Open Letter to Rape Survivors

On the Texas Hill Country Facebook page, a flyer of a serial rape suspect in Austin, TX was shared.  This young man is wanted for questioning in EIGHT sexual assaults in Austin.  Those are the survivors who have come forward.  There is no word as to the possibility of any more women who haven’t come forward.  He happens to be Hispanic, is of relatively small stature for a man, and thin.  That became the focus of some comments.  If he’s so small, why didn’t the women just fight him off.   It doesn’t work that way. Sometimes, depending on how an attack starts, a survivor does have more options- but that’s not how it goes for everyone.

Nobody knows when someone is going to attack another person.  Otherwise, they’d be called appointments!!.  In my situation (he’s a scrawny white guy), I was targeted specifically, and an elaborate lie was fed to me, and being a naive 23 year old in 1987, I fell for it.   He had access to me and my apartment for the entire six hours he raped, sodomized, beat me, and used wine cooler bottles to penetrate me vaginally and rectally.  For six hours.  During that time, he had a knife to my neck or next to his hand the entire time- even when he had to go to the bathroom (he made me get down on all fours and traced the knife along my spine).  If I had to go to the bathroom, he kept the knife in the doorway of the bathroom .  This was long before cell phones.  I didn’t have a weapon.  And, he was dazed but just kept going, as if on drugs and had the stamina and force sufficient enough to let me know I’d die if I didn’t do what he said.  As the day went on, I knew I’d be murdered anyway- he couldn’t leave someone behind who knew his name, address, and family contact.  He traced the knife under my breast a few times and asked what I thought I’d look like if he cut it off…  At one point, after repeated insertion of the wine cooler bottle, he withdrew both of his arms from me, and they were covered with blood to his mid-forearm.

I babysat this guy’s infant nephew. He made up a story about me needing to come and get the baby as the baby’s dad had been in a car accident, and they needed me to watch the infant so they could deal with things at the hospital.  He called from a corner 7-11; I knew the sister with whom  he was staying didn’t have a phone.  NO red flags there.  I loved that baby, and immediately went to go get him.  More lies- but at the time I didn’t know that, and he had my weakness figured out- I would do anything to help the baby.  I had been raised to ‘help my neighbors’ and didn’t feel a ‘right’ to listen to my gut about not really knowing him.  I fell for his story hook, line, and sinker.  They’d bring the baby to my apartment later; they needed to hurry to the hospital, and wanted to know if he could wait for word on his sister’s boyfriend at my place. They’d pick him up there.

Long story short, after 6 hours, he passed out in my bed, and I had a way to escape; I grabbed a towel and ran after going to the bathroom, and walking back to the bedroom to be sure he was asleep. At that point, it was die then, die later, or actually escape. Minimal risk (that’s what you aim for- but sometimes you have to take more risk to stay alive).  Neighbors let me in to call 911, and then the police cars, helicopters (news and hospital), news station vans, radio stations, and neighbors showed up in force.  I was in the neighbors’ apartment by then (I’d only lived there for ten days- and met them the day before), and didn’t hear much after that. I was exhausted, and filing details away to be able to tell the detectives.  I never heard the shots fired by police, shooting him in my bedroom (had to clean up the blood later).  He didn’t die, so I had to get ready to go through the legal system.  The officers, detectives, and District Attorney’s office folks were all very nice to me.  Brenda Kennedy is now a Judge; she was the Assistant DA who handled ‘my’ case (I was a witness for the state of Texas).

Here’s what I want people to know.  If you are attacked, do what you have to do in order to get out alive.  In my case, that meant going through a LOT.  Torn uterine ligaments, a dislocated jaw, concussion, teeth through my bottom lip, pregnancy and miscarriage (I was a virgin; it was his kid), and emotional battering.  But I made it.  I made a conscious effort to keep track of details. I gave myself a job during the attack.  If you survive, you didn’t do anything ‘wrong’.  One thing I’ve heard several times and through several sources- never let someone take you to a secondary location. If you’re going to fight to the death, do it to avoid being moved. Look up some of these ‘attack survival tips’ online to be sure you have the information you need.

