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  • Many people have referred to me as a fighter during the course of this case. I am not. I used to be before I fell in love with Jon Veitch. I used to fight all the time. My mom even told me that when I was born, I came out with a look on my face like “what the hell?” … Seemed I was born to fight, fighting this and fighting that. With Jon, I learned another way.

    Jon was also called a fighter in his time. Living with terminal cancer with a smile on his face for 26 years longer than he should have, it was hard to describe him as anything else. However, if one got closer to him, one would see that his angle was a bit more than one, two, three TKO…you see, Jon was nearly an Olympic wrestler before they found a terminally malignant tumor in his left lobe at the age of 22. Instead of spending his youth punching people out, he had been learning moves to permanently pin his enemy down.

    His story is something to marvel. He started to wrestle at the age of fourteen during his first year of high school. His whole family wanted to swim. His father, Chuck, even last summer remarked, “You should have seen Jon swim; man, that boy was a shark.” However, Jon didn’t like things that came easy to him, so he rebelled, which was rare, and joined the wrestling team rather than the swim team that his brother and sister excelled at. Jon did not do that on the mat the first year. In fact, to borrow his words, he ‘sucked a big duck.’ He sucked such a big duck that it became a topic of conversation with his mother and some of her friends one day…’Oh I wish, Jon would just give up this wrestling nonsense and start to swim.” Jon heard these words and the fighter came out in him. He raced in the kitchen where his mother was with her hens and screamed, “I am not quitting wrestling! You hear me? Next year I am going to be the champ. Watch and see!” His mother was taken aback…he was the family baby, the people pleaser, but something about this wrestling nonsense sparked the rebel in Jon’s soul.

    With his claim, Jon set out to become the champ. He watched what he ate, which must have been hard, as Jon loved his snacks and it often showed. He ran, which for his, by nature, bear chubby body frame must have been uncomfortable. He learned, which for a kid that was always the golden one, the revered one, was something nothing short of humbling. The next season these choices proved worthy for Jon who lived up to his promise to become not only the champ of his high school, he nearly became champ of the state.

    Late at night, Jon would show me his moves. He would swing his arms fluidly, not with a boxer’s haste.

    “You got to take them down,” he would swing this way and that, “but the key is,” he would swing his arms the other way, “to let them defeat themselves, so you don’t have to waste the energy.”

    There were times when I would tire of his talk. Here was a man who was talking about moves he had made more than twenty years back, but there was something about the passion in which he said it that I could feel these moves were still serving him well.

    Jon had left the mat a few years before he was diagnosed. His tumor became his new opponent; an opponent that he could never keep completely away. He would try to eat right. He would try to run. He would go to church and listen and pray with all his might. None of these things kept what he grew to affectionately call the ‘clam’ at bay, but Jon kept on living and not only living but happily at that. So happy, in fact, that people including me couldn’t help but ask,

    “How do you do it?”

    Often Jon would hold out his hands and start to swing them from here and there methodically in the air…he would wink and say, “Immigration, divorce…terminal brain cancer…what are you going to do but sit back and enjoy the ride?”

    The clam took Jon’s cars. The clam took Jon’s houses. The clam took Jon’s wives. The clam took his children except every other weekend. The clam took Jon’s money, all of it. The clam took Jon’s ability to read. The clam took Jon’s ability to do math. The clam took Jon’s ability to write. And the whole time, Jon smiled and enjoyed the ride. Even when the clam took Jon’s last breath, Jon’s face revealed a look of “Thank God I am done with that;” Despite a 26 year battle that could have made him die with a look of despair or hate, his life so unfair, and yet, everyone that saw his corpse commented on the relieved look on his face. His soul had remained at the time of his death, unlike his body, undiseased.

    Six months after Jon left his body, I left the States. I went to Bolivia to teach. To teach overseas had been my dream. I hadn’t always loved my job, but with the years spent with Jon, I realized that as an English teacher, I was in charge of the human condition and from Jon’s condition, I had learned much and knew that I finally had something to say other than fight, fight, fight. For the first time in my career, I grew a passion to teach and discuss year after year just what Shakespeare means when he says, “All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts.”

