have to go through all that? I know who did it.”

Kelly looks up from her notebook.

“You do. Was this date rape?”

“No. It was my husband.”

A nurse behind Richardson gasps. Richardson doesn’t. As a rape crisis counselor, not much surprises her any more.

“What this the first time this has happened.”

“No. It won’t be the last either. He’s done it before. The police know about it. Nothing will happen.”

“Well,” Richardson says, “We’ll see about that.”

After another hour, Richardson emerges from the examining room and shakes her head.

“Nothing will happen. She’s decided not to press charges. She’s going back home to the bastard.”

Two weeks later, Richardson calls. How about a drink? She walks into the bar in the Clarendon Section of Arlington County, orders a Glenlivit straight up, and shakes her head.

“Remember Mariah? The wife raped by her husband? She’s in the hospital now. Broken jaw, cracked ribs, ruptured spleen. And she still won’t press charges. I’ve talked to the cops. They may file charges of their own now, but I’m not holding my breath.”

She downs the Scotch and orders another.

“Part of the problem is the backasswards state of Virginia. Here in the Commonwealth, a husband has what they call legal lattitude when it comes to disciplining his wife. The law actually says a husband can ‘discipline’ his wife. Of course, it doesn’t say anything about a wife ‘disciplining’ her husband.”

Another Scotch. Richardson is mad.

“She ought to pull a Lorena Bobbitt on him. Just take a butcher knife and cut his prick off.”

Strong words from a rape counselor.

“You know how I got to be a rape crisis counselor? Lot’s of experience in the field. I was raped by my husband. Took me three years to get up enough nerve to leave the son-of-a-bitch. You know what my minister said? He said I couldn’t be raped by my husband. It took me three years to learn that I did have the right to say no.”

Two more Scotches and she has the answer.

“I’m gonna form Rape Victims International Local 102. Every member gets a butcher knife. The more pricks you hang on the wall, the more power you have in the union.”

Kelly is too drunk to drive. She calls her boyfriend. He’s not home.

“SOB’s probably out screwing around.”

Twenty minutes later, she climbs into a cab. She’s laying down in the back seat before the cab pulls away from the curb.

This is one night Kelly Richardson’s boyfriend had better not come home in a demanding mood.

–Doug Thompson
Washington, DC