I read the saddest article on cnn.com today about a rape victim who was murdered by her accused rapist. (Of course, above the headline there's a bold red ticker that says the day's real news: some celebrity's a*topsy results are in. But that's a rant for another day.) It's a tragic, tragic story that is unfortunately not uncommon. I was disappointed but not surprised that the story includes several versions of, "Why didn't she report it earlier?" which is a question I thought maybe we could be done with by now. Part of the answer, of course, is that she was afraid of what would happen if she reported it. But she did eventually report it and now she's dead. Are we done with that question now? Probably not.
After months of trying, I have an interview on Thursday to volunteer with the local rape crisis center. (Turns out it's almost as hard to volunteer in this city as it is to find a job.) I really hope it works out and that I can find a way to do either the hospital response or the crisis hotline with my new work schedule at the bank. Of course, all of this is bringing back memories of my time volunteering as an RVA, and I thought I would post another story. Here's the first one which includes an explanation of what an RVA is. And again, skip these if you want. It's grim stuff.
From the hundred or so calls that I went out on as an RVA, this is always the one that won't go away. This call came in the evening, maybe 10:00 PM, instead of the normal 3:00 AM, so I knew it would be different as soon as my pager went off. There were two victims – sisters - and they were two and three years old. They were tiny blonde girls and their parents had raped them many times with many objects, including a broomstick. They had two aunts who had kidnapped the girls that night while they were supposed to be babysitting and brought them to the hospital, which is where I met them. I don’t remember the girls' names (and wouldn’t post them, of course, if I did), but I do remember that the youngest had a nickname related to her round Buddha-belly. The girls were beautiful, but more. It was past their bedtime so they were tired and quiet, and to me they seemed like angels with sweet smiles and soft ringlets of hair hanging past their shoulders. They didn't really know what was going on, of course. I even remember what I was wearing that night (a red sweatshirt I had stolen from a friend in college); I don't know why I remember some of the small details but not other parts of the night.
I remember that the aunties were scared and desperate, and it was my role to be the calming influence. They were older than I was, I was maybe 23 and they were probably in their early 40's, and I remember thinking, what in the world am I supposed to tell these women who clearly have seen more of life than I have? I remember the rape exams and how heartbreaking they were, and how I explained each part of the exam to the aunties as the doctor performed it, and how I tried to keep my voice steady. I remember specifically how the children's bodies looked so tiny on the big exam tables. What I remember most was the couple of hours we spent waiting for a physician to become available to do the exam. (It always took forever to get a physician. I hate to say that was one of the reasons I eventually quit, but it was.)
The exam room was very small and there were no chairs in it. So while we waited for a physician, I sat on the linoleum floor with my back against the wall and my knees up, and I held the girls while their aunties paced the hall outside. I really do remember what the girls' weight felt like on me, one girl in each arm with their chins tucked over each of my shoulders. They slept that way for a couple of hours. My arms were cramping and falling asleep, but I couldn't give up the chance to hold those girls. They were sleeping - I remember how their breathing sounded - and I remember rocking them slowly back and forth and whispering things in their ears, like “You’re going to be ok” and “You’re such strong girls.” Of course I was hoping those little messages would somehow lodge themselves into their brains forever.
That's it, that's the memory that won't go away. I was "spoken to" later by my supervisor because the rapes had taken place outside of our county of responsibility, and protocol was that if we arrived at the hospital and discovered this we had to leave. I remember accepting the scolding and apologizing, acting like I hadn’t known about the rule.
I still wonder about the girls, of course. I wonder what they look like and how they're doing and who they live with. I hope they still have each other and that they remain close. I hope the parents are dead or locked away somewhere, but they probably aren't.
I don't know what else to say, the whole thing is so hopeless. I guess the shift that has to take place, in society and in people's minds, for this not to happen anymore, is so great (and I believe we're further away from it now than we have been in the past), that I just focus on my one little part, which is trying to be there for someone else when they need it. I find that when I really need someone to be there for me, someone is usually there. And that's what I'm trying to do, too. I don't know what else there is to do.