The Man Behind the Tree.

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A man was waiting for me behind a tree.

I didn’t know this, yet, as I unlocked my bike after watching a World Cup game on a big screen outdoors at Marstallhof with friends back in 2006. I had no idea what was coming as I rode along the Neckar River and followed the curve of the bike path over to Bergheimerstrasse. It was reaching 9 p.m. and it was June, so there was still some daylight refusing the hug of encroaching nighttime.

I remember that I rode fast, and even stood up on my pedals as I crossed over a bridge—like a child—so that I could rise above my handlebars and face the wind head-on. I looked to the left, over at the distant hills, and then below the bridge where the train tracks were. I saw fluorescent lights, the clean platform, a few ICE trains like long white bullets resting on the track.

There’s so many bike rides that I forget. Even now, I ride my bike home to and from work every day and often get so lost in thought that I barely remember the journey from point A to point B.

But, I’ll never forget this particular ride.

I was wearing a green skirt, coral tee-shirt and a pair of sandals with mixed pastel colors, like a Monet painting. This was the last time I’d ever wear this outfit. In another hour it was going to be confiscated as evidence and never returned because the police correctly assumed I’d never want to wear them again.

I went through the Weststadt and checked out the tall, gilded buildings, the ornate balconies, the quiet cobblestoned streets and private parks.

Then I reached the street where the man waited.

The street to my right was a four-lane highway, very busy, and it led over to the American army base. My bike path ran along it and to the left I passed Patton Barracks, which is another installation of the army base, a soccer pitch where I often saw kids playing games, and then came a shallow stretch of woods—so shallow that you could see the lights of a neighborhood (Kirchheim) behind it.

The man was behind a tree at a place where the bike path dipped in ever so slightly towards the woods. Just past his tree was a metal barricade (perhaps meant to slow bikers down so they wouldn’t careen in to people around the bend?)

I don’t know how long he waited there. I don’t know if this was a spur of the moment decision or if he’d scoped out the perfect spot long ago.

I just know that I slowed my bike almost to a stopping point so that I could navigate the metal barricade on the path and, when I did, he stepped out of his hiding spot.

What struck me was just how fast it was. How sudden. There was no one–and then there was someone–and he grabbed me under the armpits and pulled me off of my bicycle. The bike tumbled and my legs got caught up in it, but the man was fast and strong and determined and managed to separate me from it.

And so quickly.

I can tell you that in those next moments my most dominant emotion was surprise.

It took a few seconds for my mind to catch up to what had just happened (and was happening) to my body. It felt, in a weird way, like a joke—a bit of a wait, what’s happening here? I didn’t quite believe in it. It felt like a misunderstanding.

But then, as I felt his hand clamp down hard over my mouth, and as he roughly dragged me further in to that stretch of woods, I felt my mind flee my body. That’s how intense the onslaught of fear was.

It’s hard to explain. It’s a level of fear that I’ve experienced exactly one time in my life, but that I’ll never forget. It was a fear that blinded me, shut down those basic skills of thinking and sensing, and that just made me react.

I remember my body automatically fighting his will to drag me further towards the houses not so far behind them. Every muscle in my body stiffened, fought; my hands clawed at the grass and mud as he dragged me forward.

It’s hard to recall actual thoughts at this point in time—except for one. I clearly remember wanting my mother and father in a way that still brings tears to my eyes as I write this. They were the people that came to mind, even as that mind shut down with fear.

Please, please!” I remember gasping, “Please don’t hurt me! Please!”

Somehow he lost control and dropped me on the ground, and I remember that I was facing upwards when he fell on top of me. I can still see the tops of trees, the dark sky.

In that split second we went from upright to laying on the ground, my voice acted entirely on its own and let out a scream that I can still hear and yet not recognize as my own voice. It was a scream that came entirely from its own place in fear.

At that moment he punched me in the face and then buried as much of his fist in to my mouth as would fit.

I remember pain and a strange sense of surprise similar to when he’d first stepped out from behind the tree. This was someone willing to cause genuine harm to me. I’d never experienced that, before. The fist in my mouth choked; my face stung. This was someone that might hurt me in a way that could be permanent. He might kill me. He would kill me.

He leaned in very close and said in German, “Be quiet. If you’re quiet I won’t hurt you.”

The two of us were quiet, then, and he looked over his shoulder towards the bike path—still lying on top of me—and waited. I wondered if another biker would come, if they would see our shadows hidden and leveled in the forest. I wondered if I would scream again.

After that moment—and here is the part that I’ve struggled with for ten years now—my memory is mostly blocked. I vaguely remember his hands touching me, and feeling like I was somehow levitating above myself. But, otherwise there is a whole section of time that’s lost. This time when he was on top of me, my body crushed in to the earth.

I do remember thinking at one point, “If I’m quiet, this will all be over soon.”

Terror paralyzed me. I literally shut down and that part of my brain has never reopened since. When I think back to the sequence of events it skips forward at this point, like something that’s been censored out of movies shown on prime time TV.

When my lucidity returned, I was still laying on the ground—but the man was a shadow two or three feet away. He sat there on the ground, facing me, looking down.

I pulled myself up on shaky legs and stumbled over to my bicycle.

I remember little sounds coming out of my throat—cries, moans, the sound of fear. I grabbed my bicycle and somehow found the strength to mount it, and the whole time I watched him, expecting to be stopped.

Without knowing how, or without a thought of where to go, I was riding again—the wheels, I remember, shook back and forth in tandem to the tremors of my body.

I felt blind and paralyzed, yet my other senses took over and moved me forward. I rode and even then I was already crying, releasing emotion. My teeth chattered; I could hardly see.

I rode without knowing where I was going. I must have looked horrific—sobbing and bleeding over my bicycle, cut up from the brush and rough hands and heavy body above me.

Somehow, amazingly, my bike made its way to my friend Kellie’s house. I remember opening her gate and thinking I just need to get to her door and I did that and rang the bell. She opened and saw me standing there.

I said, “A man just tried to rape me, but I bit his cheek and got away.”

This sentence has also haunted me for a decade.

Kellie was the go-to friend, the one I was so incredibly lucky to be with when this all happened. There’s no one who could have handled it better, who would have done more for me. She took care of me for the next three weeks before I left for the States. She was my savior, and I’ll always be grateful to her.

After I told her what happened, she led me to her car and then we were driving and when I asked where we were going, she said “The army hospital.”

“Why?” I asked. It’s strange to think—but in that moment I couldn’t fathom why we needed to be anywhere but the safety of her house.

At the entrance they put me in a wheel chair and wheeled me in to some room where all I remember are paintings—very dull paintings aimed to keep the environment at a neutral charge.

While I sat there staring blankly at the paintings and crying, Kellie went to the reception desk and recounted what details I’d given her of my attack.

I overheard her say, “Yes, she bit him in the cheek and he let go of her and she got away.”

When I heard that, I remember looking towards the reception desk with the very dim but not fully realized thought, “What? Did I say that? Did that happen?”

To this day, I have no recollection, whatsoever, of biting this man in his cheek. And yet—that’s what I told Kellie, and I’m not a liar. But, I don’t know, and I’ve spent ten years trying to fill in those broken spaces in my memory, but I don’t know if it really happened.

In all honesty, I’m inclined to say it didn’t.

The evening is a blur of events from there.

I was wheeled to an examination room and my doctor had a blue Mohawk.

From what I recall, he asked me questions and checked out my battered face and legs. My clothes and shoes were taken away and I never saw them again.

Something that really confuses me is that I don’t believe I was given the type of examination that someone who might possibly have been raped is given. Very little attention was given to the vaginal area.

I’m inclined to believe it was because of what I’d said about biting the man. The immediate take on things was that I was strong, the hero of my own body, someone who had taken control and outmaneuvered (and better yet injured) her attacker.

Despite my gapped memory, I answered a barrage of questions from the doctor, the German police, and two members of the American military police who came in as well.

They offered me a social worker who I immediately disliked and refused to talk to so they finally asked her to leave.

Over and over they wanted to know things that I couldn’t remember.

How tall was he? Ethnicity? Was he German, for sure, or was he a non-native German speaker? What was he wearing?

I was shocked to realize that—despite the fact he’d smothered my body with his own—I could not remember anything more than the fact that he’d spoken German (though I wasn’t convinced it was his native language) and had dark hair.

Over and over I said, “I’m not sure. I’m not sure.”

“You’re doing great,” the police assured me. “Honestly, you remember more than most people do.”

I found that strange. I remembered frustratingly little, and yet they all assured me that this type of fear often erases even the two or three things I’d come away with.

And, of course, they wanted to know all about the bite on the cheek.

I obediently recalled what I’d told Kellie out loud several times; namely, that I’d bitten the man’s cheek. I couldn’t recall which cheek, or if I’d drawn blood, or if he had an identifying mark, or even if I’d actually done this thing.

They all kept telling me how proud they were of me. How well I’d done. How much easier it would be to identify my attacker because he probably had a mark.

The Military Police were both southern gentleman, and obviously wound up about my situation. “Don’t you worry, ma’am. We’re going to find this man.”

Later, in scrubs, I was driven to the German Polizei station and the female officer working with me gave me a cigarette. I was questioned extensively, my answers remained vague or empty, and then they drove me in a police car back to the place where I was attacked. The police officer kept her arm around me, translating my shivers as cold, and asked me to point out the metal barrier, the tree he’d hid behind, the indented earth where my body sank.

Eventually I was able to go back to Kellie’s house, where I slept in my scrubs.

The next day I was taken to the police station and asked to go through a notebook of photographs and put a post-it note on anyone—no matter how many—who struck me as a possibility.

I remember that one of the first pictures I saw was of a blonde man dressed entirely in denim. Even though I’d told the officers that my attacker had dark hair, I felt a sudden rush of that unfamiliar terror, the type I’ve only ever experienced once.

I stuck a post-it note inside.

But then a few pictures later I felt the same terror. And then again. And again. And again. And eventually I’d laid down so many post-it notes that the whole exercise felt futile, even though I was assured it was “very helpful.”

Violent crime in Heidelberg, Germany is rare enough that a newspaper article was written about it, and the headline was, “Attacker Flees After Bite to Neck.” I still have it, and I still have the scrubs.

I spent the next days hiding out at Kellie’s house—though I did venture to my beloved Tae Bo class. When I entered the gym, still bruised and puffy-lipped, my teacher (who used to be a street fighter in Frankfurt, mind you) said, “He’s lucky I was not with you when this happened. He would no longer be living now.” I did not doubt her.

So here I am, ten years later.

I think I’ve always known I was going to write about this. When the whole Brock Turner thing happened, I was this close —but couldn’t muster up the courage. Mostly I was afraid of people (namely my students or my grandmother) reading about something so personal and disturbing.

In light of the current presidential election, sexual assault has been a topic of conversation. Female friends and I have suddenly been talking about it, all these moments when our bodies were grabbed. There’s a new openness that politics, with all its related fury and polarization, has encouraged.

Sad to say, this is the worst—but not only—incident I can recall of being touched inappropriately by someone who had no business doing so. There have been others.

