by Lori Leatherwood
Father’s Day, 2:00 AM, June 16, 2002
I am dreaming that the phone is ringing.
“Yes”, I reply.
“This is (don’t remember the name) from the Uvalde Medical Center. We need permission to treat your daughter, Lorin.” Okay, now I really know it is a dream. I had just told my husband the day before that I had forgotten to give a medical power of attorney to the family from our church. You see, Lorin, had gone away with them for the weekend to a deer lease they shared with several families. She was so excited about the weekend. The amazing power of my mind was playing out with this dream because I worried about that power of attorney. I was the worrier – it was my job. I would wake up and everything would be fine. “Mrs. Leatherwood?” Wait, she’s still talking.
“This is the Uvalde Medical Center. We need permission to treat your daughter.” This dream seemed so real.
“Treat her for what?” I replied.
“Sexual Assault!!!” I replied. My husband’s scream was proof this was no dream. I do not remember the woman’s name but she was the messenger of the news that changed our family forever. It became the before and after in the timeline of many of our memories. The conversation became a blur. She will be taken to San Antonio University hospital because they are equipped to do the rape kit – Oh, you did not know? – no one from the family she was with has called you yet? . . . would you like me to get them on the phone . . . your daughter is talking to the police now . . .The drive to San Antonio was a blur. I do remember trembling and feeling like I was going to be sick. It didn’t really happen. They must be mistaken. How did this happen? Where were the parents? What about her volleyball camp on Monday? Is she hurt? It can’t be that bad. Thank God, she is alive. Who was the person? How was she left alone? Did he abduct her? Did they get him? Was he arrested?
We arrived at the San Antonio Hospital at 5am and were able to see Lorin. My beautiful little girl seemed disheveled and exhausted. She had a look of fear that I had never seen before. They took her away to do the rape kit. It was necessary if charges were brought against the perpetrator. What would they do to her? We had never talked about her first “visit” to that doctor.
The father of her friend was there. He was talking but I was not truly comprehending the words coming out of his mouth. He did what? He let his daughter and mine go to the river unsupervised? No one else wanted to go with them and they really wanted to go. No, surely he did not let a 15 year old and a 16 year old go unsupervised in bathing suits to float down a river – a public river without an adult. Was this like New Braunfels – where groups tube down the river and drink all day? Yes, there are families but the majority are young adults. No, surely not. No parent would turn two young girls loose in that kind of environment. “Their” river must be controlled – it must be different. Perhaps it was on their property. She identified him. Her friend identified him. He was a college student from out of state. There was a group of them. They were drinking. He was arrested. What did all of this mean? It was a public river. How did they get there? I didn’t know her friend even had a driver’s license. Why would they go anywhere without the parents? I wanted to attack the father but I was too numb. My mind wandered. What now? How can I tell Matt (her brother)? How will he be able to deal with this?
He was only 17 himself.
How could I possibly tell my Mother? You see my Mother and I were as close as a mother and daughter could be. She lived two streets from us. She never understood the freedom afforded our kids of spending the night out and going away with people for the weekend. Her words rang in my ear!
Do you know these people well? Do you trust that they will keep a close eye on the kids? Will they be responsible? Will they be with them at all times? Who is driving? How far is it? What if something happens? What is the weather like? I just feel better when the kids are at home. You have control over situations when they are at home. What about the other families at the deer lease? Do you know them well? Will there be other kids there? Do you know them well? “Oh, Mother, she will be fine”, I would always respond.
