The Man Who Stole My Life

For quite some time I have tried to find the words to accurately describe what has happened to me. Time and time again the words have failed or on one occasion I typed away for hours only to delete every last word because it was too scary to share. I think I am finally ready to tell my story. It is my hope to create an understanding and to bring compassion and strength to those who have been affected by rape in any way.

August 2015: A letter read at the sentencing hearing

To the man who tried to steal my life,

I think about you every day, every hour, agonizing over why you did it. Why did you rape me? Why could you not have left me alone? I think I know why: Because you knew you could. You exploited my vulnerabilities by threatening to take away the things I worked so hard for, the things I valued most. You entrapped me in my own web of fears and took complete advantage of me with a full awareness that I wanted no part in your evil scheme.

You raped me. Because of your selfish actions my life became almost unrecognizable. Because of you and you alone, in March of 2014 I started stumbling down a dark and lonely path paved with self-destruction and despair. You not only hurt me, you hurt a whole multitude of people. The pain and torment you inflicted on me was sweeping and devastating to everyone in my life. Most had no idea what happened to me, all they saw was how suddenly I was gone. Helplessly they stood by not knowing where I went or how to help.

I spent months attempting to numb myself from any kind of feeling. It is amazing what the human brain is capable of, what it will do to try and retain a semblance of sanity. Next came on the darkness and despair. The excruciating burning from places I went to in my mind were beyond anything I had ever felt before. Now I want to ask you something… Do you ever hurt? I wonder what you would say if I had told you about the night I wanted to be done feeling and overdosed on pills. How I have been driven mad with blame and hatred for myself. About all the vivid nightmares and sleepless nights. About how everywhere I go I see your face. About how worthless and ruined I feel. About how I had lost the desire to even live. Do you feel any remorse? Do you feel anything at all? Are you even capable of feeling?

I went from being on the Dean’s List to failing every class and dropping out of school--the very thing I was trying to protect by staying silent in the beginning. I isolated myself from the people and activities that used to bring me so much joy. I walked around silent and ashamed wishing I could simply stop existing. But do not think for one second that you won; sure, you won some battles but I came out on top of the war. Here I stand: alive, victorious, and proud of the fight I put up.

I am ready to let my voice be heard to stop the fear of discussing rape. Saying the "r" word aloud has taken me this long but I am ready to speak. I am sick of hurting, sick of letting you be in charge of me-- even two years later. They say time heals all wounds but I disagree; eventually as time passes you just accept them and learn to live your life around them. You stop trying to hide them. The painful memory of what happened is almost unbearable but knowing I stood up to you, and that you will be spending (hopefully) the remainder of your life behind bars is some solace and aids in my healing.

I have decided to believe there is good out there, despite people like you who try to prove otherwise. I am slowly but surely returning to the woman I once was. I still have my friends and family who love me and believe in me. They have stood by my side and offered unconditional love and reminders of my own worth. Though dimmed and almost snuffed out I still have my fight and determination. I am learning to replace my fears with strength. The strength I used to fight through the fears so that justice could be served. Justice for me, justice for the other girl ten years ago, and justice for any other person you hurt or would have hurt had I stayed quiet. You stole my life for a time, but today I am taking it back.

Under Ice

In March of 2014 my life came to a screeching halt. At first things got dim--quickly followed by the light fading completely from my soul. In March 2014 I was raped. Here is what happened: Zero* received a compromising video/photo of me, then anonymously stalked me via the Internet to find out who I was. Zero made threats that he would expose the photo to the university I attended, make sure all my family and friends saw it, and send it in to news stations unless I would come up to his house and do what he wanted.

Against my better judgment I finally agreed to meet as his threats became more numerous and terrifying. I did not go to the police because I wanted to take care of it on my own to make it go away quietly because I was so embarrassed and ashamed of the video. Plus he promised me he would delete it if I came to talk to him. We met up in a public area and I followed him in my car back to his house. As soon as I walked inside he told me to walk downstairs and promptly turned the lights off. I froze immediately, frightened already, and asked him to turn them back on. He agreed to, but just until I made it to the landing below. We went in his room and he sat down in a large chair and ordered me to stand in front of him. Without delay he told me that I had to have sex with him in order for him to delete the video he had and then told me to take my clothes off. For the next one to two hours I was assaulted and raped five times. I cried, but he did not care. I said no over and over again, he acted like he could not hear me. I tried to get away, but he bound me. He even took a video of me sobbing.

I kept begging to leave and finally he relented but followed up by saying I had to come back the following week if I wanted the new photos he had taken of me gone. I screamed and begged until finally he said he would delete everything. I put on half of my clothing and grabbed the rest as I frantically ran up the stairs and outside to my car.

