WARNING: May cause triggers due to themes and subject matters related to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Reader discretion advised.
I have told you all this so that you may find peace in me. In the world you will have hardship, but be courageous: I have conquered the world.
LAUREN RAE TYLER, 18
Emptiness… or perhaps numbness? Whatever it is has strangled the life out of my soul. A zombie I have become. Void of any feeling. I don’t need a mirror to show me my own indifferent expression or the shell of who I once was with the light gone from my eyes. The light… symbolic of a promise I grew up knowing as truth.
Look at me God! I tell my omnipresent, Holy Father. As if I have the right to tell Him anything. But here I am surrounded by a curtain that confides me to this small space. Supposedly, the curtain is up to give me privacy, but I don’t have it. Detective Camp speaks to me condescendingly. She’s trying to be compassionate, but I know compassion, and she’s not giving it. I already explained everything to Officer Maher. I don’t want to talk about it anymore!
“Do you need a break?” Dr. Sheffield asks.
Unbelievable. My face shows something after all. The white-coat psycho specialist can read my thoughts. She knows I’m beyond uncomfortable. But she doesn’t know why. She can speculate it’s because of the− because of what happened, or because of the interrogation designed to benefit the victim. I don’t feel like this oral questionnaire is beneficial. Right now, I could care less if−
“Anything you can remember about him will be helpful,” Detective Camp says, using the ‘help me, help you’ attitude.
What do I remember about him?
“He was wearing shades and a baseball cap. He was a tan, white man… I think. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t Mexican.”
He didn’t have an accent. He sounded like English was his first and only language. Ironically, his voice was tender and endearing. Very trusting. God, with the Devil’s unrequested help, has a sick twist of humor.
“What kind of baseball cap? Did it have a logo or anything on it?”
“An old, black, well-worn Sidewinders cap… I caught the image of a diamondback snake winding around a baseball bat in the rearview mirror. Then his black, sleek shades were next because he looked back at me. I couldn’t see his eyes, but I could tell he was looking at me.”
Detective Camp sucks in every word I say. She types my words into her smartphone via touchscreen. How 21st century cop of her…
From her back pocket, she pulls out a business card and hands it over. Camp tells me to call her if I think of anything else, and that she’ll contact me when they make a break in the case. Disappearing behind the curtain, another white-coat enters in her place, Dr. Reedman.
I’m not claustrophobic, but I feel like I’m in a shoebox. My air supply is running low. The white-coat, who performed the kit, explains what’s next while I try to find some extra air in here. The curtain is four inches off the ground. I can tell there are patients on either side of me. I know there’s extra air out there for me, so why aren’t I getting any?
She lost me once she started using the medical names of the drugs she plans to give me in a moment. Do I really want to be a doctor? It would take me two days to learn how to properly pronounce those tongue-twisting words. A couple of the drugs are to prevent STIs. Nurse Cynthia walks in with a tray of mini-cupcake-like paper cups filled with various pills, and a small pitcher of water beside an empty paper cup.
I did hear the doctor say “the morning after” pill. They speculate protection wasn’t used. I try not to snicker. Protection is useful, but overall, condoms are a joke! No baby is a mistake… Well, that’s what I used to think.
I take the pills, like the good doctor says, but not all of them. I freeze when I get to the baby killer. So much for the void
, I thought I had. Apparently, an apathetic soul is a terminal attitude. Restlessness strikes my spirit deep. Based on principle− based on what I believe, I can’t take it. But what happened to me isn’t fair!
My whole life has had one direction. The direction of Christ’s way. I accepted him when I was 9 at church camp. At 13, I vowed to save myself for marriage. A vow I have kept… until some sick-minded heathen stole that vow and defiled it in the worst way. He tainted me.
Uncontrollably, the tears spew from my eyes and gush down my cheeks. It hurts to cry because of my broken nose. Another doctor, who looked at my nose, said I probably won’t need surgery. I laugh at that thought. I’ve been raped. Am I laughing in relief that I won’t need surgery for my nose? It tickles my chest from within and ails me like an aggressive itch. I can’t stop laughing. The harder I try to stop, the more ferocious it gets.
