Barton Brooks is a dear friend of mine, and his mom, Carla, was my English teacher in high school. My heart hurt when I learned she had been assaulted, and it sang when I learned how she is refusing to let the assault define her. Instead, she is using this experience to advocate for other victims. I couldn’t be more humbled and proud to know these two humans. Read Bart’s words below, and I dare you not to be inspired. Learn about Carla’s spirit, and help if you can. -Angela
CW: This essay discusses sexual assault. If you or someone you know has been assaulted, find help and the resources you need by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or visit www.RAINN.org.
By Barton Brooks
In the middle of the night on April 17th, a man entered my mother’s home, crept into her bedroom, and started stroking her hair. She awoke to this stranger looming above her and began a fight for her life – absolutey terrified as he gagged her, slammed her head against her headboard, and held her down as he brutally beat and sexually assaulted her. My beautiful mother – who turns 80 in less than a year – violently joined #metoo at age 79.
I can’t type any more of the horrific details, because even though it’s been a month since it happened, my heart and eyes continue to weep for her. My fellow adventurer, my kind, dignified, and resilient mother – we’ve cried more tears in the past month than we may have cried ever before.
Instead, I want to focus on her strength, because my God, this woman is strong!I got on the first flight home I could – sobbing the whole way – and when I finally made it, the reality of her bruises and tears absolutely broke me. This is MY mother, and listening to her talk about the attack, what he did, and her rape kit – is something I’d wish for no one.
However, as we were talking, she looked at me with a little smile and said, “He didn’t break me though, I FOUGHT LIKE A TIGER the whole time until he left”. I was weeping – “I’m so proud of you Mom, I’m so incredibly proud of you.” To this day, I am so incredibly proud of her.
The emotional roller coaster between pride for her and her strength, mixed with rage and vengeance at him and what he did, with gratitude that she’s still alive, and hope that she will heal, continues to this day. This roller coaster has created an overall numbness that’s hard to shake, but I can’t get her strength out of my mind. She fought for roughly 20 minutes, and with her “battle scars” starting to heal, we’ve been talking about her life moving forward.
Over the past month, we’ve come to learn a few things, and are quickly realizing that the best way to heal, is to help others in need. My mom had a crash course in injustice the past month, and through her experience, she is wanting to make a difference.
She’s learned about the backlog of rape kits, and thinks it’s an incredible injustice. Even though they are collected at the darkest of times, they hold hope for resolution, yet often sit on a shelf, never to be even tested. According to http://www.endthebacklog.org, there are 2,700 untested rape kits in her home state of Utah alone.
She’s learned about senior sexual assault, and that it’s more prevalent than you could ever imagine, and she wants to talk about it in order to raise awareness, and help groups like https://www.dovecenter.org
in her home town.
She’s also learned about victim shaming. Although my mom will never be faced with insinuations that she had anything to do with her assault by getting questions like “what were you wearing” etc, she did have some very well meaning friends speak to her in hushed tones, with “you don’t have to tell anyone” or “you’re too dignified to talk about it” type of statements. I watched her when people said things like this, and she’d get a bit smaller as they spoke. I’d quickly interject – “Nope! Silence breeds shame, and there’s no place for shame in my mother!” On the other hand, I also watched her when people said, “tell your story,” as she’d sit up a bit with confidence and dignity.
My mom is visibly different every time she says, “I fought like a TIGER!” and I want to keep her in that strength.
Despite the horror of her attack, she’s aware and grateful that she’s had fantastic support (an aggressive police force and detective unit rushing DNA and other things), supportive friends and family that have helped her get home with me, and access to proper health care and counseling. So, when we’ve asked her what she wants to do next, she’s said that she wants to help other women – to raise money and awareness for those who have been through something similar. At this time, she’s narrowed it down and wants to focus on a few things she’s learned about.
-Rape Kit Backlogs
-Senior Sexual Assault
She wants to help groups that are addressing these issues, and work with them later this Summer and Fall. She knows most women who have been through this may not have had the same support that she has had, and is looking to make a difference however she can.
I’m asking for your help. I’ve raised money for those disadvantaged around the world – everywhere from Africa to Asia – but this one obviously means the most.
Please help if you can – whether it’s $5 or $5,000 – 100% of every contribution will be donated to local or national groups that help sexual assault victims. As she learns more, she’ll write every check on your behalf and I’ll account for it here with reciepts from the recipients of each donation.
Every single donation will add a bit of wind to her sails, help her stand a little taller, and add another name to stand next to her in support of her new mission.
Please support her if you can. She knows I believe she’s remarkable for her strength in the face of adversity, so please let her know that you do too. I’d also ask that you share this on your social media – tell your friends how wonderful she is, and let’s make her feel powerful again as she aims to help other victims. She wants what happened to her become a catalyst for good, and even if you can’t contribute – please just send a note of support and we’ll print them out for her!
We’re going to fight like tigers to help others how we can, and we look forward to updating you on all the wonderful things that have been done because of your support.
Click here to help Carla continue fighting like a tiger on behalf of other assault victims.