I have surprised people since I was barely two years old with my mastery of language. Probably because I am tiny, words are my defense against anyone who threatens me. According to friends, my words do disarm antagonists. An attempted rape serves as a dramatic illustration of the power of words to protect in a real life crisis.
I had walked home from the university, my arms filled with books and turned to walk towards the house I shared with four other girls. I barely glanced at the pick-up truck parked right in front of our sidewalk. A tall, athletic, friendly looking young man poked his head from under the opened hood and called out.
“Would you mind giving me a hand? I need someone to turn the key while I attach some wires together.”
I considered dropping off my books inside and letting my friends know I was home but decided to quickly help this stranger. I climbed into the truck, and he leaned over showing me how to turn the engine over. Suddenly he was sitting on my long maxi coat with one arm restraining me and the other holding a knife to my throat. In a rough voice he ordered,
“Lay down, now.”
“I don’t want anyone to see you handing over your money.”
I angled my head and looked him in the eye,
“No one will think anything. They will simply think that we are boyfriend and girlfriend.”
Something jerked in surprise in his eyes. I had upset the cat and mouse routine but then he took control again,
“Get down or I’ll slit your throat.”
I calmly gazed at the rusty knife that he held to my neck. It is still a mystery to me that I didn’t panic at the time.
“Just take my money I have only eleven dollars. Do you want to get life imprisonment for eleven dollars?”
Again, my words startled him, so he pressed the knife against my throat,
“Just do it!”
I could only move my eyes, but I glanced down at the knife,
“It’s too rusty and dull. Just let me out. Your truck is perpendicular to my sidewalk. I won’t even see your license plate.”
He was at a loss for words for a moment. Then he sighed,
“I can’t take the chance. Stay put, I’ll drive into the service lane and let you out where it’s dark.”
We were at a stalemate.
“Fine’, I retorted
He backed up into the lane. Before I knew what was happening, he started to cover my eyes with thick electrical duct tape but it was only when the tape covered my mouth, my only source of defense, only then did I panic. My heart started to race and the reality of my situation hit like a tsunami. I kicked and screamed behind the tape, grappling with the door handle. Somehow I managed to open the door. Then it was his turn to panic with all the racket I was making. In an angry voice he yelled,
“Just get out you bitch.”
He pushed me off the high seat but instead of running as fast as I could, I peeled back the tape covering my mouth and pleaded,
“My books, please give me my books!”
Completely frustrated, he swiped the books out of the truck, slammed the door and took off.
I always say that only a true geek would think of books in a situation like this. I stumbled into the house and only the did I start to tremble and break down crying. I hardly could gasp out the story to my friends.
The seriousness of my situation became clear during the next week. The constable who took my testimony whistled as he read it,
“This is a really good statement. Good memory.”
He informed me that the well-known rapist had probably followed me for weeks without my knowledge. Police picked up my coat as evidence. Apparently they found a button in his truck as well as many items of women’s undergarments.
“Are you sure you’re not hiding what really happened?”
I lost one book, The Complete Analysis of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and the police chuckled over my concern over a mere textbook. Then the head detective slapped me on the back as I identified my attacker from a picture line-up. He turned to his partner,
” Did you see that? I didn’t even get to put the picture down on the table. Didn’t I tell you we could count on this girl!”
As the police surrounded the rapist’s house with a warrant for his arrest, based on my statement, he shot and killed himself. Afterwards the constable, who first came to our house to take my testimony, phoned me,
“I really am not supposed to do this. I just want to let you know how lucky you were. His last victim was a sixteen-year-old girl who is pregnant and in the psychic ward. We have been after this young guy for a long time. His dad is wealthy, owning a slew of houses all over the city with a Mistress in each one. This was one angry nineteen-year-old.”
I was haunted by my attacker’s face and post-traumatic stress for years, but I was grateful to the Holy Spirit for supplying courage and peace during the attack; for me the only satisfying explanation was that angels protected me against this man who was easily double my weight and more than a foot taller. I understand though that the real sword was words.