Tierra sat across the table from the older man in a small Mexican hotel bar. Colorful blue and green bottles of liquor lined the mirrored wall. The ocean lapped on the beach a few meters from their feet. Tierra, an attractive young woman in her early 30s, appeared timid and, almost, apologetic, while quietly sipping her glass of lemonade. She was flaccid in her chair, seeming afraid to break her concentration from a speck on the table. This young woman was an infant, less than a week old, when the man met her some 30 years before. She had been a sweet child. Using the apple of a father’s eye platitude, Tierra was the whole orchard to him. To the man, she now seemed a shadow of the person she had once been.
Tierra’s mother had been only 16 years old. After a brief romance with a travelling troubadour, or maybe the kid down the street, she had found herself in a family way. She lived in small town British Columbia and her father was a respected community leader. She was sent away to take care of her problem. Tierra’s birthmother’s grandmother never wanted Tierra to be adopted but the matter was decided.
A telephone clattered in its cradle. A young man picked up to find a social worker asking if he and his wife were interested in adopting a child. She described a little brown girl of Jamaican descent without parents. The man and his wife had been travelling for some time and, with the call, realized it was time to stabilize their lives. With little further consideration they decided to become parents. Travelling to another community, they met a tiny imp of a child who, at 6 days old, seldom cried and was content from their first meeting. The man and his wife were suddenly buying baby accessories. They were unexpectant parents. Visualizing an exotic little beauty, they called her Tierra, meaning dark skinned.
Tierra prospered in their family. Her gentle and happy nature attracted numerous friends. Taking her to daycare, her arrival would create a buzz among the other children. She was everyone’s darling. Through school she flourished. She remained in the man’s care when he and his wife separated. Eventually, along came a new wife and child to the family. Tierra was unhappy in this new larger family. She moved to her mother’s home.
This move, however, caused her to change schools and friends. Without the protection of familiarity, Tierra became involved with a group of street kids. She was soon neither in school nor living with her mother. She began to take risks and eventually became involved with an organization called Servants Anonymous Society that rescued young girls from the street. After several years of instability, Tierra returned home. She lived in an upstairs room of her father’s home and attended classes at the local college. She was beginning to turn her life around. She seemed happy.
Resuming her social life, she sought more stable friends. One night she attended a beach party with a number of other young adults. A young man named Billy, a few years older, expressed interest. He offered her a drink. After a few drinks he asked if she would like to attend another party. She agreed and offered to bring a bottle of wine from her home that was nearby. They stopped while Tierra ran into the house. She locked the door, perhaps subconsciously distrustful of Billy and sought the alcohol. She suddenly felt dizzy and very tired, lying down for a few minutes. Tierra soon realized that she could not get up. She was fully awake but her body would not to respond.
Becoming impatient, Billy began knocking on the front door but there was no response from Tierra. Circling the house, he saw a window open at the back on the second floor and an orchard ladder. He climbed the ladder to the window and looked in. He could see Tierra on the bed. They looked each other in the eyes but she could not speak nor move. Billy climbed in the window and committed his crime. Tierra watched as she was raped by a stranger…..again and again. He used her body with no regard for Tierra as a person. At one point his phone rang. He paused to answer his call, and then continued his violation. Finally finished, Billy exited by the front door. He left the ladder against the wall and the window shade in disarray.
The next day the police arrived. Rushing in, her father found Tierra telling her story. She attended the hospital and succumbed to a rape kit. The police questioned her for hours and remained to gather evidence. She had been drugged with a street drug known as GHB. Billy had likely doctored her drink.
Tierra expected the ordeal was over but it was just beginning. Billy was questioned and eventually charged, but it was a year before he attended Court. Billy was from a wealthy family and hired the best lawyers. He was also living with another woman and engaged to be married. His fiancé was pregnant with their first child. He completely denied his involvement in the rape. He had much to lose.
Billy continued to profess his innocence while Tierra feared he would seek retribution. She stayed home more and had no contact with friends. As the months and years passed Tierra started to put this experience behind her. She eventually moved to a basement suite while attending university classes once again. She wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps. She had her own vehicle, a boyfriend, and was moving on with her life. She, however, did not seem to be the same person, yet, no one could quite determine the change.
About two years after her violation, Tierra received a call from the local Crown Counsel enquiring if they could meet. He questioned her on the details of the allegations. She told him she had completed an in-depth written account of the events that night. She did not wish to relive it. The lawyer had never seen her statement but told her she would eventually be required to testify and discuss all of the events in Court. She would also be cross-examined by Billy’s lawyer. He asked if she was prepared to undertake such a task. Hesitantly she agreed.
