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CRIME MY RAPIST

Sexual assault is every woman’s nightmare. To overcome the horror, I had to confront the man who did it.
By ELIZABETH ECKSTEIN |

IT WAS DUSK, A WARM EVENING IN JUNE 1992, AND I WAS waiting in a line of 40 women-some smoking, some reading paperbacks, some with tattoos-and children (diapered and barefoot, or mop-headed and clinging) that snaked out from a side door of the Denton County Jail, down the sidewalk and out into the parking lot. Two young women behind me were arguing. “I don’t know why I let you talk me into bringing you here,” one said.

“I needed to come.”

“It doesn’t make sense, you wanting to see him.”

“I have to.”

“Why did I bring you?”

“Because you’re my friend.”

“I thought you were just going to leave money for him. If I had known you were going to go in there…”

“What? You wouldn’t have brought me? He’s going to be extradited in five days anyway.”

“I have half a mind to leave you here.”

“Look, if you want to go, go. I’ll find a way home.”

“Oh, you will? With one of these people standing here?”

I turned around.

She had long brown hair and a gorgeous fashion-model face- except for a horribly blackened left eye and a broken bottom lip stitched together in an angry tangle of black suturing thread and red-orange antiseptic.

“I’ll take you home,” I said. The other girl-blond and older- looked at me, looked at the girl, and left.

We didn’t speak again, but together we stood there, inching forward when someone inside finished a visit and came out.

I didn’t tell the young woman, but I’d had to come, too. However, while she-and the rest of the women standing in line, it seemed-was waiting to see a man she loved, I was waiting to see a man I hated.

I was there to see David Elliott Gribble, ’’the Poolside Rapist,” the man who had raped me two years before, Me and a couple of dozen other women, in a sick sex-and-robbery spree that spanned two and a half years and touched every city and suburb between and including Dallas and Fort Worth. One of the most prolific rapists in the area’s history.

He was in the county jail awaiting the third of his three trials. I was there to find out from him why. Why me? Why him? Why rape? I had to know. And he was the only one who could tell me.

An hour later, I was finally nearing the wall of metal and glass where a sheriff’s deputy would steer me into a big room of phone booths divided by panes of heavy plastic. My heart pounded behind my breastbone. My stomach had that empty, nauseated feeling. My throat felt a little closed off. I had to sigh several times, just to keep breathing.

I knew the feeling: fear.

I had written Gribble a letter, requesting permission to come and : ask him some questions. He’d written back (as I requested, to General Delivery) and given his OK, saying that except for Saturdays, “you may come at your convenience as I find that my schedule seems to be open for quite some time.” The letter was signed, “Respectfully, David.” That felt creepy.

And now, it was time.

I had asked the sheriff’s deputy, who was checking drivers licenses for violations (thank you very much), which booth I should go to. “Anyone of ’em,” he said. Oh, great, I would have to signal-how? with a wave?-the man who’d stuck a gun in my face, tied me up and raped me.

I scanned the visitation room to the left, and here came Gribble. Tall man. Royal blue jumpsuit, white T-shirt underneath. I raised my chin. He knew me, I could tell; no confusion on his face. He was in front of an empty booth. I sat down on the stool and reached for the phone.

It was the second-worst 20 minutes of my life.

He feigned tears. He tried to scare me with those piercing blue-gray eyes, but I held his gaze. He asked me questions, but wouldn’t answer mine. I recognized that he still was trying to be the one in control.

“I don’t know if I can trust you,” he said. And 1 heard myself say, “I don’t want to take advantage of you. I won’t hurt you.” I felt the sickening irony as I said it. but there was no time to dwell on it. He finally agreed to look at 50-odd questions I would send him in the mail and to allow me to visit again in three days.

And then a guard motioned that time was up. Before Gribble hung up his phone, he looked at me with such sadness that I couldn’t help but ask, “Are you OK?” He said, “Yes,” and then asked me, “Are you OK?” I said, “Yes,” and hurried from the room.