“It’s normal for your emotions to be all over the place, but you need to think about this. No one can tell you what to do. We’re here to help you. We only supply the means,” Dr. Sheffield explains.
No one can tell me what to do? Lying is an abomination. I can see it in their eyes. They all think I should take the pill.
Don’t take it… What a foreign idea? No, what a heart-driven thought? My mind says TAKE IT! Even a piece of my soul is backing my mind up, by saying… Maybe you should?
My last tough decision was two summers ago. I couldn’t decide which universities I wanted to apply to. I knew I didn’t want to make the wrong choice. When I chose the U of A in Tucson, I didn’t feel good or bad about it. I was just relieved I made a choice. Disappointment did stay with me all senior year, but it didn’t rob my celebratory joy. The disappointment sat in my heart because I thought the Lord told me to go to school abroad. There was an opportunity as wide as barn doors, but an article about a young woman getting raped abroad, that my mother read, put an end to that calling. Her and my father said the Lord wouldn’t lead me into danger. I don’t think they’ve thoroughly read the Old Testament. The Lord guided his people to many dangerous places, but his protection led them through. Then again, I’m not a theology expert…
I have to finish my bachelor’s degree at the top of my class to be a prize candidate for Med School. A pregnancy would be a hassle. God can’t condemn me for this.
I take the cup with the pill in it and chuck it from the cup before I regret this decision. I swallow and nothing goes down. That’s when I hear the pill drop in the cup as I lowered it. How did that happen?
Their peering eyes are unbelievable! How can I make such a major decision with them staring at me like Judge and Jury, prepared to convict me of stupidity if I don’t take it? But God is my Ultimate Judge, and he would forgive me for this, but I would have to live with the choice. What are the odds I could conceive the first time I have sex? Ugh! This is so frustrating!
Please, God, tell me everything is going to be okay. As the Spirit of the Lord rushes over me head to toe, the curtain barrier opens and Matthew LaHaye walks through. He thanks the nurse tech that directed him to me.
He came… It’s past three in the morning and he’s here. Okay, God.
I decline the helpful supply of the
–morning-after –pill. Dr. Reedman looks despondently at the ground, intentionally avoiding eye contact with me. She says, “You have to be tested in a few months for HIV. Cynthia can tell you where to go for free testing. Sign your discharge papers on the way out and you’re free to go.”
Dr. Reedman leaves with a smug look. Her clinical manner is terrible. Mental note… don’t be like Dr. Reedman. I am surprised I don’t have to stay overnight, but then again, I’m not a doctor yet.
Cynthia says she’ll be back in a moment. That leaves Matthew and me alone. He surpasses me in age by 7 years
, . That’s practically a generation. We met at church. He lives around the corner from the U of A, off Campbell. His house has no heat. He has to use a stove-like furnace to heat his place during winter. It’s an old house, small and cozy, that he rents. He’s been married− he was married to Janette. Well, I guess they’re still married, but he’s widowed. He hasn’t told me how she died. He just said the Lord took her three years ago come November 30th. That’s a week and four days away. He married her December 1st, my freshman year of high school. They didn’t have much time together as husband and wife, but they were blessed to know each other their whole lifetimes, well, until her death. They grew up together in California. The same neighborhood, same church, same school… They always knew God brought them together. Matthew talks about Janette all the time.
I have fought the infectious lustful thoughts I have had for him. But those thoughts were when I had no real concept of how the act of sex works. True, my experience isn’t all it is, at least I hope not. I’m not sure how I feel, but I know I don’t feel like me. The whole concept of me is an alien. The more I try to grasp and to search for who ‘me’ is within me, the angrier I get- the more bitterness takes root in my soul! My hands have the urge to crush something, anything to destroy it. As if the act of destruction and chaos will tame the beast of fury within me. And I know such action will lead me deeper into a world of hurt, but that knowledge doesn’t make me not want to do it.
