NOTE: All bolded items in this post are so you know some things that I felt helped me build my case or are just points of emphasis on things you might find surprising.
I have to say, I am so glad Marie Claire kept in the article what I did upon reaching my hotel after sprinting four blocks to safety. I threw my hands up Rocky-style.
(scene from “Rocky” featuring Sylvester Stallone; credit: United Artist)
What the article didn’t include was the stream of profanities my Rocky moves were accompanied by. I had a totally cathartic, “Holy Shit!” moment which was followed by the swirl of thoughts about what to do next. Well, I climbed the stairs to the pensione and shielded my face as I hurried past the front desk clerk. When I got to my room and my friend answered, it was dark and she didn’t immediately see me. I went straight to the bathroom and looked at myself, contemplating just washing up and not saying anything. That thought lasted all of two seconds as I realized I needed to alert my friend because Marco, afterall, knew where I was staying and we might be in danger.
What ensued was a series of phone calls from the hotel phone. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do: get medical attention, call the police, call my family or…call my health insurance company. I was in the process of closing on my first home and decided I had better ask someone at my health insurance if I was covered for overseas medical attention. By the way, this surprised no one in my immediate circle of friends that this was my first phone call. I’m cautious like that.
The health insurance nurse I called couldn’t tell me much about overseas costs, but she did begin a sexual assault questionnaire. After about 7 minutes with no end in sight to the questioning, I hung up. I didn’t have time for that. Still, it was good I did that because they then had a record of my call and me reporting I was assaulted. My next call was to US information (411) to find my sister’s new home phone number; I did not have it on hand. I decided to call her instead of my parents. I didn’t want to give my parents heart attacks or my father a reason to try to board a flight in Denver with a shotgun. It turned out well as my wonderful brother-in-law kept a really calm head and decided to call the US Embassy in Italy. In a few short minutes, the US Embassy officer-on-duty called me in my hotel room. The Embassy is not open 24/7. The US Embassy in Italy was closed until 8 a.m. and I had about 6 hours to get through until I could go there.
The officer told me a few key pieces of information. She said there were several “mobile first aid units” in Rome that either I could get to or that could come to me. Also, she had a list of hospitals the Embassy recommends Americans visit. And she told me to make sure I get a copy of my hospital report/results if I decided to go there. I opted for the mobile unit idea. I had some pretty bad shakes and had my friend call the number the officer had given us.
Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to us, the officer had given us the number for the local police, not the mobile unit. It was a one-digit difference in the number, but a HUGE difference in the outcome. Instead of a mobile first aid unit showing up at my hotel room, uniformed police came – the carabinieri, like the ones in the last DaVinci Code movie. They didn’t speak English and they just started asking me questions rather gruffly; the front desk clerk acted as a translator. I was not happy. I did not want to speak to the police until I was at the Embassy. (The Embassy officer had told me I could wait until getting to the Embassy to file my report.) I did not want to go anywhere with them because I knew that Marco was well-known in the area, had lived there for years, and I worried that these guys might be his friends. Rational or not, that was my thinking. The more the police questioned me, the more I told them I wanted to go to the Embassy first. The hotel clerk found this insulting. He yelled at me. But I was not going to do anything I didn’t want to do. I dug my heels in. And then the police superintendent showed up. He was in plain clothes and quite displeased with me and my refusal. It was clear to all of them I had been in some sort of scuffle because of the blood and my swollen body parts. So, it was me, my friend, three police officers and the hotel clerk in our teeny room. But I didn’t go anywhere with them. And they couldn’t make me.
As they were finally leaving, one of the officers stayed behind to write notes. That’s when I began taking pictures of my injuries to chronicle it just in case I needed the images for anything.
And then, I had the clerk call a taxi to take us to the closest hospital. The cabbie was unfamiliar with the places the Embassy officer had recommended, the police refused to take me, so we went with the one the clerk said was closest to us.
We arrived at Ospedale Generale Santo Spirito right near the Vatican. I tell you, there was NO ONE there at 4am. We walked in to a completely empty hospital, with not a clue where to go and just started knocking on doors. The interior was dim, grimy and eerily quiet. Eventually we found a person who took me to the back for processing. I had to hand them my passport so they could record my information. And then, I was put on a gurney to wait for the doctor. He did not speak English either. But more about that in a future post.
Upon completion of my examination and getting my x-ray results, I made sure to get a copy of the results and report.
I left the hospital by cab at about 6am and returned to my hotel to pack up and bring everything with me to the Embassy, just like the officer told me to do. I could no longer stay where Marco knew I was even if I didn’t know how or when I’d be returning to the States. At 8:27 a.m., I departed for the Embassy, and that began a very long and trying day for me, especially since I had not slept. That too, I will tell you about in a future post.
EXTRA NOTE: The hotel phone established a timeline and proof of calls made (and therefore, my state of mind). It provided a record the Italian police could easily get themselves rather than me having to deal with my cell phone company. I used the hotel phone because my cell phone did not work overseas. The Embassy officer provided key information and is your best avenue for help so before you travel to a foreign country, make sure you have that information in advance and save yourself the extra calls and worry if you can. And the photos I took, I had not yet decided if I was truly going to file a police report or hop my flight home, but I took them any way, just in case.
QUOTE: “If I’m too strong for some people, that’s their problem.” – actress Glenda Jackson, c. 1936 (Women’s Wit and Wisdom; Runner’s Press)