Typically first dates are comprised of small talk. If it goes well, you have a second date. If not, you go your separate ways and part amicably.
Calla Hales agreed to a second date with a man she had met days prior. After finding out she worked in “women’s health,” he texted her later to find out exactly what that meant.
Hales told him she worked at an abortion clinic. She asked if it was a problem. He said no.
However, she could tell something was up shortly into their second date.
Hales told Cosmopolitan that:
“He acted really weird the whole time. Really standoffish. Closed off. Downright rude at times.”
Hales knew when to call it quits, so she asked for the check when he stepped away to the bathroom. Cosmopolitan reported that he was angry when he returned, but still invited her to go home with him.
Instead of just letting her drive home and never speaking again post date, the man pulled her into the backseat of her own car 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. 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.”
Hales didn’t report the incident until several days later, despite the encouragement from her friends.
She went to work the next day and was bleeding the whole time.Screenshot/ABC 11
According to Cosmopolitan, Hales is the director of A Preferred Women’s Health Center (APWHC), where the clinics provide services for over 20,000 yearly patients.
Hales was raised in this line of work. Her mom and stepfather opened the first APWHC in Raleigh, so it only made sense for Hales to follow her three older sisters into this line of work.
“It’s always scary because you never know what’s going to happen and, oh my god, I have always worried about my daughters’ safety. We are always a target.”
This was shown to be true. Weeks after the incident, she spotted her attacker’s face in the sea of protesters outside her clinic.
She knew she wasn’t simply paranoid when the protestors began shouting intimate details at her. They spammed her with letters, phone calls, and words containing information that mirrored what her attacker said to her on that night. Hales said:
“The protesters outside started calling me a jezebel a lot more. And I got letters in the mail saying that I deserved it.”
The personal attacks became too much for Hales to handle. She said:
“I lost it. 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.”
Eventually, Hales left town and moved to Charlotte to feel safer, where she began work at the APWHC’s main office. Though it’s been over a year since her assault, Hales constantly switches up her appearance and avoids large crowds.Screenshot/ABC 11
Hales and her family are not the only women’s health workers who are at risk. According to the 2016 National Clinic Violence Survey:
More than one-third of all abortion providers (34.2%) experienced one or more incidents of severe violence and threats of violence in 2016, up from 19.7% in 2014.
In addition, there have also been many deadly attacks on clinics, such as the murders of Drs. Gunn, Britton, Slepian, and Tiller.
A majority of women’s health clinics are plagued by frequent anti-abortion harassment. At Hales’s former clinic, an anti-abortion group has attempted to move in right next door. Hales told Cosmopolitan:
“We see it a lot on patients’ surveys, about how mad the protesters are, about how they yell slurs. We just had a patient get called a ‘filthy whore.’ The protesters say things about doctors too and that gets the patients scared.”
— Calla Hales (@heyitscalla) June 10, 2017
However, throughout everything Hales has remained strong and persevered. She said:
“They haven’t kept me from doing my job and from wanting to be a human. The best thing I can do to prove them wrong is to continue to live and be a loudmouth. I mean, what could happen that’s worse than what’s already happened?”
— Calla Hales (@heyitscalla) June 10, 2017
Hales said one of the reasons she didn’t press charges was due to possible retribution, as well as:
“[A] large amount of embarrassment and misplaced guilt — feeling like I should have done something to fight back, like I should have worn different clothes, that I missed a warning sign.”
If you are ever a victim of sexual assault, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself:
- Get to a safe place with people you trust. You do not have to go through recovery alone
- Remember that assault is never a victim’s fault. Do not blame yourself
- Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673, where they will connect you with a trained staff member from your local service provider. They will direct you to the correct facility for survivors of sexual assault
For more information visit the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network’s (RAINN) website.