Back in the early nineties I met a man.
He was a tall, handsome, and well-educated man with stunning big blue eyes. He had long curly eyelashes that perfectly contrasted with his short dark black wavy hair.
He was a very attractive guy, and had a ravishing personality that instantly captivated me.
At some point during our first chats, he mentioned he was a retired Special Forces officer, a piece of information that made him even more appealing. I have always been a sucker for military trained men.
At the time when I met him, I was a young, excitable, impressionable, and very naïve young woman who had recently immigrated from a third world country. I was looking for a job and the possibility of a better life.
I didn’t have enough life experience or ‘street smarts’ to understand that tall, dark, handsome, and skilled doesn’t always translate to trustworthy.
I learned the lesson in the hardest possible way.
He was a charmer and at first behaved like a perfect gentleman, always treating me like a princess; I loved his company and I loved his touch.
Everywhere we went, everyone one seemed to like and respect him, so when his work proposal came, I was thunderstruck and in awe. His plan sounded like the most wonderful opportunity I had ever come across and I thought I had hit the jackpot.
What more could a young woman looking for a better life ask for? His idea was exactly what I was hoping for, almost as if sent from a higher power and authority, and I instantly felt the luckiest person in the world.
So, without much hesitation and knowing that, at the time, I had no genuine life responsibilities other than myself, I accepted his offer and decided to move to another state to begin what I thought would be a wonderful new chapter in my life.
I guess I should’ve done more research and asked more questions, but the excitement of this wonderful luck got the best of me and I went with the flow. Perhaps I should have looked deeper into the job proposed or searched the company he mentioned; but I didn’t.
Back then, I didn’t think of questions to ask or saw a need to investigate, I was too thrilled with this possible future and opportunity. A new job in a beautiful state, an apartment, a brand-new car, and an extremely attractive, physically fit, successful, and well-educated Israeli guy who seemed to have fallen head over heels for me.
It all sounded like a fairy tale, and I set out to live and enjoy it the best I could. After all, that’s what the twenties are for, right? To explore the world, to learn new things and meet new people.
Life seemed full of opportunities and I believed not taking chances will keep me from finding happiness and achieving true personal growth. So, I said yes and readied my life for its new transition.
Relocation plans went into full effect and started the process to return the tiny studio apartment where I had been living for over a year. Since I didn’t own much, I sold whatever I could to get some extra cash and scheduled the rest to be picked up and donated to various charitable organizations. Within a week, I was ready to embark on my new adventure, my new life, and I was ecstatic about it.
When the departure day arrived, he was as ready to go as I was, and his excitement further fueled mine.
I took a cab to his house and we were later driven to the airport by one of his friends, someone I had never met or heard about, but he seemed nice and polite. On the way to the airport, I shared my deep dislike for flying and was later captivated by his urgency to take care of every detail.
From the boarding passes to the luggage, to carrying my coat, he took care of all aspects of our trip and shared that he wanted everything to be perfect to ensure I would have a good overall experience in this new life adventure.
I was so lucky, I thought…
He handled the check in, including our passports, which we used as forms of identification to travel even though it was a domestic flight. After that day, I never saw my passport again, never got it back from him, never paid attention to it, and never thought about until it was too late.
Not getting my passport back should have been the first red flag that sparked doubt in my brain, the first warning sign that something sinister was waiting for me, but it didn’t. The ecstasy of it all trumped my judgement.
We arrived at our destination airport, and once again he took care of everything: bags, coats, and car rental. I was quite tired, and assumed it was anxiety related exhaustion from the flight. I really dislike flying. Apparently, I had fallen asleep soon after our first-class meals and beverage arrived and didn’t wake up until the plane landed.
This should have been my second red flag, as I have never been able to sleep on a plane, regardless of flight distance. But, once again, the stupor of a new life and endless possibilities got the best of me.
At the rental care office, I had a moment of clarity and thought it had been a long flight but, had I really slept the whole time? I couldn’t remember anything, and I felt a bit groggy and attributed it to the white wine I thought I had only taken a few sips from.
Rental car was ready, and wheels had just started rolling when I dozed off again. I was drowsy, and my body felt heavy. By the time I opened my eyes again, we were driving up a street about to enter a building’s underground parking garage.