Like most people, I’ve seen all kinds of memes and heated debate on Facebook in recent months.  But what I’ve found most alarming within all the talk, and for me the reason I’m ultimately putting my experience out there, is that I’m convinced there are people who do not even know what sexual assault IS.

I’ve seen Trump’s ‘pussy grabbing’ comments compared to Fifty Shades of Grey, Kim Kardashian’s sex tape, pornographic song lyrics, Beyonce’s stage outfits and, amazingly enough, the Bachelor franchise. Even if these things are lecherous or overly sexualized or disrespectful of marriage…they were or they describe consensual acts.

There is a difference.

So, I’m sharing my story in part to help add to the definition of sexual assault that women are building with their openness about what they’ve been through.

We need to at least be able to define it if we’re ever going to resolve it.

There are so many directions I could go with this story.

I could talk about what these experiences do to you—the panic attacks I had shortly thereafter, the way I still pointedly ignore smiles from men I don’t know when I pass them on the street.

Or I could write a whole post about questions I was asked after it happened; what time was it? Did you have anything to drink? Were you alone? What were you wearing?

I’d definitely say a word or two about how there’s never a witching hour where this is okay; there’s never complicity in a skirt.

I could write about the fact it bothers me that the only real education people get about sexual assault is always geared towards women, and focuses on how to avoid it. Women are encouraged to take self-defense classes, to carry pepper spray, to stay in well-lit places.

This is all good advice and worth following.  But, when so many of us still don’t manage to avoid it, we’re asked pointed questions that suggest the blame lies with us.

I could write about how frustrating it has been to read all the deflection.

I’ve seen people respond to denouncements of Trump by writing, “Yes, but Bill Clinton said/did…” So, then, do two wrongs make a right? Can’t we agree that both men’s actions were disgusting?

These conversations serve as a form of education on this topic for everyone who reads them. Is this really the message we want to impart?

As a final note, I’ve never stopped thinking about that gap in my memory. Do I think I was raped? My honest thought is that I wasn’t. I would have experienced pain or soreness, afterwards, and my wounds were all limited to the face, arms, and legs.

But that doesn’t take away the fear that was introduced to my emotional responses. Whether it actually happened physically or not, I was violated. I know that other people have experienced a thousand times worse than what I did. I’ve read about it in the news, and it makes me sick. Though our experiences may vary, the bond of terror is singular.

And, do I think I bit my attacker? I’m not convinced of that, either.

So, if neither happened–why was he just sitting there across from me, and why did he let me leave on my bicycle? If I bit him, I can only assume he might have killed me. (Just look at what happened when I screamed.) Also, if he’d been able to drag me to his ultimate destination—what would have happened to me, then? I’ve thought about this more than I can say.

These will be mysteries unless my mind suddenly decides to fill in the blanks one day.

But, and I believe this, passionately–what should never be a mystery is the definition of sexual assault and what should never be defended or tolerated is its language or actions–no matter who your politician of choice is.

 

 

 

215 thoughts on “The Man Behind the Tree.

  1. When I wrote my blog post on the subject, you mentioned you had your own story. I was wondering if it would come out. Shit. How horrifying. The stuff of nightmares — a man grabbing you from behind the trees. My husband honestly doesn’t get why I can’t be as carefree as him, because this stuff isn’t in HIS nightmares. It’s not his daily life or his reality. I see friends. women friends, post on Facebook about how “convenient” it is that these women are coming forward now, and it sickens me.

    I haven’t said those words out loud to him, but I feel somewhat like my husband voting for Trump is like if I was black and he was voting for an openly white supremacist. I guarantee my guy would never make comments like Trump did. Why can’t he see how ridiculous voting for this person is?

    When I posted about my skeevy anesthesiologist, I know what he did, but I could not tell you his name or what he looked like. I am not sure I could pick him out of a lineup. Minds work weird.

    Much love and hugs from afar. I’m glad you’re still biking to work and he didn’t take that from you. This was a powerfully honest post. When singers perform and they are described as “they left it all out there on the stage” it reminds me of the feeling from this post.

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    • What an awesome comment…thank you so much!!!! I’d honestly been thinking about writing it for a long time, but just wasn’t sure if I could do it. But then I kept seeing all those ridiculous memes or comments people were making on Facebook that made literally no sense/showed an absolute lack of understanding about what sexual assault is! That’s when it went from political to personal for me. I don’t care WHAT political party a person is or which candidate they love/hate. There is zero excuse that can be made in defense of that type of language/action. When Bill Clinton preyed on Monika Lewinsky I was openly critical of that, too. Anyway. I’m sorry your hubby is voting for Trump. That must be difficult…I know my husband struggles with the fact that his extended family, who live in Washington, support Trump. They are 4,000 miles away and not in the same household. On a very different note, I’ve held up your blog as an example so many times in reaction to why women don’t come out individually against someone right away. I really think you made such a great point about it being so difficult to be the first person to come out against someone like a doctor or billionaire…but to be exhibit F gives the story a lot more credence. That made perfect sense. Your story bothers the absolute hell out of me. I told my husband about it and he said that he would have loved to be able to knock out that man. What a disgusting excuse for a human being–and what a time to do something like that to a woman!! You couldn’t have been any more helpless in that moment, having such a major surgery…I don’t know. I will just say that your post and the fact my brother in law de-friended me after I posted someone condemning Trump’s talk of “pussy grabbing” was enough to finally convince me to write. I was so scared people would think I was over-sharing or something. But the response on Facebook has been overwhelming in a way that makes me realize just how awesome the people in my life are. And, that includes you! Lots of love!!!!

