I have always been “the risk taker” in my family. The one who joined the Army on a whim, who jet skied in the ocean and broke her back, the one who lives every day to the fullest because it could be the last.
Until one Spring night in 2007. It was about 10:30 at night, the kids were already in bed and I was up, sitting at my dining room table, balancing my checkbook, feeling wonderful in our new apartment. It was perfect. My life was awesome. I had a great job that I absolutely loved. My apartment was furnished beautifully. It was a dream come true, finally! I was so happy.
The night was cool, so I had my sliding glass door open a few inches to let in the fresh air. My music was playing softly and I was feeling pretty good for a Tuesday evening.
I heard a noise outside in my patio, but I figured it was our cat who went missing a few nights ago, but I still turned down my music, just in case. Maybe I should grab a knife, I thought, nah!
Next thing I know, a man swiftly opens my sliding glass door and steps into my apartment.
First thought: He’s drunk. Silly man. Wrong Apartment.
Next thought: Wait! He’s got a mask on, and a gun. Oh shit.
I froze in fear, I could hear the blood rushing in my ears. His eyes were so blue. Bright ski blue that stood out against the black eye-holes of his ski mask. And he seemed young, like a college kid. Familiar.
In three long steps he was standing next to me, he pointed the gun at me, bent down and whispered in my ear. “If you do what I say, nothing will happen to your kids.” They were only 18 months and 3 years old at the time.
Take whatever you want. Just don’t hurt my kids. Was all I could think, thinking he was going to rob me.
He yanked me up and forced me across room towards the living room area, pointing the gun at me the whole time. My brain was working so fast, the actions were in slow motion. Every moment etched into my memory forever.
I felt relieved as we passed the hallway that led towards the kids room.
He doesn‘t really want my kids.
I kept staring at the gun, it looked strange, so odd, fake. Like licorice. Black licorice.
It made me mad. My fear vaporized and was instantly replaced by anger!
What did he want? Whatever it was, he wasn’t getting it with a licorice gun! He was instantly demoted to “idiot!” in my brain.
We got to the couch.
“Take off your shirt” he growled.
“NO!” I yelled and on instinct I tried to knock the gun out of his hand with one hand, and at the same time pushed against his chest with all my might with my other hand. It was like pushing against a brick wall, he was so tall and so strong!
And I only pissed him off. In a flash, he drop kicked me right between my breasts, so hard that I flew back against my new couch, bounced off and landed hard on my knees, skinning them against the carpet.
I couldn’t breathe! My chest hurt so bad! I needed air. I needed to get off the floor.
Think Ursula think! Oh God, please help me. St Michael, please protect me! I know what he wants! He wont get it! Saint Michael, Saint Michael, Saint Michael. (my Catholic upbringing)
Laboriously sucking in air, I crawled back up onto the couch, shaking my head NO!, trying to breathe.
“Take off your shirt NOW!” He was screaming at me. “If you don’t do what I tell you, I’ll shoot you! I’ll kill you!” He wouldn’t stop screaming at me! “Do what I say! I’ll kill you! I’ll shoot you!” Over and over and over.
With every gasping breath I took, fury welled up inside of me. Finally my lungs filled and, Oh, I was pissed to say the least!! I sucked in a big gulp and I screamed: “Go ahead and shoot asshole!! Your gun is fake anyway!”
And he started hitting me over the head with his gun. Hitting and hitting. Over and over. Trying to knock me out.
I threw up my arm to protect myself and screamed, NOOO!!!! I screamed so loud, and so hard. The harder he hit, the louder I screamed. I was pissed! Cuss words were coming out of my mouth. But mostly, “NOOOO!!!”
Then he stopped suddenly, and ran out the sliding glass door.
And I got up and ran after him and shouted, “You better run mother fucker! Chicken shit! If you ever come back I’ll kick your ass!” I can still hear his feet pounding down the sidewalk. I was fuming!!
I slammed the slider shut, locked it.
Ran to the front door, opened it, pounded on my neighbors door, “HELP!”
Waited two seconds, they weren’t home. Got back inside. Locked the front door. Called 911 and lost it.
The kids slept through the whole thing, but woke up during my hysterical 911 call.
“He shot your knees!” they cried when they saw the rug burns.
The cops came, they brought dogs to sniff my clothes.
Helicopters circled overhead, firemen came, paramedics came, everyone came.
My family came.
The rape people came.
It was a nightmare.
I couldn’t see straight. He hit my head so hard. Everything was double. I couldn’t stop shaking and crying. I couldn’t speak right! We went to the hospital, everything was okay except for the bruises on my arm and head and chest. But I wasn’t okay.
We stayed at my sisters that night. The next morning I had a message on my phone from the FBI, they wanted to talk to me.
“Don’t even tell me I fought off a serial rapist.” I joked.
No joke. I did.
But not really.
This guy has been raping single women in apartments for over 10 years. I believe I was the first to fight him off.
They never caught him and I was scared. Scared that he’d come back with a real gun because I called him out on his fake one.
The FBI said that he had watched us for months to learn our pattern. That he sat outside of my patio window for hours watching us before he attacked. There were a lot of cigarette butts in the bushes outside my patio.
Every time I undressed I saw new bruises and relived that night.
I moved to the other side of the city, I dyed my hair, changed my kids hair, painted my car. I quit my job. I was traumatized. I couldn’t be alone. I was scared of my closets, the shower, my balcony, everything. It consumed me.
I couldn’t hold down a job.
I couldn’t hang on to my kids.
I was evicted from my new apartment. I lost everything. All my furniture. My stuff. Everything-gone!
I was broke and broken.
I was almost homeless.
But I’m a fighter, and I don’t give up.
So I got on the welfare-to-work program and went back to school for Pharmacy Tech. I rented a room for us from a wonderful lady and her teenage kids. I never felt so safe.
My ex husband was still a very good friend and he helped me with the kids, taking them 50/50 so I could go to school and not have to worry about them.
I graduated at the top of my class, got a great job at Walgreens, and rented an apartment from a friend in a very safe environment. I felt secure and getting my life back!
They never did catch the guy. He ended up attacking two more women after me, he used a knife and wore sunglasses this time, then went into hiding. That seems to be his pattern.
It took me a long time to get over the fear of being alone, of being able to keep my windows open at night, of men in general. The sound of vertical blinds slapping against each other in a breeze still gets me though.
I know that things would have turned out different if he had a knife, or if I grabbed one. I know it could have turned out a lot different, a lot worse. I know enough to be afraid, but I refuse to allow fear to dictate my moves.
I will always fight. I cant help it. It’s my instinct.
The reason for my move to Colorado is a whole other crazy, even scarier story…for another time.