Marie Tueller, M.Ed
I have found my voice again–a collective voice, fueled by a growing culture of advocacy that, one day, can transform the silence into a stirring chorus of human empowerment and reclaimed hope.
In early February 2012, my husband Kyle and I moved into a new home to accommodate our growing family. I had earned my master’s degree in psychology and was working as a counselor and supervisor at an addiction treatment center. Our daughter was nineteen months old and the love of our lives. We planned on having a second child when Kyle was finished with his graduate studies. Life was rich with gratitude and joy.
Shortly after the move, our lives changed forever. On March 14, a man entered our home, tied me up, placed duct tape over my eyes, and raped me at gunpoint. I pleaded with him: “Please don’t do this.” He coldly commanded me to shut up. He threatened my life and the life of my child. He left me bound, blinded, and naked in that house that could never be called my home again.
The words “shut up” and threats to harm my daughter haunted me in the moments after he left. I managed to get myself up and open the door. My two dogs rushed in and began licking my wounds, pulling at the duct tape over my eyes. A corner loosened, and I could see.
I knew that I faced an agonizing choice countless women have had to make: Do I speak out or remain silent? There were grave risks and unspeakable losses associated with either decision.
Then a deep conviction came over me. Silence meant spiritual and emotional death, as if forever bound and sightless, unable to be a mother, a wife, a therapist, and a human being with the capacity to thrive. With my hands tied behind my back, I found my phone and dialed 911.
The perpetrator was apprehended. My husband and I have spent the last year engaged in court proceedings; my attacker attempted to deny or minimize the assault throughout. Just before trial, he pled guilty; the evidence was overwhelming and we would not be silenced.
On the day of the sentencing, my husband and I addressed the court and the perpetrator directly. I thought of the countless female survivors still bound by terror, believing that their voices do not matter. I ached to invite each of them into the courtroom to stand beside me.
As I began my statement, my voice trembled, but with the vision and unsung strength of my sisters beside me, the reality of loved ones behind me, and the support of our community surrounding me, my voice steeled. My eyes met the eyes of the perpetrator, and I numbered his crimes. Hope replaced fear. I inhabited my body for the first time since my rape. Following our statements, the judge sentenced him to thirty-one and a half years in prison without parole.
I refused to shut up. Instead, I have added my voice to a growing culture of advocacy that is transforming silence into a stirring chorus of human empowerment and reclaimed hope.
Marie Tueller is a mental health counselor in Prescott, Arizona