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    • We need stories like this and openness in general, especially with people trying to “normalise” sexual assault and the people who can joke and brag about committing acts like these — case in point, the sex offender who just got voted into office in the US. Thank you.

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      • That’s a great comment–thank you! The idea of ‘normalizing’ sexual assault terrifies me. That’s exactly what seemed to be happening during this election. I didn’t talk to a single Trump supporter who seemed able to admit that his actions/attitudes were wrong…! If you want to vote a sex offender in to office, that’s your prerogative. But there needs to be no question about what he is. It can’t be accepted or normalized! Now I’m getting all fired up again! Yeah, Trump. I keep having these moments where the day feels sort of normal and then reality hits again. Terrifying. Thank you for your comment! 🙂

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      • An absolute tragedy and my heart bleeds for America. I lived there for three years, went to high school there, and got to know so many wonderful, warm, loving people. It’s a catastrophe that he got elected 😦 .

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      • Whereabouts in America did you live? Yes, I feel the same way…I can’t seem to get past this and don’t think I will until he’s out of office. I just feel like we were in such a good place with Obama (i.e. being led with a diplomatic and level-headed person) and now we’re about to have this groping, thin-skinned, inexperienced and intolerant businessman. I still can’t believe it. I seriously want to wear a giant button that lets people know I did NOT vote for him.

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      • I live in Norway, but we’re going to be affected by this all over the world, and the US and Norwegians are pretty good friends overall. I too am still in disbelief.

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      • Norway looks like the most beautiful country in the world–it’s at the top of my list of places I’d like to visit. If my country doesn’t ruin that relationship in the next four years, I plan to make my way over there. And, yes…I think I will never quite get over the fact that a person like Donald Trump could be elected president. It has affected me at a core-level. 😦

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  2. Danke. Thank you for sharing your story in all its complexities and with beautiful language. Thank you for raising your voice and adding to the long overdue conversation about sexual assault and harassment. It makes me sad and angry that you are correct in saying that some people don’t understand what sexual assault is, the many forms it can take and the intense pain it causes.

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    • Vielen Dank Trueda! I really appreciate your comment–I can’t say that in a way that really captures how truly I thank you for taking the time to respond to this! I’ve always known I’d write about it at some point, but wasn’t sure how/when. It honestly took seeing people making comments on Facebook that were so alarmingly ignorant of what it means to sexually assault someone that made me write. I know that many, many people have stories that are SO much worse than mine. But, it has still impacted me on so many levels. I often wonder…what would have happened if he managed to get me to wherever he was trying to take me?? I can’t even think of it. Anyway, I’m going to go check out your blog in a little while! I’m just taking a quick Internet break but I have a 1.5 year old who needs my attention. 🙂 Thanks again for your comment!!

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  3. I am shaking reading this; seems like yesterday. Dad and I are so proud of you for writing about it but most of all for saving yourself! Love Mom and Dad

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Liked by 4 people

    • Sorry you were shaking to read this, mom…I know I would be, too, if it were Laken! I know we all have awful things that have happened to us. This topic just seems to be a big one at the moment, so I had to add my line of dialogue. I’ll never forget how, not long after it all happened, grandma and I were talking on the phone and she made some random comment about how I had to be careful because she’d been reading about men pulling random women off their bikes…? It’s like she could read my mind. Anyway, love you!!!

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    • Thank you so much for your comment! I really appreciate it, a lot! I’ve tried to blog about other things in the past few weeks, but this was the story I just felt like I needed to tell. Everything else I wrote sounded, well, like I wasn’t writing what I cared about at the time. It was terrifying to post this–I shared it on my FB page and somehow got it in my head that everyone was going to think I was out of my mind for sharing something so personal. The feedback was totally different from what I expected, so full of love and support and no one seemed to care that I talked about ‘private matters.’ Anyway–I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!!!!!

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      • Ladybugs are very likable creatures!! (Good luck, too!) 🙂 Katie K., thanks again for commenting and I must agree with my mom that you strike me as a total sweetheart.

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  4. So proud of you Sarah! You saved yourself and now have the courage to share your story. As a parent it is very very difficult to read; because I remember the phone call as if it were yesterday. Kellie was amazing and we talked to her every two hours that next day because we were ready to fly over immediately. You didn’t want us to because you didn’t want your wonderful years in Heidelberg to end on just a terrible event. Love Mom

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks so much, mama! I can imagine it’s difficult to read (as it is, I go crazy just imagining potential things in Laken’s life–like being bullied at some point, for example.) I’m realizing how much kids have their parent’s heart! I remember you guys were going to get on the next plane and the only way I could convince you otherwise was that I was already coming home two weeks from then. And, I didn’t want my last two weeks there to be spent on that note. I was so hesitant to post this, and now I’m glad that I did. I’ve written versions of it over the years and this feels like the final one. Now I can move on. 🙂 Anyway, I’m so lucky to have the parents I do–you and dad are AMAZING parents and I love you both so, so, so much! The support you give your children is just unbelievable and an inspiration for how I want to be with Laken. 🙂

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  5. Your strength and resilliance are awe-inspiring. Despite everything you’ve been through, you’ve managed to continue living your best life. I’m so glad that you didn’t give up, that you kept pushing forward, and that you shared your story with everyone who would listen.

