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“How Could He Just Stand There?”
Comments () | Published October 20, 2009

The detective didn’t buy it. For the next four hours, he challenged my story, the time frames, details that didn’t add up. He made me contradict myself, but I wouldn’t budge. I was exhausted. I wanted the events of that night to disappear. And I didn’t want Juan to be mad at me—that was the only thing that could have made me feel more empty than I already did.

I refused a pelvic exam. My parents assured the nurses that they’d make an appointment to have my pediatrician do one. The nurse told my mom that any evidence would be lost by then.

“There is no evidence,” I said, staring at the floor. They saw my comment as a continued denial, but I meant that the guys who had raped me had used condoms.

My parents had me admitted to the adolescent unit at Dominion Hospital, a psychiatric treatment facility in Falls Church. I was too exhausted to fight. When we arrived at Dominion, I was left in the waiting room while my mother and father met with an intake specialist. I stared at a fish tank—a blowfish gliding through the water almost appeared to be smiling at me. He didn’t know I had been raped, so he didn’t know to pity me.

I was called back to the intake room, where the questions began. The specialist asked my parents to leave.

“Amanda, you seem to think your parents are overreacting. Why do you think they are so concerned about you?”

“I don’t think about the consequences of the things I do before I do them,” I answered.

“Do you think there are consequences for your involvement with Juan?”

I hated that she used his name as if she knew him. I hated that my parents had sat in the room before me and talked about him as if they knew him. I hated that I no longer had an argument: All along I had claimed bigotry at those who tried to keep me away from him—I’m white, he’s Hispanic; we’re rich, he’s poor. But now their argument had merit—he had stood by and allowed me to be raped.

“Um, I don’t know,” I said.

She looked at me for a long time before she brought my parents back in. “She needs to be admitted tonight,” she said to them. “She’s completely numb.”

My mom grabbed my hand, and I could feel hers shaking.

Seconds later, a Polaroid camera was in my face. It spat out a picture that was put on a binder above my name. Years later, I would read my evaluation: “The patient was in some denial of her sadness and depression, denied suicidal ideation, but had shown very self-destructive and dangerous behaviors. The patient admitted to frequent drug use (marijuana) and running away frequently since March. Admitted to being raped but refused to press charges.”

The mental hospital was nothing like I’d imagined. The other girls were friendly and seemingly normal. I was angry and timid my first few days. With no connection to the outside world and no indication of how long I would stay, it seemed unjust that I was locked up while the men who had raped me were free. Still, when the detective came to offer me another chance to tell him what had happened, I refused to see him.

By the end of the first week, I was sedated and less resistant to the daily routine—breakfast, school, lunch, one-on-one meeting with my doctor, art therapy, group therapy, visiting hours, video games, bedtime.

A month later, I was released. I had an individual therapist and a family therapist, a diagnosis of depression and posttraumatic stress, and a prescription for Depakote. I made commitments to sobriety and to no communication with Juan.

I didn’t keep my promises. Part of me was embarrassed and part of me was afraid of him, but I never considered not speaking to him. I was still the same lost girl who had clung to him for the past year.

Our relationship didn’t last the summer. He had been expelled from Lake Braddock for selling pot and moved before our freshman year began. The last time I spoke to him was a late night in July after sneaking out of the house. I stole my mother’s car, and we drove the length of the new Fairfax County Parkway and back.

He didn’t ask if I was okay or tell me he was sorry. I didn’t ask why he hadn’t helped me or if he had known all along what was going to happen that night. We just drove.

In the parking lot of his family’s townhouse, I reached down to grab something that had fallen on the floor. When I looked up, the passenger’s door was open and Juan was gone. He walked into his house without saying goodbye.

A few months later, he arranged through a friend to see me, but at the last minute I changed my mind. Instead I went into my parents’ bedroom and told them I had planned to sneak out with Juan but was scared.

That was the last I’d heard from Juan until I found him on Facebook. It’s hard for me to explain why I wanted to contact him—I knew my parents and friends would be horrified. Part of it was curiosity; I couldn’t help wondering what had become of him. But even more, I’ve always struggled to understand why I fell off course as a teenager, and I thought I might find some answers by speaking with Juan.

Three days after I sent him a friend request, I received a message—he would love to catch up. He gave me his phone number.

After 13 years, with no idea what type of person he’d become, I wasn’t ready to speak to him. We exchanged messages over Facebook, learning about each other’s lives. I’d heard rumors—he moved to Nicaragua with his family, he was in jail, he moved to Texas.


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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 10/20/2009 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Articles