I stayed the night at my cousin’s house and aside from going out the next morning to get a “morning after” pill I pretended for a couple of days like nothing had happened. That is until two days later when I got a Facebook message from a name I did not recognize. It was then that I learned Zero’s name for the first time. The message included more threats with no way out for me. He said he was going to sell the photos/videos to the local news stations and even told me a guy from TMZ was interested in taking him to dinner to discuss selling them. Zero said that “Little Mormon girl gone bad” headline was sure to ruin my reputation as well as get me kicked out of my religious university, and humiliate my family. At that point I just broke down and sobbed. My father who was in the next room came in and asked me what was wrong. When I reluctantly told him he told me I needed to go to the police first thing in the morning and report the rape.

I was so scared to go to the authorities but at this point I knew he would never stop blackmailing and tormenting me unless I did something that involved seeking justice for what he had done to me. So the next morning, alone I went to the police station. Officer Williams* was called in to talk to me. He was so kind and compassionate and respectful, not in the least bit cynical. I will forever be grateful him, for had he not treated me so well I would have walked out and never reported it because of the immense fear and shame I was feeling.

Luckily I was still within the time frame that a doctor could do a rape kit. So I drove over to the hospital with Officer Williams following in his own car. I got checked in and while I was waiting I lost it and ran to my car and drove away. I ignored the first two calls from Officer Williams but finally answered the third one. Again he used his kind, gentle persuasion to coax me back to the clinic. He told me the decision was entirely mine but should I choose to go through with it he would be there for me. So I went back and although everyone was gentle with me, having to get naked and have them document all the bruising, and cuts I had on my body--in addition to a pelvic exam to collect DNA samples, was torturous.

Within the next few weeks and months I was referred to a different precinct, the one that had jurisdiction where the crime took place. I was called in a couple of times for interviews with the Special Victims Unit and I even surrendered my phone and computer so they could get the emails/messages to use as evidence. Detective Sanderson* drilled me until I would break down. I thought he was so cruel to be treating me that way but I later learned he was doing it for my benefit. He was making sure I was being truthful and looking to see if I would be tough enough to take the stand should they decide to bring charges against my assailant. Although I didn’t learn this until much later Zero was also called in for an interview and the first thing he said to Detective Sanderson was, “Am I here about rape charges?”

Months passed and I was out of the country for the summer so it was easy for me to just pretend I was okay, and nothing happened. Upon my return I had a voicemail from a prosecutor (Dan*) in the District Attorney's office asking me to come up for yet another interview. This was the first time I met Dan and the victim's’ counselor, Adam*. They wanted to clear up some of the details and get a feel for me again to see if I could withstand a lengthy court case. Evidently I passed because I was notified soon after that the DA’s office had decided to bring 3 first-degree felony charges against him. An arrest warrant was issued! For the first time I felt safe, however that feeling only lasted a day or two because as it turns out he was hiding from police and it took nearly a month to track him down. It was late October in 2014 when I received a text from Adam: Zero is in custody. Because of the nature and severity of the charges the judge set his bail very high, to my great relief. I was so grateful he would remain in jail. All the tough interviews, the rape kit, and the initial reporting of the crime was not all for nothing. But it also hit so hard that this was real. I had been raped. I was suffering and hurt because of this man, and I was going to hopefully get some justice for what he did to me.

Dan met with me a couple more times to prepare me for the pretrial. I was nervous and sick to my stomach because he had warned me that the judge was going to ask me to point out the man in the courtroom who attacked me. This would mean I had to look at him. The pretrial was tough but another small victory. Not only did Dan question me but also this was my first time being cross-examined by the defense, who of course tried to paint me in an awful light. It was traumatizing. Again, I had to admit to myself that this had happened to me and it HAD affected me. At the end the judge ruled that not only the charges were just but he himself advised that the prosecution add on two more. So he was now being charged with two counts of rape and three counts of forcible sodomy. The final trial was scheduled for about five months out and it was determined there would be an eight man jury.

Two months later I got a call from Adam who told me he was quitting and becoming a stay-at-home father so he could see his children more often. That was a bit of a blow because I had gotten so used to him. Then he continued to tell me that Dan who had been prosecuting my case had been moved to a different department. He reassured me that the team taking over would be just as good but I had my doubts. I did not even want to go through with it anymore.

How wrong I was though! The two new assistant district attorneys, Samantha* and Rodger*, and Jenna*, the victim's’ counselor were exactly what I needed! They made sure I was prepared and helped make me feel calm and brave. My uncertainty of whether I could keep going and see the trial through subsided somewhat.

The first day of the trial Rodger threw it down in opening statements and had me feeling confident about testifying that day. I was all set to get my testimony over with, however after an hour and a half of questioning from only the prosecution, the judge asked if I would prefer to be finished and resume it the morning. The next day I was crossed examined for over an hour--one humiliating and accusatory question after another. The third day the prosecution called a few more witnesses to testify before closing arguments from both the defense and prosecution. At this point the jury was taken back to make a decision.

During this time we had several uncomfortable experiences with people from his side of the courtroom. One such incident started with a female relative of his making glaring faces and staring at my sixteen-year-old brother and my mom. During the break he decided to show her his longest finger as she got in an elevator. This made said female relative erupt and scream, “Your sister is a damn liar!” to which he replied, “I see not knowing when to stop runs in the family.” Although our mother scolded my brother profusely, I was so thankful for some comic relief and reminded of his love for me, shown by him sticking up for me.

