Warning: Graphic content
On their first date, Calla Hales told the man she was seeing that she worked in “women’s health.”
Afterwards, he text her asking if she worked in an abortion clinic. She said yes and asked if that was an issue. He replied with no.
But as soon as their second date started, Calla says she knew something was wrong.
“He acted really weird the whole time,” Calla tells Cosmopolitan US writer Bekah Grant in an exclusive interview.
“Really standoffish. Closed off. Downright rude at times.”
She says that while her date was in the bathroom she asked for the check and got ready to leave. That angered him.
As she was walking to her car, he followed her. Making out like he was walking her there to say goodbye.
He then pulled her into the backseat and raped her.
“He had me in between the seats, wrapped the seat belt around my neck, and at some point, bit me on my chest,” she recalls.
“He said things like I should have expected this and that I deserved it. He asked how I could live with myself and said I should repent. That I was a jezebel. That I was a murderer. That he was doing no worse to me than I had done to women. He said he would make me remember him.”
On the Monday after the attack, Calla went to the doctor and told her parents – who opened the abortion clinic she worked in in Raleigh, North Carolina – what had happened.
She decided to go back to work as normal, but within weeks she began seeing her attacker’s face in the crowd of protesters outside of her work.
She says that at first she thought she was being paranoid, but then the protestors started yelling things at her about the rape.
“I got letters in the mail saying that I deserved it,” she says.
She started receiving daily anonymous text messages, phone calls, and voicemails, saying that she’d pick up the phone and hear someone breathing heavily and would get voicemails that said, “Do you remember it?”
One night while at dinner with friends, she got a text from an unknown number that said, “That shirt looks pretty on you.”
“I lost it,” she says. “I had a layer of panic everywhere I went. I’d get to the clinic at 6 in the morning and not leave until 4 p.m. I wouldn’t walk outside. I’d refuse to leave until I knew there were no protesters.”
Calla and her parents own bulletproof vests, and her mother carries a gun in her purse. The fear for their safety comes with the job, with anti-abortion violence on the rise in the US since Trump’s inauguration.
Eventually the now 27-year-old moved cities altogether to escape her attacker and the harassment he had brought into her life. Though she lives in an apartment block with security, she says she worries about the safety of her cats.
“They haven’t kept me from doing my job and from wanting to be a human,” Calla says of her move to running the clinic in Charlotte, also owned by her parents.
“The best thing I can do to prove them wrong is to continue to live.”
Read Calla’s story in full here.