The girl with the beautiful but battered face was leaving, too, but her mother had come to take her home.

1 went back three nights later, but Gribble was gone, transferred without notice to Huntsville for three weeks of diagnostic and penitentiary placement tests. The same women were there, and they crowded around me.

’ “They can’t transfer your husband without telling you,” one woman said.

“He’s not my husband.”

“They have to tell the fiancée, too,” another said.

“He’s not my fiancé.”

“If you need to send him money, 1*11 tell you how to do it,” still another volunteered.

I broke free and ran to my car. To be mistaken for Gribble’s wife made me ill.

It would be a long time before I saw him again.



THIS HORRIBLE CHAPTER IN MY LIFE BEGAN ON NOV. 25, 1990, during one of those strangely humid stretches of Texas fall that I now call “Gribble weather.” Single, 31, a night copy editor at the Dallas Times Herald, I was on the couch reading the Sunday paper-Una the cat was out on the screened-in porch-when we both heard a noise coming from the bedroom-what sounded like mini-blinds flapping. We looked at each other: What the hell is that? Then it stopped, and just seconds later came a loud knock at the front door. I jumped. Una ran.

I went to the door and looked through the peephole. I saw a man-white, with coifed hair, wearing a plaid shirt and tan wind-breaker-type jacket. I opened the door.

He said he’d just chased a man away from my bedroom window, a Hispanic man in blue jeans and a yellow T-shirt. He’d been pulling into a parking space, seen a guy crouched at the window, hollered at him, chased him but lost him.

I let the coifed man in, locked the door behind him. and we went to the bedroom window, typically opened when I got home from work to give Una fresh air. Sure enough, the screen had a big horizontal cut in it; the noise had been the cutting tool hitting the blinds. He headed for the front door when I announced. “I’m calling the cops!”

Before he left, I asked him his name. Jim Wilson, he said, and told me he lived across the parking lot in the apartment where the green porch light is. I said, “Jim, my name is Elizabeth, and I want to thank you for what you did.” I offered my hand. He shook it and left.

I watched from the window as a squad of Grand Prairie cops searched under cars and behind bushes, but they didn’t find any Hispanic man in blue jeans and yellow T-shirt. Nor did the sergeant who came to my door to ask me about the Hispanic man go to the apartment with the green porch light to get a first-hand account from Jim Wilson. Before I went to bed, I sat there on the couch, thinking how horrible it would have been if this screen-cutting criminal had gotten into my house, surprised me with a knife to my throat and done what? It was too scary to think about. I was glad Jim Wilson had shown up when he had.

Three weeks later, on Dec. 17, another humid Sunday night, 1 was awakened at exactly 3:30 a.m. by a man calling my name- from outside that same bedroom window, which was now open. I sat bolt upright. Una was on the end of the bed, not three feet from the window, growling like a Doberman.

“Who is it?” I shouted.

“Property management,” came the reply.

“What are you doing?” I demanded.

“We’ve caught someone trying to get in your apartment. We need you to come to your front door so you can I.D. this guy.”

I’m not afraid, I’m a tough broad, I’m grown-up, I’m a journalist, I thought. And so I went, turning on all the lights as I did.

When I opened the door, it wasn’t the apartment complex manager and security guard like I had pictured in my head. It was my good Samaritan. Jim Wilson. He was very excited.

“They’ve got him right over here. Come take a look.”

I said, “But, Jim, you’re the only one who saw him that night. You I.D. him.”

Then Jim pulled a gun, a silverish short-barreled thing with a black hole for a muzzle, He was pointing it at me and he was coming in. I felt like a Saturday morning cartoon character, turned into a life-size lollipop with a ribbon tied around it: “sucker.”

He ordered me to strip off my nightgown and housecoat; he ordered me to lie face-down on the carpet with my arms outstretched. I lay there, conscious of the seconds ticking by, not being able to see him, anticipating the bullet, hoping a neighbor would hear the shot and look out the window, wondering who would find my body in my blood-spattered apartment, wondering if it would be loud and if it would hurt, making my peace with this life and with God waiting in the next.

