“WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH THAT?”
Link to news story:
“THE VICTIM IS A GRADUATE STUDENT AT TRUMAN.”
Me, hi, I’m Kailey.
“SHE TOLD KTVO THAT BECAUSE THE WEATHER WAS SO NICE AND WARM ON TUESDAY, SHE HAD HER DOORS OPEN AND HAD SPENT TIME ON BOTH HER FRONT AND BACK PORCHES.”
Yep, that’s what I said. I just forgot to mention that I also close and lock doors and windows whenever I leave the room. I never leave the door unlocked, unattended. Never, not even for a minute, and even though my husband sometimes teases me that we both forget things, on this one issue, I know it’s never been me. I don’t leave doors open or unlocked, and I check them all the time. Well. Except just this once, around 8:50 p.m. on April 7, 2020.
“SHE WAS ON HER FRONT PORCH AROUND 9 P.M. AND HAD JUST FINISHED FACETIMING WITH HER MOM WHEN SHE HEARD A STRANGE SNIFFING NOISE IN HER FRONT YARD.”
Yeah so, around 8:50 p.m. I was standing on my back porch talking to my parents about some of our favorite family stories. I had just started graduate school at the university in January that year, having been accepted into the Master of Arts in Leadership program. I was pursuing an unconventional course of study, specializing in Intentional Writing and Creative Nonfiction. Anyway. I got off the phone when I realized that I’d left some of my books on the front porch. The sun had only just set. I opened the screen door on the back porch and made sure that the main door was pulled tight... it’s an old house, so from sound and appearance, that door was CLOSED.
So then, I walked through the side yard back to the front of the house, where my front porch light was turned on, illuminating the white wood platform of the front porch, which stood about three-feet off the ground. I hopped up there where we had this little green chair that I sat in all afternoon attending class via Zoom, finally back from Spring Break and getting the hang of this online-learning thing, when my mom Facetimed me. I was so excited she called because I had been trying to talk to her about my great-grandmother, whose story is just riveting. I wanted to write about her life as a half-Cherokee woman with virtually know knowledge of her heritage because her mother had been adopted at a very early age, found orphaned with her little sister back in the late 1800s. Anyway. My mom and I talked for a while, and we got off the phone at precisely 9:01 p.m., both of us laughing about a thing my Mamaw Maggie once told my mother when recounting the story of her wedding night: “WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH THAT?”
We hung up. I stood up. And then --
“SHE LOOKED OVER AND THERE WAS A NAKED MAN WEARING ONLY A HOMEMADE FACE MASK THAT APPEARED TO BE MADE OUT OF A SKY-BLUE T-SHIRT.”
That part was easy to remember since it was all this man was wearing when he snuck up behind me on my property.
“THE MASKED MAN THEN TOOK OFF RUNNING TOWARD HER BACK YARD.”
My books and things still littered the front porch as I leapt over them, already having dialed 911. I reached into my pocket where I had for some reason kept a spare key to the house all day. I happened to remove it from its hiding place to keep it on my person earlier in the afternoon, for no reason other than... I had a funny feeling. In the house, I told the emergency personnel my name, address, and exactly what happened, all while rushing through the house checking all the windows, even shoving furniture around to put as much distance between myself and the back door as possible. As I mentioned earlier, I left the back door unlocked for definitely one of the first times ever in my life. Regardless, it appeared to be shut tight. I didn’t want to take chances. If Buck-Ass Buck was stupid enough to try to come inside, he would have already beaten me to the door. I acted very, very quickly, analyzing the situation, reassessing my position, already thinking on my self-defense lessons I took back during my junior year of undergrad in 2015.
“ABOUT THAT TIME,”
Literally, it seemed, in the moment I thought about it --
“SHE HEARD THE INTRUDER ON HER BACK STEPS, AND HE PUSHED OPEN A DOOR AND MADE HIS WAY INSIDE.”
