It’s A Hard Knock Life
As my thirteen year old daughter is about to begin high school, I am struggling with how much of my past I want to share with her. When I was eighteen, I was raped and nearly murdered. The rapist strangled me until I literally felt my throat close. Just before I passed out he let go, although he later kept saying he didn’t know why he hadn’t killed me. He made it very clear that he had killed past victims.
That day changed my life in a thousand different ways, but I also learned some very important lessons. The first was to always go with my gut. I was in a neighborhood that I did not want to be in at the time of the attack. My sister and I had been operating a child care center out of our basement, and when the business outgrew the space, my mother and step father offered to purchase a small house for us to run the business in, as an investment. I knew when I first saw the place, that although it met the criteria for what we needed, the neighborhood was less than desirable. I voiced my concern weakly, not wanting to offend or to look a gift horse in the mouth. My concerns were possibly considered, I’m not really sure, but regardless it was decided the opportunity outweighed the risk.
That day also taught me that there are times in life when you have no one to rely on but yourself. Although I screamed, I wasn’t heard, and when he showed me that he also had a knife, I knew I had to remain calm. Much of the day is a blur, but I remember engaging him in conversation, and as silly as it sounds, I wasn’t rude. I really think that may have been what saved my life.
Lastly, I learned that your life can change in an instant. Although I decided that same night that I would never allow this incident to define my life, I also acknowledged that you can never know what is around the corner. Your life, as well as the lives of others, should never be taken for granted because it could be gone tomorrow.
I am a much stronger person because of this experience, but is that any reason to share this with my daughters (I also have an eleven year old), or would it only serve to scare them? We’ve had talks in the past about following your instincts and being aware of your surroundings. I’ve done my best to let them know that although most people are good, there are those who, for one reason or another, cannot be trusted. I want to present a balanced image of the world, but at the same time I don’t want to leave them unprepared. I want to protect them, but I don’t want to keep things from them.
Rape is such a sensitive subject. I would hate for my girls to think I have kept this from them because it is some dark secret. I’ve been fortunate in that I have never experienced the shame that I know many victims feel. I know I did nothing to deserve what happened to me. I stand by every decision I made that day. I just want to spare them the knowledge of how vulnerable we all are, while at the same time keeping them as safe as possible.
I had hoped by putting this all down on paper, the answer would become clear to me, but it has not. I’m still just as conflicted as ever. So, I am putting it out to you, the public. What would you do?