Then he stood me up and with the gun in the small of my back, walked me into the bedroom. So he’s going to rape me, I thought. “How do you want it ’cause you’re going to get it,” he said. I was furious and told him so. He threatened to blow my head off, so I shut up. He laid me across the bed, belly-down, and tied my arms, by the wrists, to the legs of my triple dresser. He’s done this before, I suddenly realized. I also noticed that he did not smell, not of cologne or of booze or of previous sex.

And then he climbed up on the bed behind me and, with the gun against the back of my head, he raped me. It was over quickly. He left the bedroom, and I could hear loud noises as he- what?-looked around for valuables? Then I heard the front door squeak open and squeak closed, and footsteps just outside the window as he walked away. A car started up and drove off. 1 tried to get loose so I could identify the car, but it took me a few minutes to inchworm myself off the bed and roll onto the floor so I could get out of the ties (he’d used the sash from my robe and a pair of pearl-gray pantyhose).

I parted the mini-blinds and looked out the window. There was a window screen in the grass and an empty parking place next to my little car. Had he known he was parking next to me?

I called quietly for Una, who had taken advantage of Jim Wilson leaving the door open to escape for a little night frolicking.

Then I got an empty him canister from a drawer and gathered the semen running down the inside of my legs. 1 put back on my nightgown and robe. 1 got a Coca-Cola out of the fridge. And I cal led the police- but I had to go next door to my neighbor Andre’s to do it because “Jin” had yanked my phone out of the wall (one of the loud noises).

Three patrol officers were at my apartment for three hours, including one female whose first comment to me, when I reported that I had opened the door to the rapist, was a terse “Live and learn.” Gee, thanks, lady, as if I didn’t feel stupid enough already.

When I was confirming my driver’s license for them, I realized he’d taken from my purse my wallet, checkbook and date book-without disturbing its position or other contents. They dusted the whole place for fingerprints. They made a plaster cast of a footprint in the mud outside my bedroom window.

I tried to help create one of those composite drawings, but it came out looking like John Schneider of “The Dukes of Hazzard.” I laughed. The cops looked at me like 1 was insane or in shock (which I was).

Then I got the tour of Parkland Hospital’s emergency OB-GYN department: the rape examination with the physician who tossed my canister of semen into a trash can, saying only the evidence he gathered was legal. Well, that’s just fine, 1 thought. Blood for an HIV-exposure test was taken. I was an ornery patient (got into a loud argument with one of the nurses), and I turned down an offer someone made to call the Rape Crisis Center for me. Too soon, I thought. Too soon and still too much mine.



OF COURSE, THE NEXT DAY, I DID CALL THE RAPE CRISIS Center, but I got a terribly insensitive-sounding woman who talked as if I, not she, should know what kind of counseling I should have and how often. I hung up dissatisfied and feeling surly and hopeless. I had already checked in with the Grand Prairie Police Department, who, contrary to my wishes, had not immediately found and captured Jim Wilson.

During the next few days off from work, I decided I’d handle it all myself. The horrible dread of knowing the rapist was still out there, thai he might return, that he might be scaring the hell out of some other woman or women. The disbelief that it had happened. The anger at being forced to have sex against my will and choice by a man with a gun. The loss of self-trust and judgment. The terror of having been near death. And always, always feeling afraid.

I kept playing the rape over in my head and mentally retracing my steps in the days before Nov. 25, trying to figure out where I had crossed paths with this person. I racked my brain; Had I ever seen him before? Had he followed me home from that restaurant and laid in wait for me? Had he followed me on the highway and fixated on me? Had he seen me pause in the parking lot, like I did most every night, to look up at the constellation Orion? How did he know I lived alone? Had he looked into my apartment? Was he a delivery guy? The questions never stopped.

