Throwback of the Day: Time for another trip down memory lane.
Shortly after the worst night of my life, thus far. 1994.
Several months before this photo was taken, at the Metropolitan Community College Spring Fling, hosted by the Student Life Council, of which I was a member, I was brutally, sexually assaulted.
My assailant was my ex-fiance’, who didn’t take kindly to me breaking off our engagement. I had broken things off with him because of his incessant drinking and staying out until all hours of the night. I was also suffering from his persistent gaslighting (for instance, he would come home visibly drunk, but he didn’t smell of alcohol. He had previously told me how this was possible, while telling me stories of how he avoided getting arrested for drunk-driving; “drink apple juice and it will kill the smell of alcohol on your breath,” he told me. So he looked and sounded drunk, but smelled sweet, like apple juice, and despite him telling me his alibi, beforehand, he would lie to my face and swear he wasn’t drinking and get upset with me for not believing him. That was just one of many instances of gaslighting). The final straw came when I saw him throwing my things away and we got into a physical altercation. I realized, for certain, that he was toxic and I needed to end our relationship for both my sanity and my safety.
One month later, he would come to my home when I had a guest, start an argument with me, and then, knock me across the room as he punched me in the jaw. It stunned me. I hadn’t been hit like that since I was a child and I wasn’t going to stand for it, now. I called the police. I filed a complaint, but he had fled the scene and the police were not able to apprehend him at that time. It was a holiday weekend, Memorial Day 1993.
For two days, he would call me incessantly, begging me not to press charges. I refused. He dropped by my apartment and slipped me a pack of cigarettes as a (futile) gesture of apology. I still refused to let it go.
For my entire childhood, I was beaten and abused by my parents and neither of them suffered any consequences for that. I worked very hard to avoid abusive relationships of my own; I didn’t want to end up like my parents. I spoke out to my girlfriends about their abusive relationships. I was not about to let another person hurt me and get away with it, if I could help it.
Late, that Saturday, on a hot and suffocatingly, humid Nebraska summer night, with all the windows open in my apartment, in a futile attempt to get some air circulating through the place, he cut my phone line, and used a stiletto (a very long, Philips head) screwdriver to cut through a screen in my second floor bedroom, found me in the livingroom, sleeping on the sofa, where he turned off the lights and the television, effectively waking me up. As I awoke, he covered my mouth with his hand and held the screwdriver, that felt like a knife, against my neck and threatened that if I screamed, he would hurt my 3-year old son, who was sleeping in the bedroom, that my attacker had just broken in through.
He beat me and raped me for several hours. Before falling asleep, he threatened me, that if I ever told anybody, that he would kill me.
That’s when something in me flipped. I thought about the abuse that I suffered at the hands of my parents. I thought about all the lectures that I had given to my girlfriends, about getting out of abusive relationships. I thought about my standing, at school, and how I represented the student body, effectively making me a role-model. What would people think about me if I just rolled over and, knowingly, accepted abuse in my relationship. How could I ever show my face, again, if I allowed this to continue to happen to me.
Fear and pride flipped the switch that made me brave. As my attacker slept on the sofa-bed, I quietly kicked my clothes into the bathroom, threw on a bathrobe, grabbed my purse, then grabbed my kid, and quietly slipped out the backdoor, through the kitchen, just barely pulling the door to, so he wouldn’t hear the click. I walked slowly down the back stairs and, once hitting the pavement, ran like the wind to the local convenience store, a block away (I actually was spotted, by one of his friends, and this friend was yelling my name, as I ran with my kid down the block, scared to death that my attacker would be alerted and try to stop me). I called the police and they arrested him, in my home; he was still sleeping when they came to the door.
By January 1994, he was eventually sentenced to prison for 12 years for sexual assault and false imprisonment. Although, I testified at the preliminary hearing, upon hearing that he could get a possible 75 years for charges that included, burglary, breaking and entering, assault with a deadly weapon, and attempted murder, my attacker plead out his case, instead. I was at his sentencing. I never saw him, again.
Due to the assault, I suffered a deep depression. I let myself go; I barely ate or even showered. I did manage to make it to classes, but because I was so moody, my friends mostly kept their distance, which had the added bonus of making me feel very lonely, furthering my depressive state.
I got involved in some unfortunate relationships, including a relationship that made me obsessive, almost to the point of stalking. Some gaslighting from this new partner had gotten my head all twisted around and, once again, I knew that it was time for me let him go for good. So, I wrote an open letter and sent it in to American Top 40 (and Casey Kasem read my letter! My special dedication was played that Valentine’s Day: “One Last Cry” by Brian McKnight).
Right after I wrote that letter, sealed it up, and prepared to mail it, I pulled a “Brittany Spears” and cut off all of my hair. That moment, was extremely cathartic. It was a release. I shaved off all the bad energy that I had been buried under for more than six months, and reclaimed my life.
Lucky for me, Halle Berry and Toni Braxton were rocking the short locks, in those days, and the short look, looked great on me, so I WERKED it! And found myself, again. That is also pretty much when I began my hat obsession, in earnest, creating a new style for myself.
The above picture was taken the following April and it’s the only photo that I have of that period of my life. I had a new look, I had a man that made me happy, I was about to graduate and transfer to a new college (Peru State College). I was in the midst of starting a new life.
If I had one word that could describe this photo it would be “BRAVE”. It’s proof that I overcame something that was literally going to kill me, but I fought back, the best ways that I knew how. That smile is genuine; happy. THAT woman; my 23-year old self, is pretty much how I define myself, today, 23 years later.