The weeks again turned into months and the Court date for the preliminary hearing eventually arrived. The Crown had not found her statement, but was willing to proceed if she was willing to testify. She was directed to appear in Court and be prepared to give her testimony.
Tierra arrived, knowing little of what to expect. She waited outside the Court room with Billy sitting in the same area. He was alone. They would not look at each other. Billy was called first while Tierra waited. After several hours she was also called and entered the Supreme Court for the first time. She entered the witness box. Tierra testified for three hours, initially telling her story, then enduring several hours of questions by Billy’s lawyer. The lawyer tried to confuse her, force her to recant, and discount her character. He was getting paid to do his job. She endured and maintained her composure. She was very brave but she was being crushed.
Tierra left the witness box and quietly walked out of the courtroom. She said nothing to her mother or the Crown. A week later the Crown phoned to say she had performed adequately and there was enough evidence for the matter to proceed to trial. She would have to relive the experience a second, or third, time.
Another year passed and Tierra tried to move on with her life while fearing her assailant and dreading what was to come. She continued to attend classes and worked part-time but seemed anxious and depressed. The Court finally reconvened and the process was repeated. The lawyer performed his role admirably….for his client.
Billy was eventually convicted for his crime and received a 5 year jail sentence. He was incarcerated but released on a $10,000 bail pending appeal. He was convicted at a second hearing and finally began serving his time, some 5 years after he had raped Tierra.
Tierra appeared strong throughout but after her second….and third, ordeal, quietly confined herself to her basement suite. She separated from her boyfriend. Unbeknownst to her family she started failing classes and dropped out of school. She seldom left her suite and did not ask for help. She isolated herself. She stopped seeing friends, or maybe friends stopped seeing her. It eventually became obvious that she was suffering from some sort of health problem. She would sit alone in her room in fear of being watched or attacked. She could not sleep. She could no longer go to work or attend school. She was terrified for her life. Tierra was forced to apply for Income Assistance. The process, however, required her to await a phone call from a social worker. Tierra was not answering her phone or talking to anyone. She was starting to experience paranoia and delusions.
Months passed. She largely stayed in her suite and began to default on her finances. She could not even ask for help. Out of the country, her mother received a letter from Tierra with a suggestion that she was considering suicide. Her mother returned immediately to find Tierra with no income, friends, or family aware of her situation. She was experiencing hallucinations and unable to sleep or eat. She had not taken the calls from Income Assistance and was removed from the list of pending welfare recipients. She was without an income, she was depressed, and she no longer cared about life.
Her mother took Tierra home. She sought the assistance of various professionals but, again, the process was very long and arduous. Tierra was unwilling to leave her mother’s home and, therefore, could not access professional help. She was very close to being hospitalized. She eventually moved to her father’s home again, when her mother returned to Mexico. Tierra, still refusing to go outdoors for fear of being victimized, had to be dragged to a waiting vehicle for the trip to her father’s home. Tears flowed when she arrived and entered her room, the same room where she had been raped.
By this time Tierra had been seeing a psychiatrist and had an outreach worker who visited regularly. She was prescribed a variety of medications for anti-anxiety, anti-psychotics, sleep, and others to deal with the side effects. She could not care for herself, nor had the desire to. It was nearing Christmas and sweets were plentiful. One of the drug’s side effects was an extreme appetite for sweets. It soon became apparent that Tierra could consume an entire cheesecake in one sitting. She also drank gallons of juice and pop. Her weight began to soar out of control. Tierra had always been very slim to the point of anorexic so the professionals thought a few additional pounds would be positive and did not change the medication. However, after several months, and little contact with the professionals, she gained 60 pounds. Her body could not accommodate the sudden weight gain resulting in severe pain in her hips. She could barely walk.
Some 7 years after being raped Tierra accompanied her father and his wife to Mexico. The man began to see glimmers of the daughter he had known but, at times, she continued to be fearful and unwilling to leave her room. Returning from Mexico, Tierra lived with her mother. After many more months and a series of professional interventions she began to show signs of recovery. Eight years after being raped by Billy and 3 years after the Courts similarly raped her, the man has come to recognize the daughter he raised. Even though the apple of his eye is visible at times, there is a difference. She is more cautious and scared, and there is always the concern that she will slide back to the abyss she has lived. Even though Billy has completed his sentence, it is likely Tierra’s is for life.