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Updated: Jul 1, 2020

(This post is deeply personal and uses some extremely explicit language - not suitable for young readers - to describe my horrific rape that took place on May 4, 1987. Reader discretion is advised.)


Dear D.,

(Tonia Collins, circa 1986/7, University of Miami, Florida campus - BEFORE I was raped.)


Do you remember me?

I'm not sure why you entered into my life yesterday, but you did, albeit via social media. And in a way, I'm glad. Something in me - dead, rotten, corpse like - became alive.

I sent you a private message with my picture of how I looked 33 years ago with a simple question, "do you remember me?"

First thing this morning, you answered, "How are you doing?" I replied to you, "So you do remember me. Do you remember what you and your roommates did to me?" You replied with a "?" Then I began to explain a horror that I have tried to let stay dormant in my mind for decades.

You read my message "reminding" you of what I think you quickly remembered before blocking me from your social media accounts, but not before I was able to screenshot every detail I needed to find you. Since you wouldn't communicate with me - I am forced to use the platforms given to me to remind you what you did to me and to finally and publicly break my silence from 33 years, 1 month and 26 days ago.

You see D., long ago in the midst of my innocence, I thought the world was fun. I was 18. A Freshmen at the University of Miami, Florida. But quickly realized it wasn't, thanks to you. I have taken the hard road; never really complaining, but wondering why me? Why you would do this to me?

I wrote this in 1993 and never released or published it. But when I saw your face yesterday on Facebook - smiling with your children and friends - I knew I had it in me to tell the world what you did to me, D. You and your three roommates - all football players - on the 1986-1987 Hurricanes' roster at the University of Miami, Florida.

* * *

I was walking home one late evening – must have been about 9 or 10pm – from the library. It was across the University of Miami’s campus from my dorm room and I remember calling my friend Derek to come walk me home, but he didn’t answer. So I began walking alone.

You came up to me during the walk, near your apartment complex where all football players lived. "Hey Toni, where are you going?" You were a friend, so I stopped and began small talk with you.

But the talk turned ugly quickly when you grabbed me by the back of my neck and squeezed really hard. "Come with me, Toni, I have something to show you."

"I can't. I have to get back to my room. Another time, okay?" I felt as though I was becoming wrapped up in my insecurities for no apparent reason and tried to reason with you.

"No, Toni, just come on. It will only take a minute." I didn’t move. "Toni, what are you afraid of? Come on, now, I said it would only take a minute."

"Please, let me go."

"I can't, Toni, it's too late. If you don't come with me, it may just get worse."

"D. please, please don't, please!" I began to shake, and tears ran down my face. I wanted to scream but nothing would come out. I was going to be killed or die trying to save my life.

We got to a door unfamiliar to me. If I died, they wouldn't know where to look for me. I thought of my mother, and how she would cry. And I cried, and cried, and cried, and cried.

And cried, and cried, and cried, and cried...

You stopped me at the door. "Toni, stop crying. It won't change anything. Come on." And you pushed me through the door.

I stumbled in the apartment and saw three other football players sitting on a couch, laughing and drinking. You brought me to your room. You took my bag and placed it on the chair, then sat next to me on the bed. I settled down and stopped crying. You explained to me that you wanted to move out of this apartment, away from these three football players, but you couldn’t move until you could prove something was wrong and you couldn’t live with them anymore. I perked up and relaxed thinking and trusting you were simply soliciting some help to concoct some story that would allow you to have your own space.

Do you remember this conversation, D.?

"The only way for me to get my own room is if I say they all had sex with you, and I couldn’t live with them anymore. Will you do that for me?”

The crying returned. Only harder and louder than before. I couldn’t breathe. “Take off your clothes and I will be back." You stopped and looked at me for a moment. I thought you were going to change your mind.

"Tonia, take off your clothes. Do you hear me, God dammit!" You turned and slammed the door behind you.

I sat on the bed and continued to cry. I looked for a window and there was none. I looked for a phone to call Derek, Maurice, someone; no phone. If I screamed, would anybody hear me? Or would they kill me to keep me silent? This was not my fairy tale. I was about to die, and no one, no one could save me.

You walked back into the room, this friend I trusted. "Toni, shit, come here!" You took off my clothes and I just sat there, crying and begging you to let me go.

How about this, D.…do you remember me begging you to let me go?

"You're just going to make it worse,” you yelled. “None of those guys out there are going to let you leave here. I had to do this. Now come on, Toni. Shit! Grow up! After, we'll let you go home."