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    • Wow! What a comment! Thank you so much Jennanaya! I really, really appreciate that. There are stories that are so much worse than what I described. But, I had to share what happened and the standout emotion (the one that changed me on a permanent level) was the fear. I still wonder–what would have happened to me if he’d dragged me through the woods? Where was he trying to take me? We’ve all been through some awful stuff–I know you have as well. The older I get, the more I feel compelled to talk these things over. Anyway, lots of love your way. 🙂

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  6. It just about kills me when I see how one of my children was hurt in such a way. I remember when we got the news of it, you called Mom and I and told us what happened – all the time reassuring us that you were OK, telling us how the German and U.S. military police were really great to you, and joking about how your story made the front page of that newspaper. You were still in a state of shock yet you were trying to put us at ease! I’m glad you decided to write this. I have a lot of thoughts, we’ll talk soon. Dad

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    • Hi daddy, thanks for your comment and I remember very well how that was just one of many times in my life when I came home on the heels of some sort of disaster and you guys took care of me!! I think I’ve given you every gray hair you have (not that you have many!) Anyway, this was a long time ago and plenty of people have much, much worse stories. I just wanted to add my line to the dialogue, and now I can move on. It’s just still crazy for me to think that something like that could happen in Heidelberg…this city has always struck me as the ‘ultra safe’ haven everyone gives it credit as being. You’re an AMAZING father and I can’t even imagine how much it would kill me if Laken experienced anything like this. One in three women do. I’m pretty sure I’d be like my kick boxing teacher and take someone out. 😉 Love you.

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    • I’m so very sorry to hear that, Ann! That’s horrific and my heart goes out to you…there’s no deeper violation. I’m sending much love right back to you. On another note, I’m not always the best about commenting but I DO read and appreciate your blog! You’ve really gotten me to go through my daily life in a way that’s more mindful and aware of the connections between things. I always look forward to your posts. 🙂 (And I promise to be more vocal!)

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      • Ann, thank you so much for sharing your post!! I wanted to read it much earlier today, but felt I should wait until my toddler went to bed so I could give it the focus it deserved. My heart was literally beating fast from the moment you mentioned reading the news and it became apparent you weren’t going to write about topics one or two. I am BEYOND IMPRESSED by how you remembered what you’d read and decided to humanize yourself to the rapist!! To have that presence of mind! Now THAT is courage and bravery. I can relate to the type of fear you experienced, as you know, and I was truly unable to pull together a single thought. You honestly saved yourself. You SAVED yourself. Did you go to the police station after and report it? Do you know if they ever found this guy and put him behind bars, where he most definitely belongs? I’m so sorry for you…I really am. That type of fear makes a permanent imprint. I’m sending very big hugs and all my admiration for what you were able to do. Xxxx

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      • Very big hugs back at you. I did report it to the police. Because of things he said and how he acted, they seemed to know exactly who he was. They showed me a book of suspects. I picked out several possible people, and one of them was the guy they suspected. They asked if I would testify against him in court and I said yes, if I could pick him out in a line-up ahead of time, because I was afraid I might not be sure it was him when I was confronting him in court. They never called me, so I’m not sure what happened. I’ve actively worked on the fear in therapy. Thank you for all you wrote here — it helps a lot! ❤

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      • My encounter turned out amazingly well, considering, But I still deal with the fears relating to that experience, to this day. Again, much love to you. ❤

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      • Much love right back to you, and I can completely imagine/identify with the type of fears that carry on indefinitely after an experience like that. I feel like we can really relate to each other in that we both had complete strangers ‘waiting for us’ when wall we wanted was to get home. Thank you for sharing your story!! Much love to you!

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  7. Schnitty, I admire you so much for posting this. That you felt awkward and selfconscious about it but did it anyway just shows your amazing courage. I’m so, so sorry you had that experience, and even more sorry the son of a bitch who did it wasn’t caught.
    The more we talk about sexual assault and rape the more women realise they aren’t alone and in turn gain the strength they need to speak up. That’s why Trump’s victims are speaking up now, not because they have for some reason waited decades for it to be politically damaging to him. That b*stard. And all men who feel entitled to do that to a woman. In a supposedly enlightened society. Trump and other men with the same pathetic excuse – ‘it’s just locker room banter’ are scum. There are no excuses. It just makes me so mad.
    And yet here’s you, who actually lived through it, being your happy and positive self, living life to the full. I hope, though, that telling your story has helped purge the pain a bit more.
    Lots of love xxx Chel

    Liked by 3 people

    • What an awesome comment! Thank you so much!! 🙂 I think I always knew I was going to write about and post this at some point, but I wasn’t sure how people would take it. Usually I share posts on my FB page and don’t get much feedback (though people will talk to me about my posts in person, occasionally, and then I’m always shocked to find out people actually read it.) Anyway, the feedback has been so loving and empathetic (so many of us have been through shit like this, more than I ever realized!) I’m glad I wrote it now. It felt like the post waiting behind all the other posts, demanding to be written. Now I can go back to other things! More light-hearted things! 🙂 Yeah, the dialogue I’ve seen regarding women and sexual assault has been pretty vile. It gets to a point where politics comes in second and human issues step up front. If you can’t set aside your political stance enough to say, “hey, I don’t care who said it–it’s wrong,” then that’s a problem. It makes me so mad, too. I seriously can’t wait for the election to be over and it better have a good ending or else we’re in for an apocalypse. It’s like Back to the Future 2, when Biff was in charge. 🙂 Anyway, BIG HUGS and thank you so much for such an amazing comment!!

      Like

  8. Sarah, I’ve waited to read this post to be honest. I’m not entirely sure why but in the end I think it’s because I know you too well, and it pains me that you went through something so unimaginable and horrific.

    And yet, you are so courageous and I’m proud of you for putting this out there–if only to begin the healing process ❤ I can't imagine those gaps in consciousness and having to sit and explain the details of that night over and over–in an attempt to find the man who did this to you and as a way to warn others of hidden dangers.

