October 24, 2012

I was asked to write a magazine article!

Last week I sent off a few emails giving a brief description of my rape and trial and asking if I could write an article for some magazines. I wasn't sure what to expect, but yesterday I heard back from one saying they were very interested in letting me share my story. Yippee! So I cut and pasted from previous posts, my proposal, and my query and this is what I've come up with--please feel free to critique!!! There's a good chance this will be published in the December issue, since they told me to have it in by Nov. 6th to make it into the December issue. This is a Christian magazine for teenaged girls. With that in mind, I wrote towards that audience. So here it is, any critique is appreciated!!!

He drives with one hand while his other is clenched around my jaw, twisting my head—as if this is easy. My face is smothered into his stomach and with each breath I inhale his shirt, slowly suffocating. I can’t open my eyes, they aren’t something I control anymore. I don’t want to see him. I don’t want to see what he’s done to me.
There’s a professional way about his strength. He knew exactly how to subdue me, and quickly, like he’s done this before. Methodical, calculated, professional. Military crosses my mind.

I don’t know how long he’s had me in his clutches. Maybe an hour.

Time doesn’t exist.

Why am I still alive? He’s already raped me, what more—I stop myself. I won’t go there. I won’t think about how he plans to kill me. I’m certain I won’t live much longer, but there is one thing I can do, if escaping is out of the question. I’m ready. I won’t be going home to my family tonight, but I will send them my killer, my rapist—or rather his DNA buried beneath my fingernails when they find my dead body. I’m prepared to strike at the first sign he’s done with me. I know the second I claw his face off he’ll end my life. So I wait, patiently, for him to try to kill me. I’ll put up one last fight—one he won’t easily walk away from.

The car stops. This is the moment.

He lets go of my head and snarls, “If you tell anyone, I’ll kill you,” then reaches across me and thrusts open the door.

I see my escape and move so quickly I topple out backwards onto the curb.

Daylight is almost gone, granting me just enough luminescence to see my surroundings. Houses dot the quiet neighborhood. Cars drive past unconcerned with me lying on the sidewalk. The world is still here, unaffected.

I’m stunned, motionless. I can’t believe he let me go. None of it seems real.

I catch his cold, black eyes on me as if he’s waiting to see what I’ll do. It snaps me back.

Rocketing up, I bolt in the opposite direction of the car like my feet are on fire. Not once do I look back. I have no idea if he’s driven off or if he’s pursuing me. All I know is this isn’t the movies and I’m not going to be that stupid girl who looks back and trips. I just run. Running is one thing I do well. There’s no way he’s catching me.

I don’t know if I’m bleeding or if bones are broken. Everything is numb. It’s probably for the best. I can’t even feel my feet hitting the sidewalk, but I see the world flying past so I know my legs must be working.

I have no clue where I am. I don’t recognize anything. The closest house is a small sky-blue ranch with concrete steps. I barrel up the stairs like my life depends on it and pound my fists into the door. “Please—” I whimper, my eyes flooding. Seconds feel like hours. Why isn’t anyone opening the door?

Terrified to be still and so vulnerable, and needing to know where he is, I dare a glance. I just know he’s gotten out to chase me and I’ll have to abandon this attempt at a rescue and flee to the next house.

The road is empty.

Oxygen floods my lungs. I gasp, allowing myself to suck in rapid gulps of relief. He’s gone. It’s over.


*                 *                 *

I was fifteen when I was kidnapped and raped by a stranger. To say my life changed forever would be an understatement. It was more like an atomic bomb went off inside my soul, destroying everything.

That night I spent hours at the police station being interrogated like I was the criminal, then more hours at the hospital being poked and prodded like a lab rat, and yes, in that order. Why they thought it was okay to harass me for hours before getting me medical treatment I’ll never know.

By the time I finally got home it was in the early hours of the next morning. Though I hadn’t been living like one, I was a Christian, and the second I was alone I fell to my knees and prayed. I sobbed out loud, “I know there is a reason why you chose me for this, but please show me why. I’m not sure I can ever heal if I don’t know why.” I knew it was wrong to ask for such things. Who was I to question God? But He knew my heart, and my pain, and I hoped that was enough to forgive such a demand.

The next three days were a living hell—nausea, nightmares, disabling-fear anytime I attempted to go into public. I thought since I’d gone to the police that man would come back and finish me off, like he said he would.

It was on the third day my living nightmare came to an end. One of the officers assigned to my case came to see me and showed me a line-up of six pictures. I didn’t need to look at them all. The man who’d raped me was the fourth one. They had caught that monster and I could finally stop looking over my shoulder. But now what was I supposed to do with this pain inside? Life had chipped away at me, and finally I had crumbled to dust.

