Continued from My Story – Part 3 (The First Half of My Year of Hell)
In the months that followed the first rape, I became promiscuous, no longer caring about my self-worth or the consequences of my actions. I stayed with a friend for about a month, until she kicked me out of her apartment due to my bizarre behavior. I left the area and moved in with my mom and dad in my hometown. I was only there for a little over a month before I received the divorce papers. I don’t know why I even thought I had a chance of beating the “supervised visitation” clause that my husband’s attorney put into the divorce decree; but I knew I needed an attorney of my own. An attorney I saw in my hometown told me I needed to obtain an attorney where my husband, C.F., and our son were living; so I went back there, having no idea where I would live and no income or savings to support myself, let alone to obtain an attorney. I ended up staying in a homeless shelter for an entire month while working for an inventory service; but I was never able to afford an attorney of my own. Pressured by C.F. and coerced by his attorney, I signed the divorce papers as they were; and our divorce became final several months later.
This brings me to the second incident in 1998 that forever changed the course of my life. My job with the inventory service required us to travel to various locations in Middle Tennessee in order to count inventory for retail stores. The inventory service provided the vans we were required to ride in order to get to these locations. Depending on how many people were needed to count the store, we would take anywhere from 1 to 3 vans. Because of the nature of the job, we were required to work during the early morning hours, leaving sometimes as early as 2:00 am to get to our destination. The homeless shelter where I was living required its residents to vacate the premises during “normal” working hours, from around 9:00 am to 5:00 pm; so I was only getting maybe 3 or 4 hours of sleep per night, if I was lucky. After about a month of this, it finally started taking its toll.
The morning of the second rape (August 11, 1998, the day before my birthday), was hectic. A friend I had made at the homeless shelter, who I will refer to as T.S., worked with me at the inventory service. We were late leaving the shelter that morning which got us to the van’s pick-up point just before the vans pulled out. For some reason, T.S. and I got separated onto two different vans. We normally, always rode together. It was an hour’s ride to our destination in Donelson, TN. I was completely exhausted and quickly fell asleep on the van on the way to the store we were counting that night.
The people who I worked with were an unsavory crowd, to put it mildly. For instance, I was asked to drive the work van one day while the girls in the seat behind me rummaged through my purse and stole my debit card right out of my wallet without my knowledge. Another co-worker had exposed himself to me, not only once, but twice! However, I never expected what happened that day I fell asleep on the van…. I woke up to someone inside me, the van still moving on its way to our destination. I was so exhausted that I didn’t even feel him pull down my pants. He had covered us in his jacket. I was frozen in fear. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t even say “no” or “stop” or anything at all. I looked around the van embarrassed that this was happening to me and in disbelief that no one saw.
There were at least 4 or more other people on that van with me and my rapist that day, 2 of which were our supervisors at the time. One was driving and the other was sitting in the passenger seat. I remember looking at the backs of their heads screaming in my mind, “Help me! Help me! Help me!” But I could make no words leave my mouth. The two girls who stole my debit card were also there. To this day I find it hard to believe that no one saw anything out of the ordinary that day, that no one saw this man raping me. If anyone witnessed the rape, no one ever said anything; and I was too ashamed to ask.
I don’t remember my rapist saying a single word to me before, during, or even after. Prior to the rape, I never really spoke to this particular co-worker. I didn’t even know his real name, only the nickname Chug (and no, I don’t feel this man deserves the privacy of not having his name mentioned, at least the name I knew him by). He made me feel uneasy and uncomfortable from the first time I ever met him; so I avoided him. On the van, I couldn’t. I was sitting next to the window, and he pinned me in by sitting next to me, purposefully moving seats after I got on the van. And he was a very large man. When he finished, I felt completely mortified and sick to my stomach. When we arrived at the store, I ran to the restroom to get myself cleaned up… and vomited.
I’m not sure how I made it through that day. I was in shock and in a panic. But I had to pretend nothing had happened and concentrate on doing my job for the next few hours.