    Putting this out there–as difficult as it must have been–will help someone else who has experienced something similar.

    I'm out of words but I love you with all my heart. Am always here if you need to chat about absolutely anything. You're always a sister to me. XOxi

    Liked by 2 people

    • I adore you, Chars! Thank you for your comment, and for being the ultimate sister- friend. I still smile when I think about how we shared a room, took all the same classes, and still spent every last waking hour together. 🙂 Anyway, I appreciate what you wrote…I’m seriously so glad that I wrote this post. It has been something I’ve wanted to write about for, well, ten years! I just figured it was way too personal/one of those things I’m supposed to keep private. But, recently the topic has been recurring between Brock Turner and politics. It just seemed like time to add my bit to the story. It’s definitely a night that I’ll never forget, and I still tense up if we drive past “the spot,” but I’ve reached a place where I’m genuinely okay. It’s just such a shame that it had to happen…and in OUR city! Anyway, I love and miss you LOADS!

      Like

  9. My fellow survivor, you are brave. It is truly amazing what the body will do to protect itself from remembering trauma. I remember bits but not really. I don’t even know what I remember. I was just a fkn kid.
    *hugs*

    Liked by 3 people

    • Lindsay, thank you so much for your comment and I’m so sorry to hear that you also experienced this. You’re so right about the body protecting itself! Over the years, whenever I’ve tried to pick apart that lost time, I eventually come to that same conclusion–it’s a protective mechanism, and maybe it’s better that way. I’m sending big hugs right back, and I’m so sorry!!! I never wanted to believe that one in three statistic, but I’m starting to see it’s true.

      Like

  10. Thank you for sharing this. I can’t imagine what you went through–and that’s something I keep in mind a lot when discussing sexual assault. It’s an unpleasant fact that we still live in a world that treats men and women so differently. Had something like this happened to me I wouldn’t be asked, “What were you wearing?” or “Did you have anything to drink?” or “Were you alone?” Or if I were asked these questions they’d be treated as details, cold facts. The questions wouldn’t carry the implication that I were somehow responsible. It would go without saying that the very idea would be ludicrous.
    I’m sorry to keep saying “I” so much in this comment because this isn’t about me. It’s about how genuinely brave you are for sharing your experience and highlighting attitudes that are still far too prevalent, attitudes that subtly, or sometimes not so subtly, condone terrible behavior.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you so much, Christopher!! Yes, I could have written an entire new blog post just about some of the questions I got asked afterwards. As if it’s not bad enough to experience something like that, these questions seemed pointed in a way that wanted to see if I was at fault! I think that’s definitely one of the prevalent attitudes/messages that go out to women about this. The first reaction to see is if we were responsible for it. Anyway–so many directions I could have gone with the end commentary on what happened, but the thing I found most disturbing at the moment was that people could not even DEFINE sexual assault. Some of the memes and comments I’ve read on FB are just…unbelievable. I seriously respect people’s right to vote for whatever candidate they want, but don’t try to defend/redefine sexual assault. That’s where I feel it’s less a political and more a personal/human rights issue. Anyway, thank you for reading. I’m so grateful for blogging and how it has introduced me to wonderful writers/people like you!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: El hombre detrás del árbol. – apserranoblog

  12. Wow 😳… what’s a horrific ordeal….
    so glad though that you are still alive to tell the story…

    And I’m also happy 😊 that most of it is blocked out..

    The little You remember is frightening and do enough damage …
    after 10 years.. it will stay fresh with you…
    thanks 🙏🏻 for sharing your story with us..
    we can’t begin to imagine just what you had to endure post traumatic experiences…

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you so much for your nice comment–I really appreciate it! My story is not nearly as bad as what so many other people experience, I’m sure. So when I think about how traumatic it was for me, I just can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like for others. We all have to help each other through, I think! Anyway, that was a truly nice comment and I appreciate it. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Your story is so amazing. Just being able to write down the story of your experience can help inspire others, like myself, to share their story confidently too. Our stories from these experiences are usually something that we keep in the deepest darkest parts of ourselves but to heal we need to let that pain out, to talk about it openly like you mentioned, and to accept and embrace what happened. I’m so sorry for what happened to you and for what happens to girls and women all over the world. You are an inspiration. Thank you.

    Liked by 4 people

    • What an amazing comment…thank you so very much! I absolutely agree with what you said. For the longest time I was too scared to talk about my story. I thought it wasn’t appropriate to share for some reason (like I had to keep it hidden…but I didn’t choose for this to happen. The experience chose me!) Anyway, I hope so much that you don’t have a story like this (so many of us do and when you mentioned sharing your story confidently I suspected the worst.) But, if you do, I hope that if you ever choose to write about it you’re surrounded by the supportive, loving people that I have been with these blog comments! thanks again so much and I will be checking out your site as well!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your comment-I truly appreciate it!! I was SO unsure about sharing it, but now I’m glad I did. It’s a story that has haunted me for a long time, but I’m glad its out in the open because the dialogue is needed. Thanks again!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. When I saw the title…I was suddenly back on my bike, on the paved city bike path, where I shouldn’t have been. My chain had come off and by the time I got help getting it back on it was dusk–hardly anyone was still out. I stupidly opted for the shorter, faster way, staying on the path instead of doubling back to the trailhead and the streets. There was a tree. And a man.

