About a year ago, I was living in a quiet apartment complex with my college grad roommate, "Sue." It was a 3-bedroom place that we shared tucked away behind trees right near the fairgrounds, around the corner from NC State's main campus.
We didn't have a washer or dryer. I loaded all my clothes into my giant TJ Maxx bags and headed to the laudromat. After doing eight loads of laundry, I was bringing those bags back into my house. I noticed someone walking my direction near the neighbor's house. I smiled, as is my habit, and continued into my house.
I set my bags down, turned around to shut the door, and froze. The early evening sun was shining through my door, silhouetting a tall figure standing in my doorway. I gasped and backed up as he pushed his way into my house.
I remember everything that happened very clearly. I was not panicked, I wasn't afraid, I never lost control of my body or my mind. Everything was crystal clear.
I remember thinking, My roommate is here, because I saw her car. She's upstairs sleeping. So I screamed as loud as I could, hoping I could wake her up. Two against one.
He shut the door and ran up to me, and I clawed at him with my keys and my fingernails. He grabbed the keys from my hands. Wrestling me to the floor, he wrapped his fingers around my neck and squeezed, trying to get me to stop screaming. He hit my head against the ground.
Squinting my eyes, I said through a constricted throat, "okay okay okay i'm done."
He eased off my neck and I sat up. Looking around my house, he stood up and went to the door and locked it, and pulled the blinds back and peeked through. He looked lost, or confused. I asked him what he wanted. He rubbed his face and said "I want money, man."
"Okay, I have some on the table. I will get it for you." My purse was on the table, but so were my sewing scissors.
"NO YOU STAY RIGHT THERE."
"Okay, you can go get it yourself, it's on the kitchen table in the green bag. There's ten bucks in there." He could rummage through my purse and I could go upstairs, call the cops, hide out with my roommate.
"No. You go get it."
I realized he was either high, drunk, or crazy. Hopefully drunk, because that would be the easiest to deal with.
"Okay," and I went to get up.
"No you stay right there." Now he was looking at me like I had three heads.
He snuck back towards the window, and looked through, putting his hands all over the blinds and the door frame. He ran his fingers across the door frame like it was made of fine silk, or crystals. Like it was something he'd never seen before.
He walked away from me into the kitchen. I wondered if I should stay there, or run upstairs to Sue, or run out the door and lock him in. I didn't want to lock him in with Sue. So I just stayed there. I didn't want to risk him grabbing a weapon from the kitchen and coming after me.
He looked out the back window and closed the blinds. He turned around himself inside our kitchen like it was a jungle.
Sue tiptoed downstairs looking terrified.
Very quietly, I whispered, "There's a man in the house. Go upstairs, lock your door, call the police." she nodded and went back up, silent as a mouse. The man never noticed she was there.
Eventually he came back to me, and asked me for money again. We went through the whole thing again; Okay I'll go get it; no stay there, okay you go get it, no you get it.
"Well what do you want me to do," I asked, exasperated.
"You can do this," he muttered, and pulled down his pants, exposing himself.
I was already on the ground so I flipped over and curled into a ball. He got on his knees behind me and reached around my waist, trying to find my pants buttons. His fingers scratched my stomach, and I didn't even notice until the next day.
He managed to get the button of my pants undone, and the zipper about halfway down. But I was wearing my heavy duty pants that went up to my navel, and I knew there was no way for him to get those pants off me without my permission. I could barely get them off myself without a cardio workout.
I turned my head and noticed my craft supplies. Still on my knees, I threw myself over towards my knitting needles on the ground, and started grabbing random needles and stabbing him with them. Later I found blood on my hands.
Eventually he got the needles out of my hands and stood me up from behind. I started walking towards the kitchen table where my sewing scissors were under my purse. I grabbed the scissors and whirled around, pointing them at his face. I got about six inches away from his eye. He backed up and held his hands up.
"Get out of my house."
"Give me your money."
"I'll give you my money and then you're getting out of my house."
"Okay, go on."
I grabbed my purse and handed him the ten dollar bill. as a habit, my hand flickered towards my back pocket. He saw, and snatched the phone right out of my pocket. "Imma take this."
"Okay I'm goin'."
He turned around. I followed with the scissors until he shut the door.
"Sue! He's gone, Sue! Call the police!" I ran to the front door and locked it, then ran to the back door and locked that one too. She called the police and I took her phone and talked to the dispatcher. She sent a cop over and he was there within two minutes (we were basically across the street from one of the departments).
