Rape Reporting… If You Want Justice, You Must Participate and Report It !

This week,  an article about a famous individual who was raped many, many years ago and opted not to report it showed up online.  It came up during a radio interview, and the one who was raped moved the conversation along, not dwelling on it, or even bringing it up intentionally, to begin with.  Then the online comments started flowing about how hard it is to report rape, how bad rape victims are treated, blah, blah, blah.  But, these folks also seem to know  that they’d be treated horribly, even though they never came forward.  That, along with someone who was beating a dead horse, and more of a troll than anything else (I’ll call her ‘Inot’), really got to my belief that if someone wants something to change in their life, or a part of their life, they have to show up and contribute to the process.  For rape, that means going to the police and doing the rape kit at a hospital.

*For the purposes of this blog, I’m referring to females, but there are a LOT of  reported and unreported cases of male rape.  The stigma is even worse for them.  I still encourage them to report the rape/assault to the police, and seek justice.

*My main points refer to “general” rape (stranger/acquainance), one-time attack- which can be minutes to weeks in length (or longer- look at Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard).

Justice isn’t passive; it requires participation.  Being a survivor, vs. a victim, takes work.  The victim mentality is absolutely repulsive to me.  I don’t have sympathy for those who won’t take part in their own recovery and justice process.  Staying mired in the traumas of the past is as good as that person’s life will ever be- and that’s a choice. That isn’t the responsibility of the one who did the abusing- OR the justice system. That’s on the one who has to go on living.  It requires a lot of work to work through sexual assault and trauma recovery, but the alternative is to go around feeling defined by victimization, stuck in the memories of what happened.  Working through rape doesn’t mean the memories ever go away… it makes it so the attack isn’t the defining event in someone’s life.  Rape doesn’t define survivors.  It defines victims.  And survivors don’t use the rape to manipulate others- whether for pity, a means to be taken care of, or anything else that is age inappropriate, or indicative of regression to an earlier developmental stage.  It isn’t the focal point of the life of a survivor.

Once the man who raped me was no longer ‘in’ me, my survival and recovery were on me.  Not him. Not ‘the system’.  Not the courts.  Because no matter what happened, my life had to go on.  I’m an RN.  I’m a dog owner, a doll artist, a gemstone/mineral collector, a daughter, and many other things.  The rape was 6 hours of my life- that’s it.  With his imprisonment, I became the strong one.  He became the captive.  His parole protests are still hard, but I’m still the one who ‘won’. 

As I’ve blogged before, I was raped for 6 hours at knifepoint in 1987.  I managed to escape when numbnuts fell asleep after  exhausting, constant sexual assault and beating of me.  The police came and shot him in my bedroom, not killing him.  I went through the trial process, and long story short, he’s either in prison (as he is now), or on parole until 2047.  He’s my bitch now.  I showed up to make sure of that, and I was a 23 year old ‘kid’, who had no experience with being vocal about anything to do with sex, or crime.  I wasn’t brave, but I was determined.   I wouldn’t accept the lower number of years offered in the plea bargain that happened mid-trial after I’d testified after 2 hours.  I went ‘all out’ to get the maximum punishment possible.  I could sleep better at night knowing I did all I could to keep him off the streets- for myself, and whoever else he might have gone after, for as long as possible.  He has a very long list of convictions for progressively more violent crimes.

I was treated very well by the police, District Attorney’s office, judge, rape crisis personnel, detectives, people at the hospital, and pretty much everyone but my employer at the time (being off work as an RN is very much frowned upon, and they actually “encouraged my resignation” about 2 weeks before the trial, because I was distracted – ya think?- … so sweet of them).  My apartment complex also tried to bill me for the damage to the sliding glass door in my bedroom, as well as the carpet, from the shooting (bullet damage and blood).  Otherwise, the actual people in the legal process were extremely compassionate.   In 1987, in good-ol’-boy Texas.  And things are improving all the time..

For those who don’t report rape, that’s their decision.  I get it.  It’s not an easy thing to discuss, and while I disagree with that decision to let someone stay on the street to rape someone else, I know it’s  ultimately their  decision.  But then they have no room to whine about the system, or how rape victims are treated (since they have no clue).  IF someone wants ‘the system’ to treat rape victims better (but hasn’t gone through the process to actually know what that is), they have to show up and report what was done to them.  Show up or shut up.  Get some help in making that decision if needed. Rape crisis centers have hotlines, and trained folks to help with these things- they’re free, and available 24/7.

There are situations that make it more difficult to report…

For those who were raped by people in their families (no matter how often), or friends they’d known for a long time, it’s more difficult. I understand that.  I’d encourage them to report the situation as soon as possible.   Someone can call a local rape crisis center to find out where to go for kit collection, without naming names at the time, and to get some counseling for the violation aspect of what happened.

For children, it’s even more difficult- especially if they don’t tell their parent/ guardian because of threats or fear.  But if a parent knows about incest or non-familial sexual assault, it’s really not a favor to the child to try and pretend it didn’t happen (think future addict to numb the pain of the memories).  Rape crisis centers can also help with kids.  And if you know your kid was molested by someone you know, don’t make the kid see them socially.  I’m not sure what could make someone want contact with their child’s molester, but I’ve heard about it repeatedly.  That in itself is abuse, and continues the pain.