I begged and cried, and begged and cried, and cried, and cried; and then I died.

You laid me flat on the floor and pried my legs open. I fought, but with one blow to the side of my head and I know I had lost the battle.

You held my legs tight, but I could still feel them trembling. You tried to kiss me, and I turned away from you. I told you it was going to hurt and begged that you wouldn't hurt me, but with one final plea came the first thrust. The one that completely killed me.

Anything?

Another thrust, and I closed my eyes. I felt blood flowing from where no man had ever been. You pushed further and further, harder and harder, and it hurt more and more. I didn't cry, and I didn't beg anymore I simply curled up inside and died.

You went deeper and deeper, possibly to kill my soul. I just laid there and prayed you would do whatever it was men did to make it stop. You grabbed my breast and hurt me once again. All along, feeling the blood running out of me, the throbbing from the one blow I got to the head, and a burning on my back from the cheap rug on the floor.

You clasped my jaw tight and forced me to open my mouth, all along moving harder and harder and then you pulled out and for an instant, I thought I was free, but you took what was once inside of me and put it in my mouth with all of its contents. Then you put your hand over my mouth and made me swallow – and I couldn’t breathe.

Do you remember suffocating me with your hand over my mouth?

You got up and I just laid there, blood between my legs and semen in my mouth. You left the room and another came in. He was going to kill me like you tried to, but my friend, the one that I trusted, told him it was alright, and he conquered.

#2 stayed as long as you did. He, too, kept trying to kiss me and would smack me if I refused. It didn't matter that I wasn't there anymore. It hurt, but I didn't cry, and couldn't wait to die.

#2 finished. My back burnt; my insides stung. I couldn't move my legs, and my arms laid across my chest, but had been moved again and again by you and #2. Then came #3. I took what little I had left and asked him to stop. I told him I was in pain, and he only responded by answering that he would make me feel better. Then he forced his way in me; again.

#3, and I became numb. I no longer felt the pain in my back or inside my body. I no longer felt the pressure of 250+ men on top of me. It's like I wasn't there. #3 pulled out and spread semen all over me. He took his hands and rubbed it into my hair and face and then began smacking me. He then stood above me and spit on me. Spit on me like I had humiliated him. And then came #4.

I don't quite remember much about #4, except I knew his name, J., and he was bigger, much bigger than you and the other two. He picked me up and placed me on top of him, and like a rag doll, bounced me up and down seeking his pleasure. I don't remember how long it took for him to complete his need. I was already dead.

J. lifted me off of him and body slammed me back onto the floor. He walked out the door and I laid there in a pool of blood waiting for God to just take my soul; but He didn't come. He never came, and He never helped me. What kind of God would let me live through this?

I laid still for a while, listening to the sounds of laughter outside of the door. I thought for an instant that it was all over and I could get up, but you came back. You came back and went inside me. You pushed inside faster and faster, and once again, pulled out quick enough to put your penis in my mouth.

Do you remember killing me twice, D.?

You pulled it out of my mouth, and I didn't move assuming the cycle was only starting again. You pulled me off of the floor and put my shirt and jeans on, stuffing my underwear in my purse. You wiped my mouth that had been smeared with blood and asked me if I had a good time.

Did you remember thinking I had a good time, D.?

I didn't look at you. I stood there, blood still flowing down my leg, just wanting to die. The four of you all walked me to the door; D., J. and #3 & 4 and asked me if I was alright. They took my heart, mind and soul and all I could do was nod my head yes so, I could get the hell out of there into the next hell I was about to live through.

You pushed me outside, and I don't know how, but I started running, yet I never felt a foot touch the ground. I saw a car; a security guard. I ran up to him and stood in his face. A face I didn't know and didn't care about, and to this day, would never see again. But it was a face that saved my body.

I remember him.

I laid in the hospital bed staring at the white walls while doctors and nurses dug in me, took my blood pressure, and asked me questions I wasn't prepared to answer. They wanted to know my blood type, if I had been drinking, if I was pregnant, and who did this to me. I couldn't respond, and just laid there, hopelessly wanting the pain to stop.

I remember the pain never stopping.

Two University of Miami police officers came in to take my statement. The nurse asked if I was raped, and I nodded my head yes, and she called Miami's finest to help me. They walked in and talked to me, not as a victim, but as a nuisance to them.

"Those crazy Miami Hurricanes!" I heard one of them say.

"Yeah, they're always up to something." the other agreed.

Two of Miami's finest here to help me, were standing beside me belittling my experience only to commend the humor of the Hurricanes. Fucking Bastards!

