Every year around Thanksgiving, besides the obvious (family and friends), my “What I’m Thankful For” spirit, centers around a simplistic personal view that was erupted at the age of 21; a mindset of elementary thankfulness to wake up yet another day, and God still having a plan for my being here.
It’s been 5 years now.
But I still remember this experience just as vivid as the actual Thanksgiving Day I awakened on a floor surrounded by four unfamiliar and strange yellow-painted walls.
I knew that I would publicly share this story sooner or later, but just not when that time would be.
But, here we are now; God has placed it on my heart to do just that.
I have previously talked about this topic – being a SURVIVOR of sexual assault, but I never told my full story.
The delay could have been because of the ultra busy happenings since launching BALANCED LIFE ALOHA (something like this takes a lot of emotional energy to compose). But I also ponder whether perhaps the reason this wasn’t published up until now, was also because I hadn’t yet made it to the more comfortable point within my healing process to do so.
You see, just like an overly moist or “wet” physical wound can invite harmful bacteria to cause furthering damage or restrict healing, so can be the same with emotional healing.
But with a little uncovering and “airing out”, I believe the healing process can balance itself out.
And this blog brings that balance of healing to me. I look at it as having three tiers of healing:
- COVERED WOUNDS Healing Process in which I only address with my ultimate confidant (through prayer).
- MOIST WOUNDS Healing Process discussed with my closest human companions (my husband and family).
- UNCOVERED WOUNDS Healing Process entirely uncovering and airing out, in order to complete the process, or at least to further transcendence.
Well, I have finally made it to that uncovered stage, so here we go…
It was the night before Thanksgiving, a night in which college people have the following nicknames for: “Black Wednesday”, “Black Out Wednesday”, and even “Drinksgiving”. It’s believed to be the busiest bar night of the year (like, even bigger than St. Patrick’s Day or New Year’s Eve).
At this specific time in my life, although I was just 21, I had graduated college already and had a year of my legal career under my belt. Despite that though, most of my friends and roommates were still in college and reveling in the carefree, drink-dance-party-sleep-repeat lifestyle.
I somehow managed to still partake in a little bit of this heedless recreation, while still maintaining and successfully progressing within my career as well.
So the long Turkey Day weekend was beginning, and to commence the debauchery, a large group of friends planned to celebrate at the local (Waikiki) Señor Frog’s – a bar and restaurant chain operated by Mexico’s largest restaurant company.
This was actually only the second time that I obliged to go to this bar, nicknamed by many of us as just, “Frogs”. See, years prior to graduating college, I worked in the restaurant scene of Waikiki, at a higher-class restaurant and draft house just up the road from Frogs.
In the Waikiki bar culture then, it wasn’t uncommon to hear bad-mannered chronicles from those who partied at Frogs. Many rather “shady” characters frequented that upstairs joint within the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center.
However, this particular outing was going to be with a very large group of my “friends”. And within that larger group, there were 9 people who I had considered “close friends” – even more so, some of which were male U.S. Marine Corps Officers just returning from their deployment in Afghanistan. I had zero reservations about the outing.
So the big group of us met at one apartment in town to organize the going-to Frogs all together. Because of some people’s “pre-gaming” habits, our group didn’t arrive at Frogs until 11p.m. that Black Wednesday night.
Upon arrival though, the party was still in full swing. Our group gathered and claimed floor-space next to one of the several bars. This one in particular was a smaller satellite bar stationed on the front open balcony.
One of the guys that we were with started to order a group of shots, and almost immediately a girlfriend and I noticed two unknown females (local-looking/not tourists) giving me the ‘stink-eye’. We had no idea why, but I just smiled and turned my attention back to the shots being lined-up for us friends.
It wasn’t even a few minutes later that it became unavoidable to notice those same females now talking to a bouncer that had been walking around the smaller bar we were gathered around, and then pointing specifically at me.
Directly after noticing, that bouncer confronted me but simply stated, “Oh, you’re okay.”
Seeing that we had only been there for maybe 10 minutes, no one had a clue as to what their issue was with me. Regardless of this, the party continued. By then, the short, white plastic cups consisting of tequila shots, were lined up for us and had commanded all of our attention.
Each shot was rimmed with salt, except for the one that was lined up with me. It was the only one without salt on it. But still, no thoughts of foul play had occurred to any of us.
I drank the shot from the unsalted cup, and then bit into my wedge of lime.
After that, us friends continued to talk, laugh, and gather. I remember taking a few sips of water from my roommate’s water bottle, but recall having NO other drinks after that. I had been at Frogs for 15-20 minutes by this time.
