Breaking Free and Breaking Down

This is the fifth post in a series about a time from my teens when I was held hostage. If you’ve missed the first three posts, here they are: How I Got Drawn InA Minister’s Son, The Knife and The Rope.
  Do read them first and then come back! 

It is so dark in this empty street, with deserted houses on my left, a  graveyard to my right. People say the famous grave robbers Burke and Hare stole bodies from the graveyard. That shouldn’t make any difference to how I feel, since they are long since dead. But, somehow, it does. I hate it.

I edge forward, and round the corner. Here lights shine from windows onto well tended gardens, so if he suddenly comes up behind me I can run for help. I look down the hill. He is not coming up it, but the could be lurking in shadows anywhere between here and safety.  The girls’ boarding house is just a few hundred yards away, over a patch of ragged grass, around some outbuildings, along the side of the house to the front and up the steps. I see him a hundred times, leaping up in front of me, as I run that last short distance. But in reality, he is never there and I burst through the door into the hallway.

A wide wooden staircase curves up to the first floor, and my friend Abby* is standing at the top. Her face is filled with panic.

“I’ve escaped!” I yell, and run up the stairs. The rope is still trailing around my ankle. Girls come out of the television room and from bedrooms, wanting to know what is going on. “It’s like something out of a book!” one girl says, her eyes wide and shining.

Before I have time to explain, before I have even found out what Abby said to him, the phone rings. I know, just know, who it is.

“He’s found out I’ve escaped!” I say. “We have to tell the matron.”

Abby says no. She’s so scared that she’s rooted to the spot, not doing anything, and nothing she says makes much sense. She doesn’t want her parents to find out what has happened, doesn’t want her new boyfriend to know, is scared he won’t want to see her any more.

The phone keeps ringing. I run to the matron’s sitting room, and blurt out words, trying to explain. Somehow, she manages to understand. She goes downstairs to the phone room. We can hear enough of what she says to know that it is him. Her voice gets louder in between the silence when he talks. Then she shouts, “Don’t be so disgusting!” She slams the phone down.  

The matron tells us that he hadn’t been back to his room and so he still thought I was up there. He had threatened to slash my face if Abby didn’t come down. She doesn’t tell us what he said that made her yell and slam down the phone. She phones the police.

My legs feel weak and wobbly now, like I can hardly stand. Soon I am shaking all over. It is teatime and the other girls head into the dining room. I feel too nauseous to eat, but I don’t want to be alone, so I go too. A few minutes later the doorbell rings. My seat faces the dining room door, which is open. I see matron go to answer the doorbell, and expect to see her return with the police. Any minute I will have to go out and speak to them. But it isn’t the police. As the matron goes back past the doorway again, he walks with her. Matron is holding my coat and bible, which he must have brought back.

He can’t get me here. I am safe now. I am safe. I am safe now. I need to keep reminding myself. The matron has taken him somewhere. I am safe now. The police come soon and take him away. I am safe, I am safe, I am safe.

I don’t feel safe.

They want me for questioning. I go into the matron’s office, where a policeman and policewoman ask me to tell them what happened. All I can hear is them saying, over and over, “You went to his room, Miss Spence. You went to his room?”

“It was snowing and he said it was silly to stay out in the bitter cold.”

“So you went to his room.”

“He was upset because he wanted Abby back and he was drinking too much and I thought I could help. He wanted to talk about God. I thought I could help him.”

“So you went to his room?”

I feel close to tears. “I took my bible and I thought we would talk and it might help him.”

“You had a bible?”


“So talk us through what happened.”

I tell them. I tell them about how he told me to take off my clothes to prove I trusted God, about the knife, about the rope, about the other knife and all the other things I want to forget.

The policeman asks, “Did he rape you?”

“No,” I say. “He didn’t.”

“Are you sure?” the woman asks.

“Yes, I’m sure.”

They aren’t satisfied. “You can tell us,” they say. “If he raped you, you can tell us.”

No, no, no, no, no. I shake my head. “No he didn’t.”

The man gets up and leaves the room, and I am alone with the woman. “You can tell me,” she says. “Did he rape you?”


She goes out, and after a while they both come back in. She says, “We want you go have an internal examination, to determine if he raped you.”

“But he didn’t,” I say, almost in tears.

“Well, we think you should have the examination to be sure.”

I am seventeen, so in the eyes of the law, I am still a child. This means they need my parents’ permission to force me to have an examination to prove I haven’t been raped. The matron is called back in. She phones my parents and I hear her say my mother’s name and explain what has happened. Then she hands me the phone, and I explain to my mother what the police want, and that they don’t believe me that he didn’t rape me.

“I believe you,” my mother says. “And after what you’ve just been through, you shouldn’t have go to through that as well.” She refuses permission.

The police are done with me, and let me go. I stumble out into the foyer and I start to wonder, did he rape me? Are they right and I am wrong? My mind is in total confusion, and I have never felt so alone or lost in my life. I need to find someone, find my friends. I need someone near me. That night I sleep on the floor of Abby’s room.

* Name has been changed 

One more post will follow in this series: The Aftermath will be published on Tuesday

 REMINDER: My short story collection Looking For America is free to download for Kindle until midnight PDT time tonight. Grab your copy!


    1. Lizzi, it was a very bizarre experience, to feel bound to prove I hadn’t been raped! I am just so grateful that my mum stood strong and believed me.

  1. …….. Matron who hounded you with her stupid question. One is often having to defend oneself, even when so atrociously wronged

    1. Penelope, the police’s questions did shock me and definitely added to the resulting stress I felt. I don’t think they understood what to do at all, and probably didn’t deal with that sort of crime much at all. (It was a police woman who asked those questions, not the matron.)
      Thanks for reading and for your comment.

  2. It’s horrible that the police and authorities made you feel like you were at fault. And it’s also really awful that they let him into the room to give you your coat and bible – what were they thinking to let him near you after what you’d just experienced? Very frightening. I’m very glad you survived and hope you can trust people after something like that.

    1. Claudia, the police interview was a horrendous experience and left me fully understanding why people sometimes give false confessions – if they’d kept at me much longer I might have become so confused that I would have agreed with them.
      But they didn’t let him give me my coat and bible. I will have to go back and amend that part, because I can see now it’s not very clear. The trouble is all I can remember is the doorbell ringing and then through the open dining room seeing him walk past. I think it was the matron who was with him and I think she then held him till the police came, but I’m not sure! It’s weird how some things stick in your mind so well, and other things are just a blur. I’ll go back and rewrite that part. Sorry about the confusion and thanks for your comment.

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