February 19, 2007


Imagine that a robber broke into your home last night. Awakened by a few faint but distinct sounds, your husband went downstairs to investigate. The thief shot him once in the chest, killing him instantly.

Imagine that the shot woke you up, as well as your two children, a girl age 13 and a boy age 10. Hearing you run to the children's rooms to protect them, the robber put all of you in the dining room, tied you up and placed heavy tape over your mouths.

Imagine that the robber repeatedly raped your 13-year-old daughter in front of you and your son. He now threatens to rape you and your son, too.

Imagine that the robber, upon seeing your home office and questioning you with his gun to your head, learns that you do free lance work there so that you can spend more time with your husband and children. Well, just your children now of course, since your husband is dead.

Imagine that the robber discovers you have a storeroom stocked with food for an emergency, enough to last for three or four months. He decides to stay for a nice, long visit. And he enjoys raping your daughter a lot, which he does at least once or twice a day. Your daughter never speaks anymore, even to protest when she's being raped. She knows her protests are completely futile.

Imagine that, as the third week of the robber's visit begins, he tells you that you really need to get back to work. After all, he lets you and the children get up and walk around for a few hours every day. He even lets you look out the windows now and then. He keeps an eye on you all the time, of course, and the gun is always in his hands. But he doesn't see why all of you can't start to enjoy a more "normal" life.

Imagine that the robber becomes more and more frustrated with you, because you find it impossible to concentrate on work, or on anything at all. You find yourself crying uncontrollably and behaving more and more erratically. The robber can't understand what's wrong with you.

Imagine that the robber has one of his associates bring him some additional firearms. His impatience seems to grow almost hourly, especially since you and the children appear to be in the grip of severe emotional breakdowns. He simply can't understand why you just won't get on with your lives.

Imagine that, as the second month of the robber's visit begins, he ominously tells you that he's "growing increasingly frustrated," and that his "patience is not unlimited." Whenever his threats grow more specific, he seems to be saying that, if you don't do exactly as he demands, he might leave. He's convinced you would view this as a threat. But even that makes no sense to you, because the associate who brought the firearms has stayed. This second man now also rapes your daughter every day. But the first robber also says that he's not leaving anytime soon. He says he genuinely wants all of you to work this out; he views the two of you in particular as having a "partnership."

Imagine that you feel as if you're losing your mind, if you're not already irretrievably and quite literally insane. All sense, all purpose, all joy have been drained from your life, and now you and your children experience nothing but pain, anguish, and torment. You know that, even if the robber and his friend should finally leave, you and the children will never be the same. You'll never know what a "normal" life is like again, not fully. In many of the most important ways, your lives have already ended, even if you survive physically.