..Lorna Hartman..

This month we continue the story of a young partially deaf woman. After her first story, she related the following harrowing tale from her childhood. Harrowing, yet beautiful, because she kept her wits about her and took steps to protect herself, as you'll read.

"One summer my foster parents sent me to camp in Napa Valley. It was one of those places where there are lots of teenage counselors and they're all going after each other. All this sex stuff is happening and all the little kids are peeking on their counselors.

"There was this one counselor, Joel, who was very dangerous. He had a reputation for being a pervert -- he was always talking about sex and reading dirty magazines. I was about eight years old at that time, and because I was deaf, I never heard the stories about him. When I was eight, people didn't know I was deaf and neither did I. This was mainly because I talked so well, and I assumed that everybody was doing the same thing I was -- lipreading -- because you can't see hearing.

"One day, he [Joel] was supervising some of us kids at the lake. He was calling all the kids to come in, to go back to the cabins and prepare for dinner. I was fishing, and I figured, oh, it must be late, so I took my fishing pole, and this nice-sized fish I had caught. I could hardly wait till I got back to camp to show I could actually fish.

"I was walking back alongside the lake when I remembered that I had left some stones that I had found on top of the rock I had been fishing on. By this time, the kids had gone up to the cabins, and Joel went back to the lake to make sure he had everybody. He saw me, but I didn't think anything was wrong.

"I was afraid to put my fishing pole on the ground because I was afraid the fish would take off, and so I had the thing wrapped around my hand. As I swam up to the rock to get my stones, the fish came off my fishing pole. It was floating on the water. And I was scared, I didn't want to touch it. I didn't want to pick it up, so I swam back to where I was supposed to be, and Joel said, 'Now, you go back in that water and you get that fish, you go get that fish.' And I was scared. He got really violent, he was grabbing me and shaking me and swearing and everything and saying, 'You get that f___ing fish right now or I'll kill you right out here.'

"I was amazed that this guy was threatening to kill me if I didn't go out and get that fish. At eight years old, that upset me, so I started crying. So I said, 'Okay, okay,' and I walked a little way into the water, up to my knees, and I knew I couldn't do it, I didn't want to touch that fish. So he came up to me and he started drowning me, and the first thing I realized was that he wasn't kidding, he was serious.

"He was dunking my head in the water, and I thought I was going to die. I was physically trying to use my defenses, but this man was three times bigger than me and I was only eight years old, so there's just no way, physically, that I could've defended myself. So I started to stand up in the water, and I was saying anything I could possibly say to get him off me. I said, 'I promise I'll do anything you want me to do, but just don't make me go get that fish, please.' He said, 'Meet me here tonight.' And of course I knew from the past that when they say, meet me here, or meet me there, I knew what was going to happen. So I said, 'Sure.' And I'm thinking I'll go up to camp and tell one of the counselors that he was going to try to hurt me.

"But I wasn't sure about doing that. Other times when I had told people about being molested, they sometimes hadn't believed me. I also knew this guy was really violent, and if I didn't do what he wanted me to do, chances were he could get me the next time. So I promised him I would be there and at seven that night I showed up at the lake and he was there.

"Before I went, I told one of my favorite counselors what had happened and what was going to happen. We were really close -- I had told her about being molested in the past and she had believed me. And she had been wanting to kick Joel out for a long time.

"So I met him down there at seven o'clock sharp and I acted like nothing was happening. He said, 'Come here, I want you to sit behind me.' And he showed me disgusting books, with really violent pictures. I was scared. I was afraid the counselor might not believe me and people might not show up.

"So we're looking through the books and I'm taking my time, just saying, 'Yeah, that's interesting,' and just stalling, just saying, 'Well, I've never done it this way before, have you?' and just talking back and forth and trying to waste time. And he says, 'Well, come here.' He puts his arm around me and starts kissing me and I'm just going along with it, and he says, 'Now take your clothes off,' and I said, 'Right now? It's cold out here. Why don't we do it during the day, it's better.' But just when I'm starting to take my clothes off, the directors and the counselors came and he was kicked out of camp.

"I never heard what happened after that, because I was also sent home, and I felt really bad because I enjoyed camp..."

* * *

So much for Joel. This victim did successfully fight back even though she was eight and he much older. Stay tuned for further installments of this woman's story.

*From Her Wits About Her, edited by Denise Caignon and Gail Groves. Copyright 1987 by Denise Caignon and Gail Groves. Used with permission of Harper & Row, Publisher, Inc. (now HarperCollins). All rights reserved.

If you have a similar story of preventing crime or helping to capture a criminal, or know someone else who does, contact Lorna Hartman.

Link to previous Crimestoppers columns: