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 ❤

Do I Really Belong Anywhere?

When I look at the vast number of ways people can be divisive, I feel even more like I don’t belong anywhere.  Whether it’s political, religious, or anything else, I don’t tow the party line anywhere.  I don’t believe in any extremes.  I hate labels.  I sometimes don’t know exactly where I stand on things, but if it in some way makes people more distant from each other, there’s a really good chance I don’t want any part of it.  The only thing I’m definite about is my relationship with God- not how others view their own Christianity, but MY relationship with God/Jesus/The Holy Spirit… and those don’t need to be flashy and highly viewable.  I shouldn’t have to advertise it; and I shouldn’t have to hide it.

Because of my ‘religious’ beliefs (I detest the word ‘religious’- it screams of empty rituals and mindless devotion), I don’t like when people are labelled and judged by humans. I don’t believe we have the right to do that to other people. We’re human, a.k.a. fallible, and need to focus on our own shortcomings instead of being hateful  (Yes !  Christians are some of the most hateful people on the planet for those Christians who haven’t figured that out!). Check out Matthew 5 & 6… great chapters in the Bible.  Do I have specific feelings about specific issues? Yep.  But I don’t think many of those things need to be put up for public approval. Some things are between the person and God.  And, most really aren’t worth making illegal to clog up an already stagnant legal system even more. We need to keep the violent people contained…not someone who had an abortion after being raped, or something else that is seen as a violation against life and God.  When Christians use God to back up their own beliefs, it makes me sad. God can speak for Himself- and He has.  He told US to love each other, and to leave the judgement to Him.  

That doesn’t mean I don’t have my own beliefs and views on things. I do. But I just can’t stand the fighting about issues that are really very personal.   How does any Christian think that people who don’t have a relationship with God are ever going to see the benefit of knowing Him if Christians spend so much time belittling those they disagree with?  Is it not possible to have a personal (and deeply valued) belief system and relationship with God, and still reach out with an open hand to someone who thinks and believes differently?  Does being a Christian mean avoiding everybody who doesn’t show up at church 3-5 times a week?  That old ‘go ye into ALL the world….’ ?  I guess that was only for the olden days, eh? Seems that folks only want to be with like-minded folks, which is fine, until it becomes exclusive.

When I hear the far right talk about the ‘free’ entitlements such as Medicare, it makes me so sad.  Because of things outside of my control, I’m disabled, and on Medicare (and have been since I was 44 years old).  I worked as an RN for 20 years, and paid into Medicare and Social Security.  That ‘free’ Medicare costs me about $500+ per MONTH, to pay for premiums/co-pays so that I do have full coverage and the medications/supplies I need. Medicare is very deficient in many areas.  Medicaid is extremely difficult to qualify for; it’s not something that a person just goes and gets in line to receive.  It’s portrayed as the medical care that anybody can get if they don’t have something else, and that is absolutely not true.  For me to qualify for Medicaid help (during the times when I had a different Medicare supplement policy that left me with thousands of dollars in copays), I had a $2200/MONTH ‘deductible’ (called a spend-down).  That didn’t even leave enough for rent, let alone premiums, food, utilities, medications, etc.  I agree that there have to be requirements to be met in order to qualify…but I also know that those who find Medicare and Medicaid to be such ‘freebies’ just don’t understand.  It costs me $6000/year for the privilege of having ‘free’ medical care.  I don’t belong on that part of the  ‘right’.

When I hear the far left speak of ‘conservatives’ as people who generally hate most of the planet, it saddens me.  Many of my beliefs are conservative (stiflingly so to some), and yet I have met so many people from so many backgrounds and belief systems that I want to be inclusive.  Excluding people (who are not dangerous to themselves or others) from any part of society damages the whole of society.  When I look at the general decline of behavior as a whole since the ‘Leave It To Beaver’ days, I see that a dose of conservativeness isn’t a bad thing !  There is room for so much more than the black and white thinking that predominates every ‘side’ of any issue.  I don’t belong with the ‘left’ either.

I’ve been rethinking a lot of my personal views on a lot of things.  For the most part, that means that the people I grew up with probably see me as being wayward at best, and a heretic at worst.  I don’t fit anywhere.  I just don’t think that I know enough as a human to judge many of the ‘hot topic’ issues.  And I’m not afraid to admit it.  Yes, I believe the Bible.  But I also know that there are things that are known now that weren’t known in Biblical times, and changes in social and scientific ‘norms’ that cause me to step back from judgement and wait until the day I can ask God for myself, instead of categorizing  groups of humans, or specific activities- and in the meantime, try not to cause more divisiveness.  In the end, the nitpicking isn’t going to help anyone.  What is in my heart is what matters- and I’m OK knowing that God sees that better than anyone.

I’ve discussed my views on homosexuality with people who know me from the church I grew up in, and  with those who have no specific religious views, and it’s not surprising which group verbally beat me up for my beliefs.   I believe that being gay is biological. There. I said it. I don’t think it’s a choice. Or a ‘lifestyle’, like being a jet-setter or redneck, or something.  I’ve also talked before about the kids I saw when I was working as a pediatric RN, who had ‘ambiguous genitalia’ (that is a diagnosis based on biology)… those kids literally had either both male and female sex organs (internal and/or external) , or the only way to determine their gender was by sending their blood for genetic mapping.  Gender is determined by the X-Y chromosomes from the sperm, and are affected by the mom’s hormones while she is pregnant. If the mom is carrying a genetically determined baby girl, and for some reason has some surge of testosterone during the pregnancy at just the right time, why is it so hard to understand that the baby is affected?  If the baby can end up with externally visible gender ambiguity , why is it so hard to think that there can be biological changes in the brain that determine sexual orientation?  Regardless, I don’t know enough to judge someone. I’ve had many gay and lesbian co-workers, one transgender co-worker who was in the process of reassignment, and assorted friends and relatives who are gay or lesbian.  God loves them.  I love them.  SO, I don’t fit in anywhere.

Criticizing the President… Oy.  I shared some very anti-Obama things on FaceBook during the campaign, and I regret it.  I don’t trust Chicago politicians. Period. But he was/is our POTUS.  The office deserves respect, and once again, judgement isn’t my role. The entire political atmosphere scares me, but instead of being so negative, I need to wake up and do more praying than criticizing.  It’s never just about the man in the Office… no one person is responsible for the mess (or success) of a country. It’s not fair to bash our country’s leader, especially in the worldwide social media society we live in.  I also cringe when such stupid things are criticized, such as the sleeve length of Mrs. Obama’s dresses…. seriously?  Does it matter?  When every last thing is torn apart (instead of trying to see the positive), what good comes of it?  Constant criticism just becomes background noise, and nothing said by those who continue to tear things down is heard.  From then on, their credibility is going to be questioned by me (I tend to verify most of what I read online anyway 😀 ).   I don’t trust anyone in Washington, D.C., and the media is always suspect… I want the source, and their interest in the topic.

Another hot topic issue that I do have some personal opinions about is abortion. Specifically, post-rape abortion was  in the press this last year, and some really ignorant politicians made some incredibly stupid remarks. The body doesn’t ‘shut down’ and prevent pregnancy after ‘legitimate’  rape (is there an ilegimate rape?).  If a woman is ovulating when she is raped, she can very easily become pregnant.  I’ve been there.  I had an agonizing decision to make, and I found out very painfully why women consider abortion. I get it.  I couldn’t do it.  And I couldn’t talk to anybody about it.  I was told I was just stressed out because of the rape, and few people would even talk to me about the pregnancy.  I was blessed to have miscarried, though I feel horrible for those who miscarry that are wanting a baby. For me, it was the best outcome for a traumatized 23-year old brain. I’ll never forget that morning- both the horror…and the relief.

Adoption isn’t always the ‘perfect’ answer, either. I was adopted, and I have had positive experiences with my adoptive and biological families.  But I couldn’t give a baby away- and how could I raise a child of rape without prejudice?  How could I tell a baby it was conceived in violence with someone who terrorized me, and have that child ever believe his/her existence was a good thing?  Even if I truly did the best I could to be loving (and with my love for babies and kids, I probably would have done OK, but the whole thing was terrifying).  As an adopted child- who was always told that my being placed for adoption was a wonderful thing for my adoptive parents- I understand that underlying feeling of being a ‘mistake’, even in the best of circumstances.  I later found out that I was conceived with an abundance of love, which meant a lot to me. But growing up, especially as I entered and went through adolescence, I did feel like a fluke.  Being the product of a rape can never be something that can be smoothed over with later information should I have met the child (if I’d carried it to term and relinquished it), or managed to raise it with some degree of actual love and affection.  I don’t ever think abortion is an acceptable form of birth control; there are responsible ways to address pregnancy prevention.  But I ‘get it’ when someone is raped and just can’t emotionally deal with a pregnancy.  I don’t like it. I don’t support it. But I get it.  Once again, I don’t fit with so many that I grew up with.

The ‘morning after pill’… it does NOT terminate a pregnancy. It prevents implantation. Without implantation, even a fertilized egg will not result in a pregnancy. It’s simple biology.  The ‘morning after pill’ is not the same as abortion.  There are pills that do terminate pregnancies.  It is good to know the difference.

The more things there are to divide people, the more I don’t fit anywhere.  I can see many sides of an issue, and I don’t understand why others can’t do the same. Am I just stupid?  I’ve  generally graduated with honors, and done very well when I worked as an RN. Am I naive? Maybe.  Do I just want to feel like it’s OK to not hate one side or the other in order to ‘belong’? Absolutely.  That’s really all I want.  And to not be belittled for wanting that.   I’m glad that humans aren’t my Ultimate Judge.