In the Rush, When Do I Start…?

Life is a runaway train sometimes: the screeching sound of responsibilities and the weight of obligations smashing against unyielding obstacles. A slice of panic rises as we wonder how we are going to fit our to-do list into the day that is already fleeing into the darkness.

One of my list items has been on every day for the last year: write about my story.

Each time I speak or travel, I am asked when my story is coming. I have a map of the work and timeline on my wall with little lines, arrows, dashes, and code that I’m sure I knew meant something at some point. The ever-rising tasks of the nonprofit and business world make it appear impossible to start. Amidst the inundation, I am simply going to leap.

May is almost here. I’m in Arizona, so I can hold onto the hour left before it becomes May 1st. I will cherish it. Because May is going to be a ride. Some of the roller coaster of this month will be amazing. Like attending the Thrive Gala alongside Senator Meza. The Gala, hosted by ACESDV, honors survivors, allies, and advocates who are changing the world. It is an honor to attend.

May 19th.

That’s the Gala AND that is the day one of my rapists gets out of prison.

In 2006, I was raped by two strangers in a bathroom. They dislocated my shoulder, beat me, and raped me, leaving me for dead. I woke up draped over a toilet, covered in blood, urine, and feces.

I kept silent and didn’t report until eight years later (that’s for another post).

In 2014, these two men raped a girl and left her in the desert. They got scared they would be on the hook for murder, so they returned to the desert to find her — and were unable. So, naturally, they called the police to ask them for help… let’s pause and be astounded at this for a moment.

They were arrested for kidnapping, raping, and beating that girl, whose injuries had left her in a coma. Then, after confessing to over 16 rapes together, Arizona pled them both down to:

  1. LE: Conspiracy to commit rape
    • Given three and a half years (3.5 years)
    • Confessed to over 16 rapes (16+ women, persons, humans)
  2. DH: Kidnapping
    • No sexual assault charge; won’t be on registry when he gets out
    • Given six to eight years (6-8)
    • Confessed to over 16 rapes (16+ daughters, sisters, mothers)

LE gets out on May 19th after THREE and ONE-HALF (3.5) years — that’s 42 months or 183 weeks or 1,278 days — for leaving a girl in a coma and for raping and beating at least 17 others.

When LE gets out of prison, because it was a plea deal, the only survivor able to get protection is that last one. The one the rapists put in a coma.

May 19. Less than 20 days away. 480 hours.

The “anniversary” (we seriously need another word in English for a day of remembrance that we’d rather forget) for when they raped me is May 21st.

My rapist gets out of prison two days before the twelve-year mark of when he raped me.

I wish I had a “get out” date for being a survivor. I don’t. I am left to think about it every time I see the bite-mark scars on my chest, or when the rain comes and my shoulder reminds me it was once nearly ripped from its socket. Or when I use a public restroom and pause as I dry my hands, remembering.

There is no day to look forward to of getting out of my prison. So, I must create ways to destroy the walls that surround me. I am rising from the ashes to pursue the monsters in our midst.

It is an honor to be at the helm of Kick at Darkness, Inc.  We are striving to make changes by raising the awareness of survivors’ needs as well as the funds for them to get the healing they need. AND we are busting down the doors for change.

I didn’t have anywhere to go — nor did I know anyone to call — when I was raped. I eventually went to the doctor, but weeks had passed of me bandaging myself and hiding beneath over-large clothing so no one asked questions. My doctor did not know anyone to recommend me to for services.

When I first saw my rapists’ faces on the news in 2014, I decided to come forward. Yet I — master of all-things Google — could not find HOW to get help talking to the police. I tried calling the police department in Buckeye, where they were found. After twelve calls, and no calls back, I almost gave up. A tiny glow of hope, like a daisy growing in a field, kept me going until I found the right answer.

Our nation has 1300 rape crisis centers. California has over 80. Texas has 78, with their first built in 1976.

My home state of Arizona has ZERO. None. N-O-N-E . I think that word stands for Not ONE. There are no state funds set aside for sexual assault care. If we had a rape crisis center, I would have known where to go after being raped. I would have known where to go to get help talking to the police when trying to report. I would have gotten trauma-informed therapy sooner. Shout out to the badasses at Trauma Healing Services and Find Your Shine Therapy who have given me hope, life, and a horizon to fight for.

Today, I stand in a warrior pose, my scarred muscles covered in falling ash. I open my eyes and look to the mountains, my voice rising in a cry of combat.

I am not alone. I have an army of survivors, advocates, and allies surrounding me. And these walls are coming down.

Out of the rubble, may we build a brighter future. Let’s start with a rape crisis center.

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