A #SurvivorStory by Terra
This is going to be very long because I’ve never written or told the story in detail and I really want to do this for myself. 15 years later and I decided this year to confront and try to come to terms with what happened to me.
I have to give you a picture of what my life was like for you to understand what I lost during this whole ordeal.
I was very shy growing up. It was so bad that I wouldn’t even talk to family that I had known my whole life if I didn’t see them regularly. I wouldn’t talk or eat in front of people that I didn’t know well because I always felt like I was being judged and I had horrible social anxiety. I lived with my mom, my little brother, and my almost step-father in a section 8 townhouse. We didn’t have much and there was always a struggle to pay rent, but it was enough. My grandparents or my favorite aunt Laura would pick me up on the weekends but I rarely saw my dad. They had me at 16 so he was doing whatever a young and irresponsible dad would do at that age.
I loved my aunt Laura as much as my mom. She would ask who I loved the most and the answer would always be her. She is the beautiful blonde petite type. Laura was the only person in my family who I had ever saw go to college. She worked hard and put herself through college. My grandparents had money and definitely lived well off, but they weren’t rich. My grandparents and aunt always spoiled me, which was far different from the life I lived with my mom.
Laura had gotten married and lived in a house with her husband. She and her husband Marco were only married for a year at the time. I was in the wedding as a bridesmaid. It was the most beautiful wedding that I had ever been to.
One weekend Laura picked me up from my moms she had asked me if I would like to spend the following summer at her house. Laura thought she couldn’t have children so she always said I was the best thing that ever happened to her. I was like the daughter she never had. This was a dream come true because I idolized her. She was the only person who cared about how I did in school and she constantly pushed me to do well and go to college. I just loved her so much.
I was 12 when I was raped. It was sometime in September 2003 and was only a few weeks after Laura asked me to stay the summer at her house. She picked me up to stay the weekend because we had my great grandmas 80th birthday party to attend that Sunday. It was a normal day, she took me shopping and bought me a few new books. I was just settled in on the couch about to go to sleep when I heard them yelling at each other. This wasn’t normal because she never fought with him in front of me. He stormed off and slammed the door so hard that the wall shook. I was upset but eventually fell asleep.
I woke up to my uncle in law, Marco shaking me awake. I could smell alcohol on him and had no idea what time it was. I was so groggy that I had to ask him what he was saying a few times. He said something like “do you know if your uncle Danny is coming home tonight?”. My uncle Danny was a drug addict that was staying in the bedroom upstairs. I told Marco that I didn’t know and he told me to come upstairs to check. I was still very shy around him because he was kind of mean sometimes and I was a very sensitive kid. I stumbled up the stairs still groggy and he sat down on the edge of the bed. Everything from here on is bits and pieces of memory that I put together.
Marco said that I was so growing and developing so fast. He asked me to turn around so he could see. That’s when he started touching me. At that moment all I could think was “what is happening? What do I do?” And he pulled me down on his lap and that’s when the assault started. I was frozen in fear and shock. All I could think about was what would happen if my aunt that I loved so much walked in on this. Would she hate me? He put his hands all over my body and then tried to get me to touch him. I was frozen so I just stared blankly and didn’t do any of the things he asked. He started to get mad and pulled me up so that I was standing. He kissed me but I was still frozen so I just stood there not moving, not kissing him back. I just let him push me back down so that I was sitting on the bed, staring blankly. I remember being really self conscious because I was a tall, skinny, awkward kid. I know I shouldn’t have been embarrassed about what I look like to my soon to be rapist but I couldn’t help it. Compared to my aunt, why would he want to do this to me? I didn’t know what it was at the time but he pulled a crack pipe and what I assume had to be crack out of my uncle Danny’s suitcase. He sat next to me on the bed and kept lighting and smoking it. Then he told me to smoke it. That it would make me feel better. That I needed to do it quietly because if I woke up my aunt, she would hate me so much that I’d never see her again. I didn’t know how to smoke anything but I wanted to listen to him so that he would be quiet. He was the one being loud. When he handed it to me and lit it, I tried to just suck it into my mouth and blow it out. He made me do it over and over again until I coughed and he was satisfied that I inhaled it.