My next recollection is waking up at approximately 8:45am the next morning, in a strangely yellow-painted room, wearing no clothes.
A Hispanic-looking male in his mid-30’s, with a short buzzed-type of haircut, and a beer belly, had his arms around me and his body pinned on top of mine.
My vision was initially blurry, but when I came to, I startled the man off of me and instantly looked around for any possible belongings of mine.
I picked up my cell phone, which was very fortunately next to me on the ground. It showed that I had over 20 missed calls and voicemails from friends and roommates.
I then turned my eyes back at the man. I asked him, “Who are you and where am I?” To that he replied, “Pearl City.” I questioned if we had sex. He responded, “Well we tried, but you fell asleep.” I had never been in such a situation before, I never had sexual relations with anyone I wasn’t in a relationship with. So the ill feeling that swept over me was extremely unfamiliar, heart-breaking, and morally crushing.
I then eyed my dress also lying on the floor and instantly snatched it to cover myself. I dressed and rapidly walked down a long hallway searching for any and the closest escape. I felt him following me.
What happened next may not be understandable to most…
Once I reached daylight, I realized that I was in an older residential part of Pearl City (about 30 minutes outside of town) in which I had never been to before. I had no idea where to go or what to do. I didn’t even have shoes on.
He motioned me to a dark colored 2-door Dodge Ram pickup truck.
*Please note that at this point, I was so confused and sick, that I was thinking that what had happened was that I drank too much and went home with “some guy”; basically I was subconsciously blaming myself. And it was that notion that made me believe that getting in to the truck with this man was what I would do next…
I was extremely nauseous and once inside I couldn’t stomach to look at him. I remember him picking up a sweater from the vehicle’s floor and saying, “This is from you, don’t you remember me giving you water last night?” What I saw was a sweater that looked as if it had dried dog slobber all over it.
It was then a short distance to the H-1 freeway, we didn’t talk. I pointed to the direction in which he needed to drive and after what seemed like an eternity, we were reaching my neighborhood. I had him stop a few streets over from where I actually lived, and as soon as he braked, I shoved the door open, jumped out, ran like hell, and never looked behind me.
Arriving to my house with cuts along the bottom of my feet, I walked in and my roommate was sitting on the couch with eyes wide-open staring at me.
I immediately sunk to the floor and started crying a cry I never had before.
The rest of that Thanksgiving Day was spent at the Police Station and Kapiolani Women’s Hospital. (Luckily, I had no bad physical injuries, besides two large bruises on my thighs, and a sore right hand. But I took all precautions in regards to my sexual health – and was also extremely lucky to not have suffered any physical harm or contracted diseases/infections either!!!!)
In the days to follow, one would understandably assume that I would have wanted to just lie in bed and sulk. However, I woke up the day after with an extremely strong urgency for justice.
And since my job was working as a Paralegal for a law firm, I instantly met with my boss and after explaining things to him, together we secured a Demand Letter addressed to Señor Frogs.
I was so fortunate that my boss was very sensitive, sympathetic, and supportive of what I did next…
The next few days following, I took a leave of absence from the office and sought answers for what had happened to me.
I first started at the police station, getting assigned a detective to my case.
I then spoke to all of the people in my group of “friends” that I had been with that night at Frogs.
My roommate told me that she had taken another friend home early, but when she left, she last saw me next to the dance floor in a “normal” state of being , and noticed nothing out of the ordinary.
Another friend, an ex-roommate, was the last person who had seen me before my disappearance. She stated that she saw a bouncer do the “cut throat” gesture across his neck towards me (I have no recollection of any of this), and so she tried to move me away from where he was. But her attempt failed and the bouncer followed, telling her that I “had to leave”. She then allowed him to grab my arm and walk away with me. She never followed. Her explanation as to why, was that she thought he was taking me outside, and that one of our other friends would also be outside and I’d “just go home with them”.
I wrote down each friend’s statement, I printed several of the Letter of Demands from my legal representation, and I headed to the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center.
I first went to the Shopping Center’s Security Office. Luckily, the Licensed Private Investigator that I mentioned in my Letter of Demands was well known to the Head of Security there. Because of that, he allowed me to sit in front of a television and playback security footage from outside of Frogs the night of the incident.
There was footage of me entering the third-level entrance to Señor Frogs on November 23, at 10:51pm, but never any footage of me leaving. My phone had missed calls starting at 1:03am.
Regardless, I sat there and watched all of the security footage through to the time that I had woken up in another city.
Disheartening as it was, there wasn’t anything else that the Center’s security could do for me.
So I left that office, mustered up all the courage I had, and walked over to Señor Frogs. I was greeted by a young waiter who promptly agreed to get the Manager on duty for me to speak to.
