Monday, April 2, 2012

Be Aware: Assaulted on the Bloomington Rail Trail

BY: MIRANDA ADDONIZIO


April is National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. For me, every month is about being aware of sexual assault. I survived an assault in December of 2008, which happened while I was out running on the Bloomington Rail Trail. Since then I have been, well, hyper-aware of it. But today, as we dig into a new month, with the days lengthening, warming up, and offering more in hours in which to run, I want to tell you my story, because I believe that reading it will help others be more aware.

I was running north alone on the trail on a dreary winter afternoon. Not long after crossing Country Club Drive, I saw three runners headed south and said hi to them. Shortly after that, I heard footsteps behind me and assumed it was another runner. I didn’t look back. That’s when I was grabbed, practically tackled, from behind, and blindfolded with my fleece headband. I won’t go into details, but the next 20 minutes were the worst of my life.

As I stumbled back toward Country Club, I met the same three runners I had seen earlier, heading back north. They instantly saw that something was wrong and when I told them what had happened, they stayed with me until the police arrived. We realized that they had seen a guy running behind me in street clothes, thinking it a little odd but not taking much notice. One of them was able to give a detailed description, including the fact that he had bruises all over his face.

Although I wasn’t (physically) hurt, after working with police at the scene of the assault, and then recording an interview at the police station, I went to the hospital in the hope that DNA evidence could be collected. The detective on the case accompanied me out of kindness, to do the talking and so I wouldn’t have to go in through the front door. As we waited to check in at the nurses’ station, the detective calmly asked me to move a little way down the hall. I complied, and a moment later I was taken into a private room by the nurse.

The detective returned a little while later and informed me she had seen a guy with bruises all over his face sitting not 10 feet away in the hospital hallway by the nurses’ station, which was why she told me to move away. She interviewed him and his story “had an odor to it.” And so, in one of the most unbelievable coincidences I’ve ever witnessed, the guy who assaulted me was found and arrested on the very same day as the attack.

What followed was about a year of waiting. The trial was rescheduled several times, each time not until a couple of days before it was due to start. In fact, it was originally scheduled for the day after my honeymoon ended, and I didn’t find out it had been rescheduled until we got back. Perhaps not so coincidentally, I had the best year of running I’ve ever had, with two BQ marathons (including my lifetime PR of 3:36) and a 1:37 half. That was a tough year, but I think without running I would have needed mental help. And then there was my family and my running friends who helped carry me through, especially friends from the Indiana Running Company training group (now called BARA!), Women With Will, and running friends from across the country that I’d met online.

Finally, that fall, the trial went on and I faced my attacker in court. Other than my own testimony, I couldn’t be in the courtroom for the majority of it, so I spent most of my time at the Bakehouse, drinking far too much coffee. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the Bakehouse!

The trial included some drama, but in the end, my attacker, Robert E. Murphy, was found guilty of a whole slew of felonies on the strength of DNA evidence (and my testimony about recognizing his voice). Weeks later he was sentenced to 60 years in prison. And so I sleep easy. I hope the women (yes, plural) that he has assaulted in the past sleep easier now too. I only wish that more sex offenders got as much time, or any, for that matter.

A lot has changed in the three years since the attack. Now I run almost all of my solo miles with my dog Rudy. Otherwise I run with people. If I run alone, I carry pepper spray. I’ve taken a self-defense course. If I’m alone, I run tall and stay aware of my surroundings. As I did on that day, I carry my phone with me, and if I’m alone, I stay where there’s help nearby. I live with the knowledge that something like this could happen again, or something completely different might happen. But I also know that the same is true of anything I do—driving a car, sitting in my house. So I choose to be aware, but to not live in fear.

I believe that awareness is the key. Being aware of the possibility of sexual assault can directly affect the likelihood of becoming a victim. Be aware of the possibility. Be aware of your surroundings, of sounds and other details. Be aware of that little voice in you that might be warning against doing something, like having too much to drink, running alone in an isolated spot, or trying to walk home alone in the small hours of the morning. Be aware of the people around you, and which of those people are your friends. And when April ends, stay aware!

In the end, it’s not the victims who prevent sexual assault. That power lies with those who commit the crime. Our best weapon against them is awareness.

My name is Miranda Addonizio, I’m 30 years old, and I run because my attacker can’t stop me.

