Tuesday, December 1, 2009

January 11, 1989.

This was the date that my life (not to mention the lives of the participants mentioned within) was irreparably changed.

Some time around 7:00 in the evening, my friend Jax (17 at the time) was laying on her belly in the middle of her parents' living room floor doing homework. Neither of her parents were home and her sister was  living in the city closer to university at the time. She heard the front door open and rolled half on her side to figure out who it was. The man was fairly tall and was wearing something on his face - she wasn't sure exactly what it was, but it was covering his features. 

She figured it was Clarke, as it was not unusual for him to be arsing around ... and Jax's place was "the hangout spot" in our neighborhood. We lived in a very small place. Everybody knew everybody. My aunt and uncle owned the convenience store across the street from Jax's house. Very few people even locked their doors at night, and everyone in our group knew how to gain access to most houses in the area in the event that someone did. It was these very factors that allowed the intrusion ... without alarm. She scoffed at him and told him to 'fuck off, (she didn't) have any cigarettes' as she rolled back onto her belly to continue her math.

He was pulling her off the floor by her hair and jamming the muzzle of his gun into her ribs before she realized this was not any of her friends. Dragging her through every room in the house, he ripped each and every  phone (including the jacks) out of the wall. No chance for arousing help. Are there any more? He barked the question into the side of her head. She shook her head side to side, the shaking of her legs making it hard to remain standing. An awful thought occurred to her. She remembered her father had recently hooked up a phone in the laundry room, located in the basement. What if Mom or Dad called home to check in? What would he do to me if it rang? She tried to open her mouth to say something, but found no voice. 

The finite details of what happened next are vague intentionally, out of respect, out of complete disgust ... out of not possessing power over enough words to describe the horror. He bound her hands with a coarse rope that burned through the skin on her wrists leaving open gashes that took weeks to heal. He raped her. Repeatedly. Such a short, seemingly harmless group of words. The physical acts were heinous, violent, degrading ... sickening. Not that she would have been able to vomit. She was threatened with her very life against that. But it was the lingering fear that did the real damage.

Before he left her, he tied her ankles with the same rope. Left her naked, face down on her parents' couch. He whispered in her ear before disappearing into the night ... soft, almost apologetic: thank you. The sound of that in my mind (to this day) causes the hair to stand on the back of my neck and that hot strain of utter disgust to burn through my shoulder blades.

She laid there for likely an hour or so. Not daring to move. She was in shock. To pass the time, she sang. 'When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad ...' for over an hour, getting louder with every round ... Naked. Bound. Afraid to move, but equally afraid of her father's reaction when he walked through that door and saw her. I was at my house, less than a five minute walk away. Hanging out my bedroom window, smoking. Had the road not had a bend in it, I would have been able to see into her front yard. She later told me she was screeching the words to the song by the time her parents arrived home to find their youngest daughter in the aftermath.

The next morning, as I walked to my school bus stop (at the convenience store), two things hit me pretty hard. No Jax, and police tape encircling her house. My heart stopped. I wanted to run across the street. See what had happened. Comfort my friend. I could easily see that was not likely to happen. Police had descended on the house like ants on a candy apple. In and out of the doors, in the driveway, around the yard ... It was surreal. Jax's parents' vehicles notably absent... maybe it was just a break in and they were staying somewhere else. But ... wait. Jax would have been home last night. The low, dull pain in my belly began to grow - ever slowly.

The day at school was like slow motion. There were rumors flying all over the place. Nobody really knew anything for sure, but in hindsight - there was a remarkable amount of accuracy to those rumors. I was nearly frantic by the time I was called to the office ... to the phone. It was Sally, the woman that cared for my sisters while my parents worked. She was actually a cousin of Jax's as well. She informed me I was not to come home on the bus. That she was on her way to pick me up. She told me I would be able to speak to Jax later that evening on the phone, but first I needed to speak to Jane from S.S.A.V. Save? What's the hell is save?

The moment that passed between my asking the question and Sally answering, was the last of my childhood. I didn't know it then. I had no real idea how all of what was happening would affect any of us.

"Service for Sexual Assault Victims". Before I realized what had happened, I was bum first on the floor of the principal's office. I don't really remember sliding to the floor, only that I was there. The secretary was hurrying toward me, arms flapping like a disgruntled goose. Sound stopped. I don't recall actually doing it, but I must've gotten up and walked down the hall to the girls bathroom. I vaguely recall vomiting and  then perching myself on the edge of the commode and dissolving into tears.

 In the weeks following the attack, Jax slowly came to purge herself of the offenses perpetrated against her.  She could not talk to her parents about it at all. This was my job. I never left her side. Not for a minute. I slept with her, stayed home from school with her until she was ready to start attending again. I missed almost all of the second term of grade 10 (as did she). She was my only job. My only focus. She got a lot of counseling in the following months. Her grandparents bought her a fully trained doberman pincher, aptly named "Angel ". Her family had all measures of security and so forth installed. Slowly, she started to allow herself to relax slightly. Eventually, the time came for her to go back to school. I was stuck on her like a body guard. I had never known the kind of ferocity a mama bear could have when her cub is in any danger. I certainly learned that in hurry.

There were good days and bad ... and when a bad day came, I was excused from class to drive home with Jax. Some nights (after I started sleeping at home again ... weeks later) I would get a call in the middle of the night and hear Jax's terrified voice on the other end of the line. Nobody else in her house awake, she turned to me to lull her to sleep... or talk her through the dark. I used to tell her silly made up stories until dawn broke.

