The Big Bad Wolf
Follow me on this one… Read it carefully…if you dare.
Today August 1st, marks a lesson in survival. A lesson in strength, faith, fortitude, some compassion and my yield to wield ruthlessness. Yes, you heard me, ruthlessness. Growing up, my older brother Don always thought he was so tough. Meanwhile my mother knew of the two of us, who’d most likely take the shots for the other…ME. I’d sacrifice. I was a little like a German Shepherd, a Yellow Lab and a Honey Badger all rolled into one. I never revealed it verbally. I remained a silent partner in my older brother’s whereabouts and his safety. And as time passed, others around me as a child. My late husband commented to a woman years ago about my running at night. As he was questioned by her allowing me to run at night. He stated, "She's already met 'The Big Bad Wolf'."
This attitude of mine arrived so early, I dare not even consider when it actually landed in my soul. As well, I was a bit obsessed with war as a child. Investigating it and attempting to understand it, that is. Wondering why we humans contained this angst in our humanness. As an adult I’ve verbalized to myself, sometimes to others as that it was because we have either had it so ingrained in our survival skills dating back tens of thousands of years ago. Or we are unnecessarily driven by our own egos. Or was it fear? Or was it false evidence within our human realm? Or was it there for some good reason? I consider, it depends on where you are or have been standing in life.
So, this brings me to today thirty years ago, August 1st 1991. To most, it may seem like only yesterday. To me, it’s episodic. It is a date of which had such ramifications for me that it changed my physicality, my athletic career direction, my work career, how I was to have children, how many children I’d have, my feelings on medicine, how I felt about white men, how I felt about swearing on a Bible, how I felt about politicians, and eventually my feeling on our court of law.
My story is different from the rest of other’s story’s. Why? Because I remained in ‘hot pursuit’ and open about it all. I didn’t and don’t care about how my expressiveness is perceived. I do care how other people who are struggling on this subject are perceived. And if they misperceive all that I have had to endure, thinking that my pain is less because they THINK that closure is what I have gained, they’re off base. I’ll explain.
When you are attacked in anyway there’s pain. When you are sexually assaulted by anyone there’s pain. When you know who committed the crime and you’re an adult, there are a variety of ways to handle it, there’s still pain. However, most do not go through the following: Newspaper coverage in multiple news outlets for a two week span at the least, right after the assault.
You’re then notified when the perp is released after posting bail ten days after capture. His relatives, girlfriend(s), friends of the family not only tell everyone publicly ‘you got the wrong guy’, they post pictures of the composite sketch on trees and telephone poles along your running routes. They stand at the local food store (you can’t go there to shop anymore) and solicit his innocence, damning your name in and outside the food store. They drive by your house, just because they can and letting you know they ARE watching YOU. Their friends, who were friendly acquaintances to you, now tell you to your face with their vicious dogs growling at you, that they hate you, when after you’ve waved in a friendly manner to say ‘hi’ to them. Then before the Discovery for the indictment, you are once again rechecked on your/the victim’s identification of the perp. Follow me… please.
Then before the indictment months later (eight months in my situation); you’re back again with detective(s) pictures again. Work is once again interrupted. Everything is interrupted. Oh, and those composite sketches and the food store situation and the drive-bys, haven’t changed. You’re encouraged not to complain about that, by the authorities. You find out who your friends are, and how many you don’t have left.
Meanwhile within ten days after the attack you have pain in your body, face, neck, leg, eye issues, etc…that are unrelenting. Then with that, the white male dominated medical field tells you, its all in your head. That you’ve been traumatized. Wait, wait… You have white women asserting their knowledge on the subject that they’d never been through. Suggestions from them are: “You should move out of the town.” And, “Why are you still running?” And you encounter ill-prepared women in the medical fields as well easily over eighty percent of these women were ill-prepared to deal with the victim at that time. They live in a bubble. They’re still blaming the victim because it makes those women feel protected, as if they wouldn’t put themselves in that position. What position that would be exactly is contrary to popular belief. Out running, three people heard me, two testified (after they felt guilty two weeks after denying they heard my yells from next to their home) that they did not want to get involved. They thought it was only a domestic affair. It was sunny out that day in suburbia New Jersey. The town bordered on Bergen County, in a mostly white, upper middle class to wealthy neighborhood.