MIRANDA ADDONIZIO is an events editor at Solution Tree, an educational publisher/PD company. She grew up in southern Indiana and has been running since the fourth grade, when she joined the track team. After running cross country and track at Illinois’ Knox College (DIII), where she met husband Mark, she moved to Bloomington to get her master’s degree in journalism and turned to marathon training. Mark followed a year later. She worked at the goal of qualifying for and running Boston for the next few years and finally succeeded, running the 2010 race and qualifying for 2011 before being injured. These days she is concentrating more on being low-key with her running, participating in events like the Red Eye and Bourbon Chase relays. Her favorite running partner is her dog, the shepherd mix Rudy. Besides running, Miranda loves to read, watch movies, garden, and work on her house.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing your story with the public. I'm sure that was difficult for you. You are so brave.

Andrea said...

I agree with the anonymous commenter above - I appreciate you sharing your story, and you are by far one of the bravest people I know!

I did not live in Bloomington at the time of your attack, but I was back in Indiana for Christmas at the time and remember reading the newspaper coverage of it. It made me think back to all of the times I had run alone without pepper spray in isolated areas or during the early morning or late night when it was completely dark outside and I couldn't really see anything around me. I feel that I've become a much more "aware" runner since then. I didn't know you personally at the time, but your story definitely had an impact on me, and I am sure it had an impact on other runners as well.

I loved the part where you said, "I choose to be aware, but to not live in fear." For someone to go through what you did and to have that attitude is really inspirational. Thank you again for sharing your story!!

Ken said...

Thanks for your terrific advice and for having the courage to tell your story. I will pass this on to my running daughter in New Orleans.

*NotablyNeurotic said...

Echoing what others have already said, it was very brave of you to come forward and share this. Thank you for using your story as a warning to other women out running Bloomington. It's very difficult to share something so personally traumatic. You can never be too safe and you can never take too many chances with your own life. I'm so glad that you are okay and that your attacker got what he deserved.

Anonymous said...

This is such a powerful recollection of sights, sounds, and all the senses. It's so important to be present, vigilant and engage all your senses when you're walking, running, jogging or just out alone in any situation. As a single female who tries to get out and about as much as possible, I always take a moment's pause and put myself on high alert when I'm out. If you bristle or get an uneasy feeling at any time, this is a reminder to take everything in around you and follow your instincts. Thank you for your courage in sharing your story, we should all heed your advice and benefit from your wisdom and bravery.

Karl Eagleman said...

Miranda, thank you so much for sharing this story! I am certain it took a lot of courage and I greatly admire your strength to overcome such a horrible event. Thank you.

Christy said...

Miranda, you continue to amaze me with your strength and determination. Your experience HAS made me a more aware runner and I have been sure to pass that along to other women in the area. Thank you so much for having the courage to testify against him and to help make this community safer by putting him behind bars. Much love and all of my support,

Rachel Noirot, MS, RD said...

I agree with Andrea, Karl and Christy. Thank you for your open-ness. If any good can come from this it's to help pple like me realize you can't assume anywhere is safe to run alone.

Valerie W. said...

Miranda, you are so strong and brave and amazing. Thanks for sharing your story!

Jfrankena said...

I'm glad to know that justice was served. Thank you for sharing your experience, and best wishes for many happy years ahead with your four-legged friend and all other good running-kind.

RebeccaP said...

Miranda, I can only echo everyone else's thanks for your courage and strength in sharing this today, and for your reminder to stay aware on every run, all year long.

Another element of this story that stands out to me is the strength of our running community. We are so lucky to live in a smallish town like Bloomington, where fellow runners recognize each other, and unfamiliar faces easily stand out. This helped catch Murphy and bring him to justice, and it can help prevent other runners from becoming victims, too.

More than once I've received an email or seen a Facebook post from a fellow runner warning friends of a creepy person or vehicle hanging around a popular running area. By noticing our surroundings and listening to our instincts, we can keep ourselves safe - and by giving a heads-up once out of danger, we can keep our friends safe, too.

Valerie said...

Miranda, thank you for sharing your story and providing us with words of wisdom. I, too, remember reading your story in the paper and thinking 'how horrible' but also how very brave that individual was to stand up in court and not be browbeaten by that lowlife and his lawyer. You have made me think twice about running alone - at least not without my phone or spray! I am inspired by your tenacity and positive spirit. thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing. I walked after work one day by myself . And my husband, sis in law and half a dozen others yelled at me . For doing that alone . Believe me I kept looking back about every 5 mins or so. I will never walk alone ever again . Again thanks for sharing . Makes u think

Anonymous said...

Bravo.

Anonymous said...

Your courage is striking. I also was gratified to hear of how the police detective helped you (and picked up immediately on the suspect!)

HeatherLake said...

