This article has stuck with me in a bad, can't-get-it-out-of-my-head sort of way: Plan For The Worst - Preparing for Abduction and Restraint.
was posted almost two weeks ago and there hasn't been a day that's gone
by that I haven't fought writing this. It's a great article and needs
to be expounded upon and repeated.
Allow me to blunt with why it has affected me: I was restrained, abducted, beaten and raped.
don't talk about it "publicly." Not because it's painful but because it
is a closed chapter in my life. I'm not a victim. I don't even think of
myself as a survivor. I don't reject the label if someone wants to
categorize me that way but for some reason I feel the term isn't
deserved. "Survivor" sounds pretty grand and I certainly didn't do
anything grand. I didn't fight for my life. I didn't fight at all. I
froze up in a ball of denial and fear, resigned myself to dying and in the end I was let go.
Dropped off in a parking lot like a carpooler. A
perfectly ordinary end to an extraordinary day. While I did survive (by
the dictionary definition of the word) in that I am alive to talk about it, I
did not escape unscathed. There were things that were taken from me and
killed in me that day and therefore things I needed to mourn and do still find myself mourning. But there were also things that were born. Good things. Things that have lead me to become the woman I am. And
so I may not have survived as much as I have adapted.
Either way, when I tell my story, I have many people who tell me how
sorry they are for me. I appreciate their sympathy but I don't know what to do with it or respond to it. My story is not a
pitiful one. I suppose it would be if my abduction, rape and following
months and years were the entirety of it, if I hadn't adapted, but that's only the beginning.
I got over it (as much as anyone could). I healed (to form beautiful scars). I have a fearless, wonderful, fulfilling life.
of adaptation starts with making mistakes but is ongoing in that I still learn from them and hope to help others learn from them as well.
The things I have learned include lessons like the ones listed in the article above. So if you
haven't read the article yet, I suggest you go and do so before you
Now that you
are back (or if you just kept reading) let's
put on our rain boots and go slopping our way into my past.
was seventeen and a pretty typical seventeen year-old at that. I was
far more concerned with boys than anything else in life and was having a
good time stringing a long line of them along. I was having fun and
pretty sure I had everything under control.
Something the linked article
doesn't go into is the fact that abductions very rarely happen out of
the blue by strangers. Most abductions, from children to adults, are
preformed by individuals who are close to the victim in some way. As it was in my case.
got romantically involved with an older man. At first he was charming
and seemingly caring and protective. He treated me gently but firmly and
in a way that could be perceived as lovingly. He was a bit controlling
and jealous but that was nothing I didn't feel I couldn't handle.
time protective became obsessive and then abusive. He'd been patient
with me and manipulated me well and by the time he hit me the first time
I was sure I deserved it. But I was also sure I didn't want that kind
of a relationship. I didn't love him but I feared him. I feared him
enough to go along with his games to the point where I was believing I
loved and respected him, even while I was desperately searching for a
way to get away from him.
The more I pulled away the
more he obsessed. He had me followed and stalked me. He would call to
ask me about my day and when I left out certain parts he would
accurately fill in the details. He would demand to see me and when I
made excuses he would start to make threats and act unpredictably to
humiliate me and manipulate me into doing what he wanted.
When I got the nerve
to talk about leaving the threats started in earnest. Threats to humiliate me,
harm me or harm my family. Finally, there came the threats to kill me.
shortly after my eighteenth birthday, he became very reasonable. He
asked me to meet him. He said I could choose the place and it could be
as public as I wanted so I
would know I was safe. He promised that as long as I met with him in
person and answered some questions about why I wanted to leave he would
let me go with no strings attached.
I was washed in
relief, completely unaware of how many alarm bells should have been
going off. Perhaps they were going off, but the screams of my optimism
were drowning them out. I genuinely thought I
was going to meet with him, talk, and walk away a free girl. Maybe I
figured he might make a scene of some sorts to humiliate me or maybe hit
me but nothing too bad--nothing I couldn't handle.
met at a diner in the morning. I was late and he made a scene about it.
He didn't ask me any questions, instead he lectured me on how I
needed him and belonged to him. So many lies I'd heard again and again
and couldn't believe. I didn't say much. I sat in my chair, a cowed
silhouette of a young woman--head hung, not meeting his gaze, sitting
how he expected me to sit, addressing him in a way he wanted to be
And then it all fell apart.
did or said something to set him off. Or, maybe it was part of his plan
all along. I seem to remember he said something to the effect that I had not
dressed appropriately for him appropriately. He grabbed me by the hair and started to push/pull
me from the restaurant.
I was frozen solid.
only thought going through my head was, "This isn't happening to me.
