Living in Fear Away from My Rapist
by Dustina Respecki
Page Publishing

"My mind was spinning out of control more and more each day. I had to find a way to make him stop."

A woman in the midst of trying to stabilize her life finds fear and mental torment despite her best intentions. Respecki met a man named Mark while working at a pizza place in 1999. He was a large, seemingly friendly fellow employee who began obsessively staring at her, making excuses to chat, almost stalking her at times. She did her best to discourage him, involved at the time in a separation, divorce, and the problems of being a single mother. Finally, Mark blatantly asked her to have sex with him. When she refused, he persisted, starting with phone calls that became an almost daily occurrence. Her feelings of fear increased, yet she felt trapped: “he had my emotions riled up like a fish on a line.” Catching her at home alone, he finally intruded and violently raped her.

That was the beginning of a pattern of domination and sexual brutality that would continue for several years, even while the author met and married another man. Mark once raped her while she was pregnant. Though married, she felt forced to give in to Mark’s pleas, orders, and savage, uncaring attacks. Only after an incident involving a gun, and the intervention of a friend, was Respecki able to summon the courage to report Mark to the police, leading to a respite from his assaults and allowing her the space to seek therapeutic help for the damage done to her mentally and emotionally.

Respecki, who describes her current condition as “deep clinical depression,” has constructed a frank recollection of events that must have been extremely painful to remember and reveal. Her account is plain and vivid, at times a minute-by-minute depiction of her fear, pain, and disgust as the traumatic encounters with the rapist occur. Just as upsetting are the experiences she describes of being stalked, threatened, and almost constantly spied on by this obsessive, animalistic man. The reader can easily picture how humiliating these experiences would have been for Respecki, but what is more compelling about her narrative is her confessed inability to break free from him over a number of years completely. This is one of the aspects of rape and control that is often overlooked, but which Respecki makes clear. The rapist was able to manipulate her feelings of guilt and plummeting self-esteem to his evil advantage. A gleam of hope is seen in the second part of Respecki’s book: four poems using rhyme and expressive language to re-live some of her worst encounters and their aftermath.

“His hands were cold at first touch,
I don’t understand how a man could hate a woman so much.”

“I sit there feeling alone and ashamed,
Knowing there’s no one else to blame.”

The reader will sense that, through poetry, Respecki is accessing and exploring her true feelings, and this may be one pathway out of the darkness she has been living with for so long. She hopes her book will be a means of reaching out to other women who might find themselves in a similar situation, perhaps providing them with an infusion of courage.

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