Miranda I am so touched by your bravery and honesty sharing your experience and by the strength it took to bring that man to justice. I try to be careful myself when out alone and i always bring my phone and pepper spray on dark runs. You have such a positive presence and that is strength too.

Unknown said...

Miranda,

Thank you for your bravery in prosecuting this guy and for sharing the story. It will definitely change the way I, and many others, I'm sure, will run on the trail. Your refusal of his victimization is inspiring.

Bravo is right.

dustin said...

Your strength and courage is truly an inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing your story.
-dustin

Anonymous said...

I'm inspired by your courage to continue to run and not let fear or haunting memories win. This also happened a few months ago on campus where the student was abducted at gun point and raped - and HE never thought it could happen to him. Thanks for making everyone more aware of the potential risks involved in being alone and letting them know to take precautions. While this is a great community, there are sick individuals out there. Knowing this is the first step in being aware. Congrats to you on your bravery!

Amber Page Writes said...

Thank you for sharing, Miranda. You are an incredibly brave, strong woman, and I'm sure this story will help many.

Ceci said...

Thanks for having the strength and courage to put this story out there. I'm a female runner and the mother of two young daughters. By bravely standing up in court to help convict your attacker, you've made the world a safer place, and for that I thank you. Keep on running!

miles2go said...

Miranda,
It is really great to hear you are doing so well after your harrowing experience. I lived in B-town for 4 years, and occasionally ran with Angi Stone-McDonald whom I met through WWW. She told me about your story and a bit about the trial, as she attended. As a runner and mother of 2, "awareness" is always on my mind. But, thanks to your story, it is imperative when I run. I have since moved from B-town, but continue to keep tabs on the happenings of the area through my friends who still live there. One of them posted this on Facebook, so I will re-post it on my wall to spread your words of incredible strength and courage. It is refreshing to know that you weren't scared away from running, but empowered to keep going while spreading the message about self-awareness. Kudos to you from women runners everywhere, and thank you for your bravery.

Anonymous said...

Miranda,

I've been teaching self defense at IUB for many years. I tell students to listen to their instincts and that we have these feelings for a reason. I also tell them that awareness is the key. But I also tell them that if they are ever attacked, and I certainly hope this never happens to them, but if they are, I hope they have the amazing amount of courage it takes to press charges so that the attacker can't hurt others. Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my soul for having the courage to press charges and face your attacker. Thank you. You inspire me and I think you are an amazingly powerful woman.

Jacki Watson

Lance said...

Miranda - I have a 34 year old daughter, and I still remind her to stay aware of her surroundings at all times. I am so happy you have not let this incident keep you from doing the things you love to do. You have shown a huge amount of courage to refuse to let this define your life. Thanks so much for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your story of survival and strength to tell it publicly.

When you mention listening to the "inner voice", there is a lot of truth to that. I recommend every woman read a book titled The Gift of Fear. The author addresses that issue, and how that voice is a legitimate one. That inner voice is the result of a lot of clues your subconscious is picking up on.

That includes the decision to survive, and the choice a person has to make at the TIME of an assault.

Ali Mc said...

Thank you for sharing your story - I once tried to share my story on my blog and haters went on hating about it - I have yet to be more explicit. I was sexually assaulted by 3 boys when I was 17 that broke into my home. I had to wait a year as well for a trail to happen. It really changes you as a person, in both good ways and bad. I can't imagine running and having someone jump me like that.

I have such anger towards men and when I hear these stories now I just want to attack them back.

....thanks for sharing :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your story. You are an inspiration to all of us.

Anonymous said...

Miranda,as a Bloomington woman who has also been assaulted while out running alone, I empathize with the horror of enduring an assault and dealing with the aftermath. Running is good medicine. Thank you so much for your bravery in sharing your experience and raising the running community's awareness. You are amazing!!

tamu said...

Thanks for sharing. i admire your strength and hope it can help others. I was attacked by a neighbor when I was 7, walking home from school. Unfortunately, that was 30 years ago and therapy was not encouraged back then. I do hope you are able to receive help and support if you so choose. I'm now working through the trauma but it has been healing.
Thanks again...

Lupe Gallardo said...

Thank you for the courage to share your story. Without a doubt, you will touch the lives of many women and help create awareness around this topic. I have shared your courageous testimony with the members of my running club.

mom27g said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story!!

Portable Garages Bloomington, IN said...

You have great blog with good looking template and content.

SEO Services Bloomington said...

Hi, I really appreciate you for make this great blog with quality text, pictures and template. Keep it up.