“Let me go! I beg you, please!”
He disregards my pleas and, ruthless and inexorable, slaps and punches me repeatedly until I’m bloody and bruised. He smiles with sick satisfaction at my pain as I continue to plead for my life.
“Please don’t do this–for the love of God please stop! Let me go, please, please, please!” You’re a warrior, my mind reassures me, just keep fighting!”
“This is all your fault!” he screams at me again and again until I’m helpless and hopeless, my four-foot-nine-inch body too tired to continue to try to fight him off.
Quickly, my mind switches gears as it becomes clear how weak and tiny I am compared to his massive body and superior strength. This is just a nightmare my desperate psyche reassures me–soon I’ll wake up and it’ll all be over…
Little do I know this is just the beginning…
“The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool.” ~ Stephen King
Phew, I’m just in time, I think, relieved. My study group meeting ran a bit late and I’m lucky to get to the public car stop in time. I’m living in the city now–where I hope to “make it big,” despite the struggles of navigating college, technical school, and life on my own.
Feeling even more fortunate when the driver doesn’t wait for the car to fill up–public car drivers seldom move until four people occupy the back seat and two more share the front passenger seat—I thank him.
“I’m so grateful you’re leaving now, ‘cause this way I’ll get to school on time,” I say.
He doesn’t reply, and I figure he’s simply “all business,” an unusual attitude among Dominican drivers–and people, in general. As he drives, I reach into my purse and remove two pesos. Empowered to have my own purse and money, I smile confidently as I try to hand him his fare.
He doesn’t accept my money. Suddenly, chills run down my spine and the bottom drops out of my stomach as I realize his refusal is not a generous one.
“Um, can you please stop the car so I can go back and wait for my friend?” Any excuse, just let me out, I think as panic sets in.
He drives even faster, then quickly turns down an unfamiliar road. Anxiety grips me as he parks the car on a secluded pathway and turns to face me. As he leans toward me, I offer him my purse and beg him to let me go.
“I don’t want your money,” he assures me menacingly, “but you do have something I want, and you’re going to let me have it or I’m going to have to hurt you.”
I jump for the door, but it won’t open and I don’t know how to unlock it. Before moving to the city, I’d been in a car only once and, even if I’d had a cell phone, there’s no 911 service to call.
“Be a good girl—just let me do what I want and you’ll be just fine,” he tells me.
“All pain is the same.” ~ Oprah Winfrey
He tries to grab and kiss me from his front seat. I resist and he yanks me by the hair, hoists himself into the back seat with me, and begins to slap and punch me, all the while calling me nasty demeaning names.
“This is all your fault!” he yells. “Just cooperate and I won’t have to get mean!”
Praying now, both silently and out loud, that God spare me from this atrocity, I attempt to reason with this man, to calm him down—to gain his sympathy maybe, buy some time–whatever, while I figure out how to escape…
“Please, I’ll give you anything—my money—anything you want, but please don’t—you don’t want to do this, really you don’t!” I plead. Though horrified and repulsed at this nasty savage attempting to violate me, I continue to try to get him to be rational. “If you just stop for a minute and think about what you’re doing—really…” Anything I can think of to stall him while I figure out how to escape.
“Shut up!” he hisses as he hits me harder, then punches me in the head. Trapped in a car with this perverse stranger, I kick and scream, but no one can hear me. “Stop fighting me!” he commands, and begins to choke me, while detailing how–if I don’t let him do everything he wants now while I’m alive–he’ll take me to a remote spot, kill me, and do to me what he wants after my death.
Overpowered and without energy to resist, I realize I’m doomed. Still, I continue to try to fight him off—what else can I do? He laughs at me first for trying to escape, but my kicks enrage him. Furious, he beats me harder as he rips my top, wrenches my jeans down, and spews out all the awful and perverted things he intends to do to me.
Blood runs from my nose onto my lips, as my mind drifts—as if in slow motion–back to all the times I was called names and beaten as a child. As he rapes me brutally, I draw strength from a single notion that runs through my head: I survived my early years and I will survive this!
Still, I know I must fight…through it all, I continually try to marshal my energy to keep fighting back, but when I do he becomes even more violent until his threat to kill me begins to sound like it might be sweet relief…
“Now you’re asking for it,” he mumbles as he buttons himself up in a hurry and gets out of the car. He returns quickly, armed now with a baseball bat, his wicked smile meant to assure me he has an “ally” to help force me to “be nice.”
He places the key in the ignition, as I lay on the back seat paralyzed with fear. He’s angry, swearing and grunting, and continues to rave about the pleasure he’ll derive from killing me, and raping me “as many times as I want after you’re dead.”
Suddenly I notice the car won’t start and he’s become increasingly nervous. He steps outside to look under the hood, and as the fog in my head begins to dissipate, the car locks pop up.
Get out of the car—run! my mind screams, but I’m numb, lifeless, and weak. A moment later my survival instinct kicks in and I shove open the car door and stumble dizzily down the hill.
“The warrior knows the value of persistence and courage” ~ Paulo Coelho
It’s pitch black now and the cold air pierces through me as I run naked and barefoot, what’s left of my ripped shirt covered in blood. I don’t look back as I flee for my life. Suddenly I see bright lights and a person comes into my line of sight—a guachimán (watchman) guarding a gas station with a shotgun.
“What in the world?” he cries, as I run toward him screaming “help me, please somebody help me!”
He yells something into the gas station, then asks me what happened. I point up the hill, and he takes off to search for my attacker. Next thing I know, someone is covering my nakedness. An angel, a woman whose face I’ll never forget and whose name I never learned, removes her husband’s fancy jacket and asks him to drive us to the nearest police station once the attendant has filled his tank.