Once the manager came out, I handed him a copy of my Demand Letter. He read it and quickly followed with, “You can come back tomorrow and watch our footage”. He wouldn’t explain why I had to wait until the next day, but there was nothing else that I could do.
So I did just that, missed another day of work, and went back the next day to face more surveillance footage. Once I arrived, I was told (and realized) a few things that shocked me:
- There were NO cameras facing the balcony bar in which I drank the tequila shot from.
- Most of the other cameras only faced directly over the cash registers in the front of the restaurant.
- The other ones were (conveniently) placed in areas that were almost completely DARK.
- I was told that the other entrance (an elevator), besides the one I had entered through, was ‘Out of Order’ that night. However, some friends claimed to have used it that night.
Basically, the time I spent looking through their security footage, was like looking for a needle in a needle-colored haystack.
From there I felt stumped.
I then attempted to contact the Hawaii Police Department’s detective that was assigned my case, but she was on vacation.
I called her office daily and about a week or so later, she finally was available to schedule a meeting with me. That meeting consisted of utilizing a sketch artist, her taking my dress from the night as “evidence”, but also telling me that there was not much she could do since I had “no recollection of what happened to me”.
Upon leaving that meeting I was more confused than ever. I had never been through this type of experience before. I never worked with a detective before. Heck, I never even filed a Police Report before this.
And at that time, my natural instinct was to trust in what the detective had told me, that there was nothing really that could be done, that I shouldn’t have much hope in finding the guy. I remember thinking to myself,
“If only that morning I had thought to memorize the pick-up truck’s license plate!!!”
“How could I be so stupid to not think of doing that!?!?!”
“Why didn’t I take a picture of him?!?!”
“I can’t believe I let him DRIVE ME HOME?!?!?!”
… I WAS IN SHOCK!
But so, life went on as normal. Well, for everyone else at least. As for me though, I was riding a rollercoaster of emotions and thoughts.
There were nightmares. I had regrets. I felt anger, resentment, and betrayal. All in all, I was in that first tier of healing that I mentioned above.
I was deep in conversation with God. Through journaling (see above photo), I was untangling a lot of confusion. Through church services, I released a lot of feelings of loneliness (and even began to forgive the man who did this to me). Through surfing, hiking, after-work swims in the ocean, evening jogs up the mountainside in which I lived, I released physical tensions.
Soon I found that all of those nightmares and harmful feelings were washing away.
A few weeks after Thanksgiving, one morning in particular, I was sitting alone at church (I routinely attended 7am Sunday services by myself, even prior to this happening). My favorite pastor was giving a sermon that basically directly spoke to me and my current circumstance. He was elaborating on the fact in which we cannot re-write our pasts, but we surely can compose righteous futures. During the entirety of that service, it felt as if it was just I, sitting there in the presence of my Creator, with no one else in the large (actually jam-packed) theatre. God spoke directly to me that morning and on the drive home I had infinite tears rolling down my face, yet comfort in my heart.
The rest of that day was spent in the ocean, and there was a moment in which I will never forget, for the rest of my life – I was lying on my back on a beautiful wooden surfboard, the sky was this vibrant only-in-Hawai’i clear blue color, there were no clouds as far as my eyes could see. But it started to rain. The rain was so light though, that I could still look directly up in to the sky without having to blink through drops. It didn’t take long for the most beautiful and effervescent rainbow that I had ever seen, to appear. I couldn’t help but smile thinking that it was a personalized gift from above.
…a message of hope.
That same night is the night that my now-husband (but at that time, friend) and I started a deeply enriching conversation. One in which quickly cultivated an otherworldly bond that we both, to this day, credit God himself for producing.
Now although my story consists of a positive future, I fully understand that this is not the case for many who survive sexual assault.
Americans are affected by sexual violence every day. According to RAINN,
Every 109 Seconds, an American is Sexually Assaulted.
And Every 8 Minutes, That Victim is a Child.
9 Out of 10 Victims are Female.
Meanwhile, Only 6 Out of Every 1,000 Perpetrators Will End Up in Prison.
Moreover, the research that I have done in regards to my specifics here, has been sickening.
The Señor Frog’s website offers rather disgusting Mission Statements:
“If you’ve ever been to a Señor Frog’s, anywhere around the world, you already know that we’re a place where people of all backgrounds hang together, dance, sing and basically act the way they want without worrying about silly rules and regulations.”
“Our philosophy is simple: have fun, let yourself go and Get into the Party…”
No rules or regulations? Well my story is not the only outcome to such a place…
After coming across the sight of the Waikiki Señor Frogs being boarded-up and out-of-business, I did some research as to the reasons why. What I found was like a kick straight to the stomach:
The video above and the following online articles all detail a horrifying story of the sexual harassment of female employees from the same Señor Frogs in which my story is rooted.