No matter when someone is sexually assaulted, their life changes.  If they don’t deal with it, it can become a chronic ‘victim mentality’, and the chances of meaningful recovery dwindle, and increase the risk of drug/alcohol addiction.  That healing process starts when someone seeks justice, and deals with the emotional and physical violation.  There are statutes of limitations on rape… it differs by state, as well as when it happened (i.e. if someone was raped as a child, but doesn’t disclose it until they’re 18, the clock starts then, I believe; each state is different there, as well).  But, at least for now, there comes a time when the rape can’t be prosecuted.  Better to deal with things sooner than later, whenever possible, before the choice is taken away in an already “powerless” situation.

For someone in a domestic violence situation, it’s even trickier.  There can be threats that are very real  if the victim has been physically injured before by the perpetrator.   My suggestion to someone in that situation would be to do as much documentation as possible, including photos, and keeping any clothing that they’re wearing in the photos, to at least have something if they report the crime later.  Having a trusted friend keep the evidence, so it’s not discovered by the perpetrator, might also be something to consider. Obviously, the best scenario is to get away from the abuser and report it immediately to police, for collection of evidence (rape kit) ASAP.   But, I understand that sadly there are  situations when someone’s safety after the rape might be even worse than during it.  Safety is always the priority.  Domestic violence shelters can be a resource, knowing that getting away is a delicate process.  They can offer support and advice.

The military and university campuses have notoriously been lousy at listening to someone who makes accusations of sexual assault.  They’re getting better, but it’s not great yet- but those who have been assaulted still need to TRY !  If you don’t do anything, you’ll get nothing in terms of help- or improvements in how cases are handled. 

The rape kit isn’t horrible.  It’s not painful- but does require some intrusive things that can be very hard after being violated.  But it’s one of the best ways to convict someone.  Now, with DNA, a rape kit can link other rapes, and get serial rapists off the streets (think if someone had done that and gotten your rapist convicted before he got to you).  Mostly, it’s swabbing the mouth, vulva, anal area, collecting hairs, trimming fingernails, and taking photos of any injuries.  That can be very daunting after something so traumatic, but it doesn’t take that long, and HELPS the police when a suspect is found.  It will prove what happened, in terms of the physical contact.  Knowing the purpose of the kit made it easier to tolerate for me.  There are backlogs of kits that haven’t been tested, but the more information someone has to give police (including the information in a rape kit), the faster they can find a suspect.  There are many states that are making rape kit testing more of a priority.    You might also be fingerprinted, to corroborate who touched what and when.  It’s not to make you ‘complicit’ in the rape, but to clarify what is going on with the evidence.  I had to do that, and it was just to see if my fingerprints were on some of the things used to penetrate me (they weren’t).  They must have the evidence to make sure the chance of conviction is as good as possible.

Dealing with the detectives was sort of hard for me initially, but not because of them.  It was only 6-7 hours after I’d gotten free, and I was still a little shocky.  But they made it as tolerable as possible, and had me come back the next day to finish when I was getting sort of punchy from being exhausted and overwhelmed. It required detailed descriptions of what happened. I talked with two male detectives, and that wasn’t an issue, as I knew they had a job to do. They were very professional, and I had a female friend or rape crisis volunteer with me.   It was not easy to talk about what happened.  My fervent belief that reporting rape is necessary isn’t in any way to say that it’s easy.   But for the type of justice I wanted  (lengthy imprisonment), it was what I had to do.  I had to know that I’d done all I could to prevent him from hurting someone else- and to keep him locked up for what he did to me.  He’d been on parole when he raped me, after being in prison for attacking someone at a bus stop with a screwdriver.  His violence was escalating.

As I’ve said in other blogs, it’s not a bad idea to have a mental plan of what you will do in the event you are attacked.  Survival is the first priority, and sometimes that means dealing with being violated.  I made it clear that I wasn’t consenting to anything, but complied purely to avoid physical injury.  I had to make a calculated decision when I escaped.  It took 6 hours for him to not have the knife at my neck or my body.  Even when he peed, he had me on all fours, tracing the blade on my spine.  You have to stay alive in order to survive.  Do whatever it takes to stay alive.

After an attack, the priority shifts to getting medical attention, and hopefully, reporting the rape, and participating in the legal process.  Have a mental list of who you would call in such a situation.  DO NOT wash or shower after the attack.  Save clothing and anything the attacker touched or left saliva on (even your face or other parts of your body).  If you are bleeding, take off the underwear you were wearing during the attack, and put it in a bag to take to the police/hospital. Put on clean underwear without washing/wiping your vulva/anus/ perineum (area between the anus and vulva), and a pad- not a tampon.  Do not brush your teeth.  If he kissed you, make sure you don’t wash those areas of your body.  They will be swabbed.  In short, don’t do anything that could remove body fluids before getting help.  You will have a chance to shower- as long as you want- after the exam.   It’s a small price to pay for increasing the odds of catching the jerk.  If a lot of things happened in your home, there is a chance that it will be sealed as a crime scene- so know where or who  you can stay with for a few days.  (I ended up with a friend/co-worker I trusted for a week).

