My third full-time job in life was a fairly good paying job at Control Data in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In less than a year there I saved enough to buy a new car. I worked first as a technician using a microscope to wind ultrafine wires onto computer heads, then as an operator dipping baskets of oily computer fittings and parts into a timed “bath” in an ultrasonic Freon degreasing tank* **. This was before I knew anything about the regulatory protections of OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), but it cannot have been good for my lungs or the skin on my hands, arms, and face to put myself halfway into the vapors of the Freon degreasing tank in order to lower the short-handled, wire baskets of machined parts into the bath. Was that Freon work hazard the beginning of my breathing difficulties, neurological pain, and neuropathy that are so difficult for me today?
Narrating the sexual assaults that I endured as a young woman are exhausting for the old woman I am today, so the following is as much as it seems necessary to tell.
While at Control Data I refused to date the crazy, older man who used to come in to heckle me in the Freon degreasing room which I operated alone. While I was working, he would slip just inside the door, then stomp, yell, and even flap his arms about, anything to make me look at him. Co-workers had told me that he wanted to date me, but I wanted no part of him. He had no business being in my work area and I absolutely refused to talk to him. Even as a young woman of twenty I knew crazy when I saw it. He was ten years older than I was and had probably been developing his harassing skills for a long time. In retrospect I think that he suggested that a woman I knew casually at Control Data invite me to a party, although I did not see her there, and soon after I arrived at the small, sparely furnished apartment everyone left except the crazy, older man who had been lurking there. He closed the door on those who had left and he raped me. I had had no conversation with him ever, he just pushed me on a bed, pushed my panties aside and raped me. I tried to push him off but men are half again, maybe twice as strong as women, so he did not need to threaten or beat me. I was overwhelmed and I had no breath for yelling. Raping me was effortless for him. It was satisfying to him. I had been a virgin and I was horrified by what he had done. After he raped me I began yelling and kept pushing him away, so he let me go, and I drove home. It is difficult to understand why he raped me. He was not drunk, and I had not had time to even take a drink.
It is difficult for me to understand myself as a young woman, but back then I believed myself to have been “ruined” by this rape. I felt keenly that because I was no longer a virgin no man would ever want me. So when the crazy, older rapist assumed that we were now a couple, I acquiesced and entered his partying, beer-drinking lifestyle. I thought that maybe I would have to marry him to “repair” myself. But when he asked me to marry him, I could not do it. I was growing up and I had the wisdom and strength to refuse his proposal and move myself as far away from him as I could get, eventually I had to move to the other side of the country. The crazy, older rapist later married another young woman who told me that she had married him because he raped her. She bore him several children, and he cheated on her.
Before I managed to end my “relationship” with the crazy, older rapist I was at one of his parties drinking beer. Maybe I had turned twenty-one (the drinking age in Minnesota), maybe not. I do not know and I might not have cared enough about myself at the time to keep track of the legalities of it. All I remember was being asleep or passed out on the living room floor with several other “partiers” when a drunken supervisor from Control Data climbed on top of me and stuck his fingers down my pants and into me. This time I knew what to do, I began screaming at the top of my lungs. The crazy, older rapist came running into the room (from the bedroom where he had been banging someone else?) and confronted the drunken supervisor as if I was a piece of stolen property. They ignored me and argued quietly as if settling a business deal. To my disgust, he proved the assault by smelling the assailant’s fingers. The arrangement they came to was that the drunken supervisor would arrange to have two weeks vacation pay added to my next Control Data paycheck. I was disgusted with myself for drinking and sleeping at that party, disgusted with the arrangements the men were making over me, and disgusted with the idea of stealing from the company to pay for the groping. That was not what I wanted. I wanted away from all of them. When I saw the vacation pay actually come through on my paycheck I quit my job and moved out-of-town. I do not think that I ever went to an after-work party again. I learned to develop friends through church, volunteer groups, and hobby classes.
I am still deeply disgusted with what transpired at Control Data half a century ago. And, I am so grateful that I was able to move away and escape that rape culture. Even if I had evidence or corroborating testimony for what happened half a century ago, I would not name those long-ago perpetrators. They do not matter to me, they never mattered to me. I now know that their violence, the disgrace that they wrought belongs to them. The closest they ever got to me, to who I really am, was an assault on my body. My heart, my mind, and my soul remain true, and my own.
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* “Freon is a registered trademark of The Chemours Company, which it uses for a number of halocarbon products. They are stable, nonflammable, moderately toxic gases or liquids which have typically been used as refrigerants and as aerosol propellants." (emphasis added)
** Worker Dies While Cleaning Freon 113 Degreasing Tank in Virginia,
Caption: Raped By One Then Groped by Another
by Annmarie Throckmorton 2018