Until a few years ago, I never really knew what that meant.
I thought I knew. I thought I knew what it meant, what it felt like, what it was.
I do now though.
Boy, do I know.
And if there was ever any doubt, I'm constantly reminded. Most of the time, it's me who reminds me but yesterday it happened to come courtesy of a phone call from a certain Air Force Captain. The same Air Force Captain who has been on the other end of several phone calls that reminded me of it.
Three years and 14 days ago, it happened.
It's nowhere near anything I ever thought would be a part of my life but on October 4, 2009 it happened and it is now very much a part of my life.
About eight months after it happened, I received a phone call from the JAX (AF Legal) Captain notifying me that the civilian court in Texas had declined to prosecute. The District Attorney had taken my case before a Grand Jury and despite all of the evidence against him, they returned a No Bill on my attacker. The DA had pulled the Grand Jury and discovered that there were three men who could not and would not be swayed of their opinions. To them, my swollen and bruised neck, the petechiae in my eyes from being choked and suffocated, the bruises in the shape of his hands on my arms and legs, the scratches on my back from his dirty fingernails, the bump on the back of my head were all indicators that I liked rough sex. They had no problem saying that in their minds, this was a case of a young military wife who cheated on her husband and regretted it so she cried rape. There was no indictment issued and he was then free to continue on to the base listed on the orders that had been put on pause when the investigation had begun. He was free as a bird and when he got to Little Rock AFB and his file landed on the Commander's desk, I got this phone call telling me everything.
In a phone call, it happened. Life. Again. In that phone call I felt all of that pain and terror and humiliation again.
The beginning of September 2010 brought another phone call. This one was to tell me that the Commander wanted to go forward within the military justice system and convene an Article 32 hearing.
In a phone call, it happened. Life. Again. In that phone call I felt hope. Life isn't always bad and I was reminded of that.
A week later Mr. Superman got a phone call. He was being deployed in two weeks.
In a phone call, it happened. Life. Military life. Again. I felt what I imagine to be the absolutely normal yet no less frightening rush of emotions that any military significant other feels when they hear those words. THE words. I'm deploying. A split-second later however my heart jumped into my throat and my head started to spin because yet again, I was facing the possibility of facing my attacker alone. All of these thoughts, and feelings, and fears overwhelmed me in a matter of seconds.... all because of a phone call. Again.
By the end of September my husband was gone and I was living with family in Arizona. The day marking a year since my attack was full of writing depositions, answering questions from lawyers, and praying I got to talk to Mr. Superman who was 8,000 miles away.
October 19, 2010 was our three year wedding anniversary. It was also the day of the Article 32 hearing. I was berated with questions from all sides. The Prosecution walked me through every single second of that night. THE night. The night it happened.
I answered the same questions I'd been asked by so many people, so many times. Then I did it all over again with the Defense team. I was slandered. Embarrassed, mortified, terrified, frustrated, exasperated, upset, angry.... these don't even begin to cover what I was feeling. I did it all a third time with the Judge Advocate. Each time I had to use clinical terms and explicit detail sparing nothing. Three times. A few hours later it happened. Life. I had gone to an Urgent Care because of pain I'd been dealing with. It was a miscarriage. Our third angel baby was gone. I was numb by this point except for a tiny spark of feeling in my heart when the realization hit that I was going to have to tell my husband.
And just like that it would happen again. Life. Shock and sadness would follow the news I gave my husband. He would be reminded that life happens. No matter what, it happens. There's no stopping it. Even though it was our anniversary and despite him being 8,000 miles away in an active and dangerous war zone, the words I'd say to him would reaffirm the bitter truth of life. All because of a phone call.
It didn't take long before my phone was ringing and the caller I.D. showed it was the AF Captain. I didn't answer it. I couldn't. I couldn't bring myself to face another phone call that would jar me back to the reality of it all. Life. I was sitting in a nail salon with my sister and we both had our feet soaking in mini-jacuzzi tubs. I was going to be flying to Salt Lake City the next day to spend Thanksgiving with Mr. Superman's family and was looking forward to a week of escaping reality. A few minutes after the missed phone call my phone buzzed to let me know I had a voice mail from the Captain. I ignored it. I don't know how many hours it took or if it took a few days but when I finally braced myself and put the phone to my ear, I wasn't prepared for what I heard.
"Everything has been dismissed. The Judge Advocate didn't feel there was enough to take it any further. As far as his civilian record goes, there is none. His military file shows that while he attended Tech School he was questioned about a SARC case but nothing more. Your request for an extension of the Do Not Contact order or a civilian Restraining Order have both been denied since everything has been dismissed and its now as if none of the investigation or incident ever occurred."
It happened. With an ignored phone call and a voice mail I was reminded of the cruelty and unfairness of life. Regardless of what we do or don't do, life happens. It always happens.
The last couple of years have been full of ups and downs when it comes to how I've dealt with and coped with being raped and subsequently having my rapist exonerated twice. There have been days where I felt strong and brave and as if I could see him on the street and be okay. There have been days where I felt like curling up in a ball and crying until my eyes were swollen and my head ached. I've lost count of how many days I have done just that.
Yesterday I was at work when it happened. Life. I was surrounded by a few coworkers and nine 3 year-olds singing fun songs when my phone began to buzz. Normally, I don't have my phone in my pocket while at work but we had just returned from a field trip and I had taken it with me to take pictures of all the kids. I took it out of my pocket to hit ignore but my heart stopped when I saw the phone number. When I got my iPhone, I never transferred numbers over so even though it didn't have the AF Captain's name on the caller I.D. I knew it was him. I'll always know who it is when a 501 area code is flashing on my phone screen. I jumped up and mumbled that I had to take the phone call. I ducked into a small room/closet at the back of our classroom and with shaking hands answered my phone.
In that instant it happened. Life. I heard the familiar voice of the Captain and could tell what he was going to say wasn't going to be good news. About ten minutes later I hung up the phone while furiously wiping my eyes and hoping none of the kids would see me crying. I stepped out and ran to the bathroom where I kept telling myself that no matter what, I had to pull it together and push it all aside. Life.
Here I am 3 years later and because of a phone call I got yesterday I feel just as raw and bruised and angry and terrified and embarrassed as I was the night I was raped.
Raping me wasn't enough.
Choking and suffocating me until blood vessels burst in my eyes and I nearly passed out wasn't enough.
Raping me again wasn't enough.
Slamming my head into a concrete wall wasn't enough.
Bruising, restraining, and hitting me weren't enough.
Slandering and humiliating me weren't enough.
Making sure I felt like I wasn't worth anything wasn't enough.
Getting to walk away free, twice, with no consequences and as if he didn't nearly kill me wasn't enough.
This person who took something away from me with no repercussions now has FIVE different attorneys assembling against me and looking for me so they can serve me with papers to let me know he is now suing me for defamation.
The Captain was calling me to let me know. Even though he was legally not supposed to contact me again after everything was dismissed, he did. And just like that, with a phone call this Air Force Captain reminded me that it happens.
No matter how many times we have been knocked down or disappointed, it happens. In spite of how we choose to deal with the past, it happens. Regardless of how good we are doing in our lives and how happy we are feeling, it happens. There is never any slowing it down or stopping it in its tracks.
It always happens.