Several hours passed. There was questioning from two different officers, photos taken of my apartment, of my neck and chest, fingerprints taken, and tea brewed. The brought the K9 team but it was drizzling outside, and they couldn't pick up a scent. They took my knitting needles for DNA and evidence. I knew I'd never get them back. I'd sat down and told my story, I'd looked at my hands and noticed blood. I wasn't sure if it was mine or his. I mentioned it to the forensics lady and she took a mouth swab from me, and collected the blood off my hands.
They took us to the department in the main part of Raleigh. Sue and I rode in the back of the car and giggled when the cop sped through the interstate at 90 miles an hour. I've noticed (from the three or four times I've been in a cop car) that all cops drive like mad men. Men and women alike, they're all maniacs.
They took more statements and questions. I found out later when they'd left they asked the neighbors about the guy. The neighbors had no clue.
When they dropped us back off at our house, I asked Sue if I could borrow her phone. I called Mark, my fiance (bf at the time) and he didn't answer. I left him a message telling him I need him to go on facebook or come over. I pulled up facebook on my computer and told him a little of what had happened. He came right over and slept at the foot of my bed that night. He let me borrow his phone to call my family. The next morning on my way to work, he walked me to my car.
There were weird throughs that happened that I didn't expect.
I never knew if I'd be a runner or a fighter if something bad happened to me. I figured i'd be a runner because I'm very fast. But the clarity and adrenalin I had made me brave: I wanted to claw his eyes out, and I wasn't afraid of him. Even when he was trying to rape me, I wasn't afraid. The fear came later; the thought of him tracking me down and trying to get revenge; refusing to take the trash out after dark; never leaving my house without a knife or a taser again.
When I was stabbing him with my knitting supplies, I remember thinking Careful, don't hurt him. It was like a subconscious thought. Such a habit. Don't hurt people. I had to tell myself, No, I'm trying to hurt him. I want him out of my house. He's got his pants down, I could do a lot of damage.
I remembered when I screamed my cat had run like a bat out of hell and I couldn't remember if she'd run out the door or not. Ariel being outside and unable to find her way home was one of my biggest concerns. I eventually found her upstairs hiding in my closet behind my winter sweaters, shaking.
I remember not being sure how I was going to get enough sleep that night; When the police dropped us off, it was already past ten o'clock and I had to get up at 4:30am the next day to ge at work on time. Usually on Sundays I went to bed by 7pm. Maybe I should call out of work. The police heard me mention it to Sue and they said it wasn't necessary for me to call out. They didn't realize I had to be at work by 5:30 so they could have their 6am coffee.
I had flashbacks throughout the work day, but it was okay. I told my girlfriend and co-worker what had happen, she gave me a hug. My manager on duty was aware of it as well, and she made sure to let me know I could take a break or leave if I needed to.
I never broke down. I never panicked. I never flipped. I was always okay.
But this post isn't about me.
David Woods went on to commit another theft, and in the process he broke someone's finger. They caught him, and matched his fingerprints to the ones found on the inside of my house on the door frame. He was sentenced to 7-10 years in prison, and 30 years on the sex offender's registry. He was diagnosed as Paranoid Schizophrenic.
There are a lot of things that could have been better for David Woods. I don't know much about him but I know he was from a poor family. He needed treatment and medication. He needed counseling. He needed education and healthcare. But our systems are not equipped to deal with people like him. He is a victim of the cracks, and he fell through.
I am not angry at him, nor do I hold his deeds against him. I hope when he gets out he will continue to take his medication, find a job, learn to work, start a family, and leave his past behind.
But he was released from prison several months before attacking me, and I know he will fall back into the same habits he had as soon as he's out.
There are a lot of people out there like David. Each and every one needs help, love, support, nurturing, and guidance. Do what you can, love everyone, hold nothing back; We all only have one chance.
Was David Woods the attacker or the victim? Was I a victim? I don't feel like one. I feel like it was all a bad dream or a training exercise and I came out the other end fine. Personally, I think Woods, his family, and the people he will interact with because of his incarceration are the true victims in this scenario. Yes he was my attacker and he should be held responsible for his actions. But his actions would have been different, had he not fallen through the cracks.
We have a limited amount of time on this planet, and we need to love and help as many as we can.
"Everyone will die, everyone will lose, so who you gonna love in the meantime before it catches you?"