“But Becky, I got away…”
That’s what I told her.
I had been in therapy with her for years, discussing my childhood molestation and the rape in San Diego and the harassment in the Navy, that followed in the aftermath. But this. This I never told her. Because. Well, because, I got away.
I remember that she leaned forward in her chair, and said, in a calm manner, “It’s sexual assault, Laura, and you never told me.”
“But, I got away….”
IF HE'D ONLY KNOWN
It took some convincing, but I finally understood. Maybe it’s because I didn’t remember his name exactly, but I kindof-sortof had an idea of his last name, and I remembered that he was a short, thin, black man who wore glasses and had a wife and two kids and drove a sports car.
I recently described him to a friend named Rick, who had been stationed with me at the time and Rick knew exactly who I was talking about. His name is Chris. Chris. My attacker now has a first name. Rick, said everyone knew something was going on between Chris and me, but he had NO idea that’s what it was. If he’d only known he would have said something….done something.
THE FIRST PHONE CALL
Back in the mid-80s we didn’t have cell phones. And on the island of Guam it was costly to get a landline put in your barracks’ room on base. I was lucky. My room already had a landline in it when I reported. It was one of only a few. I think one of the previous tenants might have been someone who spent a lot of time on call and so the phone was put in the room for her, so her command could reach her at a moment’s notice. It was simply kept in the room after she moved out.
Everyone else made and received calls on the pay phones located on the first and second decks at the end of each hallway. My parents had my number, but they didn’t call often and I didn’t call them often – it was expensive, but it was nice knowing we could reach out if needed. Most of the time it was used to order food, call work, call other places on base, etc.
One morning, after I rolled out of bed, the phone rang, and I answered it sleepily. I chatted with some guy for a few minutes. He was talking about magazines. At first I thought he was trying to sell me some. I kept trying to tell him I didn’t want any. I didn’t know how to simply say, “no” and hang up the phone.
The conversation took a drastic turn. He started talking about how good I’d look in magazines. How good I’d look nude in magazines. Still, I didn’t hang up. I kept telling him to STOP! He didn’t stop. Instead, he got more and more graphic. Eventually, after what seemed like a lifetime, I slammed down the phone. I was disgusted, but after a shower and continuing with my morning routine I chalked it up to just a random jerk making a random call who happened to get a random girl on the phone.
But that’s not what happened.
Calls came every day. Calls came every afternoon. Calls came every night. The caller knew my name. Did I tell him my name that very first time he called?
Then, I realized, his calls were perfectly timed. The phone would ring as I walked in the door as I got home from watch. The phone would ring as I turned on the light when my alarm rang. Sometimes, the phone rang, when I got out of the shower. The phone never rang when my roommates were home with me. I was always alone. He was watching. And, I knew his voice. He wasn’t a stranger, but I didn’t know who he was, either.
I don’t know if I answered the phone each time he called, but I know I answered it often enough to tell him to stop calling me. I know I answered it often enough to listen to him tell me what he wanted to do with me and to me. I know I answered it often enough to know that I was getting scared. And yet….yet….I never once called base police.
I did have the phone removed from the room. My roommates weren’t all too happy, but I thought if he didn’t have access to me via the phone, that the problem would go away. What was I thinking?? The island is 210 square miles! Assuming he was ON the island HE HAD ACCESS TO ME WITH OR WITHOUT A PHONE!
A few days went by after the phone was removed and I finally felt as though I could relax and sleep a little easier. No more looking over my shoulder, no more peering out the window wondering what or who I might see. A knock on the door one afternoon after I got home from my watch changed all that. I had a phone call on the pay phone. A phone call. Not just any phone call.
It was him. It was him.
How. Did. He. Get. This. Number?
Who was he? His voice sounded so familiar to me, yet it was disguised. A familiar stranger. I hung up. Every day, someone came to my door to tell me I had a phone call. Every. Day. Every day, I had to answer it in case it was my parents. Every day, it wasn’t my parents and I had to endure listening to his voice and then hang up on him. This happened for weeks on end.
I KNEW MY STALKER
One night after an eve watch – meaning we got off duty at about 10:30 PM, my watch section gathered at Carlos’ new apartment to toast him as he started leave and headed to Puerto Rico to marry his sweetheart, Carmen. After we’d all had a few snacks and a couple drinks we started to go our separate ways. I was a bit nervous. Carlos had given me a ride to the apartment, but I’d have to walk home, and my stalker was out there somewhere. It was well after midnight.
Chris had graciously offered to give me a ride. The base wasn’t far away, but still, it was midnight. As we pulled up to my barracks, I was hypervigilant. I looked behind me. I looked over Chris’ shoulder. I looked in front of me, beside me, and as I said, “goodbye,” I reached for the door handle, and shwhooop……with one fell swoop my head was in his lap.
He had reached around my head with his right arm, put his hand on the side of my head, on my ear, and pushed my head into his lap. He was now holding me down and trying to undo his pants at the same time. I was kicking and I think I was screaming, but I'm not so sure any sound left my throat.
Then, I suddenly realized.
He’s my stranger on the phone.
But he’s not a stranger.
I know him. I know him.
I broke free of his grasp and I bolted out the door. I ran for my room and I locked the door behind me.
The next day on duty, he was there. As. If. Nothing. Happened.
I worked in the computer room – surrounded by glass. Everyone could see in and I could see out to the rest of the floor. My secure phone rang. I picked it up and he said, “Hi, honey!”
Hi. Honey?! What?? I hung up on him.
HE ADMITTED TO EVERYTHING
The next thing I knew I was being counseled by my supervisor for being insubordinate. INSUBORDINATE! I broke down crying. I told my supervisor everything. I told him what happened. I told him how Chris was always complimenting me on how good I smelled, how good I looked, about the stalking phone calls over the last several months, and I described the incident in the car the night before. The incident. I didn’t even call it an attack. I called it an incident.
My supervisor dismissed me and called Chris into the office. Shortly afterward, I was called in again. He told me that Chris admitted to EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING. And, he formally counseled Chris and put the counseling in his division record. If Chris behaved himself for the next 6 months, the counseling would get pulled from his record. And, Chris had the pleasure of continuing to work with me.
He wasn’t a stranger.
I worked with my stalker.
I worked with my attacker.
I got away.
But, he got away with it.