On 24 September 2011 at approximately 5:55 am, my life changed in a way that I never expected. I left my house right at 5 am for my normal, early morning walk. When I first woke up, the thought that entered my mind was, ‘Go back to sleep.’ I considered it for a few moments and then told ‘my lazy self to get my butt out of bed and go walk.’ I told myself I didn’t have to walk 10 miles, but 7 would be good. I didn’t have to be in La Jolla until 11:30 am, so I would still have plenty of time to get ready and pack for our weekend getaway to Santa Barbara. I cannot tell you how many times I have wished I had listened to my first thought and just stayed in bed.
I made my way around the island and didn’t see anyone until I was in the middle of Ocean Blvd. A guy passed me (he was on the sidewalk, I was on the street) and I said, “Good Morning!” Just as I do to anyone I see on my walks. He did not respond or acknowledge me, and though this is not the norm, it does happen. My impression of him was that he looked like a rat. His face seemed to be very pointy and he was smallish and just looked like a rat. He had a baseball hat on and his hood was pulled up, so I really only saw his face. Still, I didn’t get any kind of a negative vibe or feeling from or about him. Some people simply are not friendly in the morning. I walked a little further and then stopped to stretch my shins on the curb. When I turned to stretch I noticed that the guy had turned around and was heading back in my direction. I thought nothing of it. I finished stretching and continued on my way before he got all the way to where I was. Again, no warning bells went off in me.
About five minutes (maybe a little longer) later when I was almost past the Beach Village condos, I heard someone running up behind me. I thought it was a regular runner. Instead, it was the guy I had passed, coming at me as fast as he could and with all the strength he possessed. He hit me in the center of my back with both his hands and slammed me into the cement. I went down and hit both my hips and hands, but as I hit the ground, he flipped me over and most of the injuries I sustained were on my right side. He had me on my back and my underwear and skort off in 1 SECOND. Three thoughts went through my head simultaneously:
1. I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING TO ME.
2. I gotta get some tighter clothes
3. I cannot believe how FAST it happened.
Mind you, the entire time I was screaming my head off as I was literally fighting for my life. I was also determined that he was NOT going to rape me. The only memory I have of the attack is the initial hit and the end when I remember seeing his fists getting ready to knock my lights out because I was not shutting up and I was fighting him so hard. Luckily for me, before he was able to hit me and knock me out, God sent an angel to save me.
A guest at the Del, a Radiologist from Alabama, was going out to take a run and heard my screams. It did not register what he was seeing at first and then he noticed I was naked from the waist down and he knew it was bad. He ran over and was yelling at the guy to get off of me, to stop and, idiot that my attacker was, he continued to try and subdue me. Finally, my angel got him to stop and my attacker ran away. My only concern at that point was to get my clothes pulled back up. My angel then walked me into the hotel and got security, who then called the police.
The whole experience was surreal. I love watching CSI; what I don’t like is being in a real-life episode of it. I was with the police for about 8 1/2 hours. (It is SO much quicker on television.) In the end, we did not leave for our trip until 3:30 pm. We missed the opening act (Emmylou Harris) but got to see Don Henley. It was good that we were already planning on leaving town. Being gone helped to take my mind off of the horror I went through. I wanted to stay gone forever, but we had to come back. I had to be back at the police station for follow-up photos of my injuries on Tuesday, 27 Sept. While the photographer was taking the pictures, I kept thinking that they (the police) must all think I’m a big, fat baby because, truly, my injuries were so minor and were not any indication of how violent the attack really was. I do not understand WHY I wasn’t hurt worse. I told the detective that I was afraid the report could not and would not convey the violence of what happened and the photos would seem so trivial and ridiculous and that the judge would look at the evidence and think I overreacted and let him out. No one was discouraging me from going to the arraignment, but no one was encouraging me either. In the end, I found out from the District Attorney that it was my RIGHT to go and be heard, if necessary. His bail was set at $100,000 and because there were actually three charges: assault and battery, sexual assault and attempted rape, the DA was able to get the bail raised to $250,000. No one was there for him and no one posted his bail. Thank God!
The preliminary hearing is set for 1 November and I will have to testify then. It is my hope that he gets the punishment he deserves. I know in our system of justice everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but he is GUILTY. I know, I was there. I also know that this could have turned out far worse. My reason for writing this is I do want everyone to know what happened. I did NOT do anything wrong. I was viscously attacked on the property of the Del. I am 5’10″ tall and extremely fit. I looked him in the face and said good morning. I did everything RIGHT and yet this happened. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. What I also told the police was it isn’t possible to take pictures of the ‘other’ injuries he inflicted on me. You can’t photograph the pain I had in my arms from fighting him so hard or my bruised ribs from him holding me down or the emotional damage he did. And though my physical injuries are mostly healed, I still feel the places that were hurt. And maybe worst of all, my entire sense of security is gone. I am afraid in ways that I have never been afraid before. I am in therapy and know that I will get through this. I just hope that I can get the ‘me’ that was lost on that Saturday morning back again. So if you know me and see me on the street or walking my bike on the sidewalk uptown and I can’t quite smile at you, please understand that I am still in shock and working through the trauma. It will take time.
I launched my new web site on the one year anniversary of my attack and am still in the process of getting my story out there. It is my way of making the worst event of my life into something positive. My web site is called At Long Last Heard and tells the story of my journey through the ‘system.’ One of the things I noticed was how little women actually talk about sexual assault and it is my new goal to change that. As for my attacker, he pled guilty and was sentenced to 6 years in prison – the maximum allowable in the State of California for his crimes. He has to serve 85% of that less time served, which was 317 days at the sentencing hearing. He’ll be in for another 4 1/2 years or so.