I remember all of them, too.

The police officers, after their idle discussion, looked at me and told me that if I wanted to press charges, I would be making a big mistake, and nothing would probably happen to the guys, so to go home and concentrate on getting well. I just had four disgusting men raping and ripping my insides out of me, and all I must concentrate on was getting well.

I don’t remember getting well.

I left the hospital; it was about three o'clock in the morning. The police officers gave me a ride back to my dorm and gave me a business card to call if I wanted to do anything.

I walked into my room, and thanked God my roommate wasn't there. I wanted to run upstairs to the 4th floor and tell Derek what happened, but instead I went into the bathroom and turned on the shower. I went in with all of my clothes on and sat on the floor of the shower for what felt like the rest of my life. It is there I left my dreams, my fantasies, my moon, and my stars, never to be retrieved, never to be resurfaced. I was dead, and all that I ever had was being washed down the drain of the bathroom in room #2228 in Pearson Hall, University of Miami, Miami, Florida.

I remember it all.

* * *

Do you remember any of this D.?

Do you remember the fear and pain and sadness and blood and tears and screams and moans of agony while you and your three roommates raped me – one after the next?

Do you remember anything?

I do.

You see, because of your darkness, I was able to see the light.

Because of your evil and hate for me, I’ve been able to experience real joy and love.

Because of what you tried to take away from me, I was able to give birth to a new me.

But you and your roommates will have to answer for raping me – on this side or the other - but you will answer.

God tells us we need to forgive, and I have, but I haven’t been able to forget.

I forgive you because God tells me I have to, and in my heart – through prayer, I have.

But I will never forget what you and your three roommates did to me the night of May 4, 1987 when you viciously raped and almost killed me.

Do you remember me now?

D.?

Do you?

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Dear Jamie - my love, my grapefruit


I can't believe it's been three years. It feels so much longer. Why does that happen? Perhaps it's the longing of things "getting back to normal" that allows time and pain to stand still.


I remember that day in Waltham you walking across the street on your way to the carnival: leather jacket and light blue jeans. You smiled your sweet smile as to let me know it's okay now and you're okay now.


I see you in the silliest of things. You had that innocent, child-like humor that would send you into a gut-wrenching gargle of laughter for the littlest of things. That's how I like to remember you. That's where you live in my heart.


Loving you and losing you feels unreal to me. But I knew when I saw the pain in my husband's eyes and those around him, my life had changed.


When the words were uttered of your passing, my life changed.


I woke up the next morning, and knew my life was changed forever.


I remember God speaking to me, and smiling remembering the day my life changed - that summer of 2010. That's when I first met you and your sisters and brother: Jodie, Joslyn and Javier - my husband's four beautiful children. You quickly became mine, and I remembered smiling!


My life changed again when you moved to Boston during the summer of 2011, and I remembered smiling. I remembered - as hectic as life was back then - that there were many more smiles and knew again, my life was changed forever. Changed because this brilliant, beautiful girl came into my life, and for that, I am truly thankful.


My nickname for you was grapefruit. It was our word. We made it up because when I asked how you were doing, like a typical teenager, you would simply reply fine. But I knew you weren't. I just didn't know what was wrong. So we made up a deal that if you was really fine and life was amazing, you would answer grapefruit. We would smile at each other. We both changed.


We shared this word with each other - whether you were having a bad day or if it was me.


My life changed because I met you and you made me laugh and you turned my "fine" days into grapefruits.


My life changed because I can hold in my heart every moment I ever shared with you and know I felt like grapefruit.


It's funny, walking in the grocery store and looking over at the pile of grapefruits. It always makes me laugh.


I miss my grapefruit.


I hear this song from Train "Drops of Jupiter" and this always makes me think of you:


But tell me

Did the wind sweep you off your feet?

Did you finally get the chance to dance along the light of day

And head back to the Milky Way?

And tell me, did Venus blow your mind?

Was it everything you wanted to find?

And did you miss me while you were

Looking for yourself out there?


I get angry that you're gone and there's a piece of my husband that went with you. Not that he's not whole, but there's a part of him that's not there anymore. I imagine he's with you - you twirling the hair on his head with your fingers and laughing that uncontrollable laugh. I wonder what you think of his shaved head now.


I get angry that people don't acknowledge you - as though you were just a season in life, and like the leaves in Autumn, dried up and blew away. That your life didn't matter much. That it wasn't a tragic illness or accident or crime that took you away from us. See that is tangible - with a when, what, where and how. Your way has no answers. They left with you.