Reporting rape can sound overwhelmingly frightening.  There have been stories of victims not being believed, stupid and hurtful things being said to them, and other dismissive and inappropriate actions.  That isn’t everywhere.  More education about sexual assault has been done in police departments for years.  I’m an example of someone who was treated very well, nearly 30 years ago.  Nobody deserves to be raped.  Everybody deserves justice- but that involves coming forward and reporting the assault.  It’s not easy, but in the end, there is such a sense of getting some sort of justice, and relief.   For those who choose not to report, for whatever reasons, please reconsider (for some, that means when it’s safe to do so).  If you don’t report, don’t complain about the way rape victims are treated, or ‘the system’.  Even if someone you know was treated badly, everyone is different- and every case is different (not to excuse being treated poorly at all- but it’s not a sure thing that it will be the same for you).  The only rape that applies to you is the one that happened to you. 

Rape victims stay stuck in the past in a self-defeating way.  Rape survivors work to put the rape in perspective, and don’t let the rape define who they are.

 

 

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The Lull in Posts Over the Past Year

It’s certainly not for lack of material.  Or being too busy (well, having a new puppy has been interesting over this last 11+ months).  In many ways, it’s because I have too much rattling around in my brain, and trying to figure out what to write about (in a coherent fashion) has been more of a problem.

The last year has been wild.  In January of 2013, I was grieving the loss of my beloved Mandy- the miniature schnauzer I’d had since the summer of 2001.  She was my heart, my life, and my only consistent companion.  I knew the day would come, but it’s never easy.   I was really alone for a couple of months, and it hurt.  As in ‘boohoo’ type crying on and off for weeks.

Mandy Bluebonnet Tumbleweed Mar. 28, 2001- Dec. 27, 2012 This was her last photo… ever.

Mandy Bluebonnet Tumbleweed
Mar. 28, 2001- Dec. 27, 2012
This was her last photo… ever.

Then, I got my new miniature schnauzer puppy at the end of February.  She was a day short of 9 weeks old when I brought her home.  She wouldn’t get near me in her crate on the car seat until about 2 hours into the 2.5 hour drive home from where she was born (longest drive I’ve made in over 10 years, and my left knee still hurts).  Then she scooted to the wire door, and at least was close enough to see… she was so cute !  And the games began !!  She was  a crazy little thing, after being seen as the ‘shy, reserved little girl’ in the litter of three pups, two of which were males.   She got over that in a hurry !!  Just NUTS !!  But not a mean bone in her- she was just active, and always on the go.  It took quite a while for her to listen to my commands- which wasn’t about ‘dominating’ her, but making sure she was safe.  I had to get a shock collar, which broke my heart- but the little zap (about the same as when you rub your socks together on the carpet and touch someone, or something) was enough to catch her attention.  Now, I just have to ask her if she needs her collar. 😮

Shelby in one  of her toy bins :)  About 9 weeks old.

Shelby in one of her toy bins 🙂 About 9 weeks old.

Just a happy puppy kind of day !   Shelby- 4 months.  Silly girl !!

Just a happy puppy kind of day ! Shelby- 4 months.
Silly girl !!

Growing up !  About 10 months old in this photo…

Growing up ! About 9 months old in this photo…

Now, she is still active, and very much a young dog, but is such a sweetheart, and really understands a lot of what I tell her.  “Stay” needs some work, but otherwise, she knows the difference between the types of her toys, different rooms, and when she is NOT supposed to bark or whine at someone outside – I mean seriously, the mailman doesn’t require daily announcing !

My biological mom visited a couple of times, and it’s always great to see her 🙂   I’ve thought more and more about ‘biological bonds’ and how that never is severed by adoption- if anything it’s more intense.  Having my biological mom in my life has been such an amazing gift.  That’s something for a few blog posts.  My biological paternal uncle also visited- the first time I’ve met someone from my biological dad’s side of the family.  That was great !   I honestly enjoy both of them (as well as others I’ve met through my biological family tree- that is more like a group of trees).  Neat, really nice people.

This summer, my cousin was diagnosed with cancer.  It’s a tough kind of cancer, and she hasn’t  ever been really sick before, which makes all of the procedures, sensations, and inability to just do what she sets her mind out to do that much more difficult.   She has had so many side effects and complications- it’s been so hard for her (as it would be for anybody).  Since I’m the family ‘go-to’ for deciphering medical information, we talked and e-mailed a lot.  We still do.  I’m glad to be of some use to her (and other family members who know I’ve been an RN for nearly 29 years, even if I’m now disabled- which has increased my knowledge about a  lot of the little things with my own personal medical journey- it helps me find some ‘good’ in the bad I’ve been through).  She is SO strong mentally, and has such an amazing support system with friends and co-workers.  I told her how in awe I am, since the people around here (co-workers) dropped me like a hot rock when I had to leave work in 2004.  She is blessed with an employer who still sees what she can do, and co-workers who are really there for her.  It’s amazing how well she’s doing in such a truly lousy situation.

