I Remember the Light

lamp postSeveral years ago, I worked at an answering service. I was just shy of twenty years old and was working to support myself and my then five month old daughter.   Those who knew me then, can testify to the fact that I was pretty far from following Christ at that time, but apparently He loved me enough even then to be present in my pain.  I can only see that now…way on the other side of it but I am grateful to be able to see Him in hindsight.

I enjoyed my job at the answering service and learned quite a bit about customer service.  The answering service was located inside an old house in an equally old neighborhood in the downtown South Bend area.  Parking was in the back and there was an alley that was shared with the businesses on the main street behind us.   I was answering phones for a few hundred companies, in several different service industries such as heating and cooling, garage doors, electricians, plumbers as well as several doctor’s offices and large multi-doctor clinics as well as monitoring for three alarm companies and answering the hotline for a local mental health care organization including their sexual offense victims hotline known as “SOS”.

This job gave me the opportunity to speak to many people in every walk of life:

I spoke to service technicians that were on call every night and the customers who needed them to fix their broken furnace, toilet, or garage door.  Yep, that was me.

I spoke to people who were sick and needed their doctor as well as to panicked parents whose children were somewhere on the spectrum between having the sniffles and dying and I was the one who knew how to reach their doctor.  Yep, that was me.

I spoke to doctors every night.  I had the pleasure of interrupting their dates with their wives, or waking them from a dead sleep, or interrupting them when they were cooking dinner for their family.  Yep, that was me.

I spoke to dispatch for the police and fire departments regularly to alert them of alarms that had been tripped.  Yep, that was me.

I also received calls from the hospitals requesting an advocate for the just admitted victims of rape, molestation, or domestic abuse.  Yep, that was me.

I also received calls from the survivors of those attacks seeking an advocate to talk to because at that moment darkness was descending again and they just needed to hear the voice of someone that cared enough and knew what they were experiencing.  Yep, that was me.

Then one night… I was raped.  I was the person the hospital was calling about.  Yep, that was me.

It was the first warm day that year.  Early April, 1991. Surprisingly, thankfully, I can no longer remember the date.  I dressed appropriately in my favorite denim skirt that zipped from bottom to top in the front, topped with one of my Dad’s gray t-shirts, and finished with my cute white leather sneakers.  It was midnight and still warm outside.  I hopped in my car, the first car I had ever bought on my own, a 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass and it was almost the same gold color of my hair.  I loved that car, even if the carburetor did have issues and caused me to stall out quite often.   I had thrown my purse into the passenger seat and started the engine, rolled down the window and looked in the rearview mirror and noticed a man and a dog walking through the alley about 25 yards behind me.   I turned on the radio and put the car in reverse and the car stalled; I put it park, started it up, gunned the engine a couple times and put it in reverse again and when I looked behind me I noticed the man and dog again and then the car died again.  I put the car in park, started it up, put it in reverse and turned to look out the back window and the car died again.  This time though, when I turned back around to shift back to park there was man at my door and I could hear a dog barking.  I don’t recall what he said but when I went to start the car again he reached his arm in and took the keys out of the ignition.  He yanked open my door and I knew he had no good intentions and so I kicked and fought causing my elbow to hit the horn a few times until he pulled out a knife and said “You’re askin’ to be stabbed.”  I wasn’t, but I got the message.  He shoved me over far enough to get in and close the door.  The dog was still outside but at the passenger side door, and he was scratching at it and I was worried about my paint job!

The car had rolled halfway back to the alley by then but the horn must have alerted the girl who took over for me during the midnight to eight shift and she came to the door.   My headlights were on and you could tell she could not see into the car clearly. She yelled out to see if I was ok and The Man told me to get rid of her.  I remember being worried for her so I yelled something (I don’t recall what) and after a few seconds she went back inside.  (Later she told me that the dog made her think that I was attempting to help a stray…she knew me pretty well)

I remember asking The Man if I could let the dog in the car…he declined.  I remember him starting the car with both the keys and the knife in one hand and then being REALLY MAD that the car did not stall when he put the car in gear.  He had the knife at my throat and drove…aimlessly.  He made me hike up my skirt and remove my underwear.  This is how we drove for about twenty minutes, me half naked with a knife at my throat.  I remember people pulling up next to us on my side at traffic lights and wondering what they could see.  We ended up in the same alley but about a block away.  That is where he raped me…the first time.  We drove and stopped at another location and it continued for about four hours.  The knife was always moving.  Either in his hand or stuck above my head into the door or stuck in the headrest of the seat on the passenger side… always where I could see it and he could reach it.  I looked at him long enough to remember his face, his clothing, and did what I could to gather skin samples under my nails without being obvious… yes, I watched too much TV.  Once I had what was needed I just “left” and hung out with “The Light.” There were times when he needed responses to what he would say (he was really delusional and believed this was a consensual encounter and I tried my best to play along) but other than that I focused on The Light.  Every time he stopped the car and started at me again, regardless of where I was I could see a streetlight above me  and I “left” – I hung out with The Light and it comforted me and kept me calm and somehow I knew that I would be ok.  Being able to remain calm helped to remind me that I had a daughter – which turned out to be very helpful because early on, when he started at me I came REALLY close to “asking him” to kill me but somehow when I looked at The Light I remembered that my daughter needed her mother.  After he was done with me, he drove a block from the answering service, parked the car, gave me a hug and got out.  I moved behind the steering wheel, stunned, and watched him walk to the back of my car and then walk across the street directly behind my car and then I put the car in drive and took off.  In hindsight, I often think I should have thrown the car in reverse and gunned it at that moment but…you know what they say about hindsight. I drove PAST the police station to get home.  It was around 4:30 am and I woke up my parents and told them to call the police.  They arrived and did many things but got me to the hospital and when the nurse mentioned calling “SOS” I panicked.  I told them that when they called, to warn the girl who answered the phone, to give her my name (usually they only state the age and gender of the victim) and to tell her to be careful and many other things.  When the “SOS” advocates arrived, I was grateful they were there – but not for me, I wanted them to be with my parents.  My parents were a mess.  Quite frankly, I was good.  I WAS FREAKING ALIVE!  My parents were devastated, but I WAS ALIVE!  I was good.  “Tell me what you need me to do to catch this guy”  was all I was thinking about about…and a shower, a blistering hot shower.  Turns out the evidence we needed to identify him conclusively was present and all we had to do was find him…which turned out to be pretty easy for the cops.  The hard part was the two years it took to get him convicted and I will save you all those details and drama.  He was sentenced to two twenty year sentences.  He ended up only serving about nine years.  He is out, I know where he lives.  He does not know it, but I have forgiven him.

The only real lingering affect is I am extra cautious about being outside, alone in the dark…  like starting my car in the morning during the winter or walking to my car alone in a parking lot at night.  I am cautious and alert…but not afraid.

Some might think that, somewhere in my head there should be a 4 hour long nightmare of a memory of that night, but there isn’t.  I remember a lot about the moments leading to it and all of the moments after it.  When I think back to that night I recall about 25% of the assault and beyond that I remember The Light.  God has graced me with that.  I remember The Light.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.

 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will 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;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord

Yep, that’s me.