I only told one person about what had happened that day, T.S., the friend from the homeless shelter who would later become my roommate when we left the shelter. I found her when I finally left the restroom. Her response was, “I can’t leave you alone for a minute!” I don’t think she really believed that I was raped. Even my own family didn’t (still doesn’t, as far as I know) believe that I was raped in that van when I finally broke down and told them months later. I didn’t want to talk about it because talking about it made it feel too real. I wanted to pretend it didn’t happen. I pretended that it was just a bad dream. I tried to put it out of my mind.
Less than a week later, I quit my job. The humiliation of having to see my rapist every day was too much! A few weeks later, I found out I was pregnant. Can you say insult to injury?! I was still self-harming through promiscuity, so I had no idea who the father was. Three possibilities: 1 – my rapist, who obviously used NO protection; 2 – my, for lack of a better word, fuck-buddy who told me that he had a vasectomy; and 3 – a one night stand the weekend after my birthday (we used condoms). Could things possibly get any worse? I wasn’t even divorced yet. I was so ashamed of myself. And by the way, never ask the Universe, “Could things get worse?” because I guarantee you, they can and will while in this state of mind.
While I was pregnant, I found out that I had contracted genital warts from HPV. My doctor told me that my case was one of the most severe he had ever seen. He told me the worst case was a 3-year-old little girl (yeah, we live in a sick world). I had to have laser surgery to remove them, but not until long after the pregnancy. My life felt like a bad dream before the first rape, a nightmare after. But the second rape turned my nightmare into one of those night terrors, the type of nightmare that leaves you paralyzed in fear and gasping for every breath!
I wanted to get an abortion, but I had no money for that. I became increasingly suicidal and ended up at Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute due to suicidal ideation (Hospitalization #4 – suicidal ideation). After a two-week stay in the hospital that relented only after telling the doctors I no longer wanted an abortion, I was finally released (what can I say, TN is the belt buckle). A couple of weeks later my car was repossessed. Hopelessness set in. My roommate pressured me about finding a job. One night the pressure was too much; I gave-in to the hopelessness and took all of the medications I had stockpiled. I attempted suicide for the 3rd time (Suicide attempt #3 – overdose). I woke up a few days later in a strange house, having no idea how I got there. I have no memory of those missing days. Only what I was told by the creepy acquaintance who found me passed on my bed and took me to his house rather than a hospital.
T.S. moved out of our trailer by the first of November, leaving me to face all of the bills alone, still with no job. By the end of November, I finally got a job at Wal-Mart; but it wasn’t soon enough to prevent my eviction from the trailer I was renting. Facing homelessness again, another acquaintance, who I will refer to as D.L., allowed me to move into her unfinished basement. It was so cold down there! I lived in her basement for almost three months in the dead of winter, sleeping on my sofa, and walking the mile and a half (one way trip) back and forth to work at Wal-Mart. There was one night in January that I walked home during a tornado, but at least it was unseasonably warm that night. When I received my W2 in the mail, D.L. handed it to me opened, telling me she had mistaken it as her own. A couple of months after I left D.L.’s house, I found out that she had stolen my identity, no doubt from that W2 she had opened. She had taken out a credit card in my name and maxed it out. I found this out later when the credit card company began calling me to collect for non-payment.
My divorce became final in January 1999. I wasn’t even present in the courtroom. C.F. told me to go one place, but I found out too late that it was in another. He found me on the courthouse steps, crying, after it was all over. And just like that, our marriage was over; and I no longer had a say in my son’s life.
Finally, at the end of February, I moved into my own apartment in Lincoln Homes Projects (government housing). This move put me 4 and a half miles away from where I worked, still at Wal-Mart; and I still had no vehicle of my own. Most days, I could simply take the bus to and from work; but on Sundays, the bus didn’t run. I either had to walk the entire 8 mile round trip (which I often did), hitchhike (which I often did), or ask someone for a ride (people get tired of that very quickly). And the bus quit running around 11:00 pm. There were plenty of times I had to walk that 4 and a half miles home from work late at night after a 6-9 hour shift because I had just missed the last bus. And keep in mind, I was also 7-9 months pregnant during all this walking.