In 1991 at the time, no EMDR Therapy was available, for it’s new, on the cutting edge. There’s no pain management, because that’s new and on the cutting edge. And weirdly enough Rape/Sexual Assault was considered mostly non-violent by medical professionals at that point in time. Gets better.
Your relatives that are out of shape suggest you be like them and stop running and have a baby. That’ll take your mind off it. Only there’s a few problems… I’ll let you use your imagination. Especially when they’ve conveniently denied and or forgotten you have birth defects, as well, and you just had surgery months before to correct a medical screw up, because they ignored an infection in you, that you told them was there. Which just so happens to be in the place where you need to do something to become pregnant. Insult to injury, I’d say.
Then comes the first time they decide when the trial may begin. You know, all the times they have to reschedule is to acquiesce the defense, realize that. It’s true. Rarely is it anyone or anything else involved messing with delaying the trial. So…more pictures, more time off of work. Then finally you receive a proper diagnosis…you have fractures in your back, the nerve damage is subtle to the medical field. It’s inhibited your chances of making the qualifying standard for 1992 Olympic Trials Marathon. (You’ve only been working on that for sixteen years). But to your husband, your running coach and you it’s right in your faces. There are more picture reviews.
Then you see a specialist while trying to work, find the court dates they think they’ll have you testify at. One thing now, you have a date for an eight-hour surgery that will change your life, but not sure how. You have hope, but you know it’s been eighteen months since the attack and there are no guarantees with any surgery, especially spinal surgery. Never mind the other surgery you had right before the attack that got messed up from the attack, which you now have more pain from and pins and needles from. It just happens to be on the same side as the leg damage you took from the spinal injury from the attack, in the area where you have a spinal birth defect. Laugh now or forever hold your peace.
So now you have to tell the prosecutor when you’re going to have surgery. You’ve shown up for work, except for the day you were abducted, beaten and raped and the day after. But then you covered up your bruises and went back to work as if nothing ever occurred, like a concussion and other damage. Only one person in personnel, the corporate lawyer and your immediate bosses know the situation at work. It’s low-key all the way. I’m told by my immediate boss, not to walk down this one area right now because people have opened up newspapers on our floor in other departments. Everything about me is described to a ‘T’in the papers, yet I’m supposedly protected because my name is not mentioned. I’m eventually sequestered. Which is highly unusual for a victim in a case of this nature. My immediate boss tells me there’s chatter. I respond, “I’ll shrug and act weird if asked… play dumb. I’m good.” He deflected people from the subject when they approached it. He was great at it too. Thank God.
Oh the prosecutor, ehhh hmm… Not understanding of my now demands to testify before surgery or I’m out of this circus. He was putting the state first BEFORE the victim. ‘Let the stuff fall where it does. I need to mend. You need to do your job.’ I was harsher than that to him, it was needed and he deserved it.
I testified for identification for about four hours without a jury, yet news outlets, relatives of the defendant, lawyers, other prosecutors and the judge were present. The trial with a jury soon began a few weeks before Good Friday 1993. My husband as well was sequestered. Which I thanked God for that one. Because what I had to say on the stand was brutal. I look back and I don’t know how I did it without throwing up. Yeah, as usual I prayed. As well, my physical pain had worsened over time, sitting for more than ten minutes was the most painful. Then I had two more times to testify, the Wednesday and Thursday before Good Friday. I testified about four hours and thirty minutes and the next day, three hours and some minutes. I was exhausted from pain, never mind stress of both ready to go under the knife for eight hours for a spinal fusion and a hip graphing… And testifying hoping to hell the perp got thirty years…
By the way he had a record…an altered record. Of seven previous arrests, three were originally felonies, but no one wanted anyone to know that. I knew it. I met some of the people previously involved. Oh, his size… about one hundred sixty pounds more than I weighed on that day of the assault. And he was my age, twenty-eight.
The one doctor who had been following the case, I walk into his office with six sets of x-rays taken after the attack. He believed me. He was also a long distance runner, which helped. As I went through eight hours of surgery, the trial continued. After five days I was finally out of the hospital and back home. Future uncertain. While I was in the hospital they hid me in the pediatric ward, so no one would ‘bother me’. It worked so well, even my husband wasn’t initially told where I was, or what room I was in and couldn’t find me for a spell.
