Lorin’s Story

8 Apr

SAAM LogoI was raped when I was 15 years old, between my freshmen and sophomore year of high school. I was with a friend and her family for the weekend tubing down the river. What was supposed to be a fun, relaxing weekend turned out to be the moment that stripped me of my innocence forever.  Rather than floating down the river sunbathing with my girlfriend, I remember waking up underwater, choking, fighting to keep my head above water. The first thing I could see was my purple, floral, bathing suit bottom just dangling around his neck. I remember screaming-at him, for my friend, to anyone who could save me. I don’t know how I got away, I just remember running down the river; the water was so low in places, I could run.  But then I slipped, slamming my chin into the ground. Of all things, I heard laughter. I turned around to find him, and apparently a friend that had watched the whole thing, pointing at me and laughing. Somehow I got back to my friend and between my appearance and obvious emotional state, I was lucky that there was no way to deny what happened. I was forced to face it. The rest of the night raced before me from questioning at the local hospital, identifying my perpetrator and finally the drive to San Antonio to have the rape kit done. 

That weekend didn’t just change my life; it changed my whole family’s life. I still feel chills when I recall the nurse calling my parents in the middle of the night, waking them. As my mother repeated the nurse’s words. . . “Permission to treat my daughter for sexual assault?!” I can still hear my dad’s scream as he fell to his knees.

Images from that night will forever be burned in my memory. I remember looking to the policeman that did the initial questioning for comfort or support.  Instead, I got questions about my past and disbelieving comments.  I remember standing at the front of the hospital as the police car drove up.  They shined a bright light in his eyes and I had to identify him right then and there. I remember finally getting to San Antonio and being greeted by a victim’s advocate.  Her name was Katharina which at that time was my favorite name in the whole world because it was the name of my favorite character in my favorite movie. My parents hadn’t gotten there yet so she sat with me and explained what was going to happen.  I had never been to the gynecologist before.  It was like being invaded all over again.    

Looking back, it’s strange that I can recall that night so vividly. In the two years following the rape, there are so many lost memories. People will recall stories and I will have no idea what they are talking about.  I can even swear I wasn’t there at all.  I remember feelings, vague instances, random details, but definitely not a sequence of events.  That night though- no matter how much I try to wish it away, it never will.  I will never forget it.

High school was a blur.  As I said earlier, there are things I don’t remember, I probably never will. However, there are also things that I will never forget. I will never forget the shame I felt, the giant burden I carried with me wherever I went. I will never forget the emptiness I had inside. At first, I was all tears. I couldn’t make it five minutes without crying. Looking back, that’s when it was easy. It had just happened; I was supposed to be sad. It was when the tears went away, when it was time to return to normal life that I felt completely alone. I wish I could find the words to describe what it’s like to have your innocence stripped away and to realize that the world is not safe. One man’s aggression and need for power would unfortunately change my view on life forever.

At first, we tried to deal with things on our own. My family went through classic denial behavior – if we don’t talk about it, it will go away.  Unfortunately, I started slipping away. I didn’t know who I was, why this happened to me and what I had to live for.  What had I done to deserve this?  If this world was such a cruel place, I didn’t want to be a part of it.  I secluded myself from all of friends. Many days, I just wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning. My mom told me she used to say a prayer every day before she walked in my room in the morning just asking God to please, let me have one good day. Unfortunately, those days got further and further between. 

Finally, it was time to face the facts – I needed help, real help.  I’d started going to a private psychologist.  According to her, my problems stemmed from my childhood and anti-depressants were the answer.  She must have been in denial too.  After the anti-depressants nearly sent me off the deep end, someone directed us here – to the Houston Area Women’s Center.

For me, the Women’s Center was a safe haven.  I clicked with my counselor here.  For the first time since this happened, I felt like someone understood not just what I was going through, but how I could make sense of my emotions.  I’m not going to tell you that they gave me all the answers, that they magically made everything better because no one can do that, BUT they helped me understand my feelings. They helped me realize that I was not alone.  Most importantly, they helped me find the pieces of me that were broken and gave me the strength to put myself back together again.  The Women’s Center put the power back in my hands.

It’s been over 10 years since I was raped and things aren’t perfect.  They never will be.  I still have bad days; I still have times where I feel like I’m slipping into a dark hole and I get that deep sense of desperation. . . But most days, I look at my life and I feel so unbelievably blessed.  I would not trade anything that I have gone through in my life because it wouldn’t have brought me to where I am right now and I can’t imagine a life that I could possibly more thankful for.  However, I can tell that I wouldn’t be here right now at all if it wasn’t for the Women’s Center.  The Houston Area Women’s Center saved my life.