I noticed that it was a small four-story brick building that looked like new construction and he mentioned the apartment was on the top floor.
Although there was an elevator, he suggested we took the stairs to “wake up from the drowsiness of the flight.” I thought it was odd but complied without discussion. After all, he was carrying all the bags and all I had to haul up the four flights of stairs was our coats.
Upon our arrival to the apartment, I noticed the view from a large glass window pointed towards the same road he had driven from. It was in a nice neighborhood, and I could see people walking around, some pushing strollers with children, others walking around with their dogs.
The overall ‘feeling’ of the apartment and surrounding area was quiet, calming, almost peaceful. It put me at ease.
He dropped the bags by the entrance and showed me around. Everything seemed brand new.
The bed, the vanity in the bathroom with the beautiful oval mirror and adorned frame, the modern living room furniture, the big TV. It wasn’t a large place, but it looked as if everything had been carefully selected to perfectly fit into that space. It was cozy.
He indicated the refrigerator was stocked up with food and drink needs, opened the door to show me, and then told me he’ll see me the next day, left the apartment key inside a small wooden bowl on a table by the entrance, gave me a kiss on the cheek, and left, locking the door behind him with a key.
I said thank you and waved goodbye even after he had already closed the door.
I remember standing there, looking out the window, watching him exit the underground garage in the rental car. I stayed there for a while, took several deep breaths, and thought I was the most fortunate girl in the world.
I quickly unpacked the few items I owned, found a place for each of them and neatly stored everything away, took a shower, and turned the TV on while I combed and dried my long dark brown hair, which I knew he loved.
I must have dozed off because I woke up early, in the same spot, with the hairbrush next to my head and my hair in a big wide frizz. It was still dark outside. I rushed to get ready and tame my hair.
By the time he knocked on the door it was 7 AM, I was dressed and ready to go to work.
He complimented my choice of clothing for my first day of work. We then drove to one of his electronics stores where his main office was located, and he showed me around.
He didn’t introduce me to other employees but tasked me with various items I was to tackle immediately. His interaction with me was very business like and I assumed others didn’t know we were an “item.”
For the next four weeks, my life consisted of getting up early, getting ready, driving to work in my brand-new car, and working as the manager for one of his electronics stores. I bounced from store to store on a weekly basis fixing all sorts of problems and loved every minute of it.
Just as I noticed back at home, everyone seemed to like and respect him. Everything was wonderful, I was happy, my life was pretty good, and I had no complaints and no negative thoughts about my new life situation.
During those first four weeks, we worked all day, sometimes side by side, others I was in charge and made good, common sensed choices to address situations. I learned the business ‘tricks’ quite fast.
He treated me well, taking me out to dinner several times a week to try a variety of cuisine options. In every restaurant they knew him, and he had a special table everywhere he went.
I was living the dream and loving every minute of it.
But well into the fifth week, the fairy tale crashed into a dark brick wall and my life was never the same.
On a Monday morning, after a wonderful weekend evening of wining, dining, and great sex, I was surprised to feel so sick, and couldn’t get out of bed to go to work.
My body felt heavy, almost as if I weighed twice as much. I couldn’t lift my legs or even turn to the side. My head felt as if a large helium balloon was constantly being inflated and deflated inside, and I had a throbbing pain in the front and back of my neck.
I finally gathered enough energy and strength to lift my arm and bring it to my head, hoping I could wake myself up quickly, worried I’d be late for work. But my arm never made it to my head.
That’s when I noticed I was strapped to the bed.
I couldn’t move, and I was very confused. I lifted my head to look at what was holding me down: I had thick leather straps around my wrists and ankles.
They looked like large belts with big metal buckles. The leather straps were attached to heavy chains through thick metal D-rings, and the chains attached to the four different corners of the bed to additional metal D-rings.
It was quite the restraining setup.
I lifted my head and noticed the blinds were all closed, and everything was dark. I panicked and with the little energy and strength I had, I started screaming as loud as my lungs would allow.