This isn't happening to me. Help me!" I was spending more time
being astonished that he lied to me and was doing this than accepting that I was in deep
trouble. I had absolutely no ability to think or act or call for help. Even if I
had the ability I wouldn't have known what to do. I didn't know how to
hit. I didn't know how to kick. I didn't even know how to think. There was no such thing as weapons of
opportunity. Pepper spray? What was pepper spray? People used knives to
cut food, not for defense. Guns? Only police officers carried guns. Self
defense? That concept was alien to me.
As he escorted
me through the patrons, I remember looking at them. If my face was
pleading, I wouldn't have known it. If I had to guess I'd say it was as
blank as my mind. Frozen solid in disbelief and fear. From the outside the incident may had been a bit odd but not so alarming as to make anyone suspect what was going to happen. I didn't even know what was about to happen. Maybe I thought he was going to tell me it was over and to go home.
was still immobile in disbelief and fear when he got me to his van and
got me inside. It wasn't until he put a chain around my neck and locked
it with a padlock that the gravity of my situation fully engulfed
me. Perhaps on some very deep subconscious level I was overly optimistic that it wouldn't go this direction or maybe I knew that prior to
that moment I had options. But with a chain around my neck I got that sinking
feeling in the pit of my stomach that whatever happened from that moment
on (including my life or death) was entirely up to him. I no longer had
any options. I also no longer had any optimism that this was going to be nothing.
I won't go into the details after that
except to say that secondary crime scenes are as bad as you read about.
He took me to a place he could have privacy and take all the time he
painful. It was humiliating. It was cold. It was terrifying.
Through it all,
eventually two things happened almost simultaneously:
1. I became entirely convinced that I was going to die.
I stopped being afraid and got angry. Or maybe that's how I remember
it. Something tells me that in the moment I wasn't as angry as I was
giving up and knowing that now makes me angry. I did have anger though.
was angry at myself for letting myself get in that situation. Angry
at my helplessness. Angry at him for lying and myself for believing
those lies. Angry at everyone who just watched as he dragged me out of
that restaurant. Angry at my denial about what was really going on. Any at my naive optimism.
My only two desires were to see the
sky again and to see my Mother's face. I remember trying to hold on to
the image of her smile and only seeing tears. Tears when she'd learn
that I'd gone missing. Tears of worry. Would they find my body? Would she have to identify it? More tears on her
face. A funeral? More tears.
I was angry that he would get to hurt her through me. I was angry that I had let him do that. Angry that I'd taken her--taken everything--for granted and wouldn't be able to say goodbye. Angry that being choked to death in some pervert's garage was my end.
then, inexplicably, it was over. He stopped choking me. He stopped
beating me. He had a few more choice indignities to deliver to me once
he cut me down from where I was hanging but it was over. I was dressed. I was back in
his van and back at my car where he shoved me against it, kissed me and
said his goodbyes.
told me he didn't kill me because that would be letting me off too
easy. He said he wanted me to live the rest of my life looking over my
shoulder for him. He promised he'd come back for me some day and that
I'd be his again. He said I didn't deserve him. He promised me that no
matter where I went or what I did he would find me and that I'd live
with that terror for the rest of my life. He threatened to kill me if I
ever talked about it.
I only spent between six and seven hours in his company that day. But his threats held me hostage for years.
They don't anymore. Even if he made good on his threats the idea
of him coming for me holds no terror for me now.
I never called the police. If
you want to ask why I'd say it was because of
all the reasons any battered woman doesn't. Fear. Of him, of the
system, of people finding out. I didn't want to face him in court. I
didn't want my life put on trial. I didn't want people I loved and
respected to hear about my mistakes. I didn't want to see my mother's
tears. I was still very afraid of
him and I didn't believe I would win. Despite the bruises and welts and
bodily fluids that covered my body from neck to knees I was convinced he
would somehow come out triumphant in a court of law.
Instead I called in sick to work and spent a few days of blissful agony in bed, not sleeping but staring at the most beautiful sky outside of my window and welcoming every ache and pain because it meant I was alive.
The statute of
limitations has long since run out on his crime. I've checked. But
that's not the point of this post. The point of this is to learn from my
mistakes. So, let's tally them, shall we?
First, I'd like to point out that it's not a mistake to fall for an abusive person.
They are manipulative and skilled at their craft of catching victims like spiders are
skilled at catching flies. They don't just walk up and introduce
themselves as abusive predators so it's understandable if, at first, you
find yourself falling for someone you think is a genuinely good guy.
My first mistake is staying with someone who was abusive.
Definitions of abuse vary depending on who you talk to, but a man who
lays a violent hand on me will not be long tolerated. I will also not
tolerate financial, sexual, mental or emotional abuse. Chances are if an
individual is okay will abusing you in one area he will be apt to let
that abuse spill into the other areas as well.