Last (early) summer, I started on a weight-loss plan, and did lose 35 pounds that have stayed off- but I had to stop the Nutrisystem products for the artificial sweeteners.  I had about 3 solid months of migraines… no days off. I might have some time during the day when my head didn’t hurt, but there were no days with no head pain (I’m never free of muscle pain, and that’s been for the last 19 years).  SO, I had to give in and start taking daily pain meds along with some ‘as needed’ migraine meds.  I’ve been avoiding regularly scheduled pain meds for years.  But, my quality of life is going down the tubes.  With the pain meds, I’m now able to do more around the apartment in short spurts, which has been good- though I’m in no way able to do ‘normal’ amounts of housework.

The dysautonomia is also getting considerably worse- so any activity has become incredibly painful and leads to problems with my heat intolerance, blood pressure and heart rate.  The chemo I was on for leukemia from early 2010 through the latter parts of 2011  is known to cause peripheral neuropathy (as are many types of chemo)- so with an already existent neuropathy, it makes sense that it doesn’t do it any favors.  The heat intolerance is much worse, and even though the ice vest helps considerably, I have the air conditioner on when it’s  less than 20 degrees outside because I’m over-heated inside, if I do any sort of activity that causes my internal thermostat to go whacky.  It’s miserable.

My thighs have begun to shrink.  As in visibly smaller, and not in the good way from weight loss, but in an abnormal way.  SO I had to have an EMG (electromyelogram).  That showed more neuropathy.  I was sent to physical therapy (PT) for exercises- which will be an ongoing thing to avoid ending up needing a walker (at best) or wheelchair (at worst) for just getting around my apartment.  That is scary.  Since last spring (or maybe before then- the time gets away from me), a childhood friend of mine has been volunteering to help me get my apartment straightened out and drag stuff off to the thrift store at one of the churches here.  That has been SUCH incredible help.  She will also go to the grocery store if I need something picked up, and we’ve made a sort of contingency plan if I can’t do much at the store  at all, where I ride the scooter and she pushes a cart.  My guess is that we’d spend a fair amount of time laughing with that arrangement, but it’s so nice to know she’s around.   Another junior/senior high school friend has also moved back to this area recently, and has also offered to help out – so I really do feel blessed to have two people (and my dad) who I trust, that are willing to help me out.   There are days when I feel like that’s the only way I’m going to be able to live outside of some type of facility- and having no longterm care insurance, I would have to go to some state run ‘pit’.

Last week, I went to the store for my monthly fresh food/dairy stuff.  I had my ice vest on, and when I got home, I was still in trouble.  I had to drag out my ‘arsenal’ of thigh squeezes, leaning over the counter, etc. to keep from passing out.  I am so thankful for days when nothing is so bad as to need some sort of quick ‘first aid’ maneuvers to stay conscious.  Or headaches that are bad enough to land me in bed.  Or muscle pain that causes me to be essentially immobile.   I’m getting more and more thankful for days that other people would consider to be very boring- but keep me from having to contact one of my doctors.

The first week and a half of January is rough every year because of two very painful anniversaries… the January 7, 1978 murders of my figure skating coach’s six children (by her husband)- and wondering how she has been all of these years. I miss her, even now.   And, the January 10, 1987  six-hour rape I went through by the uncle of a baby I took care of up to six days a week for about 6 months (back when 6 months of my life was a much bigger portion of my overall existence).

I’m not sure anybody ever ‘gets over’ things like either of those.  While I wasn’t physically hurt by the murders, it was one of the most traumatic things I’ve ever been through, and at age 14, I was miserably unprepared for how to ‘get through’ something so horrific. I knew the older girl a bit from the rink- which made it all hit so much closer to home.  She was a year younger than I was… and it was all so impossible to understand.  I was 23 at the time of the rape- and while I managed to keep myself alive, it was also something beyond my level of coping skills emotionally.  There isn’t a year that has gone by, or even a day or week since either of those events that I haven’t thought about the overall impact they have had in my life- and wondering how my skating coach has been.  Every few years, I have to deal with parole protest letters for the guy who raped me.  I’ve written other blogs about both of those.

So, I’ve had plenty to write about.  But sometimes, it’s just too much to try and put thought to writing.  Many things are rattling around in my thick skull… and writing about them does help me.  I feel ‘heard’ – even if the majority of things I write about won’t be seen by people I know- it still helps that ‘someone’ out there will have seen what I have to say.   Thank you for stopping by to ‘hear’ me.

*Ann, if you are out there… please comment.  I see a lot of people who look up information about that day.  If you are one of them – or know how she is… please let me know 🙂

 

 

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 ❤

When I Wasn’t Me

For the most part, I’ve dealt with the rape (January 10, 1987- Austin, TX) relatively well. Initially, there was a lot to deal with to prepare for the trial, and after that I just tried to get back to ‘normal’ (nothing is ever the same after being raped).  I coasted. For two decades.  I knew that Numbnuts (what I call  the ‘being’ who raped me) would be coming up for parole review in 2006 (? I’d have to dig up the files I’ve got for the exact date).  I had been seeing a therapist to help deal with being on disability, and she and I agreed that seeing someone who dealt with rape and sexual assault issues would also be helpful.  So I did.

