Tear Time

And by “tomorrow evening” I meant “next week.” I know you forgive me, that’s why you are special to me…this post is really about the very not-courageous part of my experience. The part where any superhuman qualities you falsely (but sweetly) tagged me with get blown to pieces. In my last serious post, I had just left the Public Prosecutor interview/interrogation, and was heading back to the hotel with my parents. That cab ride was long and steamy (Roman summers are oppressive like Southern summers in the States). My mind was snapping with the many things I had said and done during the interview. And I felt compelled to share each and every word with my parents. 
That’s what your parents are for. Long after you have worn out your welcome with your friends, you have your parents. And they will listen to you. So, that’s what they did. They listened to me turn thoughts and concerns over and over out loud: What did the Prosecutor really think of me? Why was the interpreter so hard to work with? Did they believe me? When I pounded my fist on the Prosecutor’s desk and rose out of my seat, did that sink me? Why on earth would the police have written that I was speaking English and ITALIAN with Marco when I told them SPANISH? Why was the Prosecutor arguing me on how Marco shoved his hands down my pants? What could I have said better? What did I forget? It went on, and on and on.

And what it really came down to was the back of my brain meeting up with the front of my brain, bringing with it all of the fear that I had worked very hard to suppress. I had just experienced firsthand the stress and tricks and distress of an interrogation, and let’s not forget, the Prosecutor was supposed to be representing ME. I couldn’t turn my thoughts off. Each cycle made me more and more anxious. By the time we went to bed, I had reached a state of deep worry and my chest felt tight. I climbed into bed with my Mom, and my Dad took to the single bed, and shortly after the lights went off, I unleashed my fear and upsetment. I was terrified.

I cried into my mother’s back. Deep, awful sobs that shook all of me. It was the kind of crying you do when you are much younger and you make no effort to control yourself. It was one of the worst feelings I have ever had. Typing about it now makes me cry. Just thinking on it does. I was overcome with terror about the very possibility the prosecutor would not press charges, about not being believed, about being lied about by Marco if we did move forward, (and having terrible, disgusting accusations made against me on the stand). I had lived a good, clean life. And somehow, it seemed none of it would matter. I, quite possibly, was marching toward an experience and a trial that would destroy my reputation or my spirit, and I found that notion intolerable . In that moment, then and now, I understand why many women do not prosecute. There is an awesome vulnerability that comes with it – a special terror – and I did not trust the system, Marco or the attorneys involved to do right by me. I almost quit. I was ill. So ill about it.

Before dawn, I arose, kissed my parents goodbye, and headed to the airport with Eddie. I felt hung over and washed out. I remember watching the trees speed by me on the winding road to the airport. I said few words to Eddie. He could see something was not right with me. After he walked me to the security line, I turned and hugged him. For all his quiet strength, he could not protect me from what was coming. No one could.

Upon returning to the States, and an apartment strewn with rose petals but absent the boyfriend I had hoped would greet me, I laid in my bed, exhausted and contemplated what was next. No one would fault me for quitting. That’s what my boyfriend told me. But, if you know me – truly know me – you’d never say such a thing. It was not an option. I was stuck and just going to have to come to terms with it.

Shortly after my return, I broke out with a weird rash that attacked my arms and legs. It was so itchy and just spread every which way. After two rounds of steroids, home remedies (pouring lemon juice on my arms and legs) and creams, I finally got rid of it. But it was attributed to stress and was the first time in my life my body ever responded that way. In a weird way, I felt like I didn’t know myself. Like I was no longer in command of all of me. I was dispossessed of the very thing Marco had tried to take from me, but long after the fact. And I was trying to keep all the balls in the air: work, my social life, my relationship. All I felt was apologetic and awful for being such a disaster in front of everyone. And I was scared silly. Deep down, for my mind only, I was shaken. And I couldn’t even express it to anyone because no one around me could possibly understand.

Editor’s Note: A reader wrote to me last week about the terror and damage contact with her attacker causes. First of all, she is AMAZING and I am blessed that she even bothered to write to me and share her painful experience. She prosecuted (successfully) her attacker. But the trial was particularly difficult for her to get through and the subsequent encounters at his parole hearings continues her psychological torment over contact with him (a second parole hearing is coming up). She often wars with herself about encouraging others to go through prosecution because of how it has affected her. But she presses on. This woman has gone above and beyond for herself and her fellow woman. She should be praised and encouraged. Please take a moment to send her a prayer and positive thoughts. Think about her and what a wonderful thing she has done and how the world needs more like her. I know how much I have thought of her this past week and prayed for her well-being. And I wish I could do more. She says despite all that she goes through, she still knows it is what must be done. She is keeping him from others. THAT is courage…by the bucket load.

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