    And then, I was raped.

    Let me repeat what I have said before because, for some, it remains unheard, RAPE IS NOT ABOUT SEX. Rape is a fight, a fight the rapist has with power. That a victim is even there remains secondary, the battle lies within the rapist him/herself. I could feel it in every blow that came to my face, and there were several in that hour and half. The rapist saying with every blow of their fist…”I am bigger than you!” ‘You don’t think I am shit, I’ll show you.” I laid there pinned to the ground wondering why these three rapists felt the need to keep punching this point in my face and worse. I did not know these men. I did not speak the same tongue as them and here they were, forcing me to understand their power.
    Somehow I was not killed in their quest for power; somehow I lived. I wish I could tell you that this simple fact brought me a sense of enlightenment; however, for the first few months all I wanted to do was kick their ass.

    “All I want to do is put a loaded gun to the back of his head. I won’t click; I just want to feel his fear,” I told my ill equipped counselor one day.

    Her unraped eyes looked at me bewildered. She muttered, “You seem aggressive.”

    I screamed, “I am aggressive!!! Has anyone ever hit you in the face for an hour and half?”

    Her unraped eyes blinked back scared, and no is the way she shook her head.

    She was no help to me. I left her office wanting to kick her ass too.

    So, there I was…Rambo in a five foot two, blonde American woman suit and boy, was I ready to blow someone away. I had grown up this way, enraged. I had out grown it and yet, here my inner Rambo who I hadn’t seen since Jon entered my life, looking at me in the face, and saying in its best Sylvester Stallone, “Yo, Gurley, let me know when you want to do that thing you do so well.” He meant fight.

    However, there was an image that would flash in my mind right after Stallone would speak. That image was of Jose Enrique Montenegro’s eyes on that night. I was being shoved from this place to that and I came within inches of his face and without warning; we were suddenly eye-to-eye. My reflection was in those eyes that many have commented on as empty of any sort of human compassion; In that moment, I could see my own hate reflected back at me. Him and I were the same. It frightened me. It was in this moment that I could see where fighting starts, which is hate, and where fighting leads, which is hate as well. I have learned in my education that anything that starts where it ends is referred to as circular reasoning and this type of reasoning holds no value; it never carries weight; Fighting never wins. Fighting just continues to chase its tail.

    So instead of continuing to scream about the injustice of what went on that night, I decided to do the opposite. I chose retreat. For several months, I remained real quiet. I stopped going out as much and began spending more and more time on a mat like Jon once did. This mat was not for wrestling; I am not exactly WWF Smack Down material. This time the mat was for yoga.

    Yoga, for those who have not done it, is comprised a set of postures that, unless someone is truly sick in the mind, suck. They hurt real badly at first. Yet, the beauty of yoga is right when the practitioner thinks Rambo is going to appear and scream, “I don’t want to keep doing this stupid stuff,” the teacher in the most mellow of ways will say, “Okay, now it’s time to rest.” The rest is the cookie in yoga that keeps me coming back for more.

    In those moment’s of rest on the mat, Rambo voice began to grow faint and I was able to hear Jon speak.

    “You gotta know when to rest,” he said.

    I would.

    “You gotta know when to work,” he whispered.

    I would get up and do an up dog and then a down dog.

    “You gotta not hate,” he continued.

    I lay there and cried. I felt like I had been raped more than once. I felt raped by the doctor who refused to give me the exam. I felt raped by the police who refused to give me the paperwork I needed to get an exam in another town. I felt raped by the counselor who told me that I ‘vibed’ these things. I felt raped by some of my less conscious students. I felt raped by my workplace. I felt raped by Samaipata’s Civic Comite. I felt raped by Herberto Alba, a Samaipata store owner. I felt raped by Raul Costas. I felt raped by a culture where rape is epidemic but the victims are still to blame. I felt raped by rumors I heard every step of the way…’I heard that were this,’ ‘I heard you were that’ ‘I heard you were old meat.’ ‘I head a lot of things.’

    “Can’t you hear what is going on?” I asked Jon as I lay on the mat. The world pinning me down.