    What recent events in the news have done though is made me think of other instances which I’d never even thought of as “assault” before now, and just feel wonder at how it’s possible to accept these things as just “stuff that happens”, forget them even, and keep going.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I too am glad you’ve gone on to your best life–you’ve won.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I am so sorry to hear that we’ve had what sound like similar experiences…big, big hugs to you!!! Don’t say that you ‘stupidly opted’ for something. We have the right to take any route we want. That man had NO right to be where he was, and to do what he presumably did…I’m so sorry. As for other instances of assault, it really is crazy when you go back in time and think of things that DO constitute it! There was this guy in high school who used to do what he called ‘walk by’s’ and as he’d pass by a girl he’d let his hand discreetly move from her chest to her vagina. At the time I thought of it as one of the riskier, uncomfortable things an upper grade student did. But now I think it’s just one more time where a bunch of us were touched without permission. And, you’re right–somehow we are able to push these things aside! Friends and I have had this exact conversation and it’s amazing what things we pull out of our memories that are actually disturbing and yet it was filed away under that ‘stuff that happens’ category. Anyway, thanks for commenting and I’ll be checking out your site too!!! Hopefully this weekend when I have a bit more time. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  15. This is a very important blog post, everyone needs to read it. I’m saddened that some people don’t even know what sexual assault is but that’s probably explain a lot about how Americans have been treating Donald Trump. (They want to talk about Hillary’s emails but not the fact that Trump bragged about forcing himself on women regularly? There’s some deeply wrong with that picture.) You’re very brave and strong to share your story like this, I’m proud of you. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for your comment–I really appreciate what you said and, yes, this election has definitely been eye-opening in a very scary, very disheartening way. I have seen his comments glossed over, defended and deflected time and time again. And…well, apparently it all matters so little to people that he’s going to be the face of our nation. WONDERFUL. Anyway, I’m so glad I started blogging because it brings us all in contact! I will be checking out your (very nicely titled) blog ASAP. 🙂

      Like

      • You’re welcome! Yeah people have been giving Trump way too much leeway. I’m a little disheartened because now the rest of the world will see is as sexist, homophobic, bigots and I couldn’t be further from from that. Thanks!

        Like

      • I should thank you, from us readers, for this and other articles. Also for introducing to your favorite blogs. I started following, Caledon Acres and HalfA1000miles and spent a good part of my yesterday reading these two blogs. Also wanted to tell you that, the hyperlink to Half1000miles blogs in your post is not working. I googled for the site address after reading your description about the writer.
        Keep up the good work, keep writing 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you so much for your comment and I’m so glad you started to follow Caledon Acres and Halfa1000Miles, too! Great choices! 🙂 What I really love about blogging is that you get to read about people’s lives and come in to contact with such a variety of writers and topics. 🙂 Thanks for giving me a head’s up about the link! I’ll see if I can fix it. Thanks again–I appreciate what you said. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Thank you so much for having the courage to share your horrifying experience. I recognize the dissociation you had during your attack as I, too, experienced that during assaults I’ve had. I sometimes think dissociation is a gift, and hopefully, the memories don’t return until/if you’re ready to cope with them. Sharing your story can only help others find the courage to share theirs, and it is freeing to know you aren’t alone. You have a beautiful gift for writing. I’m so very sorry you had this experience. Love, mandy

    Liked by 4 people

    • Mandy, thank you so much for this comment! It was genuinely touching to read this. I’m so very sorry to hear that you’ve also experienced assault(S!) Going through it once is something no one should endure, but more than that?!?! I cannot imagine and I am so, so truly sorry to hear that. I agree with you that the dissociation is probably a gift. I go back and forth–sometimes it bothers me to have this blank space where I feel like I SHOULD remember something. But then, as you said, I realize it’s probably better for now. I will definitely be checking out your site (probably over the weekend) and am looking forward to it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so very much for your comment–it means a lot to me!! I know the story I had to tell was long and definitely not light-hearted. So thank you for taking the time to read it. 🙂 I wish you the happiest of times ahead, too!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am so very sorry to hear that you were also raped–but relieved to hear that you survived and that you’re going to share your own story!! It has really done a lot for me in terms of helping me come to terms with everything. I hope it does the same for you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • My story has been posted. It was hard to put into words but over the course of 25 years, my emotions have changed from hurt to betrayal to almost nothing

        Like

      • I’m so glad you posted your story and can fully imagine (from experience) how hard it is to put in to words!!!! I’ll definitely read it soon (at work now so I should technically be…working.) It is amazing how emotions change over the years. I had reached a point where it almost felt like I was talking about someone else when I shared my story. But…I certainly went back there FULLY when I wrote about it. And, it wasn’t fun. Anyway, I’ll read soon…!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so very much! It took me a long time to go for it and I’m so glad I did. Now I can move on to lighter topics. 🙂 I appreciate the comment–thank you!

      Like

    • I wish I could take credit but it’s an image from the Internet (I made sure it was allowed to be shared.) But whoever took it definitely got a good shot. 😉

      Like

    • Thank you so much! I appreciate it. 🙂 I like your name ‘A Thousand Bits of Paper’ and will definitely be checking out your page. 🙂

      Like

    • Thank you so very much for the comment–I appreciate it so much and I’m sending that love right back to you! I’ll check out your blog for sure. I’m thinking this weekend when my daughter takes a nap I’m going to budget in some ‘check out new blogs’ time. 🙂 Thanks again…!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. You are extremely brave and I respect your boldness. I know someone who’s never recovered years after a similar ordeal. Thank you for sharing. Hope this helps you find closure.
    Love, kukie

    Liked by 3 people

  18. This was a great blog. The views I pictured with your words were so hurtful, but greatful as a survivor. People may not understand the thoughts of it happeneing and the before and after effect. I remembered my past and what it took for me to overcome. But you’re a brave woman I appreciate this blog.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much for commenting! I really appreciate it…and I’m so, so, so sorry to hear that you are a survivor as well. These things are not easy to overcome–I think they are always with us to some respect. But hopefully talking about it with others who have been through it will help. Big hugs to you and thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Youre so welcome. It’s great to know that it’s always someone that can relate to your situations. You never know who you meet. And you are so welcome

        Liked by 2 people

  19. I know other bloggers have said this, but I must say too…You’re super strong for writing this. I’m so sorry that this happened to you. It shouldn’t happen to anyone, yet it does.

