Today’s My Day

Kayla shares her story of overcoming assault and abuse and how it led her to help other women.

By Kayla Hoffman Pekarek 

I use my voice to defend some, empower some and of course, offend some. 

I use my voice to advocate, to speak for those who can’t, for those who don’t feel comfortable  or confident enough to. 

This isn’t about me, this is what about what happened to me. This is what happened to others.  This is what continues to happen to others. And the focus is wrong. It’s all backwards. It’s time we don’t talk about the victims, we talk about the perpetrators. It’s time we talk about the laws. It’s time we all, not just a few, take action! 

It’s time we empower, believe, help and support survivors! 

My story has two parts; the first – sexual assault, the second – domestic violence. I may have  been believed, but I certainly didn’t feel empowered, nor did I feel supported either time. 

A guy attacked me, and he also happens to be a convicted rapist, fresh out of the California  prison system for about 30 days. I found all that out later and it didn’t take long for him to repeat his behavior. We fought a long hard battle for what I’d say was about 10 minutes when he finally decided to give up and he ran out the door. What a way to start your last shift at your current employer.

From that moment on, I became known as “the victim” for a very long time. Fortunately, the hospital security and local law enforcement were able to track him down and take him into custody. A relief, some might think, but that wasn’t my reality at all. My attack happened at the end of July 1992. The following month should have been filled with excitement leading up to my second son’s first birthday (like with my first son’s), instead, it was filled with “what-ifs” and “what happens next?” One of the many things in our lives that this unknown convicted rapist had stolen from my family.

The celebration still went on as planned, and I tried to enjoy it as much as possible, but I still had fear and terror living within me. It was a new reality, one I had not planned for and one I did not like or embrace. A family member (at that time) made a comment like,  “At least there wasn’t penetration.” While I’m sure it was said with what I’m hoping were good intentions, it hurt me deeply to my core. No, I’m lucky there hadn’t been penetration, so while the physical part didn’t happen, my brain was responding to a fight/flight threat that day in July. And let me tell you, that statement resonates deep within my soul. 

We went through months of waiting, attending legal proceedings and working with the  prosecutor’s office. I’m still trying to be a mom to a three-year-old and a one-year-old, a wife,  daughter, and now this victim word keeps coming up. Who am I?? 

The trial finally comes, he doesn’t testify, he doesn’t have to – think “repeat offender,” so it was his choice not to testify. I didn’t have a choice. I take the stand as a “witness” for the  State of Missouri. But this is MY CASE! I am the one lying on the bathroom floor, fighting for my life while screaming as loud as I could, knowing no one would hear me with this person on top of my trying to put his nasty, cigarette smelling hands over my mouth, grabbing at my clothes all the while.

I digress; here I am, sitting on the stand under oath with all eyes on me, including his, watching my every move. The prosecutor questions me, the public defender grills me and he keeps staring in his borrowed  suit. 

It is now time for the jury to deliberate. A verdict in 17 minutes, I barely had time to gather my thoughts and go to the bathroom before they were rushing me back into the courtroom. GUILTY! Even without his testimony!

Between those court appearances, the rapist got my phone number and called my house and asked why I lied in court. Now I had to face him again and this time alone, with no one there to support me in this final, most crucial stage. Thank goodness for the secretary to the victim advocate who went up with me. He received 30 years without eligibility and an additional 25 with eligibility. 

Now things could get back to normal. But no. Things at home start falling apart. My marriage finally ends with me ending up in an abusive relationship. My sons live with me primarily, so they live this as well. The relationship was short-lived, only lasting a year or so. Before it ended, I became a “victim” again of domestic  violence – a broken finger. And not just a broken finger; it was a spiral fracture on my primary hand. People at work said, “I told you it would happen,” strangers would laugh and say “what happens you get out of line, he had to straighten you out, huh?” It wasn’t funny. And it isn’t funny. Far too often, this is reality. 

Life goes by in a flash. Here it is 25 years later, June 2017, almost time for the first parole hearing. I contact the prosecutor’s office. They can’t find anything initially because it is so  old. They do and what I find out is beyond words; his California time has stacked on top of  Missouri time and his release date is… July 26, 2062!!  

I could breathe a sigh of relief more than I had been able to for a very long time, since COVID.  I hear talks of Missouri inmates being released and the comfort turns once again to  hypervigilance. I am thrilled beyond measure that didn’t happen and can once again say, “Today’s My Day.”  

Kayla Hoffman Pekarek – Survivor, Advocate, Warrior, Future Non-Profit Founder

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