I yanked the restraints, hoping to break free from them, but all I did was create welts on my wrists and ankles, and nobody seemed to hear me screaming. It didn’t look like the straps were going anywhere, they were firmly secured to my body and to the bed.
I started crying. I was horrified, scared, and didn’t understand what was happening or how I ended up tied to a bed.
I tried to gather my thoughts but couldn’t remember much from the previous night and wondered if maybe I drank too much alcohol and somehow voluntarily agreed to be placed in this situation for sexual gratification.
My mind was hazy, and I didn’t feel normal.
I felt cold. Then I noticed I wasn’t wearing clothes under the thin sheet that had been covering me; I was completely naked and restrained to a bed.
I kept trying to figure out how to break free, wiggling my body, arms, and legs, and that’s when I saw him.
He was sitting quietly on a chair about fifteen feet away from the bed near a window with the blinds closed. The chair was next to a wall, and the darkness of the room made it difficult for me to see him before.
His head was resting on his hand, he was about to start smoking what looked like a cigar and was simply staring at me with those big blue eyes that made me fall head over heels weeks prior.
He was impassive, apathetic to the sight of me restrained to a bed, naked and afraid.
I was frozen with fear and started to cry inconsolably, repeatedly asking him what he was doing and why he had tied me up. There was no response from him, not a sound, not a word. I then started cursing at him demanding to be released. But he just sat there looking at me.
He didn’t say a word, he didn’t utter a single sound. I continued to scream and curse and demand the restraints be removed, but soon realized none of this was going to happen.
He eventually got up from the chair and walked towards me. He was carrying a syringe in his hand, and I panicked, started shouting and tried to defend myself, but I couldn’t move.
I thought my life was going to end. I thought he was going to kill me. It would have been better if he had. The alternative turned out to be worse than a nightmare.
I will never know how much time passed after he sedated me. I don’t know if it was hours or days, but I woke up in a different place, this time shackled to a wall.
The same tethers that had been restraining me to the bed were now secured to a wall from four separate points, all connected to four metal plates affixed to the wall and floor. My body felt like a semi had gone over it.
It is a feeling I will never be able to fully describe in words.
My wrists were secured to a wall, and my ankles were secured to rings bolted onto plates on the floor. I was completely nude, and a soft cloth that turned out to be a bandana was rolled up and used to cover my mouth, tightly wrapped around my head, cutting through the edges of my mouth.
Other than a mattress on the floor not far from where I was bound, a bucket that would later serve as my bathroom, a small old refrigerator on the opposite corner of the wall where I was now chained to, there was nothing in that apartment.
There was no furniture, no windows, no kitchen, nothing. The place was dark, cold, and humid and I thought it was probably chosen because it looked like a dungeon.
I noticed he was on the phone talking to someone, not speaking English or Spanish. I didn’t understand what he was saying.
I tried to scream, but I was tightly gagged and moving my mouth hurt. I tried to change position to get a better look at what he was doing, but the way I was tied made it impossible to move in any way.
I couldn’t get up; I couldn’t even kneel. He made sure I couldn’t go anywhere or say anything, but I continued to try to scream and repeatedly tried removing the gag by rubbing my face against my shoulder, unsuccessfully.
He started walking towards me, and that’s the first time he hit me. He lifted his arm, and with the force of his muscular arm struck me across the face. My nose and mouth started bleeding, I felt the taste of blood in my mouth, and then I heard his voice for the first time since my captivity began…
“You need to shut the fuck up and understand that you have a different job now.”
I stopped making sounds. I stopped making noises. I stopped trying to scream and I didn’t move anymore. I thought he would kill me.
After that day, my life was never the same, and I cursed at my stupidity for having fallen for what I should have known was too good to be true. I should have seen the red flags, I should have asked questions, I should have second guessed everything.
But I didn’t, and now I was chained to wall.
For the next eight months or so, my life consisted of serving as his sexual servant, always restrained to the wall and the floor from my hands or feet.
From having daily and sometimes brutal sexual relations with him, often to the point of unconsciousness, to being forced to have intercourse with him and other women or watch him have intercourse with other women to avoid getting beaten, my fairytale grew into a nightmare I could not escape from and one that would forever change the fundamental course of my life and shifted my core persona.