1 drove slowly through my apartment complex every night, hoping to find him climbing out some window, so I could run him over repeatedly with my can I borrowed nine different guns from a gun-collector friend for nine consecutive nights within the first two weeks. I planned to massacre anyone who touched my bedroom window. And the bigger the gun, the better I slept.

I admit it, I was a wreck, a textbook case of post-traumatic stress syndrome. I became what experts call hypervigilant, checking over my shoulder at every sound; my body ached. I screamed at God a lot, and I yelled at friends and family members and co-workers. My heart pounded so hard I thought I’d explode. I had the sensation of standing at the edge of a cliff with a big hand behind me ready to push me off. 1 thought, I’m not going to make it through this.

At the same time, the part of me that was still conscious of reality was a little bit fascinated at the rape response: the flood of emotions I could not control, the irrational fear of being jumped again.

At lunch with co-worker friends almost a month after the rape, an anxiety attack finally did me in. I think the exact words used were “For God’s sake, get some help.” I cried as I drove home. I thought, this is the day fear will kill me.

I called the Rape Crisis Center again. A new girl answering the phone recognized the hysteria in my voice and made me an appointment with the center’s director. Sue Kelly James. I don’t know how I got through that night, but the next day, after five minutes of talking with Sue in that oasis of calm, I knew I would live. Maybe not joyfully for a while, but someday.



IF THERE IS SUCH A THING AS A LUCKY SURVIVOR OF RAPE, it’s me. Fewer than 10 percent of rape survivors ever know who attacked them, let alone see them arrested, tried and sentenced.

Three weeks after I started counseling, I was being handed a third photo lineup by Dennis Clay, my own personal Grand Prairie police detective.

“That’s him!” I yelled.

“Are you sure?” Dennis asked.

“Positive,” I said.

“Put your initials next to his photo.” I did.

Then I asked, “Who is he?”

“He’s called ’the Poolside Rapist,’ ” Dennis said. Object of a task force composed of officers from 19 police departments. Possibly responsible for as many as 76 offenses in apartment complexes across the entire area. I was horrified.

Two days later, I got the call from Dennis: “They got him.” I wept where I sat, in one of the outfits I had purchased that very day during an anti-depressant $500 shopping spree. I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders; I sat up a foot taller. I could breathe again.

Four months later, I was in court, along with 18 women, testifying in a non-jury trial in front of Judge Robert Mays, onto whose mercy David Elliott Gribble and his defense attorney had thrown themselves. The judge showed no mercy and sentenced Gribble to 12 concurrent life sentences, a couple of concurrent 40-year terms and several 20-year terms, for a grand total of more than 120 years, or a minimum of 30 and a half years without chance for parole or credit for good behavior.

We survivors had bonded in a way, brought together by our shared horror at the same man’s hands. We cheered the sentence together, but I became the group’s spokeswoman when the news reporters showed up and the rest of them ran, frightened and embarrassed by the victim stigma they believed they carried. I did nothing but exhibit major-league stupidity, I told the reporters and gave them my name; it was Gribble who had done something wrong. One asked me what I’d say to Gribble now if I had the chance. “So long, pal,” I said.

The feelings of stupidity I talked out with Sue at the Rape Crisis Center, along with grilling her about rape and rapists and their modus operandi. We also talked about love, because in the months since the rape, in the midst of all the fear and anxiety hell, I had met a man and fallen in love.

“What if I just fell in love with the first guy who didn’t rape me?” I asked.

“Nonsense,” said Sire. “Rape doesn’t mean you stop feeling. Enjoy it.”

Five months later, Gribble had his second trial, a jury trial in Tarrant County. This time, he pleaded not guilty to eight attempted aggravated sexual assaults. The jury didn’t buy it and found him guilty, but because the panel wasn’t allowed to hear his Dallas County history, he was sentenced to just 25 years, or six and a quarter years minimum. Judge Bill Burdock, however, was wise enough to stack the punishment, meaning Gribble would have to serve his Dallas County minimum before he began his Tarrant County minimum.