If you have access to a weapon and can get to it once the attack starts, use it.  Be careful when you go for a weapon if there’s a chance he could beat you to it.   Try to keep HIM calm, and do what you can to make yourself human to him (at the trial, my attacker listened to my testimony for 2 1/2 hours and changed his plea to guilty, saying he had no reason to believe I was lying; he got a 60 year sentence- I wouldn’t take less at the plea bargain since I knew it was the same as ‘life’ in terms of parole eligibility at that time- he’d be in for 1/3 before he’d be eligible for parole. He’ll be on parole or in prison until 2047).  He’s been out, and now back in… the woman who MARRIED him while he was serving the sentence for my rape got beat up by him. EVERY time he’s been out on parole he reoffends (since at least age 18, when the records show up; his sister said he’d been in trouble as a kid).  Hello?  The next mandatory release date is in 2033, I think. I’ve got a notebook full of paperwork on this mess.

If the guy who attacks you tells you to shut up, then shut up. Just get through it. You can second guess yourself for the rest of your life- but buy yourself another day however you need to do so.  If you’re dead, nothing will matter.

If it’s a ‘quick’ attack, call 911 as soon as you can, but do NOT take a shower- you NEED to have a rape kit exam done for evidence (don’t shower no matter how long it takes- I had to fake washing myself to preserve evidence when he forced me to shower with him- and evidence was still there in abundance).  It’s not a particularly painful exam- but it does make that feeling of being so vulnerable kick in.  It will be worth it in the end to have solid evidence to help the case, especially if police don’t have the ‘luxury’ of finding him in your bed, as in my case.  Don’t brush your teeth before going to the ER.  Save all clothing and panty liners or pads.  Yes- you will feel gross, and the exam is more emotionally invasive than physically painful.  But let the investigators get what they need to nail the bastard.  You may not be the first, and probably won’t be the last; help get him off the streets.

A violent rapist doesn’t have to be physically imposing.  A wimpy-looking twit can become very violent, and with that comes strength that doesn’t seem to match what you see.  That doesn’t mean you are pathetic for not flattening the guy- threats of death and visual or implied weapons are very powerful.  I had a 12 inch knife to my neck- I believed he’d kill me. He’d already slugged me a few times.  Listen to your gut.  Just get through it.

Take advantage of any counseling groups or services offered.  At first you might be sort of in shock or dazed. Or you may be fuming.  There’s no ‘right’ way to begin healing, but it is important that you don’t let the guy define who you are.  He took enough. YES, your life has to find a new normal.  Your friends, family, and co-workers who you decide to tell will be a bit weird around you- that’s not about you, it’s because they don’t want to upset you by asking the ‘wrong’ questions.  You can tell them what is OK to talk about.

You might not want to talk about it, but from my experience, making it something that was ‘out there’ took away a lot of its power over me. And nobody who is raped ‘asked for it’ or did anything wrong to get raped.  It’s about the defective thinking of the rapist.  You will have ups and downs.  That doesn’t mean your life will always be like that.  I was a mess in the beginning, and when the first parole hearing came up 22 years after sentencing (he had to finish serving out his time for a crime before mine that I hadn’t known the full details of, and since I was always willing to help the baby, I don’t know if my 23 year old brain would have done anything differently).  But, the more I can ‘get it out’, the less power it has.  Blogging has been very helpful- and people find this when they’re needing to read something from someone who has been there.

If people ask questions that imply that you didn’t do ‘enough’ to get out of the situation, blow them off- if you survived, you have done well.   Do what you need to do to feel as safe as you can- and if you feel like you’re getting to a really dark place, please reach out to someone (a crisis hotline, therapist, friend- someone).  It does get better.

If you read this before anything happens, and you live in a state with good self-protection gun laws, consider having one. Practice with it, and make it something you are comfortable using. Keep it somewhere safe, but accessible.  If you don’t have a weapon, consider self-protection classes.  Find other weapons (the leftover ends of sliding glass door tract rods that prevent it from being opened can be useful and easy to hide).  If tasers are legal, check those out.  Do whatever you can- but don’t beat yourself up if you ‘just’ survive by getting through it by having to put up with it.  If you’re alive, you did well.  YOU have nothing to be ashamed of.

If you want to leave comments, I will answer you- they will likely not show up until I read them unless you have a Word Press account…. but I will read and respond to comments…. this is a safe place; disrespect won’t be tolerated towards anybody who needs some support ❤

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