Shortly after I moved into this apartment, one of the guys I worked with at Wal-Mart, became increasingly friendly, i.e. offering me rides home from work or to the laundry mat. Out of desperation, I often accepted these rides; but he became increasingly creepy at the same time (very strange behavior). I made it clear to him from the beginning that I was not interested in a relationship with him or sex or anything else, for that matter; but he was persistent in his advances. A neighbor mentioned to me that she saw him driving up and down our block at all hours of the day and night. He would often show up at my door unannounced. And this man, who I will refer to as “my stalker,” followed me over the course of 6 moves, where I was often told of his presence by neighbors or people who lived with me. Seriously, he stalked me for years. He still sends friend requests on social networking sites, which I always block! And NO, I never had sex with this man. Creepy is not a turn-on.
Now, all that walking I did throughout the entirety of this pregnancy must have seriously sped up my labor and delivery time. I called my contact through Caring Choices, the adoption agency I was using. I told her there was no hurry, but I thought I might be having consistent contractions. Half an hour later when she got there, she found me breathing heavy and barely able to speak. She quickly drove me to the hospital. My water broke in the elevator on the way up to labor and delivery. No sooner had the orderly gotten me out of the wheel chair and began undressing me, the baby crowned. The orderly yelled, “Somebody come quick, she’s having this baby!” A nurse delivered him because the doctor didn’t even have time to get there. From the time I called my contact until the time I gave birth was no more than 1 hour (April 27, 1999).
I got to spend 3 very emotional days with this little bundle of joy. His adoptive parents and I chose his name together. I felt honored that they would share this experience with me. His parents (and all the people at Caring Choices, too) were truly the first kind faces I had seen in a very long time. They showed me such compassion that I knew I had made the right choice. On May 15, 1999, I signed the surrender of adoption, giving up this child to his adoptive parents, who took him home from the hospital 3 days after his birth. This was truly one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made; but I felt that it was in his best interest to find more suitable, stable parents to raise him than what I, myself, could possibly provide. This was one very special gift that I was able to give in this lifetime, and I can only hope that karma rewards with compassion.
While I was in the hospital giving birth, my apartment in Lincoln Homes was broken into. They stole everything of value, which was very little, and ransacked the place. I still miss my class ring and the little golden Buddha statue. It wasn’t even real gold! I was furious; but I was also scared. My contact from Caring Choices took me home with her, and I spent the night. Then, my sister and her husband took me back to my hometown for a few days.
I tried to piece my life back together, making plans to attend Austin Peay State University that fall. I decided to major in graphic design in order to get back to my love of art. Prior to going back to school, on July 4, 1999, my apartment was broken into again. At this point a friend of mine took pity on me and moved me in with him and his roommate. Still, my stalker was following me. He even keyed my friend’s truck one day when I drove it to work. My friend chased him off several times from where we lived together. By spring semester, I moved into my own apartment close to the college, a small studio. When I got this apartment at the first of the year, my stalker began showing up on my doorstep again. With no help from management at Wal-Mart where we both worked and feeling overwhelmed with the unwanted attention from him, I quit my job. I changed jobs several more times after that, none lasting more than a couple of months at a time, until I began working part-time as a graphic designer for a local printing business in October 2000.
I could end the story here because things calmed down significantly in my life when I began focusing on me and what I wanted to achieve by going back to college. However, this wasn’t the end of my roller coaster ride of emotions, chaos, and battle with mental illness. Throughout the entire pregnancy, I was taken off all of the antidepressants. My mind cleared of the fog that deadened my emotions and my creativity. For the first time in years, I was actually feeling the emotions that were suppressed by the medications. By September 1999, my psychiatrist prescribed Effexor and Seroquel for sleep because these emotions became so overwhelming.