I AM GROUNDED. I AM SAFE.
Breathe into your ROOT CHAKRA (at the bottom of your tailbone) –
Connected to the Earth Element.
WORTHINESS. Pause for five minutes and reflect on your uniqueness and self worth. Say to yourself silently (or aloud:)) “I AM WORTHY.”
Just Another Tuesday…
It was just another Tuesday – until it wasn’t. That day would later become one of those days that defined how I viewed the world, myself and other people.
On that crisp, fall morning of October 10, 1995, I began my day as I did most. I overslept and rushed to get myself together in time to hitch a ride to school with a couple of friends who each lived only blocks away. Our carpool consisted of three. Me and two of my classmates / friends. They were cousins and pretty much treated me like I was family too. I remember being invited to every one of their family gatherings, including the birthday parties for the adults. Their celebrations were indeed family affairs. There was always plenty of food, music, dancing and people partying into the wee hours of the night, in honor of any given celebration. To this day, moments with their family remain some of my dearest.
My mother, a.k.a. Mama Ruth, is a single mother of two, with a work ethic second to none. Growing up she worked two to three jobs at a time, which still, often left us with just ends meet. She never complained. She took pride in herself and the work she did to provide for her children. Due to my mother’s busy work schedule, I spent much time with my beloved Uncle Jack and my grandparents. My mother and I were living with them in the fall of 1995. I remember feeling safe and loved, by a community, not just my mother.
Most mornings my mom would escort me to my friend, Maria’s* house. Maria and I would await pick up from her uncle and cousin, Graciela*. They were our ride to school. Unfortunately, this morning my mom had already gone to work so I was on my own for my stroll down Denker Ave. I was wearing my school uniform, a new school requirement at John Muir Middle School that year; a pale pink button down short sleeve shirt, paired with a burgundy pleated skirt. I had my purple Pochacco binder, (my favorite of the popular Sanrio Hello Kitty character creations), and my hot pink paddle hair brush in hand. I started walking down W. 53rd street towards Denker Avenue and turned right. I passed Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church and trekked the intersection of Denker and 54th street. I breezed past W. 55th Street, all mundanely familiar sights, as these were my childhood stomping grounds.
As I approached the corner of W. 56th street, I noticed something a bit out of place, but didn’t think too much of it until I (almost) simultaneously got that chills down my spine/intuitive, shits not right kinda feeling. I saw a blue truck parked on the corner of the street with the passenger door wide open and a man standing outside of the vehicle on the sidewalk. This was particularly peculiar to me because the man was caucasian. To give some context, this was a time far before the gentrification that you might now find in South Central L.A. and surrounding communities. In the mid 90’s, not so much. I remember the ethnicities in my neighborhood consisting mostly of Black & Mexican residents and Korean business owners. And let’s not forget about the first major red flag – a predator, standing outside of his car, with the door open….yada, yada, yada, Houston, we definitely have a problem.
But – It was too late. I was in his arm’s reach. He grabbed me and pushed me into his truck. He was on top of me. I was screaming, fighting, praying and remembering…a combination of, especially the latter would save my life. I remembered my mother’s teachings. What seemed like meaningless negotiations of, “what if’s,” growing up amid “Strawberry Shortcake Strawberryland” board games seemed to pay off. All of a sudden it made sense why she’d ask me, “would you get into the car of a stranger if”…someone said “your mom was just in an accident, come with me I’ll take you to her!” Or “Hey little girl, do you want some candy?” Surprisingly the food never got me. Though those of you who know me would probably never believe that! My Achilles Heel was always, red shoes…I’d pause for a few seconds and then say, no. She’d shake her head and assure me that she or my Uncle Jack would happily buy me red shoes and I need not succumb to a stranger’s advances in hopes of obtaining them. Hey, what can I say? Your girl’s always had style??
My Pochacco binder had fallen to the ground when I was snatched up, but I still had my hot pink hair brush in hand and she became my weapon. Swinging my grooming tool like a baton and kicking my little dancer’s legs like my life depended on it, because I truly believed in that moment it did, we struggled. Both committed to their end goal, his to capture me for his pleasure, me, to get the F___ away. It was a battle of the wills. I knew I wasn’t backing down, but I didn’t know how long I would have to fight or to what lengths I’d need to go to escape. My mother also told me to never go with a stranger. She warned that if I did, I’d probably never see her or anyone I love again. I remembered. I noticed a neighbor began to draw their curtains and turned on a porch light. I was screaming, so loud that I’m sure Jesus Christ himself, sitting at the Right Hand of the Father heard my cries, so I’m sure everyone on the block of 56th St. & Denker Ave did too! All jokes aside, I do know that Divine Energies gave me Supernatural Strength to persevere and God heard and responded to my cries for help. I’m not sure how much time passed, but my abductor withdrew and pushed me out of the truck as he exclaimed “you’re not worth it!” The four words that word permeate to my core and plant an insidious seed of unworthiness that would bloom for decades to come.
I bolted down Denker Ave., running towards Slauson Ave. like Flo-Jo! I weaved through traffic, I couldn’t tell you if the intersection lights were red or green. It didn’t matter. I had my destination in sight and felt like I was floating to safety. I do remember making eye contact with a woman in the passenger seat of a car. I bet that ensued an interesting morning drive to work convo amongst the couple in that vehicle. I was shouting my friend Maria’s name. I wanted to attract as much attention to myself as I could. I didn’t know if he was still following me. I wasn’t like those girls in the movies. You know the ones who are being pursued and they look back and fall down and you yell at the screen, “what are you doing?! Run girl, run!” I passed the Slauson Swapmeet (y’all might know it as the Slauson Super Mall now), and turned the corner onto W. 59th Street. I saw Maria outside of her front gate, running towards me. She heard me. She was coming to help me. Our eyes met. The look on her face. I’ll never forget her expression. It’s branded into my brain. I don’t know what I looked like, but it didn’t seem great. We went inside her house. We were alone. Her uncle and cousin hadn’t arrived yet, but they’d be there soon.