Over the next weeks two other women came forward to say they were his victims too. They were raped before me, but had waited to report it. I don’t know if it was fear or shame that kept them from reporting it for so long. Maybe a combination of both. Shame: a horrible and unjustified emotion that seems to plague so many sexual assault victims. Like it was some how our fault, when it couldn’t be further from the truth. My heart broke for those other women. I understood the pain they were feeling.

Still, I couldn’t help but wonder—if they had come forward right away, could my rape have been avoided?

There’s no way I’ll ever know the answer to that question, but it set a passion burning inside me. I couldn’t change what happened, but I could do everything in my power to keep it from happening again to someone else.

While preparing for trial, I struggled to deal with the damage left behind. I put on a brave face for the world, but inside I teeter-tottered between fear and rage.

Every adult was clueless as to how to deal with me. I could feel their eyes boring into the back of my head in church, judging eyes that darted away from my glance. I swear I could hear all of their thoughts and whispers.

‘Did you hear what happened to Amber? So sad and so young.’

‘Yeah, but you know she was always the wild one of the bunch. It’s lucky she didn’t go and get herself killed.’

 I guess that was one problem with the church I was being raised in—everyone seemed to know my problems, but no one knew how to fix me.

My youth pastor was different. His eyes didn’t hold pity or judgment. One day after youth group he asked how I was dealing with the situation. I told him I wasn’t. Then he told me the smartest thing an adult had ever said to me, and why in my fifteen years I hadn’t heard this I do not know. I live by those very words still today.

He said, “I wish I could give you the answers as to why God allowed this to happen to you, but I have none. All I can tell you is the answers are in here.” And he placed his hand on the bible. Being a ‘Sunday only’ Christian, the bible was not something I read outside of church, but he’d peaked my interest. He sent me home with the task of reading the book of JOB. He said I’d tackle the rest of the bible later, but for now he thought JOB would be a good place for me to start.

I devoured every word of JOB, and for good measure I read it again. Still questions plagued me, like ‘Why would God put Job through such a harsh test if he was a good man?’

So I’d sit and talk to my youth leader and in doing so, I found my first Christian mentor. I learned that the bible was full of amazing stories of suffering and redemption, tragedies and triumphs. God never promised life would be easy, he only promised we’d never have to walk through the fire alone.

I knew I needed Jesus front and center if I was ever going to be strong enough to face my rapist in court. I talked with Him through prayer, and He spoke back to me through His word. Slowly but surely, I began to walk with Christ. A fire grew inside my soul, a strength that had never been there. Not only was God mending my pieces together, he was building me stronger than I’d ever been before.

All of us victims had the same state-appointed lawyer. I was never allowed to meet the others. Because our testimonies were so similar, about how he had pinned us down, my lawyer couldn’t risk the defender saying we had coerced our stories. So I did as she asked. I knew she was counting on my case to put that serial rapist away for good. Since I had the rape kit done within hours, I had all the physical evidence anyone could hope for.

One day she asked me, “How are you so strong? How do you keep it together?”

She told me the other women could barely get out a word without crying. And here I was, now sixteen, and so strong-hearted.

I didn’t know how to answer her. It caught me off guard because no one had ever called me 'strong' before, but the truth was—God had given me peace through prayer and study and I wasn’t broken anymore. I no longer felt like a victim. I felt like a warrior.

EPHESIANS 6:11- “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

PSALM 25:2- “Oh my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.”

My case went to court first, one year after the rape, and he was found guilty by a jury on all accounts and sentenced to 66 years in prison for the crimes he committed against me! (That doesn’t include the 30+ years he got in a later trial for the other women). He got 1 year for larceny (he stole a chain from around my neck), 25 years for the abduction, and 40 years for the rape—that was the maximum for rape in 1998 if you didn’t know.

Now I’m not going to say there aren't still scars from the rape, like—if someone sneaks up on me while I’m walking to my car they will get seriously jacked up. And yes, that is a blade on my key ring, so if they value their jugular they won’t attack me.

The church I attend now is an amazing, biblical church. The bible is taught in depth there and I know that is exactly where I am supposed to be. I have a wonderful son who is four and looks just like me, and an amazing daughter who is two and is the spitting image of her daddy. My husband is kind-hearted and patient and he loves the Lord.

On Sundays when the pastor tells us the message and says things like—“I don’t have all the answers, but I promise they are in this book.”—and he holds up the bible, I am reminded of that time so many years ago when I was guided toward THE ONLY TRUTH in life. I smile because I know God is still there, holding my hand.

Thank you so much for reading my story.

PSALM 34:4- “I sought the Lord, and he heard me and delivered me from my fears.”


Elizabeth Seckman said...

I think it's amazing and powerful. A definite annointing. Best of luck with the submission.

Johanna Garth said...

I'm so sorry for the pain you suffered at such a young age. I'm glad you found the strength to move on in such a positive direction.