I went to the second trial every day that I could, mostly because I felt deprived at having been a sequestered witness in the first. I was curious. I wanted to see Gribble’s family: Were they strange? They were not; they couldn’t explain his behavior, either. The more I saw, the more I felt I needed to know exactly how this guy had become a rapist, how he had targeted these sweet, young Tarrant County women (and the rest of us, for that matter), how he could be so heartless and destructive.

I couldn’t imagine what had gotten into this guy. What a lot of nerve he had to think he could do this terrible thing to women over and over again.

I got married the same month.

Two weeks after our honeymoon, my husband and I were having dinner out, when I remembered it was the one-year anniversary of my rape, typically a rough time for survivors. Wow, I thought, I’ve lived a year. I still couldn’t bring myself to play my guitar, I hadn’t been able to call a friend 1 thought had jinxed me into the rape, and I still was turning lights on before going into dark rooms. But the big hand hadn’t shoved me off that cliff.

The day after Christmas 1991, my husband helped me start a journey that would become an obsessive hunt for the history behind David Elliott Gribble. I needed to know what happened, so I went to find out. I didn’t always use orthodox methods, but drastic situations call for drastic measures. And I couldn’t let anyone deter me.



IT JUST SO HAPPENS THAT I STARTED WITH CRIBBLE’S divorce records. (He’d been married during his entire spree, with an infant son, and he was adamant about getting the blue sectional couch in the settlement.) But I quickly moved on to acquiring every police report on every victim and interviewing every single officer from 19 area police departments who had a hand in the case, including Dennis Clay and the officers who’d come to my apartment (the female officer apologized for her remark and said they thought I was lying until 1 had told the story three limes exactly the same way). And Irving Police Detective (now Sgt.) Mike Kiere, who was the biggest presence in the Poolside Rapist Task Force and to whom Gribble had surrendered back on Feb. 13.

I read books on rape; one on rapists’ motivation was disgusting and disheartening (it was a matter of ejaculation, according to offenders). I learned about the three types of rapists: the power rapist, who uses only enough force to overwhelm women; the anger rapist, who is mad at women and will often slap or otherwise hurt them; and the masochist rapist, whose desire is to inflict pain, or sometimes death. Gribble was a power rapist.

I interviewed the head of Parkland emergency OB-GYN. I interviewed the Dallas County D.A. and Gribble’s Tarrant County defense attorneys, who told me Gribble was shocked that the girls thought he would have shot them.

I made an elaborate chronology of his crimes. I ordered transcripts from the first two trials and talked to most of the girls about what Gribble had done to them.

“Rape, rape, rape, that’s all I ever hear about,” my husband said. Sue at the Rape Crisis Center didn’t think my efforts were such a hot idea, either, though she did say that perhaps for Gribble I had put a face on all the women whose lives he had trampled. “Get on with your life,” she said. I knew I was obsessed, but I couldn’t get on with my life until my questions-my questions-were answered. I couldn’t rest until I knew everything.

Here’s what I found out about Gribble the criminal: He began his spree during the summer of 1988, masturbating in front of girls sunbathing by their apartment complex pools. Then he started yanking sunbathers’ bathing suit tops or bottoms down and running away laughing. Then a sunbather opened her eyes to find a guy crouched down near her chaise longue with a gun, who ordered her to take off her suit and swim around the pool while he watched. When he dragged a 16-year-old in Farmers Branch into a poolside bathroom and anally assaulted her, area police gave him his nickname.

At an Irving complex, he knocked on a woman’s door and told her a man with a long-lens camera was taking pictures of her apartment. He called the police for her, and in the four minutes it took for a patrol car to respond, he had ordered her at gunpoint out onto her balcony, made her strip, bent her over the balcony rail and raped her.

At another, he knocked on a woman’s door just moments after her boyfriend left and asked to use the phone. She directed him to a pay phone in the complex, but he soon returned and asked for a quarter. She gave him one, but he returned again, saying the pay phone was broken. When she kindly let him in to use her phone, he pulled a gun and raped her in the kitchen.

