This is my story. I won’t give names. I just want people and women to know that moving on can happen. It’s painful but you can do it. It may take you a while. Sometimes years. But you can do it. This happened to me when I was 23. I’ve sat on this story for years. Never published it openly, but I’ve given it to so many different people.
But tonight there are women who want to give up their voices because of threats. And I say, never give those voices up. We should never be silent, because silence gets us nowhere. Silence puts so many beautiful voices in graves that should never exist.
I’ve decided to go forward with a story that I haven’t kept silent but one that I’ve kept from going wide for the majority of 20 years. For some reason tonight I refuse to keep silent.
This is what I went through. This is my fight. What I felt had to happen.
I wasn’t sure what time it was, I just felt the heaviness on top of me. Suddenly I felt someone’s knees pushing into my legs. I didn’t want to open my eyes because I was fearing the worst. Those suspicions were confirmed once I did finally open them.
He was on top of me. He was trying to pull my pants down and he was crying a little. However these were tears of anger not tears of sadness. I tried to scream but he put his hands over my mouth and told me to keep quiet.
I struggled a bit more and he sat up and pinned my arms back with one hand. He was extremely strong, from years of working in the construction business. His right hand had dangled down to the side of the bed and I didn’t know why. It was then that he spoke and told me how sorry it had come to this, but I had betrayed him. He went on to speak the most chilling words I would ever hear “Underneath this mattress is a gun, if you scream or try to hit me I will use it”. My blood ran cold and I sobbed harder and deeper.
He went on to tell me of all the ways I had hurt him. I wanted to shake my head no, I wanted to fight him back with words and tell him of all the ways over the years he had been the one to hurt me. But the fear that he would pull out that gun kept me from saying much of anything but “please, no” over and over. Quietly.
This wasn’t a stranger. This wasn’t someone who had broken into my apartment. This was someone I once cared about and at one point loved. We lived together for over two years and the past several months things had come to a natural standstill. I had outgrown him and I had also become wise to the fact that the relationship was no longer healthy. So we ended things. However neither of us had the money to move out or get our own places. He had a friend who wanted to move in, sleep on the couch and pay rent. He wanted me to leave. Which was fine. I needed to go, I needed to go somewhere where my life would be better. My mother had already made it clear to me that I couldn’t move back home. I was 23 with a G.E.D, and no college years to boast of. Instead I had no drivers license, a decent amount of retail management behind me and an overwhelming desire to learn everything I could. People always referred to me as “book smart”.
In the month leading up to this night J had started hanging out with an even worse crowd than normal. One of the problems with this is how much cocaine he had begun to do. In the past, in the good days, there would be parties at our place.
The days leading up to this night/morning he had been on a non-stop coke binge with two of his friends. I would estimate they had been partying for up to three days straight. That day my mother and I went to look at a few apartment/condo buildings that would be fantastic options for me to move into. My father was in construction/development and my mother in real estate. Between the two of them they were trying to help me find a good place to live. We had spent the day looking at these places and had narrowed it down to two. My father had agreed to loan the money to me to move in. I worked for him so he knew I would have a way to work it off and pay the rent.
I was happy because I felt that things were finally looking up. My mother took me to lunch before she dropped me off at home. She told me at one point that something had been nagging at her all day. She had a bad feeling that I shouldn’t go back to the apartment and she wanted me to come stay the night with her. I told her that yes he was around there and sure he was partying a bit but I wasn’t going to leave my cats(who I loved more than anything) and that everything would be ok I would see her in the morning to make the decision and deposit on a place.
She dropped me off with much hesitation and we said goodbye.
This was one of those times I now wish I had listened to my mother.
The rest of the night was normal. He hung out with his friends and I spent the night in the bedroom watching TV and talking on the phone to friends. I had the bedroom and he had the couches in the other room.
I don’t know how or when it went wrong. I just know that when I woke up with him on top of me I knew that my life wouldn’t be the same.
While I laid there crying and begging him to stop he kept me pinned down as he cried and yelled about how he once loved me. How he was sorry he had hurt me before. But that I deserved it for being a bitch.
The pleading on my part and the rage on his part went on for another hour or so until he seemed to wear down a little. He no longer had his hand dangling to the side of the bed where the gun was supposedly hiding.
It came to a point where I was able to talk him into letting me go. Shakily I stood up. I was in a long t-shirt and a pair of leggings. I slipped on my sandals and grabbed my purse, which contained the paycheck I had cashed the day before. I grabbed my keys and ran out of the door as fast I could.
