The Time I Answered the Door to an Alleged Rape Victim

I used to live on 22nd Street in Midwood, a weird neighborhood in south-central Brooklyn in NYC. It was weird because it was New York City in the way that New York City can be: moneyed yet poor. a large mix of (Caribbean) blacks, whites and Orthodox Jews. beautiful Victorian houses lining lush green sidewalks and shrubs directly across the street from ugly brick buildings and bald concrete sidewalks.

I couldn’t put my finger on it but it was eerie in a kind of peaceful quiet dangerous lurking way. The closest train stop was at Newkirk Plaza off the B/Q on 16th street, 7 long blocks at night when the neighborhood got ghost and came alive with dead silence.

I had 3 roommates: one was a young girl from France. She told me that one late night when she had emerged from the subway, she called the Brooklyn Bike Patrol, a volunteer escort service of male bicyclists founded in 2011 by Jay Ruiz. But she said that when she called, a boy who had identified himself as Ruiz’s son told her that Ruiz had just suffered a heart attack. She said that she sprinted all 7 blocks home.

We lived in a house owned by a nice Bangladeshi couple. We lived off the porch of the main entryway on the 1st floor while there was a kind of sub-level unit that existed below us not visible from the front and so only accessible by the tenants in a narrow kind of alley at the side of the house, which led around to a small concrete backyard.

Of course, all of my roommates were gone one night when the doorbell rang. When I opened the door, there was a girl standing in the hallway with her shirt up and bra exposed, clenching a Burger King bag frozen in the air. She said something like, I’ve just been raped. Can I come in? Can I have something to drink? She was calm but seemed dazed. But I don’t know because I didn’t know her. Oh my goodness, I said. Yes, sure. Come in. By this time, the couple had joined their young son “Sheriff” in the hallway and also came into the house.

As we all stood in the kitchen, I looked at the girl before realizing when I looked at the boy and pulled her shirt down. I think there were scratches. I gave her something to drink. The couple was silent. She kept saying that she didn’t know what to do. That she had been raped at the back of the house as she was getting into the house. She asked if she could use my phone to call her boyfriend because her phone was dead, and I told her sure but suggested the police. She agreed. As the minutes dragged on, she said that it was a guy who had come up behind her. She said that he told her that he had a gun.

At some point, the police and ambulance came and she left. I think that her boyfriend had called back on my phone but I don’t remember. The couple seemed rocked. The woman said that she didn’t believe the girl, that she was making trouble. The man didn’t say much but asked rhetorical questions that wouldn’t be answered to the girl’s favor. His eyes were red. He looked tired and defeated. The girl was Brazilian, and the woman suggested that the claim was a ploy to get extension on a visa that had expired. The guy just seemed like he wanted it to be all over. Their stance seemed frightened by the prospect of what this would mean in renting to future tenants in what was now a “rape” house.

I was thankful that I hadn’t taken the room. When I came to look at the house, I was given a choice between where I now lived and the room. It was big but isolated from the rest of the house. It was a mess from the German girl who had allegedly gone MIA in alleged non-payment but was still allegedly seen in the city.

All of us were up for the entire night, mostly because of the spacing of the detectives. Not too long after the police arrived, a set of 2 male detectives showed up. They were brief and serious. Hours later, a trio of female detectives showed up. They were loudly complimentary of our house, conversational, and raucously humored by the plastic scrotum hanging on a board in our kitchen.

A guy who also lived on the bottom floor asked why no one had heard anything. I said that she said that the guy had a gun. There was a theory that maybe she had been followed from the not-so-far away and dicey area of Flatbush or Broadway Junction, where the Burger King bag was from.

I liked the couple and I liked the wife, but I knew that I would have to leave soon. I strongly disliked our one main roommate, and despite not knowing what really happened, I asked myself what the harm was in erring on the side of the girl being assaulted? Or did that depend on who you asked?