The father leaves to go back to Uvalde. Lorin’s examination is over. They say she can go home. She likes the nurse. The nurse gives her a heart pillow. Katarina is her name. Katarina seems well-trained in her job. Lorin is given the “morning-after” pill and some other medicine. It will probably make her sick. They recommend contacting the Houston Area Women’s Center. They will check on her in a few days. The trip home is deafeningly quiet. Lorin slept. She is nauseated. I have a bowling ball in my stomach. My husband looks drained and merely drives. I want to ask questions but I do not think I can handle the answers. In my mind, I was already trying to figure out how we were going to keep this a secret. We could handle this in our immediate family. We would not have to tell anyone. She would be able to block this out and get back to normal. We arrived home. The mother of her friend (there were mothers on the trip but her friend’s mother had not gone) was at our house with flowers. She was obviously distraught over what had happened. I was on automatic pilot. She went on her way. Maybe the flowers would make this go away. Kristen, a good friend of Lorin’s, and her older sister came by. This will help. I sit with Kristen’s mother in her car and blurt out what has happened. The words I just said can’t be real. We told Matt. He screamed out in disbelief. His world was now rocked too.
I asked my mother and stepfather to come by. I called them into the bedroom. I blurted it out. My beautiful mother suddenly looked much older. She held onto the side of the bed as she went down to her knees in tears. My sweet stepfather (Pop – the only grandfather Lorin had known) was sobbing.
THEN WHAT? I guess my denial of what had happened was quickly shot to hell. This was not the 60’s. This was Lorin and there would be no cover-up. One thing about our family is we are not quiet. I did not know where to start. Would I make it worse by talking about it? Maybe it would still go away if we didn’t talk about it. Would my daughter be able to overcome this? It won’t be that bad. It will be terrible. Everyone will know. She shouldn’t tell anyone. Will the girl she went with tell everyone? High school girls can be so mean. It is best not to tell everyone. What if Matt’s friends find out? How will he deal with it? How could I turn back the clock and not let her go away that weekend? How could I deal with the anger I felt toward the father? How could I maim the guy who did this to her? Why did I hear about it from a nurse? What about the legal aspect? Could she be pregnant? Could she have gotten a disease? What about testing her? What doctor will she go to? She could have died. Thank you God for not letting her die.
We slowly started telling family and friends. It felt like every time we told someone, it validated the severity of what we were dealing with. The look in their eyes would cut us to the core. Please do not cry – maybe that will mean it will be ok. Do not look so devastated. This too, shall pass. Would it really?
Her aunts, both police officers, arranged for her to give her official statement to be transferred to the Uvalde police. I can still see their shocked and devastated faces as they sat in our living room. We found out he posted $5000 bail and was allowed to leave the state! I was amazed! Could that possibly be right? What were they thinking?
Lorin cut her hair off. She stopped wearing makeup and caring about her appearance. She resisted any suggestions I made regarding her clothes or appearance. She pulled away from her friends. She could not concentrate. Her excellent grades fell for the first time in her life. She could not process her homework. She yelled, she screamed. She was angry. I bought her sculptures with sayings. I bought her things that said Hope, Faith, etc. I bought her clothes. I bought her a lot of crosses. Maybe I could buy our way out of this. She said she was ugly. I said she was beautiful. She told me to shut up. I told her she would not talk to me like that. I slept with her. I slept outside her door. I tried not to talk. I lay awake at night so I would hear her if she started crying. I talked and cried to my mirror. I screamed at “him” in my mirror. I cried in my car, a lot. I talked to my mother a lot. Go to bed, she would say, you will be stronger in the morning. Nights were terrible, especially Sunday nights. Mornings were terrible. I asked my mother for help so I could work when she would not get out of bed. She was unresponsive. She just stared. She scared me. My mother would show up and just sit with her. Mimi had a knack of taking her to a dream world at her house that was an escape. Mimi got a cat because Lorin wanted the cat. Mimi did not like cats. Mimi was scared of the cat.
I was angry. How were all the people in the world acting happy? Did they not know what had happened to us? Why did this happen to us? We were very involved parents. We were not dead-beat parents. We knew our kids’ friends. This should not have happened to us. Wait, it is selfish of me to think about my feelings. What about Lorin? How can I take the pain away? How can I be her and figure out what she is going through? What about high school? This was supposed to be the time of her life. Really? It will get better. Will it get better?
*Part II to be posted soon.