My second mistake was letting my fear impede action.
I was so afraid of what people would think when they found out I was
with an abusive guy. I was afraid of leaving. I was afraid of him acting
on his threats. I was afraid I wouldn't be believed or that it would
turn into a "he said/she said" situation. I lived in a prison of fear
but if I'd talked about it before hand and sought help I probably could
have saved myself. This also includes the aftermath and not seeking
legal justice for the crime.
My third mistake was missing the signs that a big event was coming. People
don't go around threatening to kill people if they aren't considering
that an option. Yes, some people do have dark senses of humor sometimes,
but when someone threatens to kill you in anger it's something to note. And a history of physical abuse is a BIG clue that he
doesn't have a problem acting on his violent impulses. But the biggest
clue of all that I missed was his sudden willingness to be agreeable and
compromise. He'd told me for weeks that if I left him he'd kill me and
suddenly he promised he'd let me go if I merely agreed to meet with him
to talk. It was too good to be true.
My fourth mistake was agreeing to and going to that meeting. I can't emphasis this enough. If
someone with violent tendencies who has reason to be angry with you
suddenly wants to meet to "talk" or give you something or just to see
you one last time, DON'T GO! Arrange for anything to
be said or given through an attorney or sent to a neutral location for
pick up. Even legal documents that need to be signed can be done through
third parties. Even if you have agreed to
meet in a public location, if the individual has a plan to hurt you or
abduct you or even kill you, the number of people who are witness to it
won't really matter. Don't go. Period! If you do decide to go, at least take a third and fourth party
with you (preferably armed and trained body guards). At VERY least, call a friend and tell them where you are going and that if
they don't hear from you in x-amount of minutes to call the police.
Give that friend all of the information you have on the person you are
meeting (cell phone number, home address, full name, etc.). But, it's better not to go.
My fifth mistake was denying what was going on. I knew nothing good was coming from being dragged out of that diner. I chose to deny it until it was too late.
My sixth mistake was letting him restrain me and put me in that van.
Once that chain went around my neck it cut off all options. As you have
seen, there are some options when you are restrained with things like
rope or zip-ties, but short of being a lock smith or having bolt
cutters, I was not getting out of a padlocked chain.
My final mistake was not having any self defense preparation whatsoever.
When the time came I froze solid because I had absolutely no
preparation for that kind of a scenario. All my life I'd been taught
that when in public bad guys don't attack, the public will step up
and help you if something bad happens. I was taught wrong and I put my
faith and safety in the unknown public. I paid dearly for it. I no
longer blame or am angry at the patrons of the diner that day. I
understand it was not their job to help me. Many of them probably had no
idea anything bad was happening. I did not make a scene. Yeah, there
was a man dragging a young woman out the door by her
hair but their minds probably immediately started rationalizing what
was going on. Many probably didn't want to get involved and I understand
that. I don't blame them. That situation was not their fault, it wasn't even
mine. While I admit that I made mistakes, he was the one committing the crime. But it wasn't their responsibility to save me.
think abduction and restraint are things you don't have to think about.
You may be able to avoid it by being conscious of the signs but the
fact of the matter is, we humans are masters at deceiving ourselves into
thinking we have control of uncontrollable situations or that we are
more aware than we are. We always look back and say, "I should have seen
the signs." So, when we don't, it stands to reason we should have plans
in place for those worst-case scenarios. We should teach them to our
sons and daughters and wives and friends.
wonder if there was a time after I was restrained where I could have
made my escape. Could I have seen what the chain around my neck was
attached to and seen if I could have broken it? When he transferred me
from the van to the garage could I have gotten away? I don't agonize
over it but I see no reason not to learn from it and pass that learning
In closing, I'd like to reiterate that while I did
make some mistakes that got me into a bad situation I do not feel
responsible for what happened to me. There were times I did and that can
be one of the hardest distinctions rape survivors have to wrestle with.
It's part of the shame that drives so many of us underground to not
talk about what happened to us or seek help or justice. We feel we are
to blame somehow which is part of the ongoing rape to make one feel helpless, ashamed, foolish, guilty, stupid and powerless. Of course, the truth of the matter is that making a
bad judgment call is not justification for kidnapping, assault and rape. The ONLY one at fault for rape is the rapist.
took me a long time to stop blaming myself and even to forgive myself.
My goal here is not to open old wounds (though, I'll admit to shedding a
few tears while I wrote this) but to help others learn from my
mistakes. And to warn people not to take anything they may learn about
self defense for granted. Even something as improbable as being abducted
and restrained is something to be prepared for.