I Kept Silent For Decades Because I Was Taught Being Raped Was Worse Than Death
For a very long time, Rhonda didn’t tell anyone. She talks about it now, obviously — she’s even published a book about the attack and her subsequent battle with PTSD. But she didn’t say a word about any of this for decades. “The first thing I thought [was] ‘No one can ever know’ … everyone would think it was my fault. Why would I get in the car with a stranger?”
Only about a third of rape victims ever report the crime to police. And that’s today. “I was raised very conservative [Mormon], and actually what church leaders would say to young women was, ‘The most important thing a young woman can have is your virtue. You’re probably better off if you lose your life.’ And I had lived. So I had that guilt also.”
Rhonda kept quiet and went on with her life. But over the next few months, other young women went missing around Utah. “I thought [it] was an isolated incident … and then … another girl turned up missing. And her father was on the police force … and he was on the news because he was [the] sheriff, to get publicity for his daughter. And he was asking the public for help … and when I saw that, I recognized things …”
There were no pictures of Bundy circulating yet, so Rhonda didn’t know for certain that it was the same guy. But women kept disappearing, and on November 8, Bundy botched a double kidnapping. He was in the news now. “And that’s when I knew … it had to be the same guy. And that’s when I really started feeling guilt. If I had come forward earlier, maybe those other girls wouldn’t have gotten …”
Well, no, it’s not Rhonda’s fault that she grew up believing some deeply fucked up things about “virtue.” And it’s definitely not her fault that Ted Bundy was a goddamn serial killer. What’s important is that survivors survive.
When I Did Speak Up, They Called Me A Liar
Rhonda broke her silence in 2016. She followed Ted Bundy’s capture, two successive prison breaks, and trial with all the interest you’d expect. She was obsessive, but no one in her life knew why — not even her husband. “When we got married, you think you should share everything … so I shared with him that I had been raped. He said it didn’t matter. He didn’t mention it again and neither did I. And that was all I said about it for 37 years.”
She became a pharmacist, and generally went about her life for a few decades, until her new boss happened to look a bit like Bundy. He put her on a year’s probation for letting one of her workers eat a piece of licorice in the pharmacy. When she complained about the treatment, he even talked like Bundy: “He said things to me, almost the same phrasing Ted Bundy had used in the canyon.”
Bundy had said: “You don’t have the right to cry and whine at me, you should be thanking me that you’re still alive.”
Her new boss: “In the same tone of voice … ‘Rhonda, you don’t have the right to tell people I’m treating you unfairly … you should be grateful you even still have a job.'”
PTSD often takes years to hit, and it can be triggered by something as simple as a smell. In Rhonda’s case, it was triggered by an asshole boss. She decided to reach out to other Bundy survivors in the hope that they might understand what she went through. Thankfully, by then the internet existed.
“I’d type things like ‘who survived Ted Bundy’ … and I found this article, ‘I Survived Ted Bundy’ … I figured out how to contact the author, and she became my secret pal. I talked to her. Her ‘adventure’ wasn’t as intense … but I could tell her things … she encouraged me to find a counselor and really start healing. And so that’s what I did.”
Rhonda also started reading up on some statistics about rape, whereupon she learned that the vast majority of women never report it. So she published her book, I Survived Ted Bundy: The Attack, Escape, And PTSD That Changed My Life. She did everything she could to talk about the assault. The assault she’d hidden for decades, mostly for fear that people would blame her for the whole thing or call her a liar. Can you guess what happened next?
At least her publisher had warned her about this: “They call ’em Amazon trolls … 20 minutes after it went live, people were giving it bad comments, saying [I’m] a liar [or] no one will believe it anyway.” But people did listen to Rhonda’s story. Ultimately, she’s happy that she wrote the book, and happy that she said something. But she’s also pretty pissed off at the “trolls.”
“That part, sadly, has not changed in the 40 years since my experience. You still have girls in college campuses who will not come forward for the same reason. People blame the victim somehow. Really, the message is, ‘It doesn’t matter in sexual assault. It’s never the victim’s fault.'”
For more, check out 7 Realities Of Surviving Mass Shootings The Media Leaves Out and We Were Impregnated By Our Rapists: 4 Bizarre Realities.
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