TEN TIMES GUILTY by Brenda Hill
Tracy placed the CLOSED sign on the Victorian museum’s front door, thankful the long day had ended. She looked forward to getting home in time to feed Ritchie his bedtime bottle. Just as she stepped outside, a woman in a gray woolen pantsuit hurried up the sidewalk.
“Are you Tracy Michaels?”
At Tracy’s hesitant nod, the woman continued. “I’m Marian Krull from Her View Magazine.” She extended her hand. “I’d glad I caught you. We’d like to print your story.”
“My story? I think you have me mixed up with someone else. I don’t have a story.”
“On the contrary, I think you do. My resources at County General told me what happened, and I was impressed enough to meet you and, with your cooperation, write an article.”
“You’ve wasted your time. I can’t . . . talk about it.”
“Please give it some thought,” Marian pressed. “Most victims aren’t stalked by their assailants, much less have the strength of will to fight back. But you did. And from a safe house. That’s quite a story, and I’m sure our subscribers will find it empowering.”
Tracy was speechless. Such a thing had never occurred to her.
“Call me.” Marian gave her a business card. “As an incentive, our magazine pays handsomely for its features. This article will top them all.” She named a figure that left Tracy breathless.
All night she tossed and turned. Should she give the interview or shouldn’t she? Her sense of privacy rebelled against it. And, she didn’t feel the need to express her thoughts to the general public about her assault and recovery. The only people she cared about already knew the story.
But the money. She couldn’t overlook the fee she’d make from the magazine. It would be such a blessing; she could almost consider it heaven-sent. It would make up for the time she had lost from work and then some. Most of all, it would get her into the university.
The next morning she called Suzy.
“Well, what do you want to do?” Suzy asked.
“I know what I need to do; I just don’t know if I should.”
“Okay, let’s look at the pros and cons. Cons first. What do you have against giving the interview?”
“I guess the main reason is the loss of privacy,” Tracy said. “I don’t know if I can deal with everyone knowing what happened. They’ll judge me, Suzy. And even though it shouldn’t matter, I guess deep down it still does.”
“Ask yourself this. If you agree to the interview, would it hurt you or any of your loved ones?”
“There’s no one in my family to be hurt. Ritchie’s too young, and my friends already know the story.”
“So the only argument against it is the loss of privacy. How about the pros? There has to be substantial reasons why you’re considering it. So what are they?”
“Oh, Suzy, only one. Money. And I’m ashamed to be so mercenary about this whole thing.”
“Money is an excellent reason for you to do it. Right now, the interview seems a good way for you to get some needed cash into your hands.”
Tracy sighed. “I just can’t get over the feeling I’d be doing something immoral or unethical. But I also can’t forget that the money will get me into the fall classes.”
“I want you to listen. To hell with anyone’s opinion. Do what you need to do for yourself and that son of yours. It’s your future, babe. Go for it!”
Marian: Tracy, you have told us the facts in this case: you were raped, then stalked by the rapist. In the end, you were able to turn him over to the police at gunpoint. My question is, how have you managed to come through all this without losing your sanity?
Tracy: There were times I felt it would be easier if I did go insane, but I couldn’t. My son depended on me. Still does. And when you have someone totally dependent on you, you have to keep going, no matter what. In some ways, I was very fortunate. I had good friends and I met some truly wonderful women at the safe house. And of course, there was Suzy.
Tracy: Susan Banning from the Rape Crisis Center. Thank God I was fortunate enough to have met her. She helped me get through one of the most difficult periods in my life and I owe her more than I could ever say.
Marian: So, I assume you think highly of the rape centers and feel they should be allowed to continue. How would you justify their expense to the critics?
Tracy: (Pause) When a woman is raped, different emotions are involved, and most of the time, she needs expert counseling to get through the trauma. I can’t think of anyone else more qualified than the women of the crisis centers. They are mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and, best friends. They don’t criticize, censure, or judge. They offer support and understanding. That’s worth any amount of expense. Otherwise, the victim can be left an emotional cripple.
Marian: Do you think that was what could have happened to you?
Tracy: No question about it. Suzy guided me, sometimes goaded me into searching and finding hidden strengths within myself. You see, I didn’t think I had any. (Pause) One thing everyone should remember: What you teach a child today can have life-long results. If you love, encourage, and treat a child with respect and dignity, that child will grow and flourish. But, if you ridicule a child for any reason, you strip him or her of self-worth that may never be recovered.
Marian: Sounds ominous.
Tracy: People don’t always realize how their casual, cutting remarks can scar a child for life. Children, by their very nature, look to adults for guidance. And it doesn’t make any difference if that child loves the adult or not; the child still believes the adult. So, if that adult tells the child that he or she is a slob, for instance, or a screw-up, or that no one wants to hear him, the child believes it. It happened to me. But with Suzy’s help, I think I’m overcoming most of my insecurities.
Marian: Suzy sounds like someone I’d like to meet.
Tracy: (Smiling) All you have to do is go to County General Hospital and look for someone who sparkles.
Marian: I don’t understand.
Tracy: You will when you see her!
Marian: I would like to ask something I realize will be very difficult to answer: Could you have pulled the trigger that evening in the park? If so, would it have been for revenge?
Tracy: I’m thankful every day it didn’t come to that. But the answers to your questions take some thought. (Pause) Rape is a horrendous crime. It’s much more than sexual intercourse with an unwilling partner. It’s a violent, degrading act, sometimes causing damage for the rest of the victim’s life. But, as violent as this crime is, I wanted to kill this man, not for revenge, but because he threatened my son’s life.
As far as killing someone, there are laws against it, of course, and that’s the way it should be. It’s the only way society can survive. Those who disregard the laws, however, damage their psyche in such a way that no amount of rehabilitation can undo the damage. Society must be protected from these few. But lawfully.
Marian: You feel so strongly about the crime of rape, and you’ve talked about Suzy and the crisis center with such respect. Have you given any thought to joining them to help other victims?
Tracy: Before all this happened, I wanted to attend tech school. But now, I plan to start classes at the university as soon as possible. I hope one day to be as good a counselor to someone in need as Suzy was to me. A tall order, as I don’t think anyone could ever compare with Suzy, but I’m going to try. Especially with one young woman who happens to like Gothic black.
Marian: One last question: how do you feel about yourself now?
Tracy: That’s a tough one. I was a victim. But with Suzy’s help, I discovered I’m a strong, capable human being, ready to put the past behind me and go on with my life. I’m so grateful my life was spared that I don’t intend on wasting it by looking back. Suzy believes we all make choices in life, and I choose to not be a victim any longer. I believe that our Creator has given each of us an ability to create positive forces in our life and with help, I became aware of the power within me. I intend to use that power to create a good, positive world for my son, myself, and anyone else who can benefit from my experiences.