My memory gets really bad after that. I found that I am very good at forgetting even the slightest traumatic things. Not to mention the drugs I had just smoked. The rest is what I’ve managed to piece together. I was sitting on the very edge of the bed, my pants and underwear were gone. I don’t know what happened to them and he was orally assaulting me. This seemed like it went on for hours. The next thing I remember is a searing pain inside me and his sweat dripping down on me while I stared at the wall blankly. The only things that I can remember thinking are “I wish he would stop. He’s being too loud and I don’t want Laura to see this. Why is he doing things that hurt so bad?” The next thing I remember is that he stood up to go rifle through my uncles suitcase. I snapped out of whatever daze I was in and put my underwear and my pants back on. He told me I wasn’t going anywhere and I just said I have to pee I’ll be right back. I went to the bathroom and remember thinking that I had started my period because there was so much blood. I crawled back onto the couch and wrapped myself in blankets. I don’t know why but I picked up my new book and tried to read it briefly. Maybe to pretend like nothing happened. It didn’t work so I laid there and fell asleep very quickly. I know I was high because I everything felt fuzzy and I was sick to my stomach. I managed to fall asleep quite fast considering that I had just been raped.
I woke up to him dragging me over to the end of the couch and pulling me into a kneeling position. This time I asked him very quietly and way too politely to stop before he raped me and all he said was “just a minute”. He then picked me up and tried to carry me up the stairs. He couldn’t. The stairwell was small and I was pretty tall for a 12 year old. He got behind me and told me to go upstairs but I was already frozen again so he started to push me and drag me up the stairs. This time he didn’t even bother to pull me into the bedroom. He started to rape me again right at the top of the stairs when I blacked out. He shook me out of it eventually and I’ll never forget what he said. “You can go now.” I remember how evil he looked when he said it. That’s when I started to have feelings again. I instantly felt like a used toy. It’s hard to describe. I crawled down the stairs and I was so light headed that I had to pull myself back onto the couch.
As soon as I got myself under the blankets, I heard my aunt get out of bed. I quickly covered myself and pretended to be asleep. I started praying “please please please do not let her find out. I heard her yelling at him and I she said something like “would I do this if your family was over?” I assume that she smelled the drugs. That’s the last of what I remembered from that night.
When I woke up in the morning, I had thoroughly convinced myself that it was a bad dream. I even ignored the physical pain. It just hurt because it hurt in the dream. I couldn’t walk very well and I definitely couldn’t make eye contact with him. I was in a daze. My underwear was missing but I just ignored that too. I took a quick shower and we went to my great grandmas party.
I didn’t talk to anyone unless I had to at the party. The whole thing was a dream but I just felt wrong somehow. I couldn’t believe that I could have such a horrible dream and I honestly felt bad for not being able to look at Marco. He quickly ruined my very convincing dream when he sat down next to me on the bench swing. Nobody was around but I was still really nervous. He said “I’m really sorry about last night. It will never happen again. I love you, do you forgive me?” I nodded and he said “promise me that you’ll never tell your aunt. She will never speak to us again if she find out”. I promised.
When I got home everyone knew something was wrong. I wouldn’t play with my little brother and I just sat in a chair staring at whatever was on the TV. I just convinced them that my stomach was upset and that I was fine.
I continued to stay at her house every other weekend and he never touched me again. We had always gone to church Sundays when they picked me up. Church scared me because of how the pastor talked about good people and all of that. I was so worried that he would tell her what happened because he went to church and he was a good person and he would feel guilty and then my life would be over because the person I loved the most in the world would hate me.
A few months went by and I finally told my best friend. I made so many excuses for Marco. I didn’t tell him no at first so he didn’t know any better. He wouldn’t have done it if he wasn’t so drunk and high. Maybe he was confused. My friend didn’t buy it and I was woken up by my mom later that night screaming and crying about “did your uncle Danny hurt you”. I was crying and saying no and telling her I told my friend a lie. I slipped up when I finally yelled “it wasn’t Danny”.
Then there was the hospital and the painful rape kit. It was months later so the only “evidence” they got was that I wasn’t a virgin. Then i was at some youth counseling center. I was in a brightly lit room. There was a woman and two men. I think the woman was the prosecutor and the men were police. I couldn’t speak. I sat there for hours. They made me use the words penis and vagina. I had to be very descriptive. This would be a nightmare for anyone, let alone the most shy girl in the world.
My dad picked me up the weekend after the youth counseling center. He told me Laura would be coming to talk to me. I was sitting at the kitchen table when she came and I felt absolutely disgusting. She said he was out of town driving semi trucks and that she called him and he said he would never hurt me. She asked me if I was sure countless times and asked if I was sure that it was sex that happened and did I just see something I wasn’t supposed to. I said yes but it was an accident. He didn’t mean to do it. He was drunk and high. I don’t want his family to be upset. It’s ok I forgive him. I said all of that because I genuinely felt guilty for telling on him. I eventually ran to my room (her old bedroom) crying. I heard her crying telling my dad “why would she lie, they said she wasn’t a virgin”. No matter what I knew that she would love me anyways.
