My rape survivor story. (Warning lots of triggers)

With all the states who are currently passing anti abortion laws and so many of them not including exemptions for victims of Sexual Assault I think it is time I publicly add my story to that of all the other brave survivors telling theirs. This is difficult to write because while I’ve never made a secret of what happened to me, I’ve never talked in depth about the details to anyone but counselors before. But I am going to be as open and unflinching as possible because I think my story has value. 

First to preface a little;

When I was twelve my father beat me so severely I still have the scars down the right side of my body. He took a baseball bat to my knees and the buckle of a belt to the rest of my body. My crime? He thought I had been making out with a black guy. After he beat me, he drove me bloodied to my mothers house, dropped me off and said “Here, I don’t want her any more”.  I hadn’t been kissing anybody. I didn’t find out til years later that my best friend and the guy my dad thought I’d been with had been making out in my dads room.

Six months later my mother and I were living in Los Angeles off of Pico and La Brea, an area with a few gangs. My body was healing and I was at a new school and hoping to make new friends. On April 14 1983 I was walking home from school with my friend Tenisha and a guy who shared some classes with us asked if we wanted to come in and listen to some records for a while. Tenisha said she couldn’t but I knew my mom wouldn’t be home for awhile and I was incredibly naive and wanting to make friends so I said sure and went into his house. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon and I was two blocks from home. I was wearing an over-sized green and black flannel shirt and sweat pants.

I walked into Brian’s house. I don’t remember what music he had playing, I don’t remember what he said, I just remember being grabbed by my hair and dragged into another room and forced into a closet. I was a virgin. But not after that night. Much of the night is a blur. I remember boys my age and men forcing me to give them head. Holding knives to my face and throat. I remember one guy crying but it didn’t stop him from violating me. I remember the pain as I was torn apart as man after man raped me orally and vaginally and anally. I remember that they just kept coming. I would black out, wake up and still it was going on. I remember the argument two of them had over whether they should kill me or not. The crying guy convinced them to let me go and finally hours later they let me go. I could barely walk…I’m still not even sure how I got home or made it through what happened next. I was very understandably in deep shock.

Somehow I made it home. My mother never came home that night. I guess she was spending the night with her boyfriend. I remember laying down on my bed and the next thing I remember is being at school beaten, bloodied, clothes torn to shreds, barely able to stand up and as I turned a corner in the hallway I came face to face with two of the boys who had raped me the night before just as some one was asking me what was wrong with me. The first coherent words out of my mouth were finally “I was raped” as those guys ran away.

I was taken away from my school by the police and rushed to midcity hospital where while the police tried to locate my mother (they later said it took hours) I underwent the painful and humiliating process of exams, forensic evidence gathering, being given pills to prevent pregnancy and stds and hour after hour of interviewing by the police. My mother finally came but I barely remember her being there. I remember the police taking me to drive down the street where it happened so I could point out the house. I know they found the earrings that had been ripped out of my ears and my blood and scraps of my clothes in that closet. I know that several of the boys who had done it were apparently joking about what they had done. By the time the police brought me home, our house was covered in graffitti and death threats. I remember how good warm water felt on my skin as I was finally able to wash off the horror. But even today, 30 years later, i still sometimes feel dirty, broken.

In the days that followed the death threats increased and even though all the guys were arrested and there was so much evidence, the DA and my family decided it was too physically dangerous and too traumatic for me to go through 12 trials. One for each guy and then one for all of them together. I still haven’t reconciled that decision. I don’t remember ever getting my own say in the decision. I remember my mothers first suicide attempt. She couldn’t handle what had happened to me. She never was very strong and finally succeeded in committing suicide at age 53. Seven years ago. I was the one who made the decision to pull the plug because her attempt left her brain dead. 

The next thing I remember is being in Michigan where my family is from. My father took me there. He couldn’t stand to look at me. Never comforted me. We still have no relationship to this day and i think he still blames me for what happened to me. Or maybe he blames himself and just couldn’t bear to be around me. I was still violently throwing up all the time from all the drugs the hospital had given me. I remember throwing up in the back of his rental car because he didn’t believe me and wouldn’t pull over so I could throw up outside the car. We are from a small town in Michigan and both sets of grandparents lived within a few blocks of each other. He dropped me off with them and left. To this day, he has never mentioned the events of that time. My grandparents were gentle but unsure of how to handle this traumatized little girl who could barely walk and had scars and bruises all over not only from the knife they dragged over my throat and down my face but also the scars from my dads beating..which they had known nothing about. I stayed in Michigan for six months, went to school there until the end of the school year and spent most of the rest of the summer there fishing with my grandfather, hanging close to my one grandmother who worked at the school doing all the cooking for the three schools in the district. Walking country roads and healing my body.

It finally came time for me to return to my mother in Los Angeles. I have no idea what happened with my mother and brother and father while I was gone. We’ve never talked of it. I know my father spent a little bit of time in jail on child abuse charges. But he was a “well respected member of the community” so it wasn’t much but there was a restraining order on him until the day I turned eighteen. He wasn’t allowed to call or come to my school or be within fifty feet of me unless I agreed to it. My brother remained with him for a few years and my dad remarried a woman who wanted nothing to do with me, they went on to have two daughters, my half sisters, whom I’ve never met.

My mother kept her distance from me and worked nights and I was forced to take the bus to school in Brentwood even though I still lived in the same place. The school district wanted, understandably, to keep me and the boys who were the same age as I as far away from each other as possible.I wasn’t even allowed to attend the sex education health class with the other kids…I guess the district thought I’d been educated enough.