During this time, I was also on some medications for the chronic medical issues I’ve got, and had some interactions that took a long time to get figured out. Between the weird physical stuff going on (medications and diagnoses) and the stress from the parole review, I got really batty. It was frightening and confusing, and made me a horrible client/patient to have to deal with for any therapist.  I had been in therapy before, and seldom called a therapist after office hours. During the ‘crazy year’  or however long it was, I wore those two therapists o.u.t.  I feel horrible about that; they were both very kind and compassionate. I was a mess.  I didn’t know that the medications (particularly a muscle relaxant combined with my other meds) were having some of  the effects that were going on, and part of that included increased ‘panic’.  I’d actually have mini-strokes from my blood pressure dropping too low, and was constantly in the ER (and very disliked by the nurses and MDs there- they didn’t figure out the medication thing either).  I’d lose the ability to swallow normally, and my balance was shot, which also stirred up the intense anxiety. It wasn’t unusual for my blood pressure to be in the 50s/30s….at home alone.  I’d freak out- thinking it was from all of the chaos going on with being on disability, and the loss of my life as a working RN, as well as the stress of the parole review.  I thought it was all in my head…and it wasn’t.  There were times the therapists called 911 to come to my apartment and get me.  Sometimes, I’d be passed out when they got there (I don’t remember what all was going on- or how they got me to unlock the front door…..?). I woke up in the ER many times, trying to remember why I was there.

I actually figured out the problem with tizanidine (muscle relaxant) and the other medications myself, and once I talked to my primary doc and changed to a different muscle relaxant (for fibromyalgia), the weird TIAs (mini-strokes/transient ischemic attacks) and many of the blood pressure plunges just plain stopped (with the dysautonomia, blood pressure issues are just part of life). I already had some scarring in my brain from the TIAs.  By then, those two therapists had turfed me to someone else.  And not long after that,  I had multiple severe blood clots in my right lung, and had to deal with that… but the memories of those many, many months of being so ‘not me’ aren’t good.  It’s all very detached and just weird.

I’d wake up (or never get to sleep) and be in a bizarre unprovoked panic that I couldn’t deal with, and I’d call one of those poor therapists either late at night or extremely early in the morning, to help talk me down from wherever I was.  I’d be so spaced out, but still absolutely unglued and removed from the fact that I was safe where I was- nothing was actually happening to me.  The years of shoving the rape to the side and the new crazy anxiety were life altering if I hadn’t already been on disability for physical disorders (including seizures and dysautonomia that caused problems with losing consciousness and being very foggy -sometimes when I’d be on the phone with one of the therapists). Other times, the seizures and/or dysautonomia happened first (there were times when I didn’t know which was which- I’d just wake up exhausted and more spacey), and I guess  I’d call in the middle of the episodes.  I don’t remember now exactly what was going on that I called, other than remembering months of weird panicky episodes that were very uncharacteristic of me.  And being a therapy client from hell.

Prior to the parole protest/review period, I’d spent a fair amount of time becoming a rape survivor and ditching the rape ‘victim’ title. I hate the ‘victim’ role in myself and others.  But I sunk way back into the victim role. I couldn’t stand that regression.  It reminded me of earlier times after the rape, and I wanted distance from that.  Some of the emotional upheaval was somewhat expected, I think. For twenty years, Numbnuts had been contained, and the possibility of him getting turned loose was terrifying (even though I knew consciously that it was a remote chance he’d ever find me).  I knew that there would come a time when the TX Department of Criminal Justice would have to turn him loose, because of mandatory release times…but I wanted it prolonged. After many letters and copying the many old newspaper articles to send to the parole board, the initial parole review/release was denied.  By then, the medication changes had been made, and life settled down.  But so much was still a fog during those bad months.

I was a really ratty therapy patient.  The medications were a big part of the physical reasons for the amplified anxiety.  The reminders of what Numbnuts had done to me were oppressively  vivid.  The way my life changed after the rape (and how differently it all turned out from my dreams and ‘expectations’ of a family of my own) was also in my face.  A  lot was going on.  But I’m not sure I really accept that those reasons are what caused so much to fall apart, and drastically change my ‘normal’ life (on disability) to one of childlike neediness (I’m repulsed writing that).

In the years since then, Numbnuts has been back in prison, after more protest letters. I’ve survived a very aggressive form of leukemia and 19 months of continuous chemotherapy of some form.  I’m dealing with significant diabetic issues and blood sugar control problems post-chemo.  And I’ve done it without therapy, and no freaking out in the middle of the night.  I still have seizures. I still have dysautonomia, that actually seems to be getting worse from the standpoint of heat intolerance (I had to shave my hair off; I can’t tolerate having heat from hair) and activity intolerance.  I can’t leave home without an ice vest to prevent overheating.  Other physical issues aren’t good.  And yet, I keep going on my own.  Blogging helps. It’s some sort of contact with someone, somewhere.  It’s ‘open’ 24/7, and only ‘bothers’ those who choose to read it. 🙂

Tis The Season…..

….to have all sorts of things churned up.  I don’t really get ”depressed’ over the holiday season, but more a vague sense of being overwhelmed since there are a lot of ‘anniversaries’ around this time.  This year added a new one with the death of my amazing, crazy companion- my miniature schnauzer Mandy, who died on December 27, 2012.