Finally, in April - they caught the son of a bitch. Turns out he raped 18 other women (that we know of) during a period of time in which he was on parole for another sexual assault charge. A serial rapist. We learned through the investigation and subsequent trial that he had raped another woman not far from our community and forced her 4 year old son to watch. The item he had worn on his face turned out to be his three year old nephew's (I think) tee shirt. The child had apparently been left in the car alone during Jax's attack. Of the 19 women we were aware of, only six agreed to testify in court. In the end, it was only Jax and the "mom" from the neighboring community that didn't allow the defense lawyers to shred them on the stand. Two, out of 19.

I did not attend the trial. She didn't want any more 'publicity'... and asked everyone to stay away. I was the only one of her friends that actually listened to her. It nearly killed me, but I respected her wishes. I didn't witness it, but I was so proud of her. She was a rock! She stared that wolf of a lawyer straight in the eye and recounted the most horrific moments of her young life - all while he attempted to discredit her at every turn. Things she could scarcely whisper to me, she then had to recount for the entire community, her friends, busy bodies and her shocked and horrified parents to hear. It turns out that while the 'alleged' rapist is innocent until proven guilty, it is quite the opposite for the victim.

Someone actually said during the trial that it was a damned good thing Jax was a virgin prior to the attack. I'm not so sure THAT wasn't the most abhorrent part of the entire ordeal. What in the holy hell could that possibly mean? Getting brutally raped, at gunpoint, by a serial rapist could somehow have been her fault? Even if she was the loosest girl in the country, I don't see how it could have been any less HER fault. It was heartbreaking.

The trial was merciless. The rigors etched deep worry lines in our faces. All of us torn apart by the uncertainty. She was terrified for her life, and the lives of her family that he would not be convicted. He told her he'd kill her, her sister, mother and father if she tried to find him. He had been watching her house for months prior to the attack. Ironically, it was this fear that kept her so strong. He was convicted of 6 counts of sexual assault and assault with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to somewhere around 30 years in prison because the judge had the good sense to make his sentences consecutive.

We are approaching the 21st anniversary of that night. He has tried three times to be granted early parole. Three times, we have managed to block this from happening. It is really only a matter of time now, before he gets his day in the sun... though I'm not entirely certain he'd make it all the way to the end.

Jax doesn't live in the same province anymore. She married her first love. He is the only other man that has ever touched her. Everyone moved forward from that day ... left foot, right foot ... repeat. I developed an all encompassing case of agoraphobia the following fall. It eventually forced me out of school. I didn't understand why at the time, but later learned my pubescent mind just couldn't process what had happened and as soon as Jax didn't need me so much anymore, I started to come unglued.

Until that night, our world was very simple. We lived in "Mr. Roger's neighborhood". A place where my bud, Clarke could gain access to my bedroom via my window at any time it pleased him. A place where I walked the street between my house and Jax's most nights of the week ... in the dark - alone. Somewhere that parents didn't worry about leaving their teens at home alone, save the fact they may get into their own brand of mischief. Nothing would ever be the same for a single one of us.

Twenty plus years later, I don't dwell on this so often anymore. I usually try to forget January 11th on my calendar. I haven't spoken to Jax since she got married - several years ago, now. I know how she is ,as I am close friends with her sister, but our friendship died a very long time ago. Something more painful for me than any of the other events spoken in this post. She was my best friend, my cub. I loved her like family.

I guess in the end, I was too much of a reminder for her.


brite said...

Oh Dani...I am speechless.There are wounds and scars in life, inflicted for no logical reason, and they do not 'go away'.I think the best we humans manage to do is 'make space' for the horrors and griefs in our lives, and hope that little by little it takes up 'less space' than it used to.I'm sorry for your friend, I'm sorry for your losses; your friend, your innocence, your trust and security.
But you are a brave, fantastic woman, and sadly it was this event that helped make you that way. (hugs)
*for someone who was speechless, I probably said too much

brite said...

And...next time that bag of shit rapist scum applies for parole, make sure that the parole board reads this piece as part of 'victim impact statements'.This is such an eloquent and raw piece that shows even after 21 years what he did still hurts, still haunts and he should never be released to hurt again.

*Hah! and my capcha word is 'linch'

Danica-Dragonfly said...

Time heals most wounds.

I'm not really sure what prompted me to write about this after so much time. I just really needed to, I guess.

I had a nightmare about him being released the other night. I woke in a cold sweat - heart in my throat.

Weird, I've never been afraid of him before. I was always so consumed by guilt over the whole thing to fel my own fear.

Odd how that is.

Cindy said...

I remember this, but I didn't know the smaller details. I knew what happened to Jax, I knew you didn't come out any more, and I knew why.

I had another friend who met with this particular man. (I think. He had been given a catchy name, to do with a motor vehicle, hadn't he?) She was fourteen years old, walking through the woods on her way home from school. He bound her hands with her belt, she had to go home that way when it was over. Her parents said if she was lying, they'd kill her. Nice, eh?

She never developed the ability to trust a man. She would flirt, but never ever gave anything of herself. I saw her melt down one night when we were drinking, and it was unreal. She was in the shower scrubbing her skin, and when we pulled her out she was burned and bleeding in some places. She is still broken today, but she pretends she isn't. She just never grew into her own sexuality, it was denied to her. The love between a man and a woman, that bond, is something I doubt she will ever know.

If that guy stays in jail until he's dead, it won't be enough. If he gets out, I bet it won't be for long, one way or another.

Melinda Arnold said...

Fucking bastard I hope he rots in hell and becomes some big angry prison guys bitch

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