© 2018 by Kate Ryan.

The event took place on December 18th.

I was a junior in college at The University of Minnesota, and I was living in off-campus housing. 

I worked at a department store during the holidays. 

 

I got on the bus about 8:15, and it dropped me off about 10 minutes later.   

It was 20 below zero.  

I was completely bundled up.  

And it was dark.

 

I saw somebody running up behind me.  

He came up to me.

And he had a gun.  

It looked like he'd been outside for a while.  

His nose and his ears were all red.

He had his jacket zipped all the way up to his nose.  

 

He asked me where I was going, and I didn't want to say where I was going.  

I just said that my car was “down here.”  

He asked me if I had any money.  

I said, "You can have my purse.  You can have everything.”

And he said, “No, that's not what I want.  I want you to take me to your car."

  

I just kept saying to him, "You can take all of my stuff. You can take my car.”  

And he said, "No.  I want you to take me to your car."  

 

I thought about screaming.  

I don't know why I didn't.  

I just completely froze.  

And I did what he asked.  

He had his gun out the whole time.

He said, "I want you to drive me to South Minneapolis."  

So I pulled out of the driveway and went back past where I had just walked.  

 

*

 

Two nights prior I was sitting in the living room with my roommate.

We were watching TV.

And a policeman had been killed.  

This was the man who had killed this policeman.  

He was returning stolen goods to a JC Penny, and they were trying to check on him.  

He shot this policeman who was trying to follow up and see who he was.  

He was on the loose for two days.  

 

I started to realize he looked similar to the person I'd seen on the television.  

But he was not telling me the truth about what happened.  

 

*

 

He wanted me to pull into this park area.  

There was nobody around.  

It was very snowy.  

Very cold.  

Very dark.

 

He told me that he wanted me to take my clothes off.  

Again I froze.  

All I could think was if I open the door and ran he would shoot me.  

I look back and I think, "Is there something I could have done to have prevented this from happening?”  

I don't know.

 

The rape happened.  

And I thought he was going to kill me afterwards, because he was extremely quiet.  

During the driving around he was extremely talkative about his life and about how he grew up—telling me all these things about how he'd been in prison before, and he didn't want to go back to jail.  

And I started to feel kind of bad for him.

 

I started pleading and saying, “Please don't kill me.”  

And he said, "Drive out of the park."  

So of course I felt a tremendous sense of relief.  

My car was an old 1981 Subaru.  

Somebody had rear-ended me a few months before, and I had white tail lights instead of red.

I never had the tail lights fixed.  

 

We got onto this highway to drive out west.  

And there happened to be a policeman on the side of the road.  

He started to follow me.  

He didn't put his lights on right away.  

I just felt this incredible sense of relief.  

And he, Philip, started to freak out.  

He started saying to me, "Don't you dare pull over.  Don't do anything stupid."  

Three or four minutes later he turned his lights on to pull me over.  

And [Philip] freaked out and flew into a rage and told me to keep driving as fast as I could and to not pull over.

 

It turned into this high-speed chase.   

And there were two other policemen who had joined.  

So they were banging the car.  

He told me to get into the back of the car, that he was going to drive.  

I don't remember how that happened, but he started driving.

He was going about 100 miles per hour.  

 

There was a truck that was coming in the other direction.  

And he pulled the car into that lane. 

He was going to go head-first into the truck.  

My whole body lifted up above the car, and I was watching everything happen below.  

The police cars pulled back.  

At the last minute he swerved.  

 

We were out in this farm area.   

And there was a full roadblock.  

So he turned the car and it rolled over into this ditch.  

I didn't have a seatbelt on.

I hit my head, and it was bleeding.  

I remember he grabbed me by the neck and pulled me out of the car.

We sat in the snow.  

And police cars were on the side of the road.  

I could see lights, but I was so discombobulated by everything.  

I was trying to get my senses back.  

 

He pulled me up and started telling them who he was.

He was threatening to kill me, and had me to his body.  

He had his arm wrapped around my neck and had the gun to my head.  