That’s when I knew I had to get back out of the house. Ain’t no naked man trapping me inside my own house. Anyway. I didn’t see him inside because I’d already sprinted through the front door back onto the porch and slammed the door shut behind me. I took one single step when I heard the door open again. ‘HOW DID HE GET THAT DOOR OPEN SO FAST I LIVE HERE AND CAN’T EVEN DO THAT!!!!’ I had only two options:
1. Jump off the porch into the overgrown weeds and run -- where? It was dark, ‘THIS IS MY HOUSE!’ -- Where was I supposed to run?
2. Spin and face my attacker -- ‘YEP DO THAT!’
“THE WOMAN RAN THROUGH THE HOUSE AND OUT ONTO HER FONT PORCH AND FELL DOWN.”
This is the only part of the story that was misreported; it’s probably what I said that night, or what could be understood, as I did my best to tell the reporter everything that happened right after it did. But there’s a lot more to what happened than can possibly be covered in a news story. I braked hard to slow my momentum and pivoted, and good thing too, because Buck was literally barreling at me with his arms outstretched. I dropped to the porch like a stone, breaking my tailbone to avoid being tackled backwards off the porch. I pulled my hands and knees to my chest and rolled back to the tippy-top of my spine the way I learned from seven years of track practice, when --
I was, in fact, in:
“THE FETAL POSITION ON THE PORCH”
(Knees and elbows pulled tight to my body, rolling back to ready myself to kick him square in the place which was in plain view), and calling for help.
“THE SUSPECT SQUATTED DOWN AND TRIED TO PICK HER UP.”
Let me say that again: A naked man snuck up on me in the dark in my yard, broke into and chased me through my own house, tried to tackle me, AND THEN squatted down and put his naked body all over me, gripped me fully around the shoulders (hard, it hurt) and ATTEMPTED TO PICK ME UP OFF MY PORCH.
To do what? To take me where? Who knows. I don’t think he knew either. But I had been screaming, “HELP!” loud and clear, over and over, bellowing (not shrieking, which is what some people imagine when they hear a description of a woman screaming). My words were CLEAR because I needed someone to HELP ME, and PRAISE GOD, no less than FIVE fellow Truman students showed up, truly, in a flash.
Buck-Ass Buck never once made eye-contact with me. But all I could see of his face were his eyes because like I said, all he had on was that stupid sky-blue t-shirt mask. His eyes turned toward the sound of the neighbors running to my rescue, and he released me, jumped off the porch, and took off running nude down a sidestreet. They didn’t find him, even though the police showed up only seconds later.
The rest is history, I guess. Far from it. It’s been a year, and I’m still processing what happened to me. I mean, people can (and did) make jokes about COVID-19, and usually I’m not one to read the comments, but in this instance, I took it upon myself much too soon to try to figure out who did this to me. That led to some trouble in of itself, but I’m not really writing this to talk about that part. There were a lot of mean things said -- people touting words like “helpless” and “weak” and “if she hadn’t choked.” People don’t read the comments because we know it will probably hurt. It’ll get personal.
But I was trying to get my masters in LEADERSHIP, which for those who don’t know, involves an intense study of decision-making. So I wanted to understand WHY so many people were criticizing ME instead of Buck-Ass Buck.
With too many cases like mine, there’s never any closure. Not for the survivor. Not for the community, who were told of this scary incident in their neighborhood and then never updated again. Not the reporters, who got the news out there and then never got the chance to report an arrest after spending the hardest year ever, providing vital information to the public about work, about school, about stimulus checks, about travel bans, stay-at-home orders, coronavirus tracking, testing, talk, and God, our wonderful weather people telling us about spring and summer patterns from their living rooms. No closure for the police who were there with me as quick as lightning, doing their best to bring me justice when our businesses, schools, and streets were utterly empty. Who is Buck-Ass Buck? I’m not sure we’ll ever know for sure. But that’s not anybody else’s fault. It’s not ANYONE’s fault -- call it bad timing?
But see friends, I can’t do that. It’s not bad timing. It’s just bad. I wanted Buck to be held responsible for his actions. Before we even start to debate, I would like to take a second to tell you what justice would look like for me.