Unable to hold it together anymore, I break out into tears again. Matthew is quick to sweep me into his embrace. He doesn’t know why he’s here. I didn’t tell him over the phone. A part of me wanted to, but a bigger part of me felt shameful to divulge what happened.
“What happened?” He asks.
It figures he wants answers. Do I really have to tell him God? What happened…?
I went to a party with Gina. I didn’t touch a drop of alcohol. We took her car, not mine, but we both decided I would drive home. She was supposed to give me the keys at the party, but her boyfriend Cliff pulled her away from me faster than a dog mauling on a bone. By the time I was ready to go, I found Gina on her way to a bedroom door with Cliff. She was a foot away from my person and I could smell American Ale, a bold aroma of lemon scented barf, on her tongue. She said I could grab her keys and go if I could find them, they managed to lose themselves all the time. Giggling from Cliff nibbling on her earlobe, she wandered into that room with him and closed the door.
On campus, I take VIP Taxi all the time to get from one end to the other, or just to get around town. I do not like driving in this big city. Granted, Tucson, Arizona isn’t a huge city, but it’s big compared to Gallup, New Mexico. I called Norman directly. He always totes me around town. He was hard to hear over the phone, but he agreed to pick me up.
The worn-out Sidewinders cap was normal. So were the shades and the tender voice. I noticed a slight difference in pitch when he said hello to me, but I didn’t pay any attention. I thought wearing shades at night was odd. I asked him, addressing him as Norman, and he gave some excuse that the light bothered his eyes. He picked me up on a pitch black street. It confused me that he could see in the dark with those shades on.
Once we hit Speedway and he drove under a couple of streetlights, I noticed his tan complexion. Norman was pretty pasty for having dark hair. I asked if he got a tan. He just laughed.
That sinking feeling stewed in my gut. Suddenly, I remembered the uneasiness I felt when the cab picked me up – it wasn’t because I felt bad about leaving Gina behind; it was a warning from the Holy Spirit not to get in the cab. I attempted to squash my anxiety. It didn’t work. He turned way before
my the turn to my dorm. We were on another dark street ,. He turned into an alley… and… that’s… when it happened.
The broken nose happened when I tried to fight back. He punched me with full force. I slammed back down against the seat cushion of the backseat. Everything happened after that. The more I try not to think about it, the more my mind starts thinking about it in extreme detail. Every flash marks my mind and makes me want to bang my head against a wall until I bang the memory out of my skull.
I cling to Matthew tighter. But the firmer his embrace gets, the more weariness kindles in my spirit. Imagery of that Norman impersonator ignites the horror of how it felt as I was held down against my will as that− as he – had his way with me. How can Matthew’s comfort be a blessing and a curse all in one? I push him away to fight the terror in my brain. Again he asks me patiently to explain why I am here, but I can’t.
The words are caged in the corner of my mind. I can’t even say it in my head. Now anger rises up in me like I can’t believe as Matthew reaches out to me again. I smack him across the face to stay away from me. He holds his cheek while staring at me, awestruck, that I resorted to violence. I see the shift in his eyes. He knows whatever it is, it’s serious.
Sighing, he sits next to me on the bed. He says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.” From inside the front pocket of his hoodie, he pulls out a palm-size Bible. He opens the mini Bible to Psalm 23. He hands the Bible to me as he continues to recite the psalm from memory. I look at the psalm without reading it. I just listen to him. “He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff− they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…”
Then I look at him. My soul takes in this psalm like medicine. While he finishes the psalm, I recite the rest with him in my head…You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long. Who knew I could cry this much? The waterworks are in motion again. I slump over and rest my head on his shoulder. He doesn’t move a muscle. He learned his touch is discomforting to me right now, but his shoulder is okay. It offers enough support without triggering anything. In all honesty, true thought doesn’t circulate in my mind. The action of crying is all my mind, body, and soul focuses on.
*Edited by Aly Fry