How I convinced the world you can be raped by your date

Katie Koestner on the cover of Time Magazine

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Katie Koestner was on the cover of Time Magazine on 6 June 1991

Katie Koestner was 18 when she went on a date with a fellow college student – and was forced to have sex. In 1990 the idea that you could be raped on a date was not widely understood, but Koestner went public with her story and – as she explains here – the concept of “date rape” took root for the first time. Some readers may find her account disturbing.

I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. I had a younger sister, a full-time mom, and my dad was an FBI agent. I swam every day, played piano and loved books. I guess I had a fairly sheltered upbringing but I grew up loving life.

At 18 I went off to college to study chemical engineering and Japanese. I chose the College of William Mary in Virginia, which oozed history. I decided to live on campus in a women-only residence hall. I threw myself into campus life, joined a band and a church youth group.

In the first week I met a guy. I thought he was amazing-looking, and luckily he had the talent to match. I wasn’t naive but I was a romantic at heart. I thought you were lucky if you met the right prince.

He asked me out for dinner. It was pretty rare to eat off campus so I was really excited to go. We went to a fancy restaurant with candles and live music. The waiters spoke French, my date ordered in French, and I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I felt I’d met the best guy in the whole campus.

After dinner I didn’t want to go back to his room. I thought maybe his room-mate might be there, or alcohol – I didn’t want to drink.

But I never thought there was anything weird about having some guy come to your room, just to hang out. There was no, “OK the door to your room has opened and you’ve turned on the green light for everything the guy might want.”

On my ceiling I had the constellations of the night sky. I said, “Let’s dance under the stars.” It was romantic and silly. I was 18 years old.

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Katie Koestner

Then I remember he was trying to undo the buttons on the back of my dress. They were fancy and tricky and I was thinking, “Oh no he could break my dress.”

I didn’t think about my own safety because I was out with a great guy. I was just thinking I have to get him to stop doing that, so I pushed him away gently.

He stopped and moved to the other side of room. I glanced into the mirror and saw him taking off his clothes and thought. “Oh no.” And then, “Oh wow,” because he was so handsome.

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