“I Asked Him for My Clothes and My Phone”

No one expects to be sexually assaulted. Then it happens.

 

This article contains explicit and disturbing accounts. Reader discretion is advised. For Arlington County sexual assault resources, click here.

 

Illustration by Michael Morgenstern.

 

Caroline Raphael was a junior at Washington-Lee High School in 2016 when she learned that her older sister had been sexually assaulted. The assailant, a fellow student on her sister’s college campus, was found responsible and expelled. But the aftermath took a toll on not only her sister, but the whole family.

At the time of the assault, their mom, Abby—a former member of the Arlington County School Board and former assistant commonwealth’s attorney—had recently become co-chair of the Prevention Committee at Project PEACE, a countywide initiative to end sexual assault and domestic violence in Arlington.

Caroline soon followed suit. “I became passionate about sexual assault prevention because my sister was a survivor,” she says.

As chair of the student-led Healthy Relationships Task Force through Project PEACE, Caroline began leading talks with her peers about sexual assault prevention and relationship red flags. She didn’t just have access to information about how to recognize toxic relationships and minimize the incidence of sexual assault—she lived and breathed it.

She graduated as one of W-L’s Class of 2017 valedictorians and received a prestigious President’s Scholarship to the University of Miami.

Then, on Oct. 12, 2017, during her first semester at college, Caroline Raphael was drugged and sexually assaulted.

“I met this guy through a mutual friend,” she says. “We enjoyed hanging out, and he asked me out a few times, but I’d said no—I had a boyfriend at the time and I wasn’t interested. But when he asked me to his fraternity’s date party as friends, I agreed to go.”

At the party, they shared a bottle of Champagne. “I was a little stressed out about a test I had the next day, so I told him I wasn’t going to drink much,” Raphael remembers. “He drank most of the bottle, but I have a specific memory of him handing me the bottle, me taking a sip and handing it back to him, and then him telling me that I killed the bottle. Which was weird, because I was pretty sure I hadn’t.” She didn’t say anything about it at the time.

Within 20 minutes of that last sip, she felt disproportionately intoxicated and disoriented. Her date offered to escort her back to her dorm and called an UberPool. She remembers almost nothing of that car ride. “I was in the back seat with two other girls, and he was in the front. I remember hearing the girls talking to him, but I couldn’t even speak. I kept thinking, My lips are so swollen.

The next thing she remembers was arriving at his apartment and thinking, This isn’t where I’m supposed to be—why am I here? He ushered her inside, gave her a glass of water and she passed out.

 


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