    He laughed and took his finger and pointed it in that silly way he always did towards the left hand side of his head where the clam lived.

    “I do and what you got is a clam.”

    Unlike Jon’s clam, my clam wasn’t going to take me down physically but if not handled correctly, I saw how easily it could me inside. When I realized this, I felt similar to Jon did on the day when his mom said she thought he should give up his fight. I felt like I may be on my knees now but just people wait and see.

    It was with this attitude that I carried on the last year of the case. I watched what I ate. I worked out more. I learned and what I learned was my story was much bigger than me; it was the story of seven out of ten women in Bolivia; it was also a crime in that country that convicted only 3% of those accused. I was in for quite a battle and a quick one, two, three just wasn’t going to do the trick. With a strategy like that, there would be no TKO. I needed not to fight; I needed to wrestle.

    And wrestle, I did. I got the evidence. I got the best lawyers in the country, not only in their brains but also in their hearts. I got support from more people than I ever even expected to know. I got press coverage. I told my tale honestly. I got media to spread the tale. I got more people to talk of rape. I got a conviction of twenty-five years. I got justice. This justice was not won by Rambo; it was won by a series of carefully calculated moves.

    Despite this win, my rape remains my clam. It does not go away. Even from where I am now, it finds me.

    A person comes into my classroom to say, “A mother came in to day to say their son googled you.”

    It is said with suspect as if I raped myself.

    A person says to me off hand, “I heard someone talking about you the other day.”

    I turn to the person and say, “And?”

    “The person said you were raped.”

    “I was.”

    Unraped eyes blink back at me.

    I want to say, “It isn’t contagious. Please don’t go away.”

    But the person walks away.

    Another person informs me, I told a few people about what happened to you and they said it was okay.”

    What does it mean…this okay? Rape is okay? I was raped and it is okay? Despite my rape, it is okay to hang out with them? Nothing about that statement is okay. What the fuck is okay with what happened to me?

    And now, I have been asked to return to Bolivia for another battle in court, the appeal. I get the notice three days before I am to be there at 7:30pm on a Friday night. I have no money for a flight. I have no credit card. I am new to my job. The rumors are thick. I keep to myself. It is best right now. Let them grapple with their issues of rape without my help for a while. They do not know me and I have to ask for a week off three weeks into school in the midst of some nasty ninth graders who plan mutiny on any teacher that makes them work? These are the issues I have had to face for the past two days and these issues have forced me once ore to the mat.

    I sat there last night, alone, and crying. Jon came to me and whispered,

    “Remember what separates the wrestler from the fighter?”

    At a loss, I asked, “What?”

    His answer was, “A wrestler knows when to rest.”

    I followed his lead and fell asleep on my mat and this morning I reached a rather large decision. I will not be returning to Bolivia to be present at my appeal. It is not because I am done with this fight. I am not. I never will be. My rape and the numerous others that I have heard about will be with me forever as well as the prejudice that it brings. It is my clam.

    However, in this situation, I have to put my full trust in my lawyers and the people who support this case and the numerous others to make sure these three rapists do not get free. I trust they will. I know they will.

    I often watch a video of Jon entitled “The Wrestler.” In this, he rambles as people with seven brain surgeries often do, but, at some point, he gets real clear and looks directly in the camera and says, “I am not a fighter; I am a wrestler; I am the real thing.” Jon turned me into him with the love he gave me.

    Where I once was a fighter, I have grown flexible. Flexibility teaches that there is a time to move and a time to not. It is time for me to hand this one to my lawyers. I have told my story. It was aired on TV. There is not much more to say about me, but there is an endless amount to say about this situation. If I am to wrestle with this issue for the long haul and truly help other victims of this fate, I need to pull not the move of a fighter but rather the move of a wrestler. I need rest. I hope you understand. I am not going anywhere but if we are to win, it is going to take more than a one, two, three. So, despite what you may have heard, I am no fighter, I am a wrestler, the real thing and I am watching and taking notes from here and calculating the next move. This war will not be won with a one two three, it will be won with the art of the wrestler, which is to win not with force or burning a candle at two ends, but with heart and calculation. I have learned this is the better way.
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