“The operators of the shuttered Senor Frog’s restaurant in Waikiki have agreed to pay $350,000 to settle complaints alleging male managers sexually harassed 13 female employees, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said.”
“The complaint accuses male managers of groping female workers’ breasts and buttocks, and of demanding sex from them. Mangers made graphic, inappropriate and offensive sexual comments, said the lawsuit, which the agency filed in federal court in Honolulu on Thursday. The harassment occurred on a daily basis, it said.”
“Senor frogs advertised itself as a family, friendly eatery. But a 19-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court Friday by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleges female employees were sexually harassed, verbally and physically.”
“The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued the Senor Frogs bar and restaurant chain, saying female employees were sexually harassed by its CEO and other executives at its Waikiki location.”
“The allege employees were encouraged – with at least two claiming they were directed to have sex with high level executives when they visited Honolulu, including the chain’s CEO, named as David Krouham in the court papers. They also accuse managers of routinely urged employees, many of whom were under legal drinking age, to drink alcohol with them.”
“’The widespread sexual harassment was out of control, stemming from Senor Frog’s owner himself,’ the EEOC said in a statement. At least one employee quit and others were disciplined or had their hours cut for complaining about the harassment, the EEOC said.”
Now you can probably imagine the sick feelings that the above information brings to me. But maybe even more troubling, is the lack of investigation on part of the Hawaii Police Department.
See, I was “assigned” a detective to supposedly help me seek justice. But all that she did in regards to my case, was (only after me repeatedly contacting her) held a meeting with me ONCE for about 30 minutes (in which I shared above, her explaining my lack of memory made it impossible for anything further to be done). But after more time had past, I started to feel uneasy about the fact that the group of people (“friends”) who were there the night I disappeared, were never contacted by her or anyone from the HPD for their official statements.
Because of that, I ended up filing an official Honolulu Police Commission Written Complaint. About a week after me doing so, those old “friends” of mine were trying to contact me and leaving messages inquiring why “a detective was calling them for their statements about what happened over a year ago”.
And seeing that Señor Frogs was SHUT DOWN 9 months AFTER my incident, but had ACCUSATIONS REPORTED SINCE APRIL 2008 (3.5 years BEFORE my incident), I couldn’t help but feel that the system designed to protect and assist us, had deeply failed us.
I subsequently had a meeting with a trained/licensed Sexual Abuse Counselor. She submitted a Claim on my behalf, to the Crime Victim Compensation Commission of Hawai’i. It took over TWO YEARS of me continually fighting with this State of Hawai’i Commission, to FINALLY receive an Acknowledgement Award ($300). The problems I faced along the process was from the actual wording of the Hawai’i Statutes. The wording in which made it very difficult (impossible before me) for “Victims of Crimes” to receive compensation for injuries and monetary damages (like missing work), if/because the victim had no “recollection of the harm”.
That “no recollection” thing, it’s bittersweet for Survivors like myself. The “brighter” side is that I don’t have to visually replay gruesome physical events. But on the “darker” side, there is this forever-lingering question of, “What really happened to me?!” A question that feels almost like it can hinder the ability to fully heal because its almost like thinking, “What EXACTLY am I healing from?!” (I used to have nightmares about how exactly I was taken to a city 20 miles away from the last place I recalled being. What the large bruises were from. Why I had a sore hand/fist. But then I also had thoughts of how although I obviously had no control over what was happening to me, I didn’t end up thrown off a cliff in to the Pacific Ocean – seeing as we were on an island!!)
Regardless, I will and have persevered.
Some may believe that our feats and struggles are our pitfalls. But I see them as my personal strengths. For they are proof that I’ve walked through wretchedness, but ultimately transformed in to a stronger, more alive, and well human being.
The Dalai Lama says, “With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.”
Never did I think I would become a blogger and basically publicly publish what would be found only in an intimate diary for some. But God lit this fire years ago and following the call has been the most freedom I’ve ever felt in life.
For those of you who may have parallel stories to mine, I offer you this direction:
Pray the paraphrase of Luke 1:78-79: “Because of the tender mercy of my God by which the rising sun will come to me from heaven — to shine on my darkness and in what feels like the shadow of death to me — I will find peace.”
If you do not personally find solace in religious scripture, then I offer the following inspirations of comfort:
I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.
The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.
And I promise you, that you are never alone…
If you, or someone you know, needs HELP: Call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
OR for online chat HELP, click: THIS LINK
Lots of Love, Light, & Healing,