Every day when he left, I used what little strength I had to try to break free, but all I did was hurt myself more.
I had deep welts on my wrists and ankles, and they bled with each pull, with each attempt to free myself. I cried a lot. It was all I could do.
In the mornings, I was fed by an older woman who would come in once a day to give me a watery soup and change my bathroom bucket.
She never spoke to me. Never said a word. Never looked into my eyes, and never reacted to my screams, cries, and attempts at gag-cursing.
At least her watery soup had flavor. I later learned this woman was his mother, an elderly woman who was probably too afraid of him to say or do anything that would piss him off.
He turned out to be a volatile, violent, and scary man.
A few weeks into my imprisonment, I gave up and started to wish I would die.
I didn’t cry anymore, I didn’t scream anymore, I didn’t even curse anymore. I abandoned all hope and settled into what I believe was going to be the rest of my short life as a sex slave to a man I decided to trust, stupidly and blindly.
But despite my silence and compliant behavior for weeks, the gag and shackles remained, they never came off, he never once took them off since that dreadful day I woke up chained to the bed.
The rough forced sex with him and all the different women he would bring became my daily routine. The beatings were not as frequent but were also part of the captivity.
He would often come to what I later referred to as the dungeon apartment, completely intoxicated and at odd hours of the night into the early morning to sexually assault me and then beat me for no reason at all. Then he would leave.
After months of this agonizing enslavement passed, my pleads for help were answered when Mother Earth shook.
A violent movement woke me up at the crack of dawn one cold morning. I didn’t understand what was happening but was glad that my life was about to end, finally.
I closed my eyes hoping it would be fast and somewhat painless, but then realized it was an earthquake.
The apartment trembled ferociously.
The small refrigerator in the corner fell sideways letting the few items inside it roll and crash all over the floor. I couldn’t do anything other than sit there, restrained to a wall and the floor, waiting for the building to collapse above me.
I closed my eyes and cried, dejectedly.
But the shaking stopped, and the building didn’t collapse above me. Within minutes I started hearing the faint sound of first responders’ sirens outside and then, for the first time in months, I heard someone else’s voice:
“Hello? Is there someone in there?”
It was a man’s voice with a heavy accent. It was coming from the entrance of the apartment, which was on the other side of the wall where I was manacled. I could not see who it was.
Fearing for my life, I stayed quiet, terrified, hoping my silence will keep yet another man from coming to rape and beat me.
“Hello? The door fell during the earthquake. Is there anyone here? Hello?”
I didn’t say a word, I was paralyzed with fear. I heard footsteps approaching towards me, and cringed waiting for what I believe would be another blow, more sodomization, or sudden death.
But the brutal attacks never came.
When the footsteps moved closer to me, I finally saw the silhouette of a short man as he turned the corner of my enslavement wall.
I will never forget the shock in his eyes when he saw me.
For a few seconds, he froze, almost as if petrified, visibly disturbed at what he had just discovered.
He was visibly horrified at the sight of me naked, bruised, full of welts and cuts, emaciated, chained to a wall and the floor from the wrists and ankles, in an apartment that reeked of urine and excrement.
He looked straight into my eyes and told me everything was going to be OK. I looked at him and started to cry inconsolably. He took his jacket off and placed it over my naked body, covering me before he started to undo the gag.
The bandana was so tight around my face and into my mouth that it had basically grown into my face. He was very gentle and with slow movements and little bit of water the bandana finally came off, making my face bleed.
It was the first time I spoke in months, my mouth was dry, and it was difficult, but I desperately pleaded for him to get me out of there before ‘he’ came back.
He asked me who had done this to me, and I begged for him to get us both out of there before my captor came back.
I told him I was afraid he would kill us. He removed the buckle leather straps from my hands and feet and slowly helped me up. I couldn’t walk on my own. I was too weak.
This was not an era where everyone had mobile phones handy and he wanted to call the police. There was no landline in the apartment, and I soon learned this was the only apartment occupied in what turned out to be a condemned building.
He rented the space on the first floor where him and his wife had a convenience store. This was below the apartments and decided to come up to make sure nobody was buried under rubble from the earthquake. He knew the building was often used by junkies looking to get high and was afraid someone was trapped under the rubble.
