Ironically, I found the above quote this week on my Pinterest account and felt compelled to include it in my post today.
This week is “rape week” for me. Today, January 23rd, is the anniversary of a brutal rape I endured 24 years ago tonight (1991). The story in it’s entirety is long and complicated. Someday I intend to write ALL about it. (I’m saving the details for a book). Today, I hope to briefly and partially summarize a few components of the experience. Some of you reading this may be survivors yourselves, or you might know a survivor or maybe you have paid attention to the issue? I think anyone who knows a lot about this subject or even a little probably realizes the effect (of an assault or rape) on people and our psyches can be vast. Summarization of any of it may be challenging if not impossible but I’ll make an attempt with the Following Fragment of my own story:
EXACTLY 24 years ago this morning I left my apartment in Berkeley, California to go to work. I believe I was Feeling like a competent, confident professional at the time. I remember precisely what I was wearing that day, for there was an early morning meeting at the hospital I worked at pertaining to the “Persian Gulf War”. In an effort to demonstrate American spirit, I was wearing a red, wool, cropped, collarless coat from Talbots and a Calvin Klein blue and white button down shirt with my white nursing skirt and white hosiery. I know, weird that I remember and care about what nursing outfit I chose that day, right? And what difference does it make anyway? I think I feel the need to illustrate that prior to the rape, I was full of “spirit” and carefree in the world.
I was a single, 29-year old woman living by myself in a quaint cottage-like apartment. I was an R.N. who (after being both a staff and assistant manager for many years) had just assumed my dream professional role as “Acting Nurse Manager” for a Renal Medical/Surgical Unit at a lovely hospital in Berkeley, California. It was a particularly busy day at work and I decided to stay and help the evening shift personnel (and the unit’s budget). I left the hospital around 10:30pm after working nearly 16 hours, believing I would be back by 7am the Following morning. I returned home to my apartment alone per usual. I turned the key to my front door, entered the apartment and was grabbed from behind. Life as I knew it dramatically changed within moments. A “stranger” rapist lay in wait as I entered my residence. The attack/assault ensued and continued for nearly an hour and a half. Some of my First questions along with coinciding decisions were these: What will I do to survive it? (Innate Survival Mode and strategic thinking both play important roles). Will I tell anyone? Who might I tell? Will I report my crime? In my case, the decision to report the crime was made for me. After being urinated upon, as this perpetrator’s final act of degradation and humiliation, he “hog tied” my hands/arms to my feet/legs using my telephone cord (back in the day when telephones had cords) and my white hosiery while I lay on my stomach. He then abruptly left the crime scene. (Not to be identified until the year 2006 -I believe miraculously Fifteen years later). The apartment was pitch black and I remember hearing the distinct sounds of the rapist zippering his pants, the sounds of him proceeding to the tiny french door and jumping unto the street. My senses in “survival mode” were hyper acute. Deducing he was gone, with effort, I managed to “Free” myself from his make shift restraints. I then grabbed my bathrobe from my bathroom and instinctually fled my tiny apartment in search of another human being’s assistance and protection (a neighbor who resided in an adjacent apartment building). This neighbor immediately called the police as I sat in the fetal position (according to the police report as I have no recollection). My decision to report the crime was made for me. I do remember whilst being assaulted thinking that I would never speak of this dark, despicable evil. That said, knowing myself as I do, I believe I would have ultimately decided to report the crime.
After the rape and initial police interview occurred, I reappeared in my beloved hospital’s emergency room. I was no longer in the caregiver role but rather in Full patient/victim mode, Feeling like a wounded, FRIGHTENED (actually more like terrified and shocked) animal, not quite human, with a bruised body and a broken soul. Needless to say, it was one of the worst days of my life leading to one of the most challenging periods of time in my life.
Thus my progressive journey as a person who was sexually assaulted commenced. I view the journey conceptually like this: “Normal person”—-> Victim—-> Survivor—–> ADVOCATE/Spokesperson for others and the cause!
I have quite purposely chosen not to stay silent from the start of this journey. I always Felt that staying silent was another way to be re-victimized. I acknowledge that it’s a distasteful subject for most people. Yet, it is not an uncommon experience. Statistics tell us that 1 in 4 if not one in 3 women have been sexually assaulted. The most recent statistic I am familiar with in the male population is 1 in 33 though there is much speculation that this number is considerably higher as reporting may be considerably lower. Most people tend to know their perpetrators too. The “stranger rape” situation that I encountered is considered a rarity.
* SIDE NOTE- Despite not staying silent, I am not sure I have yet done nor will ever do an adequate job of expressing all of my associated anger. I was “raised” and likely indoctrinated by society (especially I think for girls/woman) to believe that: “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I think it’s difficult for many people and our society in general to allow others in pain to express “negative” emotions. I believe there is a certain amount of societal pressure to “be happy” even when obvious great sadness/anger exists. While in a “group therapy” session soon after the rape, I learned that anger unexpressed and turned inward leads to depression. I know I was very depressed for many months afterwards. I don’t believe anyone enjoys being sad or angry. I suppose it would be nice to be happy and cheerful all the time? I personally HATE feeling sad and angry but sometimes, isn’t it just perfectly appropriate and warranted? (Refer to Holy Bible Ecclesiastes 3- To everything there is a season…).
With much time, therapy, support and love from family, friends and community, I now consider myself a SURVIVOR and an ADVOCATE. I hope I’ll be considered an advocate for the rest of my life. I have had the rewarding opportunity to give back to a few organizations whose work provides help to those in need and deserving of help. Additionally, few years ago, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting, becoming acquainted with and having a few opportunities to “work with” the incredibly talented, kind, compassionate and passionate Cecilia Peck who Directed a film entitled “Brave Miss World”. ALSO SEE “FILL-ANTHROPY” SECTION OF THIS BLOG FOR FURTHER INFORMATION REGARDING “BRAVE MISS WORLD” FILM. The extraordinary film highlight’s a Brave Survivor (Linor-who had been crowned Miss World just 6 weeks after being brutally raped) who is now a strong advocate in the siege against rape and a strong advocate for others. Throughout the film there are many other survivors who tell portions of their stories (I had one little “moment” in the film as well). The documentary was nominated for an Emmy award in 2014. The content is not graphic and I believe is highly educational. Though no assault is exactly the same as another’s, the film clearly depicts similar feelings and reactions by so many of “us”. I still carry a lot of feelings about the experience and still feel passionate about trying to educate society further on this subject. Though I know progress has occurred in 24 years, I think education is still needed to change lingering societal stigmas and things we can do as a collective society to empower victims/survivors!
A Former high school Friend and current Facebook Friend recently recommended me for an upcoming spring speaking engagement at a women’s conference in her area. I was honored to be considered. I have now accepted the organization’s request. I look forward to both sharing my story and being able to advocate/speak about this topic. I will highlight the “Brave Miss World” film in conjunction with my personal story. I will look forward to blogging about that upcoming engagement as well. It’s my hope and dream that with more time, education and a united approach, no woman (or man) will ever feel shame or blame for a crime whose blame should be on the offender and not the offended!!!
For anyone interested in reading about the legal outcome of the rapist, here is the link to a short article.
Just 8 days after returning home from St. Jude after my daughter completed cancer treatment, I traveled with her to the Bay Area to provide ancillary testimony in this case. It’s gratifying knowing some that justice has been served. It’s my understanding that he is still residing in San Quentin. It seems like an appropriate place for him to reside while I Feel Fortunate to now be living Freely in this world !!!
Please add any commentary, share your own stories, ask questions if you wish. I KNOW I am not alone in my experience and feel compassion towards anyone who has felt powerless and oppressed!