After hours and hours, the jury came back and read their verdict. He was found guilty on two of the five counts. At first my heart sank and I began to sob. How could anyone who had been listening the past three days in court and heard Samantha’s closing statement not possibly know he was a monster and very obviously guilty on all five counts? I saw several of the jury members crying many times through court as they listened to what he did to me. I was shocked. But then the prosecutors took me aside and explained to me the meaning of the jury instruction of: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. They also said that even though he was not found guilty on all charges it did not really matter because with that many charges a judge would most likely let him serve his sentences concurrently. The prosecution was very pleased with the outcome and assured me I should be as well.

We were back in court about a month later for sentencing. He was given a chance to speak and stood up and made excuses and not one word of it was any kind of him taking responsibility or apologizing to me. I got up next with Jenna who stood beside me as I read the letter above. Then his lawyer made a final statement asking for time served and probation only. Next the judge made his ruling... Five to life on both counts, and while it is up to the probation committee after the minimum sentence has been served, he recommended no possibility of parole for at least seventeen years according to the matrix. Should I have felt like I had won? Maybe. But I did not. There is no winning, I was raped; my life forever disfigured, but now at least I finally felt small surge of strength and victory.

*Names changed for privacy reasons

Finding My Voice

Society is still afraid to talk openly about a rape or sexual assault; as a result an extraordinary amount of shame and silence follows the crime. It is difficult to speak out in public about being violated in the most intimate way possible. Victims remain silent because they fear being subjected to intense public scrutiny and blame that often comes with being raped. But we have to start raising our voices and make it safe to talk about because rape has such devastating far-reaching effects and rapists are getting away with their crimes. The 2007 Rape In Utah Survey found that only 12%, or 1 in 10, of victims of rape and sexual assault reported the crime to police. This translates into 10 out of 100 offenders were ever reported to police. Followed by only 3 out of 100 offenders held accountable for their criminal actions. This is shocking and not okay.

Being raped nearly destroyed me. Even now two years later I wonder if I will ever feel completely normal again. I often think back to lying there sobbing with my eyes shut tight wondering if my twenty-two years were all I had. At one point I lay there face shoved into a pillow actually hoping I would not walk out of there alive. That night he controlled me physically, even now two years later he still has some control over my mind and emotions.

I know I am healing from my rape but I also know I will never fully recover. All I can do is look to the future, not let it make me biter, and use my own experiences to reach out and help others who have been maimed by rape in anyway. I have found my voice and am no longer afraid to use it to tell my story of survival and taking a stand against my rapist.

Photo Voice

I love photographing architecture. It is so curious how every structure seems to have a personality, a soul, and a story to tell. This is an architectural Photo Voice of the range of thoughts and emotions that I felt during and after my rape.

Scared-Coronation Park, South Africa

Shame-Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City

Vulnerable-Kaokoland, Otutati, Namibia

Ruined-Istanbul, Turkey

Out of Control- Venice, Italy

Numb-Halstad, Austria

Inability to Trust-Nieu-Bethesda, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Hollow-Kolmanskop, Namibia

Flashbacks-Graaff-Reinet, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Exposed-Duwisib Castle, Namibia

Empty-Sound of Music home, Salzburg, Austria

Disassociation-Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, USA

Anger-Büyükada, Turkey

Alone-New York, New York

I am not a victim. No matter what I have been through I am still here; I have a history of victory.

--Steve Maraboli

Written by: Margot Crandall

About The Author

-I hail from a small country on the west cost of the Southern African continent. It is my home, my heart and soul. I was adopted into a tribe of traditionally living people at birth. My people are one of the very last still existing today. I've been doing the American living for quite some time now only going back home for a few months during select summers.

Fact: I'm the blondest African native you'll ever meet.

- I like to dabble. I think it is pretty fair to say I have dabbled in most things this life has to offer. I am a classically trained pianist, I can run a race faster than your mom! I can take you out in a fencing bout. I'm a strict vegetarian but have excellent aim at the archery range. I belly dance, ski, and am obsessed with design.

- I am a momma to three boys. Apollo, Atlas, and Ajaxx who are Netherland Dwarf

bunnies. They along with their two older siblings (who are reaking havoc in bunny

heaven) get pampered and spoiled on a level only comparable to royalty.

- I lobby at the Capitol and pull senators out of session and talk to them face to face to discuss bills that generally pertain to medicine and healthcare.

Fact: I can laugh so hard you'll think I've turned into a different species (I have proof of


I live in Utah and love it. My siblings and parents are the strangest, most hilarious,

loveable kinds of people. I have been given the of gift many friends from all over the world and I realize how special that is. Life is full of adventure and happiness if you are

willing to be uncomfortable at times and just follow your heart. Join me with my stories from the past, my struggles of the present, and my dreams for the future.

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