In North Richland Hills, he asked a junior-college student whose door was open for a drink of water, then pulled a knife on her, which she managed to take away and jab at him. He ran like a scared rabbit.

In Euless, he posed as a security guard, knocked on a woman’s door on the second floor and told her there was some guy hanging around outside. He chased her inside and ordered her to lie face-down on the carpet, but she jumped up, ran into her bedroom, blocked the door with a chair, hit the alarm and knocked out a window. She was going to jump.

In Dallas, he persuaded a girl who had locked her keys in her car and was waiting for a cab outside her apartment to come to “his” apartment at the back of the complex and use his phone. As they headed up a staircase, he pulled a gun on her, forced her to strip as he counted down from 10, raped her and then made her run away naked to get help. That assault happened just 30 feet from where he had raped another woman just six months before.

The horrible crimes went on and on.

In Garland, he ordered two dress-shop sales clerks who’d been helping him pick out an outfit for “his girlfriend” to strip, then he robbed them. He pulled a similar job at a Dallas workout clothes shop. He knocked over a couple of gas stations, one of which was his last crime, on Dec. 28, 1990. the day his divorce was final.

This whole time, police in the Poolside Rapist Task Force were crazed and frustrated. Though they were beginning to recognize his various MOs and had something of a description (medium height and weight, salt-and-pep-per hair, acne scars, big Adam’s apple), they couldn’t predict where he would strike next. They wanted to, but could not, put a female officer in every apartment complex between Dallas and Fort Worth.

The big break came when police were at last able to pick up some fingerprints from a rape scene that could be entered into Dallas County’s Fingerprint Identification System computer. A name popped up: David Elliott Gribble, who had been picked up for truancy in 1977 and arrested for possessing an unlawful weapon (a club enhanced with nail heads, the officer told me; I interviewed him, too).

Police contacted Gribble’s ex-wife, who said it was impossible that he was a serial rapist-until she heard his voice on the Irving 911 camera-ruse call. She provided the photograph that was used in the lineups, snipped to exclude their son’s face.

In the end, Detective Kiere of Irving discovered that Gribble had gone on the lam, and he began contacting out-of-town family members. He’d heard that one brother was a minister in a small town in Indiana, so he called that police department-and found the brother there: He was the police chaplain. It was that brother who Gribble would eventually contact and who would drive him back to surrender.

If the cops were right and Gribble had committed all 76 offenses that seemed to match his physical description or one of his MOs, it meant a frequency of one crime an average of every 12 days for two and a half years. He seemed to prefer Sunday nights, Tuesdays and Thursdays.



KNOWING ALL THAT WAS WELL AND GOOD, BUT I NEEDed more, so I kept going: Gribble was the youngest of five sons-his next older brothers a set of twins, the oldest being the minister. His father worked for the City of Dallas. Strict Baptist upbringing, member of the handbell choir at church. As an adult, he was a clotheshorse. He is a month younger than I.

I got to look at some notes and video depositions of Gribble and his ex-wife from a settled lawsuit in which he was involved. The video showed he was very angry, and the notes showed he’d had major surgeries on both eyes as a child and wore thick-lensed glasses. I called former employers but couldn’t get confirmed that he had worked for a soft-drink company as a vending-machine filler and repairman whose route covered area apartment complexes (is this the way he found victims?) and had been a jewelry store manager fired for disappearing for four-hour stretches.

I acquired part of his Dallas Independent School District transcript, which showed that he was a C student and that he’d hop-scotched between elementary schools in Dallas and his mother’s hometown back East before attending Kimball High School. I even found two high school acquaintances who remembered Gribble and his ways quite well. They described him as something of a nerd who wanted to be part of a group of 10 boys from an apartment complex who hung out together.

The guys would be in the pool and Gribble would appear, always dressed, it seemed to them, in polo shirt, jeans and high-top sneakers, and always on his 10-speed bike. They noted that he never actually got into the pool. At the arcade, he’d asked for quarters- which no one gave him. He’d show up at their fort {made of tree limbs and old signs and stuff) out in the woods.