That’s when I learn the guachimán has captured the appalling monster who’s done this to me, and is taking him into custody…
“Show me a hero, and I will write you a tragedy.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Are you sure you didn’t start this?” asks the police detective. My kidnapper has told him another version of events, saying that we know each other, that it was a sexual encounter gone too far, that I consented…and that I had enjoyed it!
Humiliating, traumatizing, and disgusting, his question is like being raped again…
After more horrible questions, my bruises and abrasions are photographed, and it’s decided I should be taken to the trauma ward at a nearby hospital. Although nice ladies clean me up and attempt to ease my physical and emotional pain, I feel dirty. No matter how much they scrub me clean, I just keep thinking I’m not clean enough.
I’m damaged…broken…worth nothing–not even God’s love. Maybe that’s why He abandoned me to begin with. Why would He let this atrocious thing happen if He cared about me?
The medical staff collects swab samples as I, legs spread wide, face my reality.
“She could be pregnant.”
“We need labs for Chlamydia, Hepatitis, and HIV.”
“Good news, darling, you don’t need any stitching.”
Emotionless, I nod in reply to everything they say, everything they ask, realizing that my bubbly, smiley, full of energy, positive self is now gone. That beast assaulted my soul as much as he did my tiny body. Here I am, after worrying during the whole ordeal that I might not live through it–but fighting relentlessly to survive–only to find now that life is not worth living after all…
What I don’t realize is that the evidentiary examination is just beginning…
“Thank you for the tragedy. I need it for my art.” ~ Kurt Cobain
Before I know it, I find myself in a dreary crowded courtroom. I don’t want to be part of these proceedings–with people I don’t even know–to prosecute the vile monster who’s done this to me. I just want to be left alone to attempt to heal…or die…or maybe simply disappear…
I’m told not testifying would be selfish. This man has probably preyed upon other women and surely he’ll continue if I don’t stop him. While I certainly don’t wish this abominable experience on any living being, why do I have to be responsible for others? Horribly guilty for not wanting to carry the heavy burden of setting an example that rape is okay, I comply.
It infuriates me that my mom seems to be on their side. She’s stern and realistic. She wants justice. We never had a close relationship, and I don’t realize that she, too, is suffering.
Going to court becomes synonymous with going to hell. Imagine for a second what it’s like to sit there for hours, reliving every intimate detail of the most degrading experience you’ve ever had, and wanting so badly to forget. And the whole time the twisted culprit is in the room, staring at you, trying to get away with it.
Often I’m made to feel like I’m the one on trial. To them, he is not a rapist, a kidnapper, or a killer. Rather, he’s an “important person,” a “family man,” who’s dedicated his life to serving the community through his political role.
Revictimized with every suggestion that “if he did this to you, you must have asked for it,” they question me and scrutinize my behavior: Did you smile? Did you wear provocative clothing? Did you make eye contact? Why were you by yourself? Are you sure you didn’t lead him on? Are you sure you didn’t deserve it?
Appalled, I wonder do they seriously think I’d fabricate such a heinous story? Haunted daily by this nightmare, at night when I do manage to sleep, I dream about it and wake up shaking in a cold sweat.
Deeply depressed, my paranoia soars out of control. I see my attacker everywhere and in every man–and I’m intensely scared of every one of them. The flashbacks are disturbing. I hear my own screams, my own hysterical cries, my own tortured pleas in my head. The feeling of being trapped overcomes me regularly, and I crouch suddenly, close my eyes, and see him coming at me…then I cry, as I realize the enormity of what’s he’s done to me and its lasting impact.
These vivid images eat away at my very soul, yet I’m pressured to rehash these painful memories…and to be very compelling–and exact–in my victim impact statement, since the depraved (yet “very important”) man has so much more at stake than I do. They want and need to make sure he’s the guilty party, and could care less that I feel betrayed, shamed, and insignificant.
Eventually he is convicted of kidnapping, sexual assault, and attempted murder. Still, I don’t ever feel safe. Permanently scarred, my heart is irreversibly broken.
“You are the love and joy beneath the pain.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
Turmoil, tragedy, and trauma continue to plague my life. I revisit the crime scene in my head repeatedly, and still fight the battle, still feel triggered, still feel sad. Sometimes I question myself, and always I’m filled with shame, guilt, and self-blame. It takes years before I stop feeling guarded, afraid, and empty.
I’ve hidden this story for twenty years, carrying the stigma and the pain in silence, acting like it never happened or that it didn’t affect me. I didn’t want anyone to know about my invisible wound, partly because being the girl who was abducted, raped, and almost murdered felt like a sinful identity, and partly because I feared even more disbelief, blame, and invalidation from others.
Shutting it out and pressing it down ultimately drove me to self-destructive behavior and into an unhealthy relationship involving physical abuse and sexual brutality.
I had to give myself permission to share my story with you. My healing journey has taken immeasurable courage—courage I didn’t know I possessed but that I prayed for earnestly. I am grateful to have a safe outlet in which to face my demons, process my emotions, and let my suffering go.
“When we own our stories, we get to write a brave new ending.” ~ Brené Brown
If you are a survivor of date rape, stranger rape, acquaintance rape, marital rape, incest, child sexual abuse, or molestation, please know you are not alone! Please understand that what you feel is valid, legitimate, and real. Sexual abuse is criminal, unfair, and wrong. You may be shattered but–as broken as your life may feel–you are a survivor and your life is not beyond repair.
I consider myself living proof that you can still move forward with dignity and rebuild a life of joy while not downplaying or denying your experience. Healing can be a long process, but it is truly possible. Sometimes you might find, as I did, that a breakdown is necessary to provide you with a breakthrough. And as you heal, you can help others who have suffered similar wounds.
And if you have not been through such a harrowing event, please show empathy, provide validation, and become a safe place for those who have suffered. Such compassion truly makes a difference.