Our apartment was in Lagrange. A town I knew well. I grew up in the town next door and Lagrange was where I spent much of my youth hanging out with friends.
We lived one block in of a very busy street. Our landlord and her family lived on the floor above us. On the corner, behind us, was the 7-11. I made my way there. I went in and made change to use the phone. My hands shook. I stood outside and put the coins in the payphone, the whole time eyeing the back of the apartment building hoping and praying that he wasn’t coming after me.
I dialed my father’s number. He lived not more than 8 minutes from me. I talked to him and could barely choke out the words of what had happened. I then noticed the time. It was about 6:30 in the morning. There was a burly looking gentleman standing a couple feet to my right smoking a cigarette. He looked at me and I knew then that he overheard my conversation with my father.
Until my father arrived no words needed to be spoken, he stayed near me until I was safe. Making sure no more harm would come to me. When my father arrived all I did was nod my head and shakily mouth the word “thanks”. He looked at me and nodded back. To this day I wish I knew who that man was for what he did that early morning. For that girl on that corner scared for her life. This is one of those instances where I believe there really are guardian angels out there.
My father took me to his house where my stepmother was awake and she greeted me with a hug. I sat in their kitchen borrowing a cigarette from her and smoking it as I relayed a little of what had just happened. Talking to them I told them I had to report this to the police.
I called them and let them know where I was and what had happened. They told me to come into the station immediately. Before I was to leave, something came over me and to this day I still don’t know what or why I did it- I called his parents. I told his mother what her oldest son had done to me and why. I told her I was going to the police.
My father took me to the police station where they brought me in and took my story. I sat there for nearly an hour and a half telling them in detail exactly what had happened, what the nature of our relationship was. They then had my father take me to Lagrange hospital to go through the most painful part of the whole day-the rape examination. It was there the words really resonated with me.
I was raped. There was no going back from this. I spent that morning wondering “why me?” Why did this happen to me? What did I do wrong? What did I do to deserve this?
The nurse who was on my case just happened to be an old neighborhood friend of our family’s. My father breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing her. We hadn’t seen her in years but her and her daughters had always been kind to me when I was young, and he knew she would treat me with care. They did the physical exam of checking me for bruises and swabbing all areas of my body for samples of his fluids. They gave me several medications to take to prevent any type of STD I might perhaps get.
After the examination I was sent back to the police station where I waited cold and shivering in a room for the Assistant District Attorney.
He arrived, a tall, younger man, perhaps in his early 30’s. He opened his briefcase and introduced himself. He asked me to again go through exactly what had happened. I did. I repeated everything I had given to the police hours earlier. Afterwards he closed his folder and told me that they arrested J. They brought him in.
However when they arrived at the apartment they knew he was awaiting them and he had been caught in the act of flushing the cocaine he had been taking down the toilet. It was gone. But the very act showed that he knew he was guilty of something. The. D.A. asked me how it was he could have known and I explained how one of my acts of anger was to tell his mother, his mother who thought that he was perfect, what a messed up person he was and what he had done. She had tipped him off that I was going to the police.
I started to cry because I sat there thinking that my case was sunk.
However the words he then delivered startled me out of that doom: He told me that they brought him in and he gave a 12 page confession verbatim to what I had told them.
The A.D.A told me then and there that I had one of the strongest cases of domestic rape that Cook County of Illinois had ever seen. This was 1994, and this was extremely rare.
I was sadly overjoyed.
I didn’t know what to do. I went back to the apartment and grabbed some clothes. My best friend E told me to come to her house, the one she shared with her parents. I went and spent the night with her and alternated between sleeping hard and barely sleeping.
The pills that the hospital had given me were wrecking my stomach.
The next morning I received a call from the detective on my case, he informed me that the landlords are making me vacate the apartment. I cried and screamed, I told them that wasn’t fair as I was the one who was made to suffer. Yes he was out on bail and at his parents, but why was I to be the one to leave right away? He was the criminal! They explained to me that my name was never on the lease therefore I had to go.
At this point I was feeling positively nauseous. Not from the news, no, the medications they gave me were making me sick. I packed up a couple bags of my things. Some books, cd’s, my cosmetics & toiletries. I grabbed the cats. My cats. They were definitely mine, not his. They loved me best, they always had. I packed up their food and toys.
This detective was taking me to my mother’s who lived 30 minutes west. He helped me pack my things into his car. He helped bring my two cats into his car.
For half of the 30 minutes to my mom’s my cats climbed upon the dashboard and climbed all over the seats. The other half was spent with him periodically pulling over somewhere so I could vomit up the drugs that the hospital had given me to prevent the STD’s .