The two oldest men who raped me were over 18 and apparently had committed other crimes and were in jail for years and so things finally calmed down.

 And this is where I discovered the importance of chosen family. Everyone in the neighborhood knew what had happened to me. I hid for months, just going from home to school but I gradually emerged from my protective shell and found an unexpected family in the guys who lived on my block. They weren’t in any gang but they knew what had happened and took it upon themselves to protect me. They walked me to and from the bus stop, they hung out at my house at night while my mom was at work and I was scared to be alone. They let me watch as they worked on VW Bugs and 67 Mustangs. They became my first lovers and taught me sex could be beautiful and loving and not painful. They became my family. Even today thirty years later, though we lead very separate lives, I know I can call on them and they would come. They beat the guys who raped me into bloody pulps and kept them far from me and protected my reputation (even when I was a little wild) and my sanity. They taught me I was loveable and loved and someone worth cherishing and protecting. And like my attackers, they were black while I am white.

Years later I trained to be a sexual assault/domestic violence counselor. I volunteered for the hotline, and was an advocate for rape survivors who had been brought to the hospital so I could hold the hands and support women and girls who were going through the same thing I had. So I could help them survive what I did. I also volunteered for the Speakers Bureau and would go into Jr high and High schools so I could share my story in the hopes it would help some other young girl going through the same things I did.

One day as I was telling my story some one asked me a question. They asked if I hated black people because of what happened to me. My answer was of course not. I hated the individuals for what they did, though I’ve long since forgiven them. They were dealt with in many different karmic ways. But It was the black community that healed this lonely white girl whose own family and white community couldn’t be bothered to be there for me. Who treated me like trash to be tossed away because I wasn’t “pure” any more. I wasn’t even welcome in my dads church.

The moms of my friends who would wrap me in hugs & let me eat dinner with them when my mom hadn’t left me any money for food. I remember the acceptance in a community that even though some of their own had attacked me, welcomed me in and made me part of their families, took me to church with them and gave me the only unconditional love I had ever known. I would never had made it through with out those friends who turned into my family.

I often hear how strong I am. And it is true. I have survived more than any one person should have to…but there are others out there who have survived much worse and are afraid to tell others what they’ve survived. I have a steel backbone forged in the fire of traumas that still give me nightmares and I am always going to raise my voice and share my story. For me yes, but also for all those who don’t feel they can share their stories.  I’m putting my experiences out here publicly for those who can’t speak of theirs.

 

 

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Some thoughts on living in poverty and technology

I was live tweeting this morning while watching the Melissa Harris Perry show and there was a segment about obesity and poverty. A Dr. was also tweeting and said something along the lines of how people living in poverty should give up their phones or computers because they weren’t “investing in themselves”.  I disagree and here’s why:

 I am poor. I receive about 800$ a month in child support and then do various freelance jobs. I don’t get SNAP or SSI or student loans. I paid cash for my one and three quarters college degrees and until my divorce I lived a middle class life. I don’t have a car, my computer is about seven years old and missing keys. I have thousands in medical debt as I have been ill for years with out health insurance and my bad credit makes it difficult to be considered for conventional jobs in today’s market.  I freely admit I made more than a few mistakes that led to my current circumstances and I am working hard to pull myself out of them. I am not lazy or a victim…except maybe of bad timing. My divorce happened just as my illness was really taking off and I didn’t fight hard enough to make sure my future was taken care of and then the financial collapse of 08 happened. Honestly, I didn’t know it would suddenly become so hard to find even the most basic of jobs.  So my life fell through the cracks. You are going to hear the same story from millions of other Americans who were doing fine until 08 and then their lives fell apart as well. We are struggling, but doing what we can to put our lives back together without the bailouts that Wall Street and the banks benefited from.

With as little as I have to live on, one thing I always try to make sure to have is access to is today’s technology and the internet. So do many others in my circumstances. Because we understand that without that access…we are completely sunk. Phones and computers are our way out of our current circumstances. Today’s technology allows us to stay current on employment trends, start our own small businesses, get educations and just stay connected in a world where no one looks you in the eyes anymore. Pretty much every job requires you to go a website to fill out applications or send resumes. Classified sections in paper newspapers are very thin. Phones are basically free and if you do like I do and have no contract service, then you are paying maybe thirty a month for service that allows you to stay connected to the world. Less than a bus pass.

As I was falling into my abyss, it wasn’t my wealthy friends that helped me.  They all turned their backs, including a few who still owe me large amounts of money. It was my friends with the least who gave me the most. The friend whose circumstances are just as strained who gave me a couch to stay on when I needed it. Another who was an ear as I was terrified about what would happen to me and whether I would end up homeless. My ex husband makes over one hundred fifty thousand a year but his new wife controls the purse strings so he doesn’t help beyond what the court legally obliges him to. But he takes care of our child so I don’t complain too often. Falling this far down has, while terrifying, been beneficial in some ways. I learned that I am stronger and more resourceful than I ever dreamed. I know this situation is temporary because I am a creative and determined out of the box thinker who has always had a knack for turning adversity into success and this too shall pass. But man, it really pisses me off when people look down on the poor for having something as simple as a phone while they have no idea of  or empathy for the struggles millions of Americans are going through today.  So to that Dr., you better hope you don’t fall off your pedestal because your wealthy friends will turn on you just as fast as mine did on me and it might just be one of those patients currently living in poverty you sneered at who reaches out that hand to lift you back up again.