    Sometimes, just like you, I can’t remember bits of what happened to me, and I fuss over it, but I guess what helps me is that I was a little girl when my attacker “pleasured” himself and used me in the process. I only recall flashes, his smell, but most of all fear.

    I hope that your post goes a long way to help someone, change something in our society.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your comment brought tears to my eyes. I am so incredibly sorry for what happened to you…and to hear that you were just a little girl…I’m sickened. Truly, I’m sending big hugs to you and wish it was possible to go back in time and save you from that moment. I was in my late 20’s during my ordeal and that was tough enough–but to be a child!!! I’m so incredibly sorry. Thank you for your comment!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Thank you for being brave and sharing your story. I am not that brave yet, but I can say that I totally relate everything you shared; I still have a memory gap of my own, 26 years later. I think I’d like to keep it that way. The questions, yes, awful. My “best friend” (at the time) was the worst one of all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your comment, and I’m genuinely sorry that you can relate (memory gap and all.) I’m stunned by how many of us have experienced this! That has definitely been the thing that’s most surprising to me in light of my post. You read the statistics but think it can’t be THAT widespread–and yet it is. Thanks again for commenting. I really appreciate it and will check out your blog as well! (Probably over the weekend.) 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  21. It is that widespread. It is something that has occurred for years. I was assaulted first by my youth minister at the age of twelve. Then raped by an acquaintance in college. Both times I reported. I was not believed the first time, and treated as if it were my fault the second. There are tiny moments that I simply can not recall and know after fifty years I never will recall. I remember the overwhelming fear..the taste of copper in my mouth, the inability to breath and the frozen muscles. It no longer pops up regularly to torment me..but it has never completely disappeared either. I still taste that coppery taste and feel the fear when coming into contact with a man I do not know. It gets better, but the fear never leaves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am sitting here reading this and shaking my head. If it’s not bad enough that this happened to you TWICE and by your youth minister of all people (in the first instance)…I can’t imagine what it would be like to have it not believed!!!! To be silenced in such a way is just…appalling. I tell you what. I feel like I somehow want to get out there and get involved because this HAS to stop. This cannot be accepted anymore. I am so truly sorry for what you went through. I’m hugging you from afar!

      Liked by 1 person

      • thank you for the hugs. and the care. it was a long long time ago yet it still can rear its ugly head and make me freeze for a moment when triggered. Assaults NEVER leave your memory. You can forget for a long time but things happen and you are right back in it again in your mind. You are right. it needs to stop. The first step is listen to women, or girls, and believe them. second whenever someone makes an off-kilter remark, tell them what they said is unacceptable. Change starts with the little things.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I totally agree. I don’t see this type of thing ever leaving me…the triggers are few and far between now, thank goodness, but between Brock Turner, the election, and all the ridiculously insensitive comments I’ve seen on Facebook–it has not been an easy couple of months. I agree 100% about change starting with the little things, and I’ll definitely do my part. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  22. Thank you for writing this post. I’m very lucky to have read this. I also understood the gravity of the present situation. I think every man and woman should read this post. I’m going to share it as much as possible.

    You are a very brave person. Thank you for being you. May the odds ever be in your favour.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m so sorry for my delayed reply! I have a toddler and any time I try to sit down in front of the computer she tries to drag it away (as she should.) Anyway, thank you so much for what you said and for calling me brave. I can promise you I felt the farthest thing EVER from brave that night. But the reactions and positive feedback I’ve gotten from people like you have helped so much. THANK you.

      Like

  23. Thanks you for sharing your feeling with us . I can understand this from the bottom of my heart.God bless you and Thanks for being you Brave Girl.
    Take best care of you .Gud Luck

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Thank you for sharing a horrific story with us. I truly hope that bite was for real and has scarred him for life! You write beautifully, and you must never allow this “man” to rob you of your ability to tell others your story.

    Liked by 2 people

    • What a nice comment! Thank you so very much–I appreciate what you said and I also hope that I really did bite him! 🙂 Actually, after I wrote my post the friend Kellie that I mentioned called me and reiterated that she really is convinced I bit him and had a few reasons why. So, I’m feeling a bit more optimistic. Anyway, thanks for a great comment. It means a lot to me.

      Like

    • Thank you so very much!!! I’ll be checking out your sight, soon, though I don’t know the first thing about football (I’ll admit.) I appreciate what you said. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Pingback: The Man Behind the Tree. — Buffalo Schnitzel | Avinash says

  26. Pingback: The Man Behind the Tree. — Buffalo Schnitzel – Candor

  27. Reblogged this on richardcrossblog.wordpress.com

    I am glad you survived the assault to recount the tales and send a strong message against this evil. No one should have to pass through this experience.

    You are indeed a courageous woman.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much for the comment and for reblogging my post! I seriously appreciate that. 🙂 I seriously cannot believe how many people have gone through this…it’s a horrific thing, for sure, and I have no idea how to help the situation. But, maybe by talking about it others will open up. Thanks so much, again. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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