(The survivor has granted permission for her story to be published on this blog.)

If you or anyone you know is experiencing/has experienced sexual assault, call the numbers provided below for help or more information:

Houston Area Women’s Center 24/7 Hotline: 713-528-7273

(Crisis intervention, shelter, referrals)

HPD Sex Crimes Unit: 713-308-1180

(Filing police report and information about your rights)

Harris County District Attorney: 713-755-52888

(Information and help filing a protective order)

*If outside of the greater Houston area, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE(4673)

Amber’s Story-Teen Dating Violence

27 Feb

(The survivor has granted permission for her story to be published on this blog.)

It didn’t start off bad. We met last year in February, when I was 19 years old. He tried to pursue a relationship with me for seven months and I gave him a rough time. He was known and very popular on our college campus, but he wasn’t my type. In July teen-dating-violence-awareness-month-2013he finally won me over and we started dating. At that time I was a virgin, I wanted to wait for that special person. But, he was very persuasive, and I ended up losing my virginity to him. During that time, I was very stressed. I was pledging for a sorority, working and school stressed me out. He wasn’t sensitive to my feelings and we began to argue a lot. The first time he became sexually aggressive was the last week of August. We were having sex and it was extremely painful; when I told him that it hurt and he needed to stop, he didn’t listen. Instead, he pinned me down and told me to take it. The pain was so excruciating that I started crying.

Afterwards, he got up and left. I was in so much pain I couldn’t get up the entire day. Because he was my boyfriend, I made excuses, I told myself that he really loved me and he didn’t mean to do it. Even after that first incident he continued being aggressive with me, especially when I didn’t want to have sex with him. It became an everyday norm.  He would constantly throw me against the wall, and physically and verbally abuse me. One time he even locked me in my bathroom and took off my clothes. I begged him to stop but he put my face in my robe to muffle my screams. This kind of abuse continued for a long time. He was my first and I thought he loved me so I continued making excuses for him.

Eventually, I found out that he was cheating and lying to me about several things.  I had a friend who was a criminal justice major who I confided in, and he made me realize that my boyfriend was abusing me. When I heard that, I broke down. I had been trying to avoid it, I was in denial, but I knew he was right. My grades were slipping, I couldn’t work or pledge my sorority, and I ended up having an emotional breakdown on campus. My coworker and boss told me to take time off and leave, and that’s what I did. I took time off from work and withdrew from my university. After I withdrew from school, I was notified that my boyfriend had done the same thing to two other girls. I was able to get in contact with them and got them to report their stories to the university police like I did. They were more than willing to help. We opened a case against him in which we won, and consequently, he was banned from campus.

I’m telling my story because people don’t realize the effects of dating violence. A lot of guys downplay their actions and say girls ask for it. In my situation, I felt like I was being blamed for his actions, especially by complete strangers and his friends. But today, I know it’s not my fault, and I don’t take responsibility for his actions. I’ll be going back to school next semester, and I’ll be starting a Teen Dating Violence group on campus. I’ve already talked to many girls who are in the same position that I was, but they’re too afraid to speak up. I just want to let other girls know that they are not the only ones going through this, and that there is help and a way out.

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. To learn more about teen dating violence, visit here. If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call the numbers provided below for help or more information:

 Houston Area Women’s Center 24/7 Hotline: 713-528-2121

*If outside of the greater Houston area, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Advocating for Children in Our Court System

