To Arthur S. Hartford, Esq.

By Dawn Corrigan

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I’m writing concerning a case I hope you might review. From your website, I see you offer a Free Initial Consultation to every prospective client. I’m sure it’s customary to conduct these sessions in person, but I hope you’ll be willing to read this e-mail instead. I find it easier to express myself in writing than out loud, especially when it comes to the matter I’m going to tell you about.

The case concerns an alleged Sex Offense, which I see on the site is one of your areas of expertise.

The victim and her attacker were known to each other before the events I’ll describe. In fact, they dated for several months in college before breaking up and going their separate ways.

A few years later, the woman was working at a bookstore when one day the man came in. After he made his purchase, they began to talk. The man said he was reevaluating his life, thinking of moving to another state. The woman shared that she was in a serious relationship, and said she too was thinking of making some changes, such as going back to school. After a few minutes the man asked if she’d like to go for a beer after work. The woman was enjoying their conversation and said yes.

That evening, the man picked the woman up after her shift and drove them to a nearby bar. They drank and talked. Though the woman was normally a light drinker, she had several beers and then, at the man’s suggestion, switched to shots. She wasn’t worried; she figured she could get a cab home if necessary.

After a few drinks the conversation grew more intimate. The man said he’d realized recently that for most of his life he hadn’t known how to treat women. He even apologized for some of his behaviors back when they’d been dating. However, he was now living with female roommates on a friendship-only basis, and felt he was learning a lot. The woman congratulated him on his new maturity.

When they left the bar, the man said he was okay to drive them home. The woman, however, had greatly exceeded her capacity. The car ride only worsened her condition and she was very sick by the time they reached her apartment. The man helped her upstairs, where she threw up in the bathroom before passing out on her bed.

Here’s where the story gets interesting, Mr. Hartford. At this point, the man could simply have left. Or, he would have been welcome to sleep on the couch. But instead, the woman came to sometime later to find that the man was raping her.

What did the woman do, you wonder? Did she jump up and accuse her attacker? Did she hit him over the head with a lamp? Later, she thought she should have done these things. But her first impulse was to not make a fuss, to see if she could just clean things up. She disentangled herself from the man and jumped up from the bed. She straightened her clothes and looked for her keys.

As she scurried frantically around the room, however, she couldn’t stop herself from repeating “You shouldn’t have done that!”

“You shouldn’t have done that!” She said it over and over again. This was the only outward sign she gave that something was wrong. She wanted so badly for it to be over she even drove the man home, forgetting his car was already parked in front of her building, forgetting she was drunk.

Back at her apartment, horribly sobered up, the woman couldn’t sleep. The question was whether or not to go to the police. She ought to, she knew. But the fact is, Artie—you don’t mind if I call you Artie, do you?—she was afraid.

Let’s face it, if she pressed charges, some defense attorney—someone a lot like you—would make much of the fact that she let him into her apartment, even her room. That she drank lots of beer. His words of trust and friendship would be made to seem like a code whose real meaning was clear.

The end result of all her thinking was that she did nothing.

Time passed. The woman tried to live with constant anger and humiliation. She regarded her male friends and coworkers with suspicion. She and her boyfriend stopped having sex. Then he became her ex.

Believe it or not, though, after a while something else began to bother her even more than the rape itself. Something she remembered.

That night, as she’d echoed the phrase, “You shouldn’t have done that!” over and over, the man had replied, “Why? Do you have an STD?”

And that, in the end, was what made her most angry. That the man didn’t even know he’d done something wrong. That he thought he was the one who had something to worry about.

Then one night her worst fears were confirmed. She got home from the bookstore to find a message on her answering machine.

He wanted to know if she’d “like to go out again sometime!”

He’d “really enjoyed their evening!”

For all these reasons, Artie, she began to think she should summon her courage and come forward, even though she knew how it was likely to go.

Why just last week, a judge overturned a rape conviction where a knockout drug was used, saying the incident should serve as a warning for women who like to party.

Not to mention, the man would surely hire some hotshot lawyer. Someone just like you, right Artie? Only it wouldn’t actually be you. What’s that saying in your profession? “The attorney who represents himself has a fool for a client?”

That’s a real riot.

– Dawn Corrigan

Author’s Note – “To Arthur S. Hartford, Esq.” is the story of a woman who attempts to reclaim her violated sense of agency and autonomy by writing a letter, with mixed results.