Monday, April 27, 2020

Autism Answer: Were We Supposed To? A Story of Rye's Rape

April is both Autism Awareness Month & Sexual Assault Awareness Month - As you know my mom,  Dr. Lynette Louise (aka "The Brain Broad") is an expert in both, and she even has a birthday on World Autism Awareness Day (April 2), but what you probably do not know is that my youngest brother, Rye, is also an expert (albeit, a different kind) in both, and he too has a birthday in April.

Today, April 27th, is Rye's birthday. Happy birthday, little brother!! He will be coming over in the afternoon to use my wifi and to pig out on pie with whipped cream. I'm looking forward to it!

In the meantime, here is an important true story that incorporates both sexual assault awareness and autism awareness. It is not an easy story to read and was far more challenging to live through. But, we did. Because I believe, we are supposed to.

Were We Supposed To?

A Story of Rye's Rape

The camera was on me, the officer was waiting for my reply, I was holding back tears wanting oh so bad to be strong for my brother. This was his hurt, his horrible horrible hurt, the crime committed to him, his body and safety, but in that moment I just couldn’t hold back the pain of my own guilt.

“He wanted to stay at our house, he asked if he could sleep on the couch,” the tears are escaping now, but only such a small percentage, I am able to hold back the neverending flood that pulses behind my eyes and throbs in my head. “I told him to go home, he has his own apartment, I made up something about not wanting to start a habit of him sleeping here at our mom’s house, but the truth is I just didn’t feel like hanging out with him anymore. And then,” I look at the officer, he too wearing a touch of hurt and guilt, and say it: “And then he went home and got raped.”

# # #

It was late but I was still awake. The phone rang and I saw on the caller ID that it was coming from the gas station in town. Rye. 

I considered ignoring it, but that might give him reason to have a temper tantrum in the store which might lead to him not being allowed back there for a while, which would lead to me having to help him more often.

So, I answered.

“Uh, hi,” he stammered, “I was raped. I escaped out the window, he might still be at my apartment.”

Blood left me so fast I nearly passed out. Had I heard him right? “Wait, what Rye? What?”

“Some guy came in my apartment and raped me. He made me go in the shower after so I snuck out the back window and came here to call you, I’m only wearing shorts. I can’t stay.”

“Oh, my god! Rye, really? Oh my god. Okay, are you okay? Did you call the police?” I was trembling now. 

“No. Should I? Am I supposed to?” Rye asked, unsure. He sounded out of breath and scared. 

Am I supposed to? 

“Actually, Rye, let me call my husband and have him pick you up. I’ll call the police. We’ll go from there. Just wait at the gas station. Hold on, the guy that raped you might still be at your house?”

“I don’t know,” Rye admitted, “I just snuck out the back but I think I heard him go out the front door.”

“Okay, you wait there if they’ll let you. Milton will be there soon and I’m going to call the police now. I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

We hung up and I called my hubby. We were happily married but living in separate homes. 

“Ya.” He answered.

“Rye was raped in his apartment and is waiting for you at the gas station. Can you go get him? I’ll call the police.” 

I heard my hubby jolt. “Uh, okay. I’ll call you when I’m with him.”

I called the police. A woman answered.

“What’s your emergency?”

“Yes, hi. My brother lives in Teague and someone just broke into his apartment and raped him.”

“What?” she asked.

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. Someone just raped him and he escaped out his back window. My husband is picking him up from the gas station and will be with him. Can someone go there and, I don’t know, take a report?”

“Yes, we’ll send an officer. What is his address?”

Do I give Rye’s apartment address? Do I send Rye and my hubby back to his place to meet the officer, back where the trauma literally just occurred? But where they may have a better shot of catching the rapist? 

Am I supposed to? 

I give her my brother’s address and call my hubby. 

“How is Rye?”

“He’s here with me. The front door is open, I think the person ran off and left the door open.”

“Can you please stay there with him until the officer arrives? Thank you, and can I talk to Rye?”

So I talked with my brother while he waited to tell the story to the police. I apologized for sending him home, he said it was okay, I apologized that I didn’t have enough gas or gas money to come see him, he said it was okay. He told me what happened and I cried.

A man had knocked on his door, late but not impossibly late. It was only a little after ten PM. Rye opened the door a crack, sort of recognized the guy from here and there, and told him he didn’t have time right now. The guy said something about wanting to see or buy CDs or movies or something, Rye talked for a bit, opened the door wider, and the man pushed his way in, said he had a gun, made Rye lie on his stomach on the bed. Rye couldn’t see a gun but there was something in the man’s pocket,  he couldn’t see the man now, but heard him get a condom. The man raped Rye, my baby brother, who was oh so scared and it hurt, and then told him to shut up and get in the shower. Rye got in the shower and soon, too scared to stay in his apartment, left the shower running and snuck out the back window. 

Then, he phoned his sister. A sister who had told him to go home because she didn’t feel like hanging out with him.

Was I supposed to let him stay that night?

Rye is not diagnosable as autistic anymore, my mom and he have done so much work on his social skills, behaviors, and brain change that he is not considered on the autism spectrum anymore. But he still is a strange, quirky guy. He still struggles with a lower than average IQ, and issues from before my mom adopted him (Fetal Alcohol Syndrom, for example.) He is a guy easily (and often) taken advantage of, largely because he does not want to be cruel and judgmental in the ways so many have been to him. So he is welcoming to strangers at ten o’clock at night.