They also said that he was seen in the vicinity of a suspicious Dumpster fire at the apartment complex. That he stretched fishing line between trees so the guys would be caught about neck-high as they walked through the woods. That he rigged stepping stones across the creek to topple if someone walked on them. That he stood outside the guys’ circle one night and pelted them with pecans. That he laughed when one of them crashed his 10-speed in a parking lot.

I tracked down and talked to every one of his 15 teachers at Kimball. I asked each the same two questions: Do you remember David Elliott Gribble? What was he like? Only one got to the second question; only one remembered him.

That was his ROTC commander, who I found still at Kimball. Gribble, he said, was an excellent cadet, one of the best, but the commander couldn’t make him a group leader because he couldn’t depend on him to show up every day.

“We all knew there was something wrong at his house,” the commander told me. “Sometimes he stayed overnight at other cadets’ houses.”

“What was the problem?” I asked.

“Nobody knew,” he said. “Nobody asked. I didn’t want to get involved with a student’s problems at home.” He paused. “But now I think that maybe if I had, none of this would have happened.”

Bingo. I thought.



SOME JUSTICE HAD BEEN DONE, AND SOME OF MY QUEStions had been answered, but a couple of big questions were still out there. It became clear that I would have to talk to Gribble again. When he was sent back to Denton for that county’s trial {one case of aggravated sexual assault), I went to see him again. It was September 1992.

He was in a bad mood.

“About those questions I sent you,” I said.

“I’m not going to help you do anything.”

“What?”

“I don’t think I should talk to you,” he said. “In fact, there are quite a few people telling me I shouldn’t talk to you. That it could be counterproductive for you and for me.”

“Oh? And who would these people be?”

“I don’t want to get into that.” Pause. “Besides, I still don’t know what you think you can find out from me.”

“Why,” I said. “I need to know why. And you’re the only one who can tell me. You trampled my life and the lives of all those other girls. What happened to you? How did you pick me? I need to know.”

“I don’t know.” Then he said, “Sometime in the future-if I came up for parole, would you protest it?”

’’Yes,” I said without hesitating.

“Why?”

“You want to know why?” I was on my feet.

“You would presume to make a judgment, you would presume to know more than the people watching over me for a few years?”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “My protest would be directly proportional to the trauma I felt.”

“I have to go,” he said.

“Hold on,” I shouted. “You did 29 crimes. You have to do the 29 times.”

He hung up and left me yelling, “Come back here, damn it! I was ready to tear down the plastic and beat him to a pulp.

I testified a few days later during the punishment phase of the Denton County trial. He got life (15 years minimum), and the judge stacked that one, too.



MY OUTBURST WAS THE FIRST THING GRIBBLE MENtioned to me when I talked to him the third and final time, at J. Darrington Prison in South Texas, nine months later. 1 couldn’t get all the details from prison officials, but I knew he wasn’t undergoing any sort of treatment. The prison system’s Sex Offender Treatment Program is voluntary; only inmates exhibiting psychoses or neuroses are involuntarily enrolled.

The prison was out in the middle of nowhere, part of what was once a huge plantation on the Texas coast. I had to holler up to the guard in the gun tower closest to the gate that 1 had an appointment. The gate rolled open and closed with a big clank behind me. Shouting came from a cinder-block barracks off to the left. Inmates in orange jumpsuits were out sweeping and picking up trash. Some were sitting in the bed of a big truck surrounded by guards. I was terrified.

The guard who escorted me to the visitors room asked if I was in love with the inmate I was about to see.

“No,” I said. “No way.”

“We get a lot of those,” the guard said. Geez.

Gribble was brought in after a few minutes.

“You were pretty mad the last time I saw you,” he said.

“Yeah,” 1 said. “I wanted to tear down that wall and beat the crap out of you. You do understand why, don’t you?”

“Yes,” he said and mumbled something.