He dropped me off and the next two days were me trying to sleep and go back to some sort of normal. My mother’s relationship with her husband was already strained so my moving in did not help. She already had taken my two parakeets by this point, now she has me and my two cats.
She helped me get settled the best way she can. She was kind enough not to ever say ” I told you so” but there was a disturbed part of me that always felt that she was thinking it.
The next few weeks were spent with me working with a rape counselor and the A.D.A. We had an ironclad case against J. There was nowhere we could go wrong.
By late summer I had met someone. He knew of what had happened and he stood by me and even attended a court hearing.
The first time I had to face him in court I remember stressing at home over what would be appropriate to wear. I know how silly that sounds but being a victim of rape sadly means that you have to portray yourself as innocently as possible in front of the judge and (possible) jury.
I remember walking into the courtroom with my mother, my friend M, and my new boyfriend B(later my first husband).
I sat in the courtroom and listened to the opening statements by both sides. Eventually in this very small courtroom with only a judge presiding, no jury, they called me to the stand. The District Attorney on my behalf called me up to give my statements. By this point J had decided to plead not guilty. Despite having signed the 12 page confession on what had taken place that night.
They asked me to give the basics about what had occurred. They later went in to what the extent of our relationship was. I explained that we had lived together for nearly two years in a relationship until it had soured. We remained in the apartment together for financial reasons until I was able to move out. Which I was close to doing when everything had occurred.
I told them of the instances in which I first saw his dangerous side. I was young and in a position of feeling that I couldn’t get out when these things were going down. At the time I had moved in with him I was pregnant. We had barely been together 6 weeks when I found myself expecting. My mother was furious and made me leave. Granted there were other dynamics behind our situation which made her kick me out, let’s call it a strong misunderstanding.
J and I had rented an apartment in LaGrange. Close to so many friends. Close to his family.
I barely knew him but he was charming and I wasn’t very good at judging men at the time.
We moved in to this small and affordable one bedroom apartment and tried to prepare for what was to happen next. However within a couple weeks everything went south. My body seemed to be rejecting this life inside it. I couldn’t keep any food or liquid, not even water, inside of me. I couldn’t stay hydrated. Eventually I ended up in the emergency room being hooked up to I.V.’s. The doctors weren’t sure what to tell me. I was young. I was 22. My life had been full of one trauma after another.
I didn’t think that I could go through with this. With having this child. I loved that it was my child. But I didn’t think that I could carry a child, care for it and be their mother. And the pain. The pain in my stomach was extraordinary.
Not many words had to be spoken after this. I think we all knew what needed to happen. And by all I meant him, myself and my mother, who by that point was involved in this.
I sunk into the bed we shared when we got home from the hospital and cried myself to sleep with my arms held tightly across myself.
After that things slowly deteriorated.
One incident that stood out happened several weeks later. It was mid October. We were at a bar with some friends, including one of my oldest friends.
We were having a good time until J ran into some girl he knew that was friends with his best friend’s sister. Apparently somewhere off to the side she had said some rather unsavory (and untrue) things about me.
A week prior he had taken me to a house that several guys I knew shared. I had been friends with many of them for a couple years by this point. One of them I had had a briefly dated months prior. He had lent me a book and asked for it back. J had driven me one night to deliver it to him. I was there for maybe 8 minutes. J sat in the car in the driveway, his choice. The girl from the bar just happens to be this guy’s new girlfriend. She was there the night we stopped by. A couple of this man’s housemates were also there.
We spoke for a few minutes on his inside stairwell, I handed him the book and that was it. I had left.
However apparently this girl had told J that her boyfriend and I slept together that night. Which made absolutely zero sense since J and I were living together and he drove me there. He knew how long I was in that house. However his ability to put logical thoughts together seemed to be escaping him.
So this night in the bar he immediately started in on me in front of everyone. I flinched. Everyone else sat there in silence. No one knew what to do with what was happening.
Things however quickly spiraled when he took a cigarette. A lit cigarette. And put it out in his hand, in front of my face. He was angry with me and trying to teach me some kind of lesson. My friends told me not to leave with him.
But I felt as if I had nowhere to go. This was the age before cell phones, it wasn’t as if I could call my parents who were a bit further away from me to come and take me home with them.
Why did I feel so trapped within this relationship? This is a question I still ask myself to this day.
I made the mistake of leaving with him.
He was drunk and angry. Erroneously believing some trashy young girl who was jealous of me.
