“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matthew 5: 43-45
I have struggled with these thoughts for a week now. I'm not sure how to write this true story. I don't know how to stress the importance of what I have to say. I don't know how to rid my mind of the thoughts that are lurking. I have prayed for a week now for a girl or young woman whom I never met. I want to know she is okay or that she will be.
Early Saturday evening, May 17, my husband, our two youngest sons, and I left our hometown and drove south to Athens, GA. We stopped for supper at a Cracker Barrel somewhere off I-75 before getting into Atlanta traffic.
We arrived in Athens around 9:30 pm and took a bit of time figuring out where to find a hotel or motel room. We had gone there to buy an older used car and arrived too late to see the car on Saturday evening. At our first or second stop, we discovered that the NCAA tennis tournament was being played in Athens that weekend. Who knew? Lots of people! I love tennis but never knew that soooo many people loved to watch it being played.
We drove from hotel, motel, inn to the next and the next. No room in the inn at all. Finally, a friendly clerk gave my husband a sheet of paper with a list of places to lodge including phone numbers. I began to call and was told that this one was full, that one was full.
So we found ourselves at a motel that didn't look all that great. There was a vibe. The facility looked old and unkempt; the manager (owner?) was not friendly but was gracious enough to let us preview a room. It was barely passable. But it was after 11 pm and I really had no desire to find a stable. This was the only "inn" that seemed to have a room still available. We considered driving back home (4 1/2 hours) and forgetting the car purchase. But instead we checked in to that place.
By the time my husband did the paperwork and drove us all back around to the room we had previewed, "neighbors" had appeared in the parking lot. Let's just say that the way the woman was dressed, it looked likely that some sort of business deal had been made and was getting ready to be transacted in a room near ours! I know, very judgemental. But trust me, if you had witnessed the sight, you would have had the same thought! UGH!!
I went ahead and showered even though I wasn't sure it was safe without my shower shoes (for campground showers) which weren't with me. The guys had all settled down into bed; my husband was aiming for sleep, the two teens were checking out the WIFI connection with their phones/tablet. I grabbed the book I had been reading and settled into bed beside the husband.
There seemed to be a lot of foot traffic as well as auto traffic just outside our door. We heard loud sound systems pumping out bass; we heard voices, noisy, oblivious to the hour of the night. We heard vehicle engines revving, driving by repeatedly. The guys had all settled down to sleep.
I'm not sure how long I read; it felt like it had been less than an hour, maybe just a little more than an hour. I finally turned out the light and tried to sleep. Every time I would start to drift off, a voice or more than one, or an engine or sound system would rouse me up again. At what I guesstimated to be 1:30 or so, I had drifted off to sleep only to be awakened by what sounded like an argument upstairs over our room on the second level. A man and woman were yelling at each other. Then I was out!
Then suddenly I was awake, groggy. It was around 3:30 am. My husband uttered quietly, "Are you hearing what's going on next door?" My eighteen year old whispered that he did hear. I turned off my CPAP and began to listen. I heard doors shutting, slamming. My husband said, "I want everyone to get up, do not turn on a light, gather your stuff, we are leaving." Groggily, I asked what was going on. My husband said that they had just heard what sounded like an attempted rape or a rape in the room right next to ours. I felt sick. More car noises, people. Then the room phone rang. I about jumped out of my skin. My husband asked the caller who Crystal is? He reported that she was not in our room. I headed to the bathroom to put my clothes on.
When I came out, our room door was standing open and only my fifteen year old was in the room with me. I heard my husband's voice outside. There are people walking by the room, looking in. I feel sicker and a bit panicked. I walk to the door and a small car is backing out of a parking space and my husband is calling out the license plate number. He walks to the driver's window and says, "You might as well stick around, the police are on their way." The kid driving says the police can find him at his house.
I walk out of the room to put my belongings into our vehicle and the manager/owner is standing outside the office back door yelling at kids who are swarming all through the parking lot and the walkways of the motel, upstairs and downstairs. There is an older (30's or 40's) woman walking past our room seemingly headed to the room next to ours. My husband asks, "Ma'am, is that girl okay?" The woman asks, "What girl?" She knows nothing?? Every other person we see, some walking around the parking lot, some walking the motel walkways, entering and exiting rooms, one yelling at the owner/manager that he has no right to make him (the kid patron) leave are all teens or at best barely in their twenties.
By the time we drove back around to the office to argue about a refund, three police cruisers had pulled up. My husband spoke to an officer. He told the officer what he heard; he reported that he saved a license plate number of someone who had most probably fled that room. The officer told him that they (law enforcement) couldn't prove that the mouthy kid and his companions had been there. Strange. I have always believed that a witness with a license number could help law enforcement to track down someone in a criminal investigation.
I felt sick for days, still do if I dwell in these thoughts. I feel helpless. How could I sleep through this monstrosity?!! How is the girl? Please God, let her be okay. Please God, help her to seek help from someone she can trust!
I intended to call the police department and speak with a detective in the sex crimes unit and reiterate that my husband and son heard an incident. They heard a young woman crying, telling someone to stop, saying no, please no. I got busy, never made the call. I need to make that call this week. I don't have high hopes of the detective being interested in what they heard or the license plate number that I still have. My son recorded the number his father was reciting and sent it by text to my phone.
But the one thing I can do is to speak to the young people who listen to me, heck to anyone who will listen, any age.
Here is what I want you to know. I don't care why you showed up at that motel room. I don't care if you were drinking or if you took some pills or if you simply thought you were ready for "the next level" with your date. When you say no, that means NO! I don't care what else happens leading up to that "no." If someone hurt you, forced you after you said no, it's wrong! You need to tell someone you trust. You need to seek legal help; you need to press charges. Most importantly, you need to get help to deal with your emotions and your memories and your thoughts about yourself and the event. No one has the right to force you into sex!
In spite of any poor decisions on your part, there is a God Who loves you with all His heart and wants you to know it will be okay. He wants you to know Him as the loving Father that He is. And He forgives you for any mistakes or poor judgement. Talk to Him about it. Turn to Him.
I pray for you and want to do more if needed. I hope (and pray) you will seek wise counsel to help you deal with the aftermath of Sunday morning, May 18, 2014.
We learned later that at least two high schools in Athens held their graduation ceremonies on Saturday the seventeenth. If you are reading this, please say a prayer for the girl/young woman who was hurt in some way, if not multiple ways, during that night. And speak to the young women you know and remind them that no matter what, no means no. And love and support those young people in your life and try to help them make decisions which will enable them to avoid situations like the one in that room next door. But if the worst happens, let them know that you love them no matter what and help them heal. And remind them that God, their Creator, loves them no matter what.
Pressing on in Him,