A lot happened in the year 1973. I was fifteen, taken out of state by adult men (in their 20’s) and an eighteen year old girl I’d just met… I liked her, she said she felt like my big sister and would protect me. As the youngest in this group – and in my own family of four older brothers – I confess my childish desire for the sister I never had. And she knew one of the guys driving us out of state, so everything would be okay, right? Right?
Blessedly, I don’t remember too much of my rape… the men kept giving me drinks, supposedly ‘sparkling fruit juice’ they called it… they didn’t mention the drugs in the drinks – I just remember feeling weird and floaty, seeing trails of color everywhere, my movements so sluggish that for some reason, it made me laugh. I remember being scared and crying, hurting, as I found myself sprawled on a bed… I think I had my top on still, but couldn’t find my panties. I did find my jeans and slipped them on as my new-found big sister slipped quietly into the room. She placed her slender index finger over her lips and motioned for me to follow her with her other hand. I remember her brown eyes were rounded and wide, I could see a large circle of the whites around her eyes. I figured she was as scared as I was. I followed her down a short hallway. We paused at the end as she stared intently to the left, then slowly slid her body to the right, hugging the wall. I did the same. I saw the two men that had driven us here, sprawled out in chairs, sleeping or passed out. Two other men were sort of hunched over on the couch, asleep? Drunk? Drugged out? I didn’t try to reason out why they were unconscious and still at that moment, I just sidled around the corner following my ‘sister.’
She was standing at a backdoor in the kitchen area, fumbling with locks. Her hands were shaking so hard she could barely undo a lock; she glanced at me with her wide, dark eyes, her black hair tumbling across her face. Her skin was so pale and white, she could have passed for a vampire… but I knew she was of Indian descent, her skin was typically the color of a latte coffee – that definite undertone of a healthy dark brown mixed with creamy whiteness, normally gave her a golden color that enhanced her beauty. Yeah, there was some ‘chick-envy’ going on there; she was everything I wanted to be: tall, slender, usually filled with self-confidence and assurity of herself and her surroundings, she drew people – not just males – to her, like a moth to a flame. But now she was scared and trembling, and that fact ratcheted my fear level way up. I slid over to help her with the locks. There were four of them attached to the door. Who had four locks on their doors? I started at the bottom lock and let her keep working the top; we were in each others way and if we hadn’t been so terrified, I’m sure we would have dropped to the floor, laughing. It seemed to take hours upon hours to unlock those locks, with both of us stiffening and stilling every time a snort or fart or some other gaseous sound or mumble came from the sleeping men. In reality, it simply took a minute or two before we were able to open the door and slip outside.
It was pitch black. I honestly cannot recall the moon or stars in the sky. That back door seemed to open onto a field of shin high grass and weeds with no comforting light pole to be seen. Off to the somewhat distant right, we heard a car pass. I was scared and wanted to run to the left, what if it was one of their friends out looking for us? She leaned over and whispered into my ear, “We need to head to the road, get a ride into town… to safety.” I nodded after a second and we turned to the right, heading for that unknown road. It only took us a few minutes to reach and cross the paved road so we could hitchhike towards lights we could barely see – they seemed so far away, yet they were a beacon to us. We trudged on and on… finally, headlights cast over us and we turned, both of us sticking our right thumbs out as we stood about a foot off the road. The car sped past us, never slowing. Typical teens, we cat-called and hurled curses at the car racing away and continued our walk. The distant lights of the town really didn’t seem any closer, so we quickened our pace.
“If I had known,” she said, her tone very low and quiet, “they would be that way… they’ve always been good to me… kinda like big brothers, ya know?” She paused to chew on her lip and glance sideways at me. She continued after I gave one quick nod. “They only gave me drugs if I asked for them, they never….” I saw tears streaking down her face and she squeezed my arm. “They were never… rough… with me….” Her voice trailed off as tears kept flowing down her cheek. Before I had a chance to speak, we saw the headlights from two different vehicles heading our way and we turned, right thumbs extended.
I remember the high pitched wail of sirens and screams as I tore away, from somebody, and raced to my ‘sister,’ laying in a crumpled heap several feet away from me. The screams grew louder and louder as I saw the thin strips of chrome siding impaled in her beautiful body, another in her forehead. The hands that had been holding me before came back, grabbing and shaking me… that’s when I realized the screams were coming from me. The next thing I remember was standing in a small, rural hospital room, my beautiful sister weakly moaning as I pulled her slightly into my arms… her final breath was a blessing and a curse washing over me and I sobbed. I held her, sobbing; I don’t know how much time passed before I heard a voice calling my name. I finally looked up and saw my father standing in the doorway and raced to him, throwing myself into his arms. I don’t remember leaving the hospital or the long drive home, although I kind of remember being curled up on the back seat, still sobbing for what I’d lost. Later, the memory of laying on my father’s couch and being under an afghan my mother had crocheted; my mother walking through my father’s front door, tears streaming down her face as she gathered me into her arms and held me tight to her chest. Eventually, again, I don’t know how much time had passed, I found myself back inside of a hospital… as the fogginess slowly lifted and I began to emerge from the semi-comatose state I had been in, I understood I was in a mental ward filled with teenagers. I remember trying to work with the doctor to piece together what had happened; he filled me in on what he knew as a fact: my ‘sister’s’ funeral had taken place a week after her death, four weeks earlier; I had been catatonic for five weeks; the various drugs in my system, from that night, had not caused any permanent damage that they were aware of and were no longer influencing me; I needed to accept and understand my role in what happened that night, before I would be allowed to be released.
