The story of a rape: A victim's self is stolen from her

Sylvia Hauser

June 18, 1991|By Sylvia Hauser

Sylvia Hauser, a resident of Charlotte, N.C., was raped in 1989 in the L rural Appalachian mountains. She killed her attacker.

6 She recently wrote a 13-page letter to the editor of the Charlotte F Observer describing her ordeal. The newspaper agreed not to

publish her assailant's name or age, her husband's name and

the location -- even general area -- of the rape. The letter is excerpted here.

SINCE reading that some newspapers are publishing the names of rape victims, I have been able to think of little else.

First, I would like to try to help those who have never experienced rape to gain insight into exactly what a victim's thoughts and feelings are both during and after the rape.

My case resulted in a ruling of justifiable homicide.

I will be as brief as possible in telling about my 3 1/2 -hour ordeal.

Sunday, Jan. 15, 1989, 4:30 a.m.:

I rarely work the midnight shift at the convenience store. My husband realizes I've forgotten my gun and brings it to me at work.

Just after 4 a.m., I am held at gunpoint. At that hour on a Sunday morning, only a few customers come and go. I am told that if I indicate anything is wrong, he will kill me. He does not tell me what his intentions are. I hope he will rob me and go.

Instead he makes me drive my pickup truck out into the middle of nowhere in the rural Appalachian mountains. We go up an old dirt mining road that is no longer in service. During this ride he tells me his first name and tells me in explicit terms what he wants to do to me.

In fact, he does these things. His gun is pointed at my head the whole time. My feelings during the rape are of humiliation, lack of control, anger, degradation and fear -- total terror.

I pray. He tells me to get out of the truck slowly. He leaves no doubt: He intends to shoot me.

My purse is on the floor of the truck, at my feet. I kick it out in front of me, grab it and run to the back of the truck. I have a gun in my purse and this is my first opportunity to get to it. My hope has been that I will not need it, that he will just put me out of the truck and leave. That doesn't happen.

When I stand up at the truck, he shoots at me. I shoot at him. We both miss. We have a gunfight across the width of the truck. He fires several shots at me. We are firing at the same time.

I kill him.

*

Rape is arriving at the hospital and your husband is already there, crying and illogically feeling guilty because he hasn't protected you. He is angry because a police operator called him and said, "Your wife has been raped, but she's not hurt."

I'm in a small room with a kind-looking, grandfatherly doctor. He softly says to my husband and me, "It's OK to cry, both of you." But by this time I am past tears. I'm numb, which is probably good. If I feel anymore, if I start to cry again, I will go off the deep end.

"Did he ejaculate inside you?" the doctor asks.

"Yes."

"Good. Well, not good, but it makes it easier to get a semen sample."

They comb my body hair for tests to see if any of the rapist's are there. I feel sick. There is blood under my fingernails. They scrape it out into a little plastic bag. A nurse is taking blood. I'm not told why, and I don't ask.

A detective from the sheriff's department comes in. I am told the rapist is the son of a police official.

I recall all the horror stories I've read about the treatment of rape victims by legal authorities. It's OK. The detective speaks softly. You can hear the compassion in his voice.

My husband calls my parents to tell them I've been raped. I tell him to ask them to please stay home; we will come there as soon as possible. I don't want them to come to the hospital. Mother has had one heart attack. Daddy has had a stroke.

I'm a smoker. May I go to the waiting room and have a cigarette?

Going through the door to the waiting room, I come face-to-face with the rapist's mother. We stop and stare at each other. We do not speak, but quick thoughts run through my head. I have taken her son's life.

Mother to mother, I can feel some of her pain. Woman to woman, I believe I detect sympathy in her eyes for my pain. The moment passes; we go on.

My examination is over. The doctor tells me that because I was raped by a drug user, I should have an AIDS test every six months for the next few years.

I have to go to the sheriff's office for questioning and to make a statement. They are keeping my panties and jeans for evidence. What will I wear from the hospital? A paper hospital suit. Good. Let's create some embarrassment to go along with everything else I'm feeling.

May I go home and clean up before going to the sheriff's office?

While I shower and shower and shower, I ask my husband to please burn everything I had on that day, including my shoes and the hated hospital suit.

The sheriff is supportive. He tells my husband and me, "Remember, no matter what anyone else says or does, you are the victim."

I naively wonder what he means.

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