Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi,
from Carmina Burana by Carl Orff
like the moon
you are changeable,
I think that my mother told my dad what had happened, but he had to go to his job…and my youngest brother, Mike, was taking the family’s second car to his university (it struck me, later on, that one or the other of these men in my family might have offered to put off his obligations to the 9-to-5 job, or the morning class, and driven me to the police station…but I was too exhausted that morning to take notice of these things)
So it turns out that my mother didn’t tell my dad and brother about what had happened; just this morning she explained to me that an emotional father or angry brothers would just get in the way at the police station, and so she ushered Dad and my youngest brother out of the house, sent them to their job and class..see my dad’s hurt comment, below. Poor dad. Funny what comes crawling out of the woodwork when you write openly about something!
Anyway, I am not resentful of neither my Dad and brother, nor of my mom’s decision to take matters in her own hands and pull strings. The message I want to get out in THIS post is that if you have something like this happen in your family, be open about it from the beginning…don’t choose to let some in on it, and leave others out. Let the family know, and let them be angry and emotional…it seems natural that they might become upset and angry in the face of strangers who have done something like this to your daughter. I’d like to point out that my rapists’ families turned up in full force to show support for them and to give me dirty looks at the indictment.
A close friend of my brother Brian’s, Henry, and Henry’s twin, Hubert, were good enough to come over from their house, and offered to take us to the police station in their car. I told Henry the whole story, up to the point where the two rapists said they would return later that morning to pick up their money. I must admit that I really didn’t think the two would be back…but Henry advised me not to underestimate stupidity, and decided to stay behind, in our house, in case the two returned.
Hubert took me, my mom, and brother Brian to the police station in town. The two police women in charge of the Women and Children’s desk were extremely helpful and sympathetic. A young woman (whose sister I had met at uni), freshly graduated from law school, turned up…in case I needed the help of a lawyer. Together, we approached the criminal investigator, who started interrogating her, because she was bawling her eyes out. It took a few seconds to explain that I was the so-called victim, and this wet, sniveling heap beside me was, God help me, a lawyer (I remember making a mental note to find a more competent lawyer, as soon as possible! I read her emotional state as a sign that she, too, believed my life was now ruined because of what had happened—not an attitude I could afford in someone who was supposed to be defending me!)
I answered the investigator’s questions (Major fail! I got the color of the vehicle wrong. I hate to admit to everyone that, at the crucial moment, I hadn’t even noted the color of the vehicle I was in…but there you have it, sometimes we spend the whole night thinking about forensic scientists dusting for fingerprints, and then fail to notice the most basic things, like the paint job!) and then sat down to wait while the cops filled out the paperwork for a medical cross-examination.
My brother and I were sitting in the lobby, smoking (after gently advising the distraught lawyer to go home), when another entourage of people burst into the station.
“Another rape victim,” we were told. And in she came…in an opaque white body bag, on a stretcher. The police put the stretcher down on the floor in the lobby. She had been the lone attendant of a small petrol station, and had been raped, then stabbed to death, by her attacker. No one had witnessed it, and there were no leads.
It brought home how very, very lucky I had been…how easily she and I could have traded places in the police station that morning. My hands trembled, and I stifled a desire to weep, then, for her—younger than I was—and over the arbitrary dealings of Fortune.
The medical cross-examination would have to be conducted in the city, at a large army base. We got into Hubert’s car once again—policewomen, too!—and started the long ride down to Quezon City. We were just about to drive past the entrance gate to my parents’ village when Henry rang…the two men had, indeed, returned, and were now under citizen’s arrest!
Henry’s story was that the phone had rung at around 9:30, and a man had asked for me. In a friendly, innocent voice, Henry told the caller that “Nat didn’t get home till this morning, and she’s asleep now…but she’s left an envelope on the dining table with the instructions that one of her friends would be dropping by to pick it up.” The caller piped up that yes, that was right, the envelope was for him. “Sure, just come over and pick it up from here,” Henry urged. Then he called the guards at the village gate and asked one of them to come over. When rapist #1 knocked on the front door, Henry invited him in, saying he would just go and get the envelope. Henry pushed the front door gently shut, and the security guard, gun at ready, stepped into the foyer from around a corner.
Now for the second guy…Henry grabbed the rusty old air rifle from its high perch in my mother’s kitchen…this rifle was a big joke among us kids. It had never really worked properly, had been fired maybe ten times in its life, had hit its target (cans, and a stray dog) probably thrice, and then went on to be displayed prominently over the fireplace in the kitchen for the rest of its days. It was a bit of macho bravura that my dad, in a moment of self-delusion, thought he could protect his family with. It was little more than a very realistic stage prop. Henry brought this down off the wall, brushed off the cobwebs and dust, and then walked straight out the front door, to point it at rapist #2, who was sitting in the vehicle. “Get out of the car,” Henry growled.
At my parents’ house a small crowd had gathered on the street. The two rapists were lying face-down in the driveway, and the armed security guard was standing over them.We pulled up in Hubert’s car, and the police jumped out. Tess, a little terror of a policewoman, handcuffed the two men, gave them a bit of verbal abuse for good measure (the crowd—young nannies airing the toddlers of the rich, gardeners, domestics, and the odd homeowner from down the road—lapped it all up…the word ‘rape!’ ricocheted among them like a tiny, persistent echo) and then rang the station for back-up and a vehicle to take the two men away. Eventually I continued downtown to my medical cross-examination, while the police women celebrated their first-ever rape case in which the perpetrators had been successfully, swiftly, and definitely apprehended.
I am sure that I thanked all of my day’s heroes many times in the days that followed, but I cannot ever thank them enough, and want to say it all again:
Henry P., Hubert P., the security guard Rodolfo M. Febra, SPO3 E. Soriano and PO1 T. Costales of the Antipolo City Police Station…these are the real heroes of my story…thank you so much for being there when I needed you, for rising above your personal fears and taking risks for my sake. Henry, you are the bravest man I know, for weighing the consequences, and then fronting those men, anyway.
And thank you to my mom, and my brother Brian, for staying with me through the long tedious hours and days that followed. For being level-headed, themselves, and openly discussing the ideas that were pouring out of me in those days…some of them very strange and mixed-up, indeed.