We drove back to our place and he drove erratically the whole way back, yelling in my face that I had slept with this guy. Which I kept saying to him over and over sounded one hundred percent irrational considering how long I was in the house.
This still wasn’t getting through to him. He tried to kill us both by driving up sidewalks and nearly taking down a mailbox.
A few days later his way of trying to make it all up to me was to take me to New Orleans via a cross country road trip. He knew that going there had always been a dream of mine. We just happened to be arriving the weekend of Halloween. And I have to admit we had an amazing time while there. He let me drag him all around to places I had only read about.
When we returned things were actually fairly decent for a while.
He was controlling in ways I should have been more in tune to. He had an extreme jealous streak that I always had to watch out for.
I hate to say but many of the details of what went on over the next year are a bit hazy as it was so long ago.
There were times when he would push me into walls and down on the bed and scream and yell. Tell me how horrible I was.
I briefly went home to my mother for a few weeks but then went back when the dust settled and he cried and cried with his apologies.
But sitting here now, in this courtroom, in this chair next to the judge giving my testimony was something completely different. I had to bare my soul for everyone and dissect what exactly went on in our relationship. The good and the bad.
I remember that during the first part of the questioning they kept trying to rattle me about our relationship. I sat back not moving forward in the chair because I was afraid for him to see me.
I tried to avoid him during these procedures as much as possible.
One of the particularly aggravating cross-examinations was when they pulled up a birthday card where I wrote how I loved him. They questioned how it was that I could write these kinds of things, feel these kinds of things and yet still go through with punishing him in this courtroom.
It was then that something snapped within me. The fear seemed to vanquish and I found myself sitting forward finally. So he could see me. And I answered the attorney.
I told him the following ” Once upon a time we did love each other. I did love him. I trusted him. When I wrote that I loved him. But time and time again he proved that his version of love was to try and control me, and when he felt he couldn’t control me he hurt me. Only I was too foolish and weak to get away from him. And that’s why I’m sitting here today. Having been hurt and put through more than anyone should ever have to go through. “
All I know is that my attorney sitting off to the right looked at me and smiled really big. He knew that what I did was one of the best things I could have done for my case.
The opposing attorney continued to try and rattle me in the courts. I had won the first round.
Because we were still in a precarious position with a domestic rape trial I wasn’t brimming with confidence. The guilty verdict was this particular judge but it meant there would be another round of questioning and waiting for another verdict.
I went through another round of questioning a couple weeks later.
A few weeks after that something happened to me that would affect me physically for the rest of my life and changed the course of how I looked at life forever. I Was diagnosed with MS.
It was after this that I decided I couldn’t take anymore. I couldn’t deal with sitting in front of the judge, in front of this man, I wanted him punished but right now I felt like once again I was the one being punished.
The A.D.A. called me one day. Told me I needed to be in court for the decision. I broke down on the phone with him and told him what I had been feeling, the medical diagnosis I had just had that literally just changed the course of my life forever. I cried. I said I couldn’t be there.
He was disappointed with me but told me he understood. He would let me know what was to happen.
He called me the day of the court date. They found him guilty of aggravated assault. His sentencing was to be six months in jail, six months in a rehab facility and I would have a three year restraining order against him.
I broke down crying. I couldn’t be happy. Part of me wanted to be, but there was once a time I loved this man. To be grateful that he’s going to jail felt wrong.
However this feeling that day changed and wavered over time. There were days and months where I wanted him to fry for what he did to me. There were days of forgiveness for I knew that the worst of it all was done under drug abuse.
I moved on. I was with the new boyfriend and I was beyond happy. I had a really great job, I had my family who rallied to my side. Especially my mother.
I stayed away from that particular area, La Grange, for a very long time. It was only when my family’s company was stationed there nearly ten years later did I venture back there. I was working for them at the time and eventually living there. By that time I knew from tracking his info online that he was out of state.
It was only recently that I found out that he was back in Illinois. He was living in a town very close to where I was four years ago, before I moved where I was currently.
The thing was, instead of feeling fear, I felt something else. Something I wasn’t sure I would ever bring myself to feel. It was forgiveness.
I can’t hate him anymore for what happened. I feel a bit of anger still, but for my own good I realized I had to make peace. I had to look within myself and the years that have passed and the price that he paid for what he did and forgive him.
Do I ever want to see him again? No, no I don’t want to. I purposely avoid the area which he lives now because I don’t want to run the risk of seeing him again. I don’t honestly think that despite my forgiveness I could handle it.
So for now, I’m going to keep moving on.