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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.


The more I tried to reason with him, the angrier he grew. He stood in front of the open patio door and reached for the shutters. It was clear he was going to lock them. A surge of adrenaline flooded my body  it felt like I was going to wet my pants  and I thought, Oh, my God, I am going to be raped tonight. No one can help me. Oh, my God, this is what it feels like.

I knew I had to get out to the patio  I remembered seeing another patio about six feet down, which would be my only means of escape. I charged at Marco, throwing myself through the opening, but he grabbed me by my belt and lifted me back inside like I was a rag doll. I'm 5'10" with an athletic build, but Marco was taller  probably around 6'2"  and strong. I felt a sharp pain in my ribs under my right breast as he tried to pull my shirt over my head. I screamed, "No! Get off of me!" so loud, so high-pitched, that I didn't even recognize my voice. Marco kept telling me to "Shush, shush," and every time I'd wriggle out of his grip and run for the ledge, he'd try to drag me back inside. Finally, I thought, OK, this is going to be a death match. I wasn't sure if he wanted to rape me or kill me at this point, but it didn't matter. I was not going to go down without a fight. I was not going to go down, period.

I ran at Marco full force with the palm of my right hand and struck him over and over in his face and mouth. I had taken a self-defense class in college and remembered that you should always hold your hand that way so you don't break any fingers. Then I pushed him harder than I've ever pushed anyone or anything in my life. He stumbled backward and fell onto the floor. Without hesitation, I ran and leaped over the patio wall, hoping to hit the balcony I'd seen below. But my sweater got stuck on the railing, and I just hung there. As I scrambled to get loose, Marco reached over and grabbed my neck, trying to pull me back up. I squirmed and kicked, and finally the sweater ripped. I landed on the small balcony below, crushing a potted plant.

I saw Marco turn and go back into his apartment, and I was sure he was coming for me. The only way I could get to an adjacent rooftop was to climb over a rusty, spiked, wrought-iron gate. I hesitated  I was five stories up  but then got a short running start, put my foot on the bottom rung, and swung my body up and over the gate, onto the next rooftop. Then I ran along the three-foot-wide ledge of the building and jumped to another roof, sliding down the mossy terra-cotta tiles until I was staring right over the edge at the street below. I had the fleeting thought that I was going to die, that I would slip and fall, break my neck, and no one  not Lynn, not my parents  would find me.

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