I’m still crying pretty much every day when I think about her, and especially about that last day.  I’m very thankful that that ‘end’ part was pretty fast.  And she was in my arms.  At first, she whimpered enough to alarm me, and from that point until she was actually gone, no more than 15 minutes went by.  After she  peed, and then froze in her tracks, she seemed confused, and not sure what to do, so I just held her and told her how wonderful she’d been.  Her breathing slowly stopped as I held her on my lap.  The ‘new normal’ of not hearing her come running when I mess with the dishwasher or clothes dryer (she had a thing for appliances), of her not leaving the room when I sneeze (or even said the word ‘sneeze’), or escorting me to the door when I got my keys to get the mail.  I didn’t have to say anything; she just knew.  I miss her more than words really can describe.  She was my only companion here in this city, for the past 10 years.  I talk to my dad every day; I saw my dog 24/7- especially since being on disability since April 2004.

Then there is the whole issue of being disabled.  It is somewhat worse in the winter months since everybody has the heat on. I don’t tolerate heat- to the point I shaved my head again (well, I had a professional do it; I wanted to avoid slicing my ears off).  With my ‘normal’ hair (mine is really, really thick), I can’t tolerate the heat it retains. Think dead animal on my scalp.  I also have to see a surgeon this next week about some (more) cysts on my scalp that are painful.  They need to go, so the poor doc has to be able to see my head.  The other issues with disability include being in more pain when it’s cold outside, and my joints just not liking getting in and out of the car.  Sounds wimpy.  Maybe it is.  All I know is that I have to manage it the best I can- so whatever I can get delivered to my door (Schwann’s frozen foods, Walmart for laundry and paper goods, Amazon for miscellaneous stuff, etc), I do.   It’s still very painful just grocery shopping for the dairy/fresh items, but it definitely helps to get stuff delivered when possible.  I’m thankful that those things are available.

Early January is rough for anniversaries.  January 7, 1978 my figure skating coach’s six kids were murdered by her then husband.  I was 14 years old, and it rocked me to the core. I can’t imagine how she has done.  I think about her often, and have always prayed that somehow she’s managed to have a life after that.  January 10, 1987, I was raped and ‘tortured’ (word the newspaper used- don’t want to sound overly dramatic on my own) for 6 hours when the uncle of a baby I took care of regularly lied his way into my apartment… he did things to me I’d never heard of, being very naive…and a virgin.  I’ve never let anybody get close to me since then.  I’d always thought I’d have a family of my own.  That day changed a lot- but I survived.  And I’m thankful for that.

In 1982, the semester that started in late January was a bad one.  I was in the midst of some serious eating disorder stuff, and the depression I only get when I’m starving and purging.  I ended up getting sent to a psych hospital (no eating disorder ‘treatment centers’ back then) for several months.  That was a bad year. I ended up attempting suicide the next semester when I returned to the university.  I was in a coma, and then shipped back to the psych hospital for many more months, once I woke up and was medically cleared.  Things weren’t done in a week to 10 days back then.  I spent about 8 months altogether at Forest Hospital (Des Plaines, IL) in 1982.  They were good to me; I did do better, but the eating disorders were on-again/off-again for decades.

This is the first winter since early 2010 (when I was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia) that I haven’t been on chemotherapy or waiting for the built up amounts of toxins to leave my body.  I’m still dealing with the weight gain and changes in my blood sugars and insulin doses, as chemo messed that all up.  The diabetes is getting better faster (great endocrinologist with a Joslin Diabetes Center affiliate here in town). I wasn’t on steroids long enough for that to be an issue- it’s ‘just’ the arsenic, tretinoin (ATRA), methotrexate, and M6Mercaptopurine.  They rearranged my chromosomes (literally…. they ‘re-translocated’ the arms of 15 and 17). I guess it will take some time to get my body back to ‘normal’.  I hate the weight.  I’ve had a long history of eating disorders, so can’t just do some crash diet and hope for the best- it could easily trigger a relapse that I just can’t afford.  But I’m going to turn 50 in late 2013; I don’t want to  look like this when I turn 50.  I didn’t want to look like this at all… but it was chemo or die.

And yet, I have a lot to be thankful for. I’m alive- that’s the big one; people with APL sometimes aren’t diagnosed until autopsy (and I know of 2 people just a few months ago who only had one and two days from the time they were told the diagnosis and the time they died; one was 11 years old).  I’ve survived being raped, and other stuff. And, with my health, I am glad to just have a day when I can get the basics done around here.  I’d like to be around people more, and am hoping to get to that Bible Study I’d mentioned in another post; last week (the first meeting of this topic- Ephesians) I wasn’t feeling well- that doesn’t mix well with indoor heat, even with my ice vest.  A childhood friend who I’ve reconnected with on FB came over one Saturday, and helped me with some generalized clutter (result of not being able to unpack after the last time I’d packed to move BACK to Texas), and is coming again- that has been a huge help.  I want to get this place puppy-proofed for the new puppy I hope to get this spring.  That helps, too.  I can’t imagine not having that hope for a new little companion to fill the dog-shaped hole in my heart.

