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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.


At the bar, it got a little harder for me to understand Marco. He talked louder and louder, seemingly in circles. He continued to drink rum while I sipped a Pinot Grigio, and when the bar closed, he bought a bottle to go. I suggested that we go to the Spanish Steps, thinking it would be the perfect way to end the night, but he grumbled, "Turista, turista," and led me toward his apartment. I thought, Come on, Keri, lighten up. It's your last night in Rome.

When we got upstairs, Marco blasted music  first something in Spanish and then Coldplay  and moved around the apartment frenetically. He dropped a glass, grabbed some candles, changed the music. I stood on the patio, gazing at the postcard-worthy view. I thought, What an amazing way to end my vacation. What a story to tell my friends. Marco came out and stood behind me, noting that the views in Rome are better than in New York City. I playfully begged to differ, and he scoffed; there was something nasty in his expression. Then he thrust the bottle of rum toward me. When I refused, he walked away and returned with a glass. I wanted to be polite, so I pretended to sip, but I knew it was time to leave.

I walked into the apartment, placed the glass on the table, and told Marco I needed to head home. He had a small cigar box in his hand and offered me a hand-rolled cigarette from inside, presumably marijuana. "No. No, thank you," I said. Then he came around the table and stood in front of me. Mumbling something I didn't understand, he pulled me toward him and kissed my face hard, biting my lips. It hurt, and I tried to push away, but he held the back of my neck with his left hand, pressing my face to his. At the same time, he shoved his right hand down the front of my jeans, undoing my button in the process. I jerked back, but he put both hands on my lower back, pressing me into him. He shoved his hands inside my underwear, scraping me with his fingernails.

I couldn't believe what was happening. "No! No! No!" I shouted. I stumbled and said again that I needed to go. I grabbed my purse and walked toward the door. "It's locked. The door is locked," Marco said. I pulled on the handle and it didn't budge. Starting to panic, I grabbed a set of his keys off the kitchen table and fumbled through them, but Marco stepped toward me. "Those don't open the door," he said, an inch from my face. He had another set of keys that he dangled in front of me then threw toward the bed. "You're not going anywhere," he said. He grabbed the scarf off my neck and put it around his own. I reached for it, but he swatted me back. "You're not going anywhere," he said again. "I'm not joking." Trying to appear calm, I told him Lynn would be waiting for me back at the hotel. "This is ridiculous," I said. "Please open the door."

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