I remained a resident of that mental ward for about three more weeks as my brain worked to process everything they told me. I was angry. I was grieving. I was filled with a deep sadness and sense of loss – I hadn’t even been able to go to my new-found ‘sister’s’ funeral! I later learned she had lied to me, about a great many things… mainly, that she was newly married and off on a fling before she buckled down to being a wife. And, that she was mentally ill, herself. I ‘met’ her husband on the phone. I was cruel to him and called him a liar. Today, as an adult, I can remember the pain and anguish in his voice – and his compassion for me, as he wished me well. Back then, I just remember shouting at him on the phone, then vomiting.
Roe versus Wade had passed sometime around all of the happenings of my drama. I didn’t want an abortion; my mother dictated I would have one. I didn’t want a child of rape, either. You could have a voice in the decision, if you were sixteen or older. My baby was due two months after my sixteenth birthday. Legal abortions were provided in New York; my mother flew us there. I gaped in wonder at the tall skyscrapers as I dragged my rolling overnight bag behind me; my mother snapped that we weren’t there to sight see. She lectured and hissed at me, telling me I better tell the people at the hospital that I wanted that abortion. But I don’t, not really. I only had around ten days left in my pregnancy, before they would deem me too far along for a safe abortion. I did as my mother told me; I was terrified. When a nurse took me to the elevator, my mom said she had to return home, for work… but she’d return after it was over to collect me. Collect me. In the room I shared with another woman, I huddled on my bed and cried. She was older and tried to reassure me, said it would be okay… and I found myself pouring out my story to her. She came over to my bed and hugged me, wiping the tears from my face – until a nurse walked in and yelled at us. I understand doctors and nurses are trained to save lives, but the nurses cruelty and mean comments were completely uncalled for… you deserve what you’re getting you little whore… shouldn’t have spread your legs you little slut… you don’t deserve this pain free treatment, whore… and the woman in the other bed yelling at the nurses, calling them cruel, heartless bitches. I had been given drugs to induce labor. The pains wracking my abdomen terrified me even more and I screamed until a nurse smacked me sharply across the face… and a tiny misshapen blob popped out of my body. The nurse that had smacked me yelled at me about the mess I had made, and made me clean it up myself.
I’m telling more now than I’ve ever said aloud before, but I won’t describe that tiny lump of flesh to anyone, other than he was a male and, not normal. I personally placed him into the red hazardous waste plastic bag the nurse had tossed at me. I held him in my hands as I was roughly shoved over to a gurney and wheeled into a surgical suite to finish the procedure. I remember the smug look on the face of the nurse that had smacked me, then her downcast eyes as the surgical nurse gasped at my entrance. I remember her whispering, “Oh baby, I’m so sorry, you shouldn’t have had to go through that.” I remember her tightly gripping my hand, her other hand stroking my arm as the doctor performed the d(ilation) and c(urettage) procedure that finished cleaning me out. I remember the doctor’s jaw clenching as my angel of mercy whispered what happened. That nurse had me rolled into the recovery room and kept me there, stopping in to check on me often, throughout the night. Before her shift ended, she let me know my roommate had told her what had happened and the nurses that had been so cruel to me were being reported – I didn’t care, I was numb – and that she, my roommate, was fine. She also said my mother was due to pick me up in about an hour. She hugged me and whispered, “I know it isn’t an excuse, but they were angry they had to help end a life… never mind it was conceived in rape or unhealthy and drug laden.” She sighed deeply, and pulled back to look into my eyes before continuing, “They should have given you the care you deserved….” She squeezed me one more time then turned and left.
Months later, my mother told me new rules were put into place at the hospital where I’d been treated so cruelly, because of me. I’m glad other women would be treated with dignity and care, but I couldn’t fully release my anger and anguish over what I had been through… especially when I learned a cousin only a few months older than me was pregnant, and her mother, my aunt, was going to help her raise it. That hurts, still to this day… although in fairness, that child was conceived in love (puppy love, I’m sure) and not from rape… that child wasn’t filled with drugs from drug-laden parents… that child wasn’t malformed or unhealthy.
My own children are aware of some of these details. I had to give them a reason why their mother always becomes so very sad, every April, once they were old enough to make that connection. April is when the child would have been born, you see. My abortion was rough on me and likely changed me, in many ways. There were many mistakes, when Roe versus Wade first came into being. Giving women the right to choose what she does with her own body is not one of them.