2013 isn’t starting badly… just ‘complicated’ by past and present stuff mixing together.   There is still more good than bad.  I still have a lot of interests, and while I can’t physically do a lot, I do find things to keep me happy and make me laugh, especially online.  Blogging has been a great way to blow off steam, and some days that makes  a big difference.  🙂

Mourning the Old Me

Disability of any kind is a thief.  It takes away being considered as valuable as other humans. It steals identities (my existence WAS being a nurse). It robs people of a sense of purpose and value.  It is a constant reminder of what was.  And, no matter how hard I try to figure out some way to still be that younger, healthier (though the health stuff started decades before my body finally pooped out), and active person, my body says ‘nope- can’t do it’.  I’ve had to adjust to a new normal- and I haven’t been that good at it. I have days when just getting from morning to bedtime is a struggle emotionally and physically.  I miss my old life.

I do realize that I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. My body is essentially intact (I’ve got all four limbs, and they operate moderately well). I can still think, though I do get a bit foggy at times. My sense of humor is intact. I have a decent home (apartment). I love my dog- crazy as she is ❤  I have my doll collection, gemstones, and books.  I’ve got a great computer, and a lot of cable TV channels.  But I’m not ‘whole’ when my body is broken down and examined.

I look relatively intact, which is great- but it also gives the impression that I’m ‘fine’.  What people don’t see are the endless days of chronic pain from fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease (most of spine), bone spurs on my spine, osteoarthritis, and chronic headaches.  Methadone and Norco don’t give much relief.  I had a neck injection today (steroids and numbing medicine); it lasted an hour.  People don’t see the dysautonomia symptoms (though they might see my ice vest that I have to wear to avoid passing out in public when I get overheated- which happens in any environment over 55-60 degrees).  Indoors with the heat on is horrible- I can’t go to appointments or to anybody’s house without being packed in ice.  Nobody sees the nocturnal temporal lobe epilepsy, or the chewed up cheeks  and funky ‘hit by a truck’ feeling I get when I wake up after them.

Nobody sees the  struggle to just get basic chores done.  Going to the grocery store is agonizing, and I’m slow, so I go in the middle of the night. It’s cooler (still wear the ice vest), and fewer nasty people are there to sigh loudly, in what sounds like disgust, as they try to get around me. I stay over to the side as much as I can- but at night, I don’t have to deal with them.  Getting things in from the car to the kitchen is very painful. I’m done for the day after that.  I get paper goods and cleaning supplies mailed from Walmart.

People don’t see that getting dressed is a careful dance of getting the clothes on and not losing my balance.  I don’t ‘bend’ well.  Socks are a major problem.  Now, with this crazy thing going on with one of my neck discs, using my left arm is getting harder. And I can’t use it for moving or carrying things as well.

My apartment needs to be thoroughly cleaned, but it hurts way too much for me to get after it with any sort of real productivity. I can get a small area done here and there, but not what I ‘approve of’, and not like I used to get done.  My kitchen floor is disgusting by the baseboards.  I’ve decided I will do six inches of it at a time with a Mr. Clean Eraser.  I have things I’d like to get donated to charity, but I can’t move the boxes.  I need help, and am hoping that the people from a church who agreed to help will pan out.  I’m hoping.  A lot.

Looking at me, I look ‘abled’.  If I move, it doesn’t take long for someone to see that I’m definitely limited, and some things are just not possible anymore. It bothers me every day.  I want to be more useful. I want to be of value somewhere. I want to be missed if I don’t show up.  I want to have something someone else can benefit from (nursing skills).  I want my old life. It wasn’t perfect, but I was functioning at a level that kept me employed.  Knowing that the last place I worked at found me more of a liability than an asset  hurts (they had to call an ambulance at least 10 times in about 2 months at the end). They had nothing I could do within my limitations.  Being unconscious isn’t good for a resume’.  I had a good reputation as a nurse when I was in Texas.  When I moved back here, the dysautonomia and seizures got too bad.  I wasn’t worth anything as a nurse.  But I’ll always identify myself as being  a nurse. I keep my license current.  I got that license 27 years ago.  It’s still mine.

And yet, I try to look at what I have. I’m not homeless (which I probably would be if I had to rely on Social Security alone).  I pay around $500/month (MONTH) in Medicare premiums and co-pays- but that’s better than nothing. (Medicare is not free by a long shot).  But, I don’t have much leftover for much ‘fun’ stuff.  This month, I got some good bread- and I’m so happy to have it.  I’d love to get more fresh produce on a regular basis, but it’s not possible. But I get by.  I’m not eligible for the $133.00/MONTH that food stamp recipients get… how are people supposed to eat ‘lean’ foods  on that?  Healthy stuff is expensive. I’m trying to get blood sugars straightened out after what chemo for leukemia did… So I do the best I can.

I miss what was.  I have days when accepting this ‘new’ normal is really hard, and I don’t do it well.  But, it’s what I have to accept- and I’ve got to figure out how to be of value in some other way.   I believe that God has a plan for all of this- I won’t pretend I ‘get it’ yet. But I do have faith that for some reason, my life is what it is- and that I can be used to help others. Or it would be in vain.  I won’t go there.  I’ve survived too much to just be some joke. I want to be able to help people who have been through or have similar stories. I want what I write about the rape I survived to be of some value to someone else who has been too scared to talk about what happened to her.