The police officer took Rye’s statement, and then called me.

“We will take him to Waco for an examination, do you want to come?”

“I want to,” I admitted, “but I don’t have enough gas money.” 

I hoped the officer would offer to pick me up, at which point I would ask my hubby to stay with our sleeping children, but he did not.

“Okay, I’ll have Rye call you when it is all done and I have him back here in Teague.”

I thanked him, I told Rye I love him, I hung up and called mom.

# # #

The police officer nodded in understanding. I looked at him, sitting slightly behind and to the right, my right, of the camera.

“I saw that guy, just some guy, knock on Rye’s door. I was patrolling the block. But I didn’t recognize him. I don’t know who he is.” The officer looked young and a little shaken, but he was mostly professional. I don’t know if he was trying to justify himself to me or give me a story of understanding, so I would not be entirely alone in my guilt. Or maybe he was just talking, thinking out loud, remembering that night.

So many little things that could have changed the story. Why hadn’t I let Rye stay? Why hadn’t we been better at teaching him it’s okay to say no, it isn’t judgmental to say no? Why hadn’t the police officer taken more notice of a man at Rye’s door late at night if he was on patrol?

Was he supposed to?

# # #

I spent the night after Rye’s rape sleeping on Rye’s couch. Rye and I agreed that he wanted to get comfortable in his apartment and so we worked on a plan. I stayed there, visited more often, and remained particularly available to him. He agreed to keep his door locked and just pretend he isn’t home if someone knocks, he listened when I explained why that’s not mean or judgmental, and he has since then done his best to always have a phone so he can call me or our mom in an emergency. He can call the police. 

He still lives in that apartment and he likes his life.

Today is his birthday. 

He is 35. 

Rye comes to visit me most days and we enjoy each other’s company. I help him often with things online, and he helps me sometimes by lending me his car. We are a good team.

And when I visit him he is generally ready for me to leave after about twenty minutes. When he visits me, it’s about the same. 

He goes to his home and I go to mine.

We are a team, but the trauma of his rape did not leave him – or me – dependent or desperate. We have learned ways to stay safer and grown smarter, but we have not given in or given up.

Were we supposed to?
# # #

Me and Rye at my house

Friday, April 24, 2020

Autism Answer: Gatherings and Inclusion In The Wake of COVID-19 (Dallas Pride Festival Date Change)

This article originally appeared at

Gatherings have long played an important role for people in society. 

Yet, for some, they are more urgent and necessary than others. 

For many people in the LGBTQ community, a Pride Festival or parade, a drag show, or other similar events are the first or only place they feel accepted and included. 
Declyn being crowned Miss. Homegirl 2017 as Pa'Jama

I live in a small town not too far from Dallas, TX. My youngest son and I planned on attending the Dallas Pride Festival (perhaps volunteering as well) this year, for our first time. 

However, as with most events in the wake of COVID-19, for the health of our world the date has been rescheduled. Now, I personally approve of and appreciate this. However, I also wonder if the new date (July 25, 2020) will remain safe. And even so, what sorts of changes will be made to how we celebrate as a group.

And I confess, I do hope we make some long-lasting changes. 

It has long seemed unfortunate to me that we are aware of our contamination of each other yet we do little to make changes. We’re made to feel weak if we do not go to work sick, and we’re unlikely to get paid. We apologize when we ask to not shake hands, we make fun of folks who are overly cautious “germaphobes.” School days are counted and parents are threatened with visits from authorities if too many are missed, making staying home when sick or when we are aware of sickness in the school a dangerous option. We spread disease and viruses comfortably, even proudly. 

I believe it is healthy to get sick. And so there is no part of me that hopes we change so much after this pandemic we are frightened to touch, to reach out, to gather together. 

But, we can’t unsee what we’ve seen. And we can’t unlearn what we’ve learned. 

Well we can. But we shouldn’t unlearn it. 

If you will humor me, please step a little further into the idea of how we contaminate each other. 

It is often considered weak to listen and care about the difficulties and systemic challenges in the lives of people other than us. We are encouraged to be empathetic to a point, but when that empathy threatens to change us, change our minds, we are too often seen as weak and na├»ve. Easily swayed. Not strong in our convictions. 

This is dangerous. And we infect and contaminate and make each other sick with this attitude. 

Admittedly, there is a balance to be had. There is truth in not wanting to be easily talked out of your values or beliefs. But we must be willing to change them as well. It is necessary for a healthy society to continually adjust and find balance. Balance is something we continuously do, though sometimes it is clearer than other times when our balance is off. However, it is always something we are doing and should pay attention to. 

For many of us, gatherings and events, such as Pride Festivals, are nearly necessary for our mental health and happiness. But so is learning from experience (such as COVID) to make adjustments for the sake of our holistic health. 

My son and I are looking forward to the Pride Festival in Dallas! And I expect it will not be like previous festivals, but will offer what previous festivals were there to celebrate: diversity, inclusion, and the LGBTQ culture. And that, my thoughtful reader, is our reason is for attending. 

Dallas Pride Festival in the Park – Saturday July 25, 2020 FAIR PARK

I encourage you to look up any new dates or plans for your local Pride Festivals and Events.