9 Jan

It sounded exciting to 14 year old Allie when a group of older boys asked her and her friend, Kim, to skip school and go hang out at a new arcade that had just opened. They promised they would have the girls back to school before dismissal. Allie and Kim didn’t get much attention from their peers and were flattered and excited that these guys had asked them to go along. But once in the car, the boys headed in the opposite direction of the arcade and out into a rural area. When they drove down a dirt road and stopped in front of an old shack, Allie began to get a sinking feeling in her stomach. For the next three hours, Allie and Kim were gang raped repeatedly by the four older boys. They then took the girls back to the school, as if nothing had happened, and warned them not to tell anyone. After all, they had gone along willingly, hadn’t they? But when Allie’s Mom came to pick them up from school, she could tell something was wrong. Allie and Kim both started to cry and told her everything. A police report was made and both girls went to the hospital for a sexual assault exam. When the police concluded their investigation, they charged all four boys with sexual assault, two as juveniles and two as adults. They referred the families to Children’s Court Services at the Houston Area Women’s Center for assistance with the rest of the legal process. Both families were assisted in filing for Crime Victims’ Compensation and referred for counseling. The court cases were monitored and the families were kept updated on the status of the cases. Eighteen months after the sexual assaults, the juvenile cases were set for trial. The court advocate met with the girls and talked about what court would be like. The girls had two main concerns – that kids from school would be in the audience and that they would not be believed. The court advocate explained that there were already many people that believed them – that’s why they were getting ready for trial. She agreed to talk to the prosecutor about the possibility of closing the courtroom when the girls testified. When they got to the courthouse for trial, they learned that the prosecutor had agreed to let the boys enter a diversion program that would negate the need for a trial. The juveniles would have to go to treatment, change schools and stay out of trouble. While the parents were disappointed with the outcomes, the girls were relieved that they didn’t have to testify. Even though there weren’t any convictions, they felt like the boys had admitted to what they had done. Allie and Kim have now completed their counseling at the Houston Area Women’s Center and feel like they are ready to move on. But, there are still two adult cases pending. Children’s Court Services will continue to provide information and support to the families until all of the cases have been concluded.

(Names in this story have been changed and some identifying details have been omitted in order to protect the privacy of those involved.)

About Children’s Court Services:

Children’s Court Services (CCS) assists child victims of crime and/or witnesses to crime, and their families, as they participate in the criminal justice system. Our court advocates educate, support and accompany children and their non-offending family members as they prepare for the court process. All services are free of charge.

To learn more about CCS click here .To speak to an advocate about Children’s Court Services, call our 24-Hour Hotline at (713) 528-2121 or call Pam Hobbs, Manager of Children’s Court Services at (713) 528-6363 ext. 2255

Link

Houston Area Women’s Center, AT&T and Finding Joy

28 Dec

Women'sCenterA special thanks to Karen Walrond for her beautifully written blog about the Houston Area Women’s Center and shelter! To read the story, click here.

‘Tis the Season to be Jolly

20 Dec

This was my first year volunteering for the Holiday Store at the Houston Area Women’s Center. Before I began, I knew what an incredible thing it was for mothers and children to pick out holiday gifts…but it didn’t actually sink in until I saw it for myself! Imagine a single mom who has nehappy-holidays-wallpaper1ver been able to buy her kids presents, walking into a room with piles of brand-new toys she can choose from, for not just one, but ALL her kids. There are so many stories I want to share, especially one in particular of a mom who walked past the our holiday store room and stopped in her tracks exclaiming, “That is EXACTLY what my youngest daughter said she wanted for Christmas!” With tears in her eyes she pointed to a wooden rocking horse and said, “Since I couldn’t afford a new one I went to a garage sale to see if I could find what she wanted, except all they had was a rusty, chipped rocking horse.” As she happily took the brand-new rocking horse with her she said, “My daughter is not going to believe that for the first time in her life, I got her what she wanted, she is going to be so happy. Thank you!”  It’s moments like these that really put life into perspective. Watching all the mothers’ and children’s joyous expressions and being able to share in their happiness is one of the best presents I could ever ask for. I wish everyone a safe and wonderful holiday season with family, loved ones and friends! Happy Holidays!

Amber’s Story

14 Dec

Photo by NYDailyNews(Amber’s mother has requested that her story be published on this blog.)

On the evening of March 22, 2008, my life changed dramatically. Before this day, life was so fabulous and fun, I really felt free! I had two adult daughters that were employed and were managing their responsibilities and kids well. I was in my 40s, with grandchildren, and by all accounts happy!

Amber’s birthday was on March 22; I called her that morning wishing her a happy birthday and asked her to come by and pick up her gift. She stopped by on her way to work; she looked beautiful! We laughed, hugged, and after she left we talked on the phone all the way to work. That evening my phone kept ringing and I refused to answer it; instinctively I knew that something awful happened to Amber. My Aunt came over and told me the news, “That boy, he shot Amber.” The pain and grief of knowing that she had been shot was unimaginable. I thought maybe I could make it to the hospital in time, or maybe it was a superficial flesh wound. But there was no hospital visit; I was not able to see my baby. When I arrived at the scene all I was able to see was yellow crime tape, and police officers sympathetically asking me not to cross. My baby, my beautiful Amber, was gone, all too soon.

I was lost, I wanted my baby back, I wanted life again as it was before that fateful, awful day. It was her birthday! I did not want this pain. Yet I never asked God,“Why?” because I believed in the power of prayer. I believed in God, and I knew that God placed a suit of armor on me. Now, four years after the tragedy, I can stand here and truly say that God saw the beauty of my jewel – Amber, whom HE had only lent to me on a loan.

Losing Amber has allowed me to gain the opportunity to help victims of domestic abuse. If you are a mother, struggling to come to grips with losing a child; I can guide you through it. If you are a family member who has lost a loved one wanting revenge, and acting out hate, and anger, I can now help you. I too had to learn to redirect my thoughts with positive thoughts and feelings. I knew if I gave in to hate, I would be lost in the darkness, like the offender who murdered my daughter. Amber was love personified, she gave light to everyone that she encountered in her daily life. She was truly an angel, she worked very hard, and she was a great mother, daughter, sister, best-friend, niece, cousin, and co-worker. She graduated with high honors, and always dreamed of working in the medical field. She never let being a young mom stop her from achieving her dreams. I received the acceptance letter from the career college a week after her death. She was determined, extremely goal-oriented and she wanted to make a difference. If you are going through an abusive relationship or know someone who is, will you allow Amber’s story to make a difference? Will you get the help that you need today?

Thank you for listening to our story.

Sincerely,

Amber’s
Mom

*According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, leaving can be the most dangerous time for a domestic violence victim fleeing her/his abuser.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call the numbers provided below for help or more information:

Houston Area Women’s Center 24/7 Hotline: 713-528-2121

(Crisis intervention, shelter, referrals)

HPD Family Violence Unit: 713-308-1100

(Filing police report and information about your rights)

Harris County District Attorney: 713-755-52888

(Information and help filing a protective order)

Family Law Hotline: 1-800-777-3247

(Legal questions on family and domestic violence issues)

*If outside of the greater Houston area, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

 

It was NOT my fault-Tamela Black’s Story

6 Dec

Photo by Jennie Olson(The survivor has granted permission for her story to be published on this blog.)

I was 16 years old. One afternoon, I was at home with my nine-year-old sister and my two-year-old brother.  My parents were out for a few hours and I was taking a nap. While I was asleep, I heard a BOOM and my bedroom door flew open. A masked man with a gun came into the room and began to jump up and down on the twin bed adjacent to mine. I was terrified; I had just woken up to a real life nightmare. He had broken in through my mom’s room, and for some reason had her swimsuit hanging from his face. It kept swinging from side to side as he jumped up and down, while still pointing the gun at me. He told me if I moved or made a sound he would go after my little sister. With a gun to my head, he blindfolded me, grabbed me by my neck, and told me to get up. He led me through our house, asking me when my dad was going to come back home. My entire body was shaking and I was so afraid I wet my pants.  The man took me to a den near our kitchen and told me to get on the floor. To this day, I still remember the way he smelled, like sweat and death. With a gun to my head, he made me perform oral sex on him, and then he raped me. Afterwards, he took me to the kitchen, opened our fridge and drank a carton of juice. As he was drinking, I noticed his shoes through a peephole in my blindfold. I had seen those shoes many times before; they belonged to my next door neighbor’s Uncle. After he finished his drink, he told me to get underneath a pile of dirty laundry on the kitchen floor. Shaking, I curled up like a ball under the laundry and thought he was going to kill me. I laid there for a few minutes until I heard the door shut and a car start outside. He was gone. The moment I realized he had left I ran to get my siblings. With my sister in one hand and my brother on my hip, I ran down the street to my neighbor’s house. As soon as I got there I passed out and they called an ambulance. When the ambulance arrived, my friends that lived next door came over to see what had happened. I told them, “Your Uncle raped me.” I knew it was him because I used to go next door to hang out with them and he would always watch me. He was an older man and had just gotten out of prison. It was his shoes and his voice that led me to identify him. Later that week I identified him as my rapist at the police station and he was sent back to prison.

After I was raped, I blamed myself for many years. I only wore baggy, loose fitting clothes. It wasn’t until last year, when I first came to the Houston Area Women’s Center, that I realized it was not my fault. He did not rape me because of the way I dressed. It was entirely his fault, NOT mine. I forgave him and now I take any chance I get to tell rape victims that it was not their fault. The rapist is the only one to blame. I am a rape survivor and I hope my story will help other women know and understand that rape is never their fault, and that there is help.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing/has experienced sexual assault, call the numbers provided below for help or more information:

Houston Area Women’s Center 24/7 Hotline: 713-528-7273

(Crisis intervention, shelter, referrals)

HPD Sex Crimes Unit: 713-308-1180

(Filing police report and information about your rights)

Harris County District Attorney: 713-755-52888

(Information and help filing a protective order)

*If outside of the greater Houston area, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE(4673)

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