I got very angry today while cleaning the dust off your shelf, putting beautiful flower arrangements near you.



You are not forgotten. When I walk by your shelf, I whisper "hi grapefruit" and smile. For my life will forever be changed with the love and memories of you - my dear daughter Jamie.


And when anyone ever asks how I am, I will think of you and pray that one day, I will respond - grapefruit.

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Left: Gabriel Fernandez, murdered at 8. Right: Jeremiah Oliver, murdered at 5.


I recently viewed the powerful documentary series on Netflix “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez” about a boy’s brutal murder and the failures of all involved who could have prevented this 8-year-old’s death. It’s a moving, but disturbing account of what’s wrong with the system, but not what the series would lead you to believe – social workers dropping the ball; not seeing the clues; and poor or no communication. The problem is there are too many dysfunctional mothers and fathers who are not qualified to be parents, parenting the most innocent facet of our society: children. And then killing them.


A child’s innocence should be the most important thing we as parents and family members should protect. It should be our responsibility to ensure that what is needed is provided and that their ideas and fantasies of pink ponies and super heroes are maintained as long as possible. But we do not value this as a part of our responsibility. Instead, we turn the other cheek hoping that someone else will pick up the reigns and do their job.


There’s no argument that Gabriel Fernandez’s death could have been prevented. Every person who had access to this child could have saved him from being bludgeoned to a pulp. A 270-pound man beat a 57-pound child to death and his mother and siblings watched.


I won’t ruin the series –which is recommended for all to watch – but the last deadly blow wasn’t the heartbreaking moment of Gabriel’s life. It was the years of tearing away at a young boy who wanted to be loved, but instead was beaten, burnt, tortured, and poisoned.


He didn’t have to die but everyone watched as he did.


But I digress.


Closer to home – the outlook is as grave.


I remember many years ago working in news, the story of 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver, who went missing in 2013 and was later found wrapped in a suitcase on the side of a Massachusetts highway in the Spring of 2014 - murdered.


The natives were restless and demanded answers as to how this boy could fall through the preverbal cracks of a hack agency. Olga Roche, then DCF Commissioner, tried to calm the masses by claiming there were no more “Jeremiah’s” in the system and that all children under the supervision of DCF were accounted for.


Oops!


Fast forward and Roche was out of a job. However, the failures and tragedies within the department that were laid at Roche’s feet were not her doing. The “doings” were and continue to be that of incompetent and abusive parents and guardians of children who exercise the right to procreate but have no clue as to how to raise and care for their children.


Jeremiah’s mother, 28-year-old Elsa Oliver, was charged with two counts of reckless endangerment of a child and two counts of accessory after the fact for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Alberto Sierra, Oliver’s boyfriend, was charged with two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon — a knife — and two counts of assault and battery on a child causing bodily injury.


Elsa Oliver has two older children who remain in the custody of the DCF system. But by the grace of God and despite Oliver’s psychopathic and abusive behavior, managed to survive the utter senselessness of this broken woman. In this and each tragic case of this kind, the blame fell squarely on the shoulders of whichever commissioner was at the helm at the time, regardless of who actually committed the crime.


Exit stage right and Olga Roche departed with the blood of three children on her record: 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver and two babies who died under suspicious circumstances in their homes – after her claim of all children being safe and accounted for. In one case, Grafton police faxed a 51A (report of suspected child abuse) to DCF but did not follow up with a phone call. Someone at DCF had to have read the fax, and did nothing.


It is now 2020, and a recent Boston Globe report details the death rates of children in the DCF system declining under its new commissioner, Linda Spears. In the report, Spears applauds the death rates down from previous years, but would not provide the details of the 34 fatalities that have occurred – fatalities that include a 4-week old Haverhill boy; a three-month old Methuen boy; and a 15-month old Lawrence girl.


DCF’s response? “A death of a child is a tragedy and DCF thoroughly investigates each and every case to better understand any risk factors that may have led to a child’s death.”


So – is it cheaper to investigate a death than it is to provide protection for a life? What if that thoroughness occurred BEFORE the danger of the child was eminent? What if we don’t applaud that death rates are down to just 34 last year, but demand better accountability and resources so that these social workers CAN do their job?


The problem is not the system, resources, bureaucracy or otherwise. The real problem is egregiously malicious and negligent people have the right to have children.


Harsh, but true.


Solution:


Forced sterilization. If people incapable of NOT harming their children can’t HAVE children, then people like Linda Spears can retire knowing that every child under her care WAS accounted for, because there would have been no abused or neglected children to account for.

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