Friday, February 14, 2014

Telling the Story (Part 1)

So, I took a week off blogging because inspiration had not hit me yet.  I realized that I haven't had contact with many people over the age of 18 lately, so I didn't have any thought-provoking revelations last week.

As I was thinking about writer's block, an idea came to me in the place where most people do their best thinking...the shower. I decided it is time for me to tell the details of my experience with Paige and Daisy's assaults.  My experience as a mother.  I have touched on it some in a couple of other posts, but this time I want to lay out the details.  The media, for the most part, have been fantastic at covering the story, however; they missed or confused some of the details.  Important details, at that. I don't blame them.  There was a lot of material to cover and the story became so convoluted with different media outlets reporting different aspects of what happened.  I decided to write about my experience with Paige's assault.

As a mother, I feel discussing this is important.  I feel that not only could this discussion inform other parents, it also honors what happened to Paige by getting the truth out there to the world.  If you are reading this as a parent, be warned it is not for the faint of heart.  I will assure you that Paige and our family have bounced back from this and are more resilient than we ever imagined.  The pain lessens by the day, although we will never forget what happened.

My memory of the day of the rape is blurry.  I had no idea at the time I would be expected to remember details of times, places, etc. Because of the unexpectedness and the trauma of the situation, not everything is clear in terms of details, but the emotions and thoughts I had at the time are still vivid.

Paige had gone to spend the night with her friend, Daisy.  Paige and Daisy had been friends for years, as our families were connected through three of our children who are around the same ages and play sports together. Daisy's dad was also our family doctor.  Daisy and Paige were good kids.  As parents, Melinda and I didn't worry a whole lot about them making poor decisions beyond what normal teenagers make.  I still believe the choices they made that night in January were within the "normal" range for girls their age at the time. 

I was asleep in my chair in my living room when I received a call from Paige in the early morning hours.  I don't remember the time, but I know it was still dark outside. Paige was hysterical, crying, and said that she wanted me to come and get her.  She said everyone was yelling and she didn't know why.  Of course I thought that was strange, but really thought maybe one of the kids was in trouble for something, or maybe Paige had misbehaved.  I assumed that I would get the details from Melinda later in the day.  I was too sleepy to drive, so I sent my son, Colton, to pick Paige up and fell back asleep.  Paige and Colton got home and Paige went directly to her room.  Still groggy, I again thought that I would wait until later in the day to find out the details of what happened.  I had just gotten up for the day when my phone rang.  It was Charlie, Daisy's oldest brother.  He said, "We need Paige to come back to Maryville.  Daisy was raped and the police need to talk to her." 

The best word to describe what I felt at that time was shock.  The word "rape" really didn't fully register with me.  I had no idea why Paige would be involved.  I went to Paige's room to wake her up and she was curled up in the corner of her bed, still wearing her clothes, and crying.  I told her what Charlie said and she sobbed even harder.  We left the house and stopped for gas.  I had Colton go with me again because I had no idea what was going on and thought I could use some help.  I went into a convenience store to pay for the gas, and when I came out, Paige and Colton were crying.  Paige just kept sobbing, "He raped her, Mom, he raped Daisy."  Still not understanding what was happening, I was very confused.  I asked her who and she said, "Matt.  He raped Daisy."  I did not know Matt so I had no idea what she was talking about.  Since she was so shaken, I decided not to press for details.  A little way down the road, a thought popped into my head.  Call it denial or self-preservation, but I tried to shake this thought.  No.  I was being silly.  Finally I asked Paige, "Did anyone hurt YOU?"  Still sobbing, she squeaked out the word, "yes."

What did I think?  What did I feel?  I really was too shocked to feel.  I went completely numb, emotionally and physically.  This couldn't have happened.  No way.  Not Paige, not Daisy.  I must be misunderstanding what she is saying.  The professional in me kicked in and I decided not to ask Paige any more details because I wanted her to tell the details to the police.  She was so inconsolable at that point, I couldn't stand to probe any further.  Colton was vacillating between tears and clenched-jaw anger.  His face was bright red.  His fists were clinched.  I was afraid for him as well. 

I decided to take Paige to the hospital in Maryville, rather than going to the police station.  Here is where I made my first mistake.  When we got to the hospital in Maryville, Paige was taken to a room and given a physical exam by a SANE nurse.  They had her undress and took her clothing and put it in a bag.  One of the details I remember vividly was watching the nurse bagging Paige's clothes and marking them "EVIDENCE."  Could this seriously be happening?  Those are my daughter's clothes.  Those are OURS.  They then proceeded to do her pelvic exam.  At 13, this was her first exam.  For adult women, this exam is uncomfortable and annoying at best.  For a 13 year old, traumatized girl, I could not imagine how she felt.  I cried.  That was my daughter and she was too young for that.  They were violating her. 

After the exam, Paige and I were separated and she was taken to a room to be questioned by a deputy.  I asked to go with her and was told that I could not.  Another deputy took me to a table in the hospital.  He had a list of names on a piece of paper.  He asked me if I knew any of the names.  I did not recognize any of them.  I still had no idea what had happened and why they were doing this to us.  All I could think about was Paige in the other room talking to a strange man, alone and frightened.  Again, being violated. 

The sheriff took me to another room and told me what they knew at this point.  The girls had sneaked out of the house, drank, and were assaulted at a boy's house.  I don't remember exactly what he said, my brain was in a fog.  I couldn't comprehend anything he was saying.  We were finally allowed to see Daisy and Melinda.  Daisy was still somewhat intoxicated.  The girls hugged each other and cried.  Melinda and I hugged and cried.  There were no words at that point.  I remember nothing else from there. 

At some point in the next couple of days, we received notice that Paige had to speak to the juvenile officer in Maryville and give him details of what happened.  The boy who assaulted Paige was a juvenile, so we had to talk to the juvenile authorities.  Paige and I went into the juvenile office early one morning to meet with the officer.  I remember seeing pictures on his wall that his children had drawn for him.  I saw pictures on his desk of his family.  I wondered what exactly his role was in all of this, how he would treat Paige.  He began asking questions.  This is the point where I heard details of the assault for the first time.  Paige recounted every painful disgusting detail of what had happened to her that night.  I remember feeling nauseated and panicked.  I kept looking at the door and fighting the urge to grab Paige and run out that door, go home, lock the house up, and never come out.

We rode home in silence that morning.  What do you say to a broken 13 year old who just had to tell a strange, grown man, details about a very personal experience?  I don't remember her crying.  I remember thinking to myself that she was still in shock.  I thought at that point, the worst was probably behind us.  I had no idea how wrong I was.

My next blog entry will recount the details of our dealings with the legal system with Paige's assault. I also intend to give some advice to parents about what to do if this happens to them, advice I wish I'd been given.

Hug your daughters.