The jury began to deliberate the day after I got home from the hospital. I received a phone call at about noon three days after from one of the detectives, “It doesn’t look good Jody. They’re deliberating too long. It could be a mistrial. Would you be willing to testify again?” I figured the neurotic egocentric prosecutor urged her to make the call, perhaps. I replied, “No. No thank you. I’m done. You did your job. The State didn’t do theirs. And if that’s the case, the People are ignorant. I’ll take care of it when I can. I’m done. Sorry can’t do it again.” I knew deep down this is what the defense would want. Sure, I’d give it to them. But what they might meet up with in the future, I may not be able to control. Nor desire to.
About two or so hours passed after that phone call. My husband went out to run an errand, as he went to his car parked in front of our apartment on the street, I heard inaudible voices. Then I heard a celebration. Then my phone rang. Thank God I was near it. I answered. The perp was convicted on nine of ten counts, only one count of kidnapping was dismissed, one was included with the other of the nine counts of guilty. It was temporarily over.
Over the years ensuing the perp kept trying to get out. It constantly cropped up and in the newspapers. It was agonizing. The damage he did, had continuing ramifications in my and my husband’s lives. But we made things work out. Most marriages would not have lasted I can say for sure. I had to make a work career change, I was in physical therapy for over six years and still ailed for ten years noticeably post-operatively. Therapy for flashbacks was unable to be found till near eight years later. I lived. I carried my leg heavy for I was determined to let no one take away my running.
I heard stupid things from women, such as: “I would have never fought back.” Or “I would have just poked his eyes out”, said a woman with no training. “You just got to have faith.” Little did they know I’d already been there as a child. Oh, and by the way I have tons of faith. People are ridiculous. Then I developed an auto-immune malfunction from the stress and eight hours of anesthetics I was under.
Through all this I forged ahead, I worked my regular financial/accounting job, went back to school at night, so I could save my spine and stand up more as I knew it may take years to heal, and it did. I ran limping for most of the next decade at times. To this day, I still have pain at the surgical sites at times, somedays more than others. I deal. I ignore.
We adopted two beautiful children, now teenagers. I built a great business. I changed my athletic career and still to this day make an effort to be some kind of a long-distance runner…It’s a dream. I continue the dream, because even nearing sixty years of age next year I will admonish the naysayers, those jealous and filled with hatred of me for no reason at all, other than their own ignorance about me before August 1st 1991 and after.
So today, as I did chores, sat re-writing a screenplay, my ultra-running coach called me. He said, “I know what today is. And I’m here for you.” I thanked him. I told him something that I finally revealed here that most never knew. He was stunned. He said, “You, a US Marine willingly signed papers to lay down your life regardless, were treated so poorly…” You could almost hear him shake his head over the phone. I replied, “Yeah, but I was only mobilized once. I was lucky I never saw combat.”
The sentencing was delayed for a year. That is NOT normal, not for then. I had to write the Governor. I did in February 1994, no answer. I re-wrote and this time threatening her to going to local news station. I was determined to ruin her political career. Days after sending the second letter in May of 1994, he was sentenced to thirty years in prison. By the way, eventually our health insurance cut off my physical therapy, as well the Victim’s Crime Compensation Bureau was down on funding. I paid out of pocket, I bartered for physical therapies.
The years following, the perp was released after fifteen years in the spring of 2008. The New Jersey parole board I later found out later, violated my rights. Plenty of people wrote into the parole board to stop the perp’s release. It was for naught. When he got out, I was advised to let the places of work and home police departments know the situation and possible situations that may arise as he was moving within six miles of my home. The officers that knew me in one town were stunned when I came in to make the statement. Jaws dropped. And one of the popular responses I’d gotten in the past arose, “You always look so happy.” Yeah. I smile a lot. I do that to piss off the bad people. I want them to all know I live. I don’t just exist.
So, I prayed like the dickens. And I got top notch self-defense training in an all men’s fight gym. The men were great. So, was the coach. I predicted when he would attack again and what he would do before hand, that just might put him in his grave early. And so it was. I was on the mark. He dropped dead on the date that I told my coach he’d come for me.
In the end, I will say this: a bully is not always someone who’s been hurt. Many times, especially recently I’ve discovered something about bullies… They’ve bullied others for years. Then when it’s convenient for them, they declare that they’ve been recently victimized. And guess what? That is the persona of a Bully and/or a Rapist.---Jody-Lynn Reicher