“What?” I asked.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything.”

He said he was enrolled in Alcoholics Anonymous as a condition of his parole, and I thought he insinuated that he still had a sex problem when he said, “Just because you take alcohol away from an alcoholic doesn’t mean he’s cured.” He said there was no psychologist at the prison to talk to, even if an inmate wanted to. He wouldn’t answer any questions about his personal life.

But he did, finally, tell me where our paths had crossed.

“It wasn’t anything you did,” he said. He’d been cruising my apartment complex that November night and seen my tight on. He’d simply looked in the partially open sliding-glass door and seen me sitting on the couch. He played his trick. I fell for it and opened the door.

“So why didn’t you rape me then?” I asked.

“I just couldn’t go through with it,” he said very slowly. “I just didn’t have the heart.”

I looked at his face. He was either telling the truth or he was a great actor. I couldn’t be sure which. Of course, three weeks after his first visit, he’d known the location of a good potential target: me.

I left the prison with a few more questions answered, the ones about me. but nothing about how David Elliott Gribble had turned from a regular kid into a rapist. There was nothing more I could do.

Months later, I realized I was playing my guitar again, that my neck and shoulder muscles had loosened up a little, that I was no longer frightened by dark rooms or by walking down long sidewalks flanked by dense shrubs. The rape was now part of me, but I wasn’t thinking about it every day or dreaming about it every night. In fact, all the details I had dug so deep for were beginning to blur.

I still didn’t know all the whys to rape, but I knew I had to live with not knowing. I’m still doing that, but joyfully again.

THE RAPE STIGMA

It’s starting to go away. There are things we can do to make that happen.

EVERY TIME A WOMAN LIES ABOUT BEING RAPED, LIKE NinaShahravanrecentlydid.itsetsbacklheprogress we’ve all made in the past 15 years fighting the stigmas of rape: that only bad girls get raped, that vic-tims draw rape upon themselves by what they wear or where they go and when. That women make up stories when they’re mad at their boyfriends or their husbands.

There are women out there who still believe rape somehow is a reflection on them, not the creeps who raped them. They are ashamed and embarrassed on top of being shocked and frightened.

I know. I met some of them as a peer counselor at the county’s Rape Crisis Center, three years after 1 was raped. Half had been raped by strangers, half by someone known to them or their families. They were young when it happened, or they were older. It lasted a minute, or it lasted days.

One woman told me she’d gone back to her hometown to visit her mother and had gone out with a man she knew from high school. The date went fine, and he asked her back to his place to go through yearbooks and talk. She accepted. He raped her.

“I’m so sorry that happened to you,” I said. “’But at least he’s in jail now.”

“He’s not,” she said. “I never told anyone.”

’’You didn’t call the police?” I asked.

“Heavens, no, He’s a big businessman in that town.”

“So?”

“It would be a huge scandal,” she said. “My mother lives there.”

What I wanted to say was “And you’re not worried about this guy going after your mother or some other woman?” What I did say was “The statute of limitations for rape is 10 years. It’s never too late to call the police.”

Heck, for me, calling the police was the only thing left for me to do, after my choice in the ultimate decision had been taken away. I wasted no time getting to a phone, and I gave my full cooperation to police and prosecutors so Gribble could be caught and put away.

Another woman came in to the crisis center visibly shaking.

“When does it go away?” she asked. “I can’t stand it.”

“How long has it been?” I asked. I figured it must be just days.

“Two years,” she said. “I’m withdrawn at work, and from my friends: I hardly go out of the house at night. I thought I could handle it myself, but now I shake all the time. Can you help me?”

She was like me a month after my rape. “It will go away,” I told her. “It will go away, I promise.” I called the center’s director. Sue James, on that one.

Each woman handles rape a little bit differently (and that’s about 1 million American women a year, or 1 in 10 women), but I believe a woman, even if she chooses not to call the police, can learn to survive more easily if she gets into counseling quickly and talks it out with a rape-crisis professional.

It saved my life.– E.E.

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