There were 15 police men, and they had all their rifles drawn.  

They wouldn't put their guns down.  

 

He literally backed all the way to this farm house.

He pushed in the door.  

The doors were shut in the rooms upstairs, and he asked me to open all the doors.  

I was thinking to myself, “Somebody probably has a gun on the other side of this door.  And I'm probably going to get shot.”

Thankfully it was a younger couple, and they had a young daughter who was two.  

It was a hostage situation for five hours until he ended up surrendering.

 

The trial came up six to nine months later.    

He got a life sentence plus 30 years for killing a police man, kidnapping and sexual assault.   

He's in jail now.

He was denied parole twice.

It was a public event, so there was press around what happened.  

Being a victim of sexual assault, they don't ever name you in the press. 

So my identity had never been released.  

But all of my family and all of my friends and the neighbors knew. 

And when they would see me, they were the ones who were uncomfortable, not me.  

 

I did therapy with this wonderful woman who specialized in sexual assault.

But I think I was so young and not really ready to absorb what happened.  

I was so grateful to be alive.  

I was saying, "I could have died.” 

It always seemed like I was brushing it aside and putting it under the rug.  

 

If you don't address or aren't ready to address something, it does creep up on you eventually.  

 

It was hard for me to go back to school.  

I really couldn't focus.  

I moved back in with my parents.  

 

The winters brought back a lot of memories.

I thought I would try a warm place.  

I went down to Arizona.  

I really loved it down there.  

There was that period where I was kind of floundering around.  

 

*

 

The loss of power in a sexual assault is a tremendous thing.  

I had a really hard time being outside.  

If I had to go to my car in a parking lot or just walk anywhere it was extremely difficult.

When I moved to New York that really helped, because there were so many people around.  

And then when I moved out to the suburbs again, it came back.

It really hit me like a brick.  

I would look out my window, and I would think that I saw someone in the backyard.  

I would be paranoid.  

 

There are little things like driving.  

I never let my husband drive, but he understands that sense of control that I need to have.

I started doing art as a hobby.  

I worked in finance.  

In 2009 I was laid off from my job, and I decided to do this full time.  

I do 19th century French academic classical realism.  

But then I got pregnant.  

I have twins that are 7.  

 

A lot of stuff came up with them: the fear of them being abducted or the fear of them being sexually assaulted somehow.  

I'm very cautious.  

It's hard to remove yourself when people say, "The chances of something like that happening are so slim.  Why worry about it?"  

It's the one thing that kind of angers me.

Because it did happen.  

So how can you say that it won't?  

I carry that with me and project that onto my kids.  

That's been a struggle.  

 

I have two boys, so of course I want them to be passionate and sensitive and really understand that violating a woman and her body is not something that you do.  

It's wrong.  

I've told them a little bit about it—not the whole story.  

They know something bad happened to mommy.  

But they're still young.  

 

After I take them to school, I'll go for a walk.  

That's kind of my release.

 

*

 

I also belong to Moms Demand Action and Everytown to change gun laws.  

The man who had done this to me—it was the same gun he used to kill the policeman that he used to abduct me.  

But I don't even know where he got that from or how.  

It really stresses me out and makes me so scared for my children and everybody else's children as well.

 

With the gun you have something tangible that you can remove from society and limit access to.  Sexuality is not so easy. 

It's so important how you raise your children to respect sex as an act and not abuse it and use it as a source of power.  

 

*

 

I used to mentor a girl.  

Children of Promise is children of incarcerated parents who have at least one parent who's incarcerated.  

The whole idea behind it is to change the cycle of violence.  

We have this problem with sexual assault in our society. 

Is it easier to change someone who's 40 to think differently or are we going to start at a young age?  

I think now we have that opportunity to really do that.

 

Quite honestly there needs to be more of sexual ed in schools where they are teaching respect.  

I know they talk about body parts, and they talk about the act of sex.  

But the compassion and the respect and the empathy for other people's bodies needs to be addressed.

This is where we really have to take a stand.  

 

-Kerry