Four years, four months, four days ago.
Everywhere I looked, the news, articles, social media, and tv, blasted the pictures of the two men who raped me and beckoned anyone who knew anything about them to come forward.
I tried to avoid the news. The faces. But I was left with a decision. A choice. Keep running and evading—or plant my feet and rise to look them square in the eyes and report. I decided I was done fleeing and I turned to face it—to confront it.
I had already left twelve messages at the police department in Buckeye where the two men had been caught with a woman they had raped and beaten. It had been weeks trying to reach the police and getting no return calls. The news still begged for anyone with information.
I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know where to go. I couldn’t escape their faces and now I couldn’t escape the drive within me to confront.
I searched online and could find how to get an advocate after I already had a case. I didn’t yet have a case. I didn’t yet have a detective. I didn’t yet have a police report. So I didn’t have what was needed.
I continued to search through tears that were once pain and were now frustration. How could I be so alone and unable to find help? My friends gave me numbers that yielded nothing except more frustration for my bonfire of uselessness.
Then I found a link on RAINN.org (Rape Abuse Incest National Network). It said there was a center with rape advocates in Tempe. But I had just had knee surgery. Tempe was very far for me. I opened the site and was relieved to see the site had a sister center in Glendale—much closer.
What I didn’t know was that sister center was not a RAINN center. It was a sister center to the umbrella that houses the RAINN center in Tempe. Which means: they didn’t have rape advocates.
But I didn’t know this.
I piled my walker into my car, drove to Glendale, lugged my walker out of the car and started my long trek into the building. Alone. Why would I bring support with me to get a support person, an advocate?
I reached the suite, struggled with the door as others inside stared at me. I wove my way through children and bags and people too close to me. I made it to the glass enclosure of receptionists and my throat went dry. I could feel all eyes already staring at me. My breath shallowed. The room spun. I gripped the walker tighter.
The woman behind the glass waved me forward as she slid the glass open. I raised my phone to her and showed her a note: “I need a rape advocate.”
Her eyes read and suddenly her whole body became stiff. Her smile hardened and she told me to wait as she slid the glass closed again. I stared into the glass enclosure as she threw up her hands as she beckoned the other women to a huddle in the center of their desks. A brief thought wandered through my head that maybe the employees here hadn’t been told it’s two-way glass and we all could still see them. An older woman stared at me like I had caused mayhem.
I leaned into the walker, wishing it were taller and more of a shelter to protect me. The dance inside the glass enclosure was coming to an end as a woman who could only be the inspiration for Edna Mode from the Incredibles gave them all an order and they fled to their desks to write something down.
Then the window in front of me slid open as the girl transformed her frenzied face into a pleasant-ish welcoming smile. I again wondered if she knew I was able to see the previous dance routine through the glass.
She handed me a card with a number on it and told me to call it to help my R-A-P-E problem. Yes. She. Spelled. It. I was fine—as long as none of the curious people staring at the disabled woman who had caused torrential confusion inside the glass enclosure knew how to spell.
Confusion and frustration flooded my face as my knee reminded me I was still standing. I asked her what the card was. She said it again. I expressed my confusion as RAINN had told me I could get an advocate here. She held up her finger and told me to leave and call the number.
I asked if there was a room to call in. She held up a finger again and walked to the back and out the side door to stand next to me. She ushered me into a giant empty room. And she smacked her gum and twisted her hair as she asked me if she could leave or if I needed her to stay. I felt unsafe, unseen, and now a burden. I released her and turned my walker around to sit as she shut the door.
I had fought to get to this place. Emotionally and physically. And still, I was alone. I pulled my phone out and opened a pic of SVU’s Detective Olivia Benson. It was the only thing I had found on the journey that calmed my soul, and I needed calming.
I called the number. It wasn’t for an advocate. But in part, they helped me. The journey got more convoluted and wearisome from there…and as much of an adventure as it was, that is for a different day, but for today, that moment is what is important.
Because today I was in that same room.
With a walker.
This time, I need walking assistance due to an injury and not surgery. But as I stood in the same place—four years, four months, and four days later…it hit me how different my world is.
My detective destroyed my faith in policing.
The two rapists pled to almost no time for the woman they were caught raping (and neither’s plea deal includes rape).
One rapist is now out as of last year.
The other gets out next year.
I have conquered mountains that I never dreamed feasible when I last sat on a walker in that room.
I reported the sex-trafficking as a child as well as the rape. I participated in a confrontation call against one of the traffickers. I sat with the “not prosecuting at this time” letter in my tear-soaked hands. I started a nonprofit to help other survivors like me. I have told my story to thousands of people.
I have confronted. I have fallen flat. I have fought in the wild mud. I have won. I have lost. I have an army of survivors and allies beating their chests with me and echoing into the darkness that we are coming to destroy and kick at darkness and we are coming to rattle the walls and let survivors know they are not alone.
As I sat there today, the immensity of all that was and all that is crashed like two oceans. My soul felt the percussion and my spirit bears the bruises. This journey is hard. It is ever-present and it is continuing. Always.
Today reminded me to respect that journey. Deeply. Treasure the sanctity of its fragility. Healing is hard. The journey is worth it.
We are not alone. And part of our fight is to get a rape crisis center (yah, AZ doesn’t have one). Had we had one, my journey would have been easier. So many survivors would have hope and not frustrated tears as they search for help.
If you’re a survivor in Arizona, there is help. You are NOT alone. Call Trauma Healing Services at 480.736.4949 or visit ACESDV.org’s hotline. Or review resources on KickAtDarkness.com.
#KickAtDarkness #AZRapeCrisisCenter #SupportSurvivors #NotAlone #EndIt