Court came and I had a lot of meetings with the prosecutor. They had to coach me a bit because I would freeze up when I had to say what he did to me in detail and they said I can’t do that in court. They were all very nice and they all believed me but I was terrified and I hated all of them. I begged every day to not go. Every night before I had to go to any of the court stuff I would think that I had to kill myself because I can’t do it. I never told anyone and I wouldn’t talk about anything with my family. I begged everyone not to come into the courtroom because I didn’t want them to hear what I had to say.
The big day came when I had to get on the stand. The prosecutor came first. I had to point Marco out and describe what he was wearing and then I slowly but surely with a lot of tears, answered all of their questions. I actually lied a lot because I wouldn’t tell anyone more than I had to. I didn’t tell them about him trying to kiss me or the other things he did to me besides the vaginal rape. I could barely say the word penis. How was I supposed to describe everything else? I don’t remember any of Marcos lawyers questions except a lot of crying.
One day the lawyers explained to me what a plea bargain was. They said they were sure they could get a conviction but they knew what it was doing to me. They left it up to me. My mom said no but I begged and cried. I told them I couldn’t do this. They said he’d get less jail time if they offered a plea bargain but I just knew that I couldn’t do it. I try not to regret this because I was way too young, self conscious, and very shy to do it but it’s hard to forgive myself for the plea bargain.
I didn’t ask about Laura because that would be a subject related to my rape and I couldn’t talk about it. It was at the sentencing when I first saw her. She was sitting on his side and that’s when I knew she didn’t believe me. Nobody told me because they knew it would break my heart and it did. It hurt more than the rape to know that she thought I was lying. I found out later that her excuse was that I lied because he took all of the attention away from me. That was hard to hear. Marco was sentenced to 3 months in jail and 3 months of at home probation. He is on the sex offender registry for life as a tier 3 sex offender, which is the only thing that comforts me.
After he got out of jail, Laura sent him to rehab. I’ve heard that he was in and out of rehab for a few years. They eventually had a daughter. This is what makes me regret my plea bargain decision. She is highly autistic and can’t defend herself if he decides to come home drunk or high and hurt her.
I went into a deep depression from the ages of 12-16. I cut myself (beyond stupid) and wanted to die. I cried myself to sleep every day for 4 years. I was still shy so I never spoke to my new step sisters or my step mom until one day when my oldest step sister begged me to open up. She decided that I needed to talk and I told her no but she persisted until I finally told my own 100 percent true story to my two sisters. It’s still the only time I’ve ever willingly told my story until now and this is the first time I’ve told every detail of it. We’ve been best friends ever since. They pulled me out out of a deep self loathing depression just when I was convinced life wouldn’t get any better.
In 2009, days before I graduated, I had to go to court. Marco tried to get his conviction expunged and I had a chance to tell the judge why he shouldn’t allow it. Luckily I was more confident and less shy than I was because it was a room full of strangers there for things like traffic tickets. Old me would have crumbled. Marco got up and described how he was a good man, a man of god, a man who is no longer an addict but counsels other addicts and does his best to help them. My mom was kicked out for crying. I got up on the stand and though I was confident, I still had stage fright. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do but I managed to tell the judge how Marco ruined my life. I didn’t remember this but apparently the judge was the same judge that was at the hearing back in 2004. He went on a long rant about how horrible of a person Marco was for never admitting what he did and putting me through that in the first place and he said he wished I would’ve never agreed to a plea bargain because Marco would’ve been in jail for a very long time. His expungement request was denied. I’ll always remember what the judge said as one of the happiest moments of my life. I wish I could remember his name because it’s a wonderful thing to have anyone and specially a judge say “I believe you”.
I’m 27 now and just bought my first house. I make good money at my job and I’m very happy. If it weren’t for my sisters, I don’t know if I’d even be alive right now. I was forced to go to over 40 counseling sessions and I would sit silently and never speak a word. I did try to contact Laura through Facebook and she told me something along the lines of “you’re lying and don’t contact me again unless you can figure out a way to fix our family.” It’s not my responsibility to fix what she helped break. I’ll always love her and I hate it but I’m learning to accept it because she is just as responsible as he is. I’ve offered to take a lie detector test and that’s all I can do. It’s not mIf there is one thing I’ve learned, life does get better no matter how bad it is and you can pull yourself out of anything.
I would encourage any survivor to report the assault immediately. I would never try to force someone into reporting because it’s unimaginably hard but you are stronger than you think. It’s always your choice but think hard before you choose whether or not to report your assault. It’s never your fault when someone sexually assaults you no matter what you are wearing, no matter if you fought or froze, and no matter what the circumstances surrounding the assault were. I wish I would have spoken to someone sooner than I did and I have a lot of regrets looking back but I know that no matter what happens, I’ll be ok.