I want Buck to go to mandatory rehab so that he can get off meth FOR GOOD. I want this to be at no cost to him because I WANT HIM TO DO IT. I don’t know who Buck is, or if he has kids, or a partner or spouse, or an old man he takes Big Macs to on Sundays because that’s all that old man has in the world. I DON’T KNOW what’s best for him other than to get off the drugs. Let’s be real. This happened in rural, northeast Missouri, and I was born and raised in Indiana, so I can speak to this:
METH IS A PROBLEM. WE MUST FIX IT.
It’s the making and selling of these dangerous, soul-crushing drugs that’s at the root of this problem. Also, of course, predatory male behavior that our generation is FINALLY beginning to combat in earnest. I understand after living through this last year that a lot of us don’t know how to ask questions without offending each other. OF COURSE everyone online questioned my ability to tackle this situation in the first place -- they were never informed otherwise. I think the hate grows when we jump down others’ throats. We need to learn how to communicate better the things we’re not seeing right, saying right, thinking about right... because we all want the same thing. Don’t we all want to work together?
For me, justice is peace. My peace came by the grace of Jesus, who I call LORD. I wanted to be a leader. I still do. But this experience has changed me in ways I’m still finding out how to explain. Writing helps. So does sharing this story -- so others can know with certainty that I’m all right.
This is closure -- at least all the closure I’m guaranteed, dug up from the depths of working through my trauma. Those who first saw this story in the news -- You didn’t know my name, but I felt your support, love, and encouragement. Here I am. Thank you very much. I am really okay.
This isn’t my first battle with PTSD. Not by a longshot. The break-in and the assault were traumatic and have long-standing effects. I woke up at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 7, 2020, and I didn’t fall asleep again until 11:40 p.m. or so on Wednesday, April 8. My husband slept in shifts so that I knew someone was awake and alert and watching over me for weeks afterwards. I didn’t even have to ask him to do that. On top of that, I experienced quite a few bouts of tremendous panic, one of which was so bad I wound up in the emergency room during strict COVID-19 social distancing because I thought I was having a heart attack. I’ve had panick attacks my whole life, but never like that. Then there was a $500 bill for nothing but an EKG. Emotional dysregulation and hypervigilance were the worst. I woke up most days already teetering on the ledge. If I couldn’t find my glasses, or my pants, or my socks, or whatever, I had complete and total meltdowns. Normal frustrations, like mornings without yet having coffee, outmatched me. I’d spiral.
Y’all, that’s science. I wasn’t well enough yet to function like normal. I hadn’t recovered. I have now, but it was a very hard road, one I’m still walking. I lost myself in moments, but all the time I lose myself less. There are some things I can only find peace in by telling others what happened. I have Jesus to thank for the strength and for my personal call to storytelling. I CAN SPEAK when so many others can’t, or aren’t ready to yet.
We have to do better. We must. No matter what your job is, what place you grew up or decided to call home, no matter your religion or faith or party or race or gender or philosophy, we have to do better.
What really pulls at the thorn in my palm is that I knew real fear before this ever happened to me. I’ve had a gun pointed at me. I’ve been stalked, threatened, and mugged. I have been ignored when men were harassing me. Ignored when a man sexually assaulted me. And most recently, I’ve been targeted simply for being a girl within hearing distance of a man who lost his mind on drugs. It’s likely that the last thing Buck-Ass Buck heard as he stood in the shadows just a few feet behind me in the grass was that bit about my grandfather’s penis that made my mom and me laugh on Facetime. Drugs can make a mountain out of a molehill, I guess you could say.
It’s clicking for me even still today. It’s my job in life to TRY to help you and me understand the hard stuff. Let those who have been victims of US, the PEOPLE, our SYSTEM that doesn’t work right, BE HEARD. There is hope. I never dreamed I’d be writing something like this, but I needed to so that you would read it and share it in whatever form that takes -- I don’t care about clicks. I care about conversations. Start one. Ask who might be uplifted by what I’ve written, and please pass it along. Let’s end the hate. Much love.