Maria called my mom at work and handed me the phone. I said, “mom there was a man, but I’m ok. I got away.” My mom worked very close to Maria’s house and arrived in minutes. A couple crucial things happened during the short time it took my mom to get to me. Maria noticed something caught in my long black hair. She said, “what’s that?” as she noticed a pale pink brush tangled in my hair. She grabbed a plastic bag, as not to get her fingerprints on the item. Yes, at 12 years old she was the wiser. She would later go on to be Valedictorian of her H.S. graduating class. She revealed the hair brush to me as she removed it from my head. It was not my brush. It must have been his. During this time, her uncle and Graciela arrived. I pleaded with their uncle to please return to the scene of my attempted abduction to retrieve my Pochacco Binder. What if there was personal information about me that he could use to find me and retaliate. Thankfully my folder was still there and returned to me.
My mom didn’t have a car. When she told her supervisor that something had happened to me, he dropped everything at the five & dime they worked at to give her a ride to me. When she pulled up to the front of the house, one of the three with me, I can’t remember which greeted her at the gate and warned her before she entered. They told her, “she’s covered in a lot of blood, but don’t worry we can’t find any injuries, so it must be his.”
She passed the threshold of the front door. There she was, my mother. At that moment everything was ok. She would make sure of it. We’d already been through so much together. Growing up I felt like nothing could break us, as long as we had eachother. We embraced and began the next feat before us. The police arrived. The officers consisted of mostly women, and were a collective of concerned and gentle souls exuding compassion towards me and anger at what happened. At what he did. My mother overheard one of the female officers say to another, “We’re checking hospitals. With that amount of blood she hurt him bad. I’m glad she did!” The officer’s responses were especially comforting, because the relationship between the police and our community wasn’t always healthy or safe. But today, humanity and love were the driving forces amongst us.
The Police Station.
I posed for pictures in my soiled school uniform, provided information to the officers/detectives for the police report and sat with a sketch artist to create a suspect composite. Then, my favorite part, my first HIV test. I was exposed to his blood on my skin & face and they found a small cut around my left ear that could have put me at risk. They extracted a vial of blood and told me to wait a week to find out if I’d contracted anything from him. Good times!
About That Night.
It was so nice to finally remove and discard my stained clothes. I took a bath, ate dinner (I’m sure) and got tucked in for bed. My mom had to go back to work that night, it was inventory week, so all hands on deck were required. I heard whispers between my mom and Uncle Jack about what happened to me before she left for her night shift. They decided not to tell my grandparents about my attack. They were elderly and the siblings didn’t want their parents to worry. I find that approach to be a very old school, Creole Minded one; family secrets with the intentions to protect. I guess sometimes they do. After my mom left, my uncle Jack checked in on me multiple times throughout the night. His presence was always an anchor of safety and love.
Back to Life.
A few days later I returned to school. I was greeted by applause, cheers and tears of relief. I’d almost forgotten about how other people were affected by this tragedy. You see, I went off to the police station, but Maria & Graciela went to school that Tuesday morning. The girls walked into our NAI program, (A USC college access program that partnered with multiple schools in the LAUSD school district), and burst into tears upon arrival. The on duty guidance counselors were called in asap and instead of class that morning, they had a group session. My classmates were concerned for me and relieved when I returned. The parents also organized a pick up schedule to ensure no more unattended strolls to or from school for me. What an amazing community. Another inspiring reminder of humanity’s capacity to show up in love.
What Happened to him?
After months of detectives visiting me at school to gather potentially missed details and or any information that would help capture my attacker, the visits decreased and as far as I know the police never found him, at least not for this crime.
Healing Journey & Relationships.
I picked up a number of tools to heal from this horrific event. The first and most vital, for me, was self awareness. I was conditioned to be “ok,” though I wasn’t. About a decade had passed and I was still living in distrust of men, fear of my femininity and anger. As soon as I was ready to acknowledge the hurt, I started the healing process. I began volunteering with the kid’s ministry at a local church, I resumed therapy, participated in a Celebrate Recovery Program, did an internship with a women’s non-profit and got baptized. I mean, I called in all the troops. I was grateful for my survivalist mentality, but I wasn’t in an external battle anymore. The fight was in my head and it was negatively affecting my relationships. My modes of protection had become my self induced poison and I was ready to heal.
Another decade or so later…the journey continues, but I have more tools, a quicker rebound time to inner peace from the plunge to fear & turmoil, keener senses to danger, knowledge to share with others, trust in my intuition, the wisdom to continuously surround myself by safe people who are deserving of my trust and my restored perception of my worth. Contrary to what he said to me on that Tuesday morning, “I. Am. Worth. it.”
Trauma Release Yoga.
Trauma release yoga has helped me to forgive. Through years of practice I’ve been able to release the residual effects of the event from my consciousness. I’m grateful for this practice and the opportunity to share these tools in my work.
~These books have helped me better understand how to process and release fear and PTSD out of my brain, mind and body –
*Names have been changed to protect identities.
Thank you for listening to my story. I hope it inspires you to heal, love and trust, because you too are so worth it!