We went down two flights of stairs, out the front door, and into his convenience store where his wife was sitting behind the counter. The expression on her face when she noticed her husband walking in with a naked woman was paralyzing.
They were Chinese immigrants. He spoke to her in their native language, and she quickly ran to lock the front door and place the ‘closed’ sign and lowered the old broken blind that covered the door.
They took me to the back of the store and placed me on a cot inside a tiny little room that they used to stay overnight when crime was high around the neighborhood. It wasn’t a safe neighborhood, and their store was often broken into, I later learned.
She brought me some tea and a large white robe and helped me get dressed. She motioned for me to drink the tea while it was warm. She said, “it’s green tea, it’s good for you.” I started to cry, and she held my hand, looked into my eyes, and said, “You going to be okay. You safe now. You safe now.”
They called the police who took about an hour to arrive. One male and one female officer knocked on the front door of the convenience store, walked in, and were surprised to see his wife run back to lock the door again.
He asked the male officer to stay at the storefront and then brought the female officer to the back so she could speak to me.
When the female officer saw me, she brought her hand to her mouth in shock at the sight of my body.
Her first words were, “Are you okay? Do you speak English? Do you know who did this to you?”
I did. But I was too afraid to reply. I just wanted to go home and forget this horrible nightmare ever happened.
I never said a word to her, and she eventually called for an ambulance through her radio. The male officer went to clear the building, coming back to report he had found where I was being kept, but there was nobody there.
Because of the earthquake, the ambulance, just like the police, took a while to arrive. The first EMT who walked into the store was a female, I am sure the officer had stated this through her radio.
She looked straight into my eyes and said, “You are safe now. Nobody is going to hurt you. I am here to help you. Can I please examine you?”
I tried to get up, but quickly collapsed on the floor in front of her, sobbing like a small child when they break their favorite toy.
She turned around and asked the officer if they “had the person who did this.” The officer replied by simply stating I had not yet said a word.
I wasn’t planning to, I just wanted to go home. I had never been more scared in my life.
After being checked by the EMTs, I was placed in a gurney and hauled into the back of the ambulance. Everything was hurting.
I don’t remember the ride to the hospital, I don’t remember the streets or the siren. All I remember was arriving to the emergency room and personnel treating me as if I was a victim of the earthquake. I was quiet most of the time, refusing to answer questions about my captivity.
I was terrified that my tormentor would suddenly arrive in the emergency room and I would be taken back into slavery. He seemed to know everyone.
It was not until the doctor walked in that I realized I was safe.
He had a calming presence and his words of encouragement helped me realize there might be hope for me. He understood exactly what he was dealing with and took the time to ask me the right questions and wait for my very brief answers. I cried the entire time.
There was a nurse in the room with us, and her tears were visible through my description of the events. She was shocked at the story and what I had lived through.
After long questions and short explanations, I was treated for a myriad of current problems and many possible future ones, then kept overnight for observation.
I didn’t sleep at all. I kept looking at the curtain, waiting for him to show up and drag me out again. But he never came and the next morning arrived.
At around 11 AM the Chinese couple who found and rescued and took me in walked into the hospital room. She had a small yellow duffel bag in her hand, he had an envelope. They were very elderly and moved slow. Both their bodies hunched over, ever so slightly.
With the little energy I gained overnight, I jumped out of the hospital bed and rushed to hug both. I must have said thank you more than 100 times by the time they asked me to listen to them.
“We don’t have much. We put this together for you to go home,” she said at the same time she handed me the bag and the envelope. I didn’t understand until I opened them.
Inside the small duffel bag, I found brand new clothing, my size. The envelope had a one-way ticket back to my home state of Florida.
I asked how I could ever repay them, and they simply said, “make sure you write your story so that others can learn from it.”
So, I did.
It took an awfully long time to build the courage to write this story. After all, it fundamentally changed the way I saw life, love, and happiness. I hope that by reading these words you learned that while life may not always go the way we want it, there are always good people out there to help us reclaim our path to sanity.
This is story is dedicated to MF and LTF. May your gentle souls rest in peace. You are the reason I have always wanted to help others.