070: I Don't Want to Die
Content Warning: The following story is a detailed account of a home invasion in which someone is violently raped, while another is brutally attacked, both of these incidences may be very triggering for some survivors.
“I Don't Want to Die,” Greg
Note: All survivors who reach out to The Art of Survival are given the option to remain anonymous in sharing their story. Any specific details about the survivor are shared at their discretion, and not the creators of the page.
Around 5:30 in the morning on April 30, 2015, my fiancee, Steph, was warming up our car.
On her way back to the house, four men ran around the corner holding guns. They slammed her to the door and opened the door. Steph yelled my name. I was up stairs on the laptop, but I threw it to the bed and went running downstairs, asking what had happened--I thought something happened to our dog. I turned the corner to the door and got punch in the face and fell to the ground.
They came inside and threw her to the ground and pointed their guns at us. They told her to take her clothes off. She was crying. I tried to reassure her everything was going to be okay, but in my mind I knew that it wasn't going to be. Two of the guys dragged me upstairs and then pushed me to the ground and then told me to undress.
I said, “are you serious?”
They said, “yes,” and put the gun to my head.
So I did.
They asked me where all the valuables were located, so I told them. They started to go threw our stuff and found my 22. They pointed their guns at me and ask where was the ammo for it, but I told them I didn't have any. They didn't believe me, so they started to kick me in the head.
I told them I didn't have any and they continued to kick me. They told me to go downstairs. So I did. On the way down, I saw the other two groping Steph. Three of them took her upstairs and one of them stayed with me.
He told me to lie down on the ground with my hands over my head. A few minutes went by and I started to hear them raping her. Time went by and the guy that was watching me told me, “do you hear that they are raping her? There is nothing you could do to stop it.” He then put the gun to my head.
He stood up and started to kick me in the head. After a few minutes of that, he stopped and yelled upstairs if the other men wanted something to drink. Then he took sodas upstairs.
I got up and ran to the sliding glass door. I tried to open it. Then I heard them yell at him and told him to go back down stairs and watch me. I dropped to the ground and tried to act like I wasn't doing anything, but he saw me.
“What the fuck do you think you are doing?” he yelled at me. He grabbed a cushion off the couch and put it over my head and put his gun to it asking me if I want to die. I said, “No!”
He dragged me upstairs, and threw me in the bathroom, tied me up, and started to kick me in the head. The other three dragged Steph out of the room and tied her up. Then they pointed their guns at us.
“I don't want to die,” I yelled, hoping someone would hear me on the other side of the walls.
“Shut up! No one is going to hear you,” they said. They flipped us over on our stomachs and started to drizzle something over us. It smelled like lighter fluid.
I thought they were going to burn us alive. But they never did. They told us to count to one hundred. So we did.
They ran downstairs and grabbed what they wanted and left. I asked Steph if she was able to untie me and she could, so she did. I got up to see both of us covered in black nail polish. I ran into our room and put some clothes on. Then I told Steph to lock herself in the bathroom until I return. I looked for my cellphone but they took it.
So I ran to our landlord’s apartment and knocked on her door as loud as I could. She opened the door and yelled at me angrily. I told her that we had a home invasion and that Steph got raped. She immediately burst into tears.
I told her to call the cops, so she grabbed her phone and called them.
I went back to our house and told Steph that I was with the landlord. So Steph came down stairs crying and told me they raped her. I held her in my arms and felt terrible that I couldn't protect her.
“If you would have tried, they would have killed you,” she said.
It took 20 minutes for the cops to show up. They took us to the hospital, did a rape test on Steph, and did cat scans on my head. Detectives asked us questions and sent us home.
Three weeks later, I got a call from the detectives saying they had caught the men that did our home invasion. The same group of men tried to do the same thing to another couple. The guy tried to fight them off, but they shot him in the head. FBI tracked his phone to an apartment across the freeway from us.
About a month after our incident, my cousin started a GoFundMe on Facebook. It raised around five thousand dollars. Not a day goes by that I’m not thankful for our friends and family who helped us in our time of need. With that money, we put a down payment on our new house. Next year, we are getting married. And our love for each other has done nothing but grow since this incident.
About the art:
This story is incredibly tragic, terrifying, and heartbreaking. It's perhaps one of the worst nightmare scenarios that many of us worry about in our daily lives.
Which is why when Greg reached out to share this story, I knew that he and Steph made it out of this situation alive and perhaps more bonded and stronger as a couple, which inspired me to paint a phoenix for them.
I am very much tied to significance of a phoenix, as I have personally battled a few moments in life that have lead me to rise from the ashes, so to speak. And the imagery of the phoenix just felt right for this story, now that they are well on their way to a bright future together.
Many familiar with my style of art might notice that this is my first time attempting a piece like this, and it was super fun to create! I came up with the concept after practicing this style on another canvas--just playing around. And I had done similar pieces before (HERE & HERE), so this was a bit of an exploration in form and style.
I was going to leave the piece without lines, but Katy suggested I add them, so I did, and I'm glad I did because they add so much to the piece!
I'm so thankful for Greg sharing this story with us, and I'm so glad that he and Steph are doing much better a year after this incident. No one should ever experience what they experienced and I hope that one day, our society gets to the point where things like this do not happen any more.