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Saturday, December 13, 2014

No Stranger to Lost Women

Note:  some potentially triggering subject matter here.

I have gotten about a third into the way of the first part of my Asha Veil book.  It has so far led me to a very life-changing chapter in my younger history: I knew someone who was murdered by a serial killer in 1985.  My friend, Anne Swanke, was a music major at the University of San Diego (the place where I was raped in March 1981 by someone I had previously trusted too much--talk about  life caving in on people too young to handle any of this).  Anne was abducted by serial killer David Alan Lucas when her car ran out of gas late at night.  This was long before cell phones, call boxes, etc--one has to wonder how many lives have been saved because of those things.

I can find no picture of Anne on the Internet, though one existed for some time and I did not capture it.  She had long red hair, blue eyes, freckles.  Anne sang alto and sometimes tenor in the University choir in which I also sang.  It is a weird coincidence that Asha and Anne both had alto singing voices; both were music majors and talented musicians as well.  It reminds me of Ovid's Metamorphoses, violated and brutalized women turned into nightingales that forever ply their sorrow in night songs.

But this it not time for fanciful thoughts:  Anne was kidnapped off the side of the road, and found some time later, dumped on a rocky hillside in San Diego, another woman tossed like a pile of trash, away.

I am no stranger to lost women, it seems.  San Diego itself has a creepy, seedy underbelly like nowhere else:  it is the place I lost every shred of my innocence.  I learned that friends could betray, that a benign-seeming person could be a rapist, that a boyfriend I loved would not protect me (and how I recycled that scenario again in 2011!), that a priest I trusted could be a serial rapist of young men in the seminary.  I would have done much better had I gone to UCSC; m. said he loved his time there, and I am sure I would have, too, in view of the cold ocean and the dry fields, and the hippie students who probably would have accepted my quirky self.  Yet this was my path: I learned early that life has an underbelly, and that bringing the underbelly to light can defuse it, if only a bit.  "The plight will never end," Hannibal Lecter counseled Clarice Starling, but it is possible to salve at least some of the plight.

I felt vulnerable in San Diego in a way that I have never felt anywhere else, even in my hometown of Los Angeles.  It is likely I will never go back there alone: always I go with someone who understands that I feel the need to hold someone's hand, metaphorically:  too much happened to me and the place is forever tainted, sorry to say.  My boyfriend from that time lives 40 minutes away from me, asks me to have coffee with him, maybe lunch or dinner; what does he have to say to me?  That he is sorry he did not have the moral courage to shelter someone who had stood by him as he studied through two Bar exams, that he is sorry I have PTSD, that a part of me will never heal, that he is sorry our innocence was robbed?  That my rape lives in me like a dybbuk that will never be exorcised, and he understands that? Who knows?  Anne's death was the distillation of all that was wrong back then: it is as if a crack opened up in the fabric of time and horror poured into the world.  I was young, I was foolish, I trusted too much;  Anne was young but I doubt she was foolish: she was a young woman whose car ran out of gas, late at night on a dark road.

Why is it that people never consider my rapist, long dead, and feel anger on my behalf?  Why is it that Anne's killer has women writing love letters to him?  Why did the person I loved with all my heart say that I was responsible for an attack that happened to me from behind, from a person I could not see, someone who came out of the dark while I was sitting at the end of a row, listening to music?  Is it so hard to say, "This is a person given over to evil pursuits and you are not to blame for what happened?"  I am not all-powerful:  no one has the ability to protect themselves 100 percent of the time. Why blame the victim when the perpetrator shoulders the entire burden of guilt?

My task as a writer this time around is to cast as blinding a light as I can on the abyss, the underbelly, to remember Anne and Asha, and in some ways, all the women who are the collateral damage of what I can only say is evil incarnate:  we can look and look into a person's history and understand that abuse can produce certain behaviors, but at some point, pedophiles, rapists, murderers, etc., make a choice to behave as they do, and that choice tips the scales straight into evil.  If I can shed my little light for a moment on that, and for a much larger moment on how much the world lost when Anne and Asha were taken from it, then I will have accomplished my task as a writer this time around.