I have to really accept that I can’t do what I used to do, and just figure out ways to do what I can to continue living independently, and with relative quality of life.  I’ve got the dog- she helps a lot.  And I do have people who care about me. I really don’t have social contacts- though I’m rarely ‘ok’ enough to meet someone somewhere.  I do have much more to be thankful for than the ‘disasters’ that have come to be no big news when they occur.  I watch the news, and realize that I’m fortunate.  While it’s not a competition, my life is worth living, even though I’m not ‘intact’…my challenges are still valid reasons for frustration- but in the long run, I could be doing a lot worse.  Some days  I remember that more than others. ❤

 

Dear Parole Board Who Will Decide the Fate of The Man Who Raped Me…

Well, here we go again.  I think this is the third time he’s been up for parole, and my feelings are the same. It’s amazing how I can keep it together until I get ‘the call’ or ‘the letter’ telling me it’s time again.  Once again, I’m reminded even more deeply of what Carl Chambers did to me on January 10, 1987.   I was 23 years old, a virgin, and terribly naive. He stole a lot that day.  Let me tell you why he should stay in prison, once again.

Carl Edward Chambers
Mugshot- January 2012

On January 10, 1987,  Carl Chambers spent six hours doing non-stop violence to me. He raped me with his penis, a wine cooler bottle with ragged foil on its neck,  his fist, and he sodomized me repeatedly with ‘himself’ and the wine cooler bottle.  He beat me in the head; I’m reminded of  that whenever I open my jaw- it still clicks out of the joint briefly when I chew.  I can still feel the scar inside my mouth where my lower teeth went through my lower lip.  I had torn uterine ligaments, and when I was going through a routine pelvic exam and Pap test years ago, the nurse practitioner asked me how many times I’d been pregnant, as she saw the visible signs of that… I told her only the one time when I lost it, and flushed it down the toilet. That happened 10-12 weeks after the rape.  I’d never had sex before; it was his.

I knew I was pregnant, even though everyone passed off the morning sickness and fatigue as stress from the rape.  I was too scared to get a pregnancy test at the drugstore.  And then that morning I’ll never forget, the cramping started, and I felt it leaving my body and ending up in the toilet.  I saw it. It was the part of the placenta that is attached to the uterus, and kind of ‘jagged’.  I didn’t look any closer. I knew what it was.  I didn’t know what else to do, so I just flushed the toilet.  That image is permanently plastered in my memory.

Chambers raped me while on parole. He’d been let out 38 days earlier.  He was arrested when he was on parole after getting out on mandatory release for what he did to me, but since it was an assault on a man, it was only a misdemeanor. Then, when he was about to get a decreased level of supervision in January of this year, he got arrested for something that was bad enough to get him put back in prison; a ‘parole violation’ is what I was told. To me that screams “put me back in”. He doesn’t “do parole”.

I fight not only for what happened to me, but because I feel it’s my responsibility to do all I can to help keep him in prison so nobody else has to know what he could do next.  He is completely capable of killing someone.  Had I not escaped from him, I’d be dead. No way could he leave me alive after I knew where he lived, his name, his sister, and the list of things he did to me. I fought to stay alive that morning. He told me if I made any noise, he’d kill me. While he had me lying on the living room floor,  I hung onto the coffee table leg and focused on the pain in the intensity of my grip.  I would see his arms with blood about 3-4 inches up each arm from his wrists, and go back to focusing on that coffee table leg- just to keep from screaming.

He took a lot that morning in 1987.  He took my innocence in believing that if I knew who someone was related to, I was safe. He took my virginity. He took my feeling of being safe at all times in my own home. He took my ability to see myself in any sort of relationship or marriage.  He took my dreams of a husband and kids.  He left me feeling damaged and torn. He damaged my body. He left me with a life sentence of having to deal with him, his parole hearings, and parole violation information.  He never goes away for long enough to feel like my life matters in the whole process. There is one person in the Victim Services Department who has been a huge source of encouragement, but I shouldn’t have to know him.

When I was raped, part of me stopped moving forward.  I can’t get that back. I’ve done the best I can to make my life count with the work I did as a nurse before becoming disabled.  But there is nothing that makes January 10, 1987 go away.  Before the mandatory release, I had periods of time when those memories weren’t as strong as they are during the period of parole review.  But it’s never really gone.  I’ve done what I can to be a survivor and not a victim, and then I feel like I become that scared 23 year old all over again when I hear he might get out of prison… he ignores parole, so that isn’t even something that gives me any comfort.  He’s still OUT.   I try to live the best way I can, considering the limitations I have.  While I know I’m strong emotionally, and have much more insight than I did in 1987, nothing makes the parole hearing easy.  It’s all about him.  His freedom.  Freeing up space in the prison system.  That decision to let him out could very easily end up with someone being murdered.  It’s the only thing (that anyone knows about) that he hasn’t been arrested for- and do any of these guys go back to lesser crimes when they start up again?   I hope I don’t find out that he murdered someone, though it will never be a surprise if I do.

Keep him in custody.  He violates parole like he breathes. It means nothing to him, and causes indescribable agony for those he attacks (not to mention what my parents and family/friends went through – it’s never just about the direct victim).  Please….please.