I REMEMBER when I believed rape and murder were horrifying acts that only happen to other people, people with whom I share nothing in common. I would read about a jealous out-of-control man brutally raping and killing an estranged girlfriend, or a teenage girl being date raped or countless other tragic stories in which people are attacked.
I couldn’t imagine how my life could ever twist and turn in a way that would lead to something so brutal ever happening to me.
I also remember hearing about young girls turning up dead in the Green River area. Other than thinking, “How sad and tragic,” the news didn’t have a great effect on me. The lives of these girls did not resemble mine in any way. They were raped and murdered. These acts of savagery would never happen to me.
About four years ago, it did. A man climbed through the window of the South Park home I shared with my partner Teresa Butz and repeatedly raped and stabbed us. It was torture. We were attacked for hours.
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My beloved Teresa died. I nearly died. Today I have scars on my body reminding me that horrifying acts did happen to me. The only difference between myself and the victims of the Green River killer is that I survived.
This week I read an article in The Seattle Times about the nonprofit group Organization for Prostitution Survivors wanting to create a memorial for the victims of the Green River slayings. I wondered why it has taken this long to move forward on creating a memorial for these women.
Was it because it was too difficult for the families? Was it because the victims were prostitutes? Does the fact that they were prostitutes diminish a reason to build a memorial, diminish a reason to respect a life, diminish the value of a life?
Do people believe prostitutes deserve to be raped and murdered? Do short skirts — or an open window in a little house in Seattle — make an attack the victim’s fault?
There have been many wonderful memorials for my Teresa. I cannot believe there would ever be a question about memorializing the 49 women killed by serial murderer Gary L. Ridgeway.
A life is a life. I believe if we were able to see inside the minds of the women killed we wouldn’t see a prostitute. We would see a scared and desperate girl who was simply doing what she thought she had to do to survive.
While the lives Teresa and I lived didn’t resemble the lives of these women, we all shared something in common: We all endured unfathomable fear and pain. I suffered and I’m still healing, and I will grieve all the days of my life.
The families of the Green River killer’s victims also suffered. They, too, are grieving lives that were brutally cut short.
I hope this public memorial is created. And when it opens, I plan on being one of the first in line to pay my respects.
Jennifer Hopper is an advocate for survivors of rape and sexual violence. She lives in Seattle and is a speaker with LFB Advocacy Group.