It was another hot Texas summer and I couldn’t believe I had survived this heat with no air conditioning in my car. I missed the cool moist air of Salem, Oregon, the small town where I came from. Salem was a perfect place to live because I was an hour from the ocean, Portland, and the mountains. Tragically, the terrible path of destruction by Mt. Saint Helens ravished the beauty of those mountains.
The economic impact left many people jobless, including me. We packed up all our things and drove to Texas with my mother and son in January of 1984.
After two years, I began to relax and feel at home in this huge metroplex. My son Brad and I had rented a small duplex that had a bus stop right outside my front door. It was the last weekend in June of 1986 and I was returning from my mother’s house where I had left my son so she could visit with him before he left for Arkansas to see my Dad. As I approached my front door it was dark and quiet except for the jingling of Annie’s dog tags approaching.
It was getting late and I had to work the next day so I started my nightly routine. Concerned about some noises I had heard outside my duplex at night, I borrowed a twenty-five caliber gun from a friend at work and kept it on the top shelf of my closet away from Brad.
I pulled a chair over so I could retrieve the gun and put it under my pillow. While adjusting my noisy window air conditioner, a peculiar feeling came over me to put the gun under the mattress. At first, I thought I’d just imagined it. Besides, why would I do that? I’m here alone with Annie. Surprisingly, the same command was louder the second time and louder still the third time. I was tired of hearing it so I said aloud, “Alright, alright, I’ll do it.” As soon as I put the gun under the mattress, it stopped; I thought that was strange. Finishing my routine, I shut the bedroom door, turned out the light, and went to bed.
In the early morning hours before the sun was up, a man quietly crept into my bedroom. I was asleep on my right side facing the wall when he slipped his arm under the pillow and grabbed my jaw. Terrified, I began screaming and he told me to shut up or he’d kill me. He shoved my face into the pillow so I couldn’t see him and he raped me.
My mind closed off what was happening to me and I lay silent. When he finished, he reached for the other pillow and I was convinced suffocation was next. These were my last moments of life, I thought, as he placed the other pillow over the back of my head.
Surprisingly, he backed off the bed, ripped out the phone, and he was gone. Still frozen in fear, I listened for any noises thinking he might be in the other room waiting for me. Trembling, I cautiously made my way toward the living room and found the front door open; I quickly shut and locked it. I turned around and hoped for a dial tone on the phone in the dining room. I grabbed the receiver.
I called my sister and tried to utter what had just happened to me, but I was too hysterical. I took a deep breath and said, “I’ve just been raped.” She yelled for me to hang up so she could call the police. In a matter of moments my mom, my sister and two police officers were standing in my living room talking to each other while I quietly sat on the edge of the bed. The officers drove me to the hospital to have the rape kit performed, and after the exam, I was released.
Two detectives came to the door of my sister’s house where I was staying to ask questions while my mind was fresh. Soon after they left, the phone began to ring from co-workers and friends wanting to know if I was okay.
I reached out for help and talked to a counselor at work in our care services. She educated me about trauma, something I knew nothing about until then. I was her first rape case and she promised she would help me through this. My friends couldn’t cope with what happened and they abandoned me; my family was in shock and other than my counselor, I was alone. It was nearing the end of August—mental and physical exhaustion were obvious just looking at me, so I went home early that day to plan my suicide. Because of my sister’s vigilance, she recognized I was in trouble and called my counselor who arranged for admission to a psychiatric hospital.
I was alone in my room and feeling frustrated after a group therapy session that provided little help or comfort. Staring at the ceiling, I began to pray. I called upon Jesus and surrendered my spirit to be healed. In an instant, perfect peace came over me; my anxious mind quieted, and my thoughts became rational and clear. I checked myself out after a week and went home.
My child needed his mother to be there for him, so my needs became second as I put this tragedy to rest. I never saw my attacker’s face and the hospital told me the rape kit was lost, so there was nothing more to pursue. Life had to go on, my son deserved it and I was determined to give him a happy childhood.
Time passed and other than an occasional recollection when I saw the calendar on June 30th, I felt good.
My son had a normal childhood and grew up to be a fine young man who married and gave me two beautiful grandbabies.
After 9/11, I got involved with my community and volunteered. I began working with a local agency that provides help to victims of crime. My supervisor Jana could see my passion for this work and sent me to the Victim Assistance Academy at Sam Houston State. It was there I learned about cold cases and DNA.
Realizing that I never followed up on my case, I decided to do an open records request when I returned home. A month later, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to read when I picked up the offense report from the police station—it had a “recommend to suspend, ” and stated there were no workable leads, just ten days after I was raped. I had my case reopened and the search began for the missing rape kit. In a matter of weeks, my missing rape kit was located. It was safe in a refrigerated unit located in the Southwest Institute of Forensic Sciences for nineteen years. The hard part was learning that cold cases are low priority and that my rape kit would take another year and a half to be processed.
On February 7, 2005, I got the call that CODIS had produced a DNA match and my attacker had been found! Although prosecution was not possible due to the statutes of limitations expiring, the knowledge that he is in prison for the next forty-five years was comforting. He has been up for parole once and denied, due to new DNA evidence of my assault. I am only the third case in the state of Texas where parole was denied because of new DNA evidence linking the offender to a sexual assault.
I consider myself blessed to have my case solved and have some measure of closure. So many victims still have no answers and the lack of funding keeps many sexual assaults unsolved due to backlogs. Today, I continue to advocate for victims in my community and I am very involved as an activist lending my time and energy for the improvement and education of victim’s rights.