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How I Escaped My Rapist

On the last night of her Italian vacation, ESPN exec Keri Potts went for a drink with a handsome artist. What could be the harm? She was about to find out. As told to Erin Zammett Ruddy.

WebMD Feature from "Marie Claire" Magazine

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On my last day of vacation in Italy, a chatty café owner in Rome introduced me to a tall, charming Italian man. He was a local artist, I learned; his name was Marco. Just a day earlier, my friend Lynn and I had sat in a piazza in Florence talking about how hard it is to meet nice guys. It had been two years since my last relationship, and, admittedly, I'd grown a little standoffish with the opposite sex. Lynn and I agreed that I could open up a little more. So when I met Marco, I figured why not talk to him? He joined Lynn and me at our table, along with the café owner, and the four of us shared some wine.

An accomplished painter and a fixture in the community, Marco invited us to see his art studio nearby. Giant canvases  contemporary and dramatic, all done in black, white, and red  lined the walls, and paints were scattered everywhere. It was chaotic and beautiful, and I felt excited to meet such a talented man. He seemed interested in me as well, and invited me for drinks later. I told myself, Let your guard down, Keri, and agreed to meet him.

Marco was a bit more boisterous when we met up that night. He drank rum and haggled with a man peddling roses at the bar, then bought me three dozen yellow buds. Ordinarily I would find that oddly over the top, but I just brushed it off as a sweeping, romantic Italian gesture. We flipped through a book of his paintings, and he described the art scene in Italy, noting that some artists are into sex and drugs, but all he needed was art. I said, "That's a good thing, because you are getting no sex-o from me!" He laughed, saying, "I would rather talk with you. You are soft." Then he kissed me.

Marco suggested we go back to his apartment; he wanted to show me the view from his patio, where he did much of his sketching. I thought about it for a moment, then decided, sure. He was interesting and fun, and I felt completely at ease. Plus, I'd made it clear that we wouldn't be jumping into the sack.

His apartment, a sixth-floor walk-up, consisted of just a single room with a bed and TV, a small kitchen with a wooden table, and a bathroom. But the view from the patio was stunning. You could see the top of the Spanish Steps, the shimmering Roman skyline. Marco joined me there, and we talked about the places we'd traveled, places we still want to go to. It was like a scene from a movie. Just past midnight, we walked to a bar down the street.

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