The thief left it behind, the moon at the window
Check this link to read an amazing haiku by Ryokan + one analysis that really, really speaks to me. please read it to understand my heart, however broken it may be right now.
While running trails near beautiful Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, I was robbed and raped. They left me in the rain once darkness fell. I survived the night in a cave, made my way down to the water at first light, and swam 2 hours to safety. There isn't much more to it. I am OK. Everything is not alright, but I am OK.
I’m following legal protocol to a T, and I’m here to ask for help with replacing what was stolen, taking time to heal, and purposefully getting back up on my hopeful, happy feet. I recently started offering a wider array of holistic healthcare, under the name Anicca Wellness, providing medical massage, craniosacral therapy, aromatherapy, and yoga instruction on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. This is screeching to a halt so I can help myself, and I ask for your support, your compassion, and your generosity as I fight for my mission in all areas of life.
I left my life in Nicaragua the day after the riots started, having been offered an amazing opportunity to work as a massage therapist and a yoga instructor at a beautiful lodge on Lake Atitlan.
On Monday May 14, 2018, I decided to visit a friend in a nearby town. The trail between our respective homes is extraordinarily beautiful, so I chose to run. It was just after 4pm. 15 minutes in, it started to rain. I wasn't sure if I had passed the halfway mark already or if I should just run home, and so I stopped beneath the trees to check my offline map. My phone was slow and I suddenly felt vulnerable. I heard a series of short, sharp whistles and felt the hair stand up on my neck. I knew I was not alone. Everything felt very, very wrong: I stuffed my phone back in my running pack, afraid but determined to get home. Two men with machetes stepped out from behind the trees, blocking the path. I wanted to believe I was just on the same trail as workers on their way home, but I knew better. My whole body knew what was going to happen.
One man tapped the blade of his machete against his palm as the other told me that I was “walking the wrong way,” that I “needed to go with them,” up into the mountains. They stepped closer, and I saw a third man blocking my path the other direction. With a machete at my back, I began to walk with thrm, one in front and two behind, toward a yet-to-be-determined expression of chaos. I knew I would be robbed. This was obvious. I know better than to fight back against a machete: I have personally felled banana trees with one chop, and I’m not even that good with blades. I considered the likelihood that I would be raped. And I reminded myself to breathe deeply and freely as the possibility of additionally being killed entered my mind.
They led me higher and higher. I was determined to remain positive. I wanted to share love, if these were to be my last moments. I made small talk, practising my Spanish as I asked them their names, their ages, about their families and their hobbies and their favourite animals. I only wanted to be myself. I made them laugh a few times. I kept my eyes peeled for a way, any way, to deviate and to escape, but the trail was narrow and steep and the machetes were never far from my flesh. I took a moment to look out at the lake. It was beautiful. The rain had stopped, the sky had cleared somewhat, and the mist that hung around the peaks of the three volcanoes was pure and white. I started to tell the men what I loved most about my life. I felt nothing but pure gratitude and offered one last small prayer to the universe that I may return home unscathed, but the third man finally grabbed me from behind and slammed me into the rocks. I was in the dirt with a machete over my face before I could blink.
They kicked me again and again, stabbed the ground around my head and between my legs, and ripped my concealed fanny pack from around my waist. The third man, the one who grabbed me, was incensed that I had managed to kick him on the way down. He called himself Pedro. Pedro yelled again and again that I needed to die, that he would kill me, and pulling out his machete, threatened again and again to stab my face, my throat, my heart, my belly. Mariano, the one who had spoken to me first, said, “wait” and began to turn me onto my stomach.
Rape isn’t about attraction or lust— rape isn’t even about sex. It’s about power. It’s about taking what is not yours, it’s about humiliation, and it’s about a disconnect with humanity that yields only destruction. And I knew this. So I pressed my back firmly into the earth, maintaining clear eye contact, and asked Mariano if he wanted sex. He shouted eagerly that he did. I told him he didn't need the machete, and that everything was 'cool.' I saw him falter, I saw him doubt, and I apologised to my body for what she was about to endure.
I practised Vipassana, more or less disassociating, focusing only on breath.
They did what they set out to do, and then they were gone.
It was dark, but I had a headlamp -- I couldn’t believe this good luck. I climbed a tree and screamed for help for a while, and then tried to find the trail. I eventually gave up, exhausted and injured from a few missteps and heartstopping falls, but soon found a small 'cave' to take shelter in. I rang out my clothes and curled up as small as I could to sleep. Right at dawn, I woke up to the sound of a whipporwill, welcoming the day, and knew I was going to be OK. I shook out my cold, cramping limbs and cut a clumsy path down toward the water. I swam back home. It must have taken about 2 hours, because it was almost 9 when I climbed onto our dock. We called an ambulance and I went to the hospital with a high fever (39.8/103F).
We filed a report with the police. They took photos, samples, a psych evaluation. They pumped me full of antibiotics, a tetanus vaccine, put me on a drip, brought my fever down. Gave me a massive bottle of Aluvia, so I can fight the onset of HIV/AIDS. I gave my testimony to the US Embassy, the Ministry of Public Health, the police in Tzunana, Solala, and Pana. I cannot count the number of times I have told my story to strangers or been probed and examined — and I also cannot measure the width and depth and breadth of love, support, generosity, passion, and protection that F, M, J, K, C, and B have blessed me with (keeping the names of my beautiful allies hidden for their safety).
HIV/AIDS prevention meds. grateful and astounded that this exists ($200/bottle!!!), even if it is ripping my stomach to shreds....
Apparently they know who Pedro is and where he lives. We’ve heard that Mariano is also recognised, from my police sketches and from my verbal account. But there seems to be a lot of disorganization and generally poor communication from department to department. The women officials I have spoken to and been treated by have been supportive and compassionate, but the male officials have been less than helpful. This does not surprise me. The US Embassy will only help me if I hire an attorney, and I cannot afford that, financially or otherwise. Once I take the police up the mountain to where it happened, they need nothing further from me for the investigation.
I am going to be OK, but I need some help. I can catch some small but brilliant glimpses of my true heart in all of this, but I am, colloquially, “losing it.” The meds I’m on have some gross side effects, and I feel quite weak. I have already had flashbacks, consistent with a past PTSD diagnosis, and nightmares leave me in cold sweats. I am grateful, angry, merciful, upset, excited, vengeful, calm, fearful, hopeful, doubting, ready, AND exhausted, all at once. My body is wrecked and my clothes and shoes are in evidence. I’m not sure about dates of travel, but I am assuredly safe until it is time to leave.
Please do not, for one moment, think I have forgotten, or that I *ever* forget how you helped me finish paying my medical bills when assault took me to the Operating Room in 2015. I am grateful to the GoFundMe platform for helping us help ourselves, and constantly reminding me that there is more generosity and accommodation in the world than there is theft and isolation.
Will you help me, now?
It was not my time to die on Monday, and I want to get back to life. I am humbled and excited and so terribly grateful to exclaim that I have SO MUCH MORE to give in this life!
I thank you, I honour you and your generous hearts and beautiful minds.
Peace, Joy, Hope: