God’s Squad

God’s Squad

From Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating People Who Make a Difference

God’s Squad

The language of friendship is not words but meanings.

Henry David Thoreau

At fourteen, in the summer of 1956, when my parents lost their full-time babysitter, I took over the responsibility of watching my younger brothers and sister. Like most teenagers, I embraced summer vacation with zest and that summer started out happy enough. On weekends my girlfriends and I went to movies, played miniature golf, and dreamed of dating boys—none of us had been on our first date. Even during the weekdays when I babysat my brothers and sister, I embraced life with total trust, taking them to the beach on the bus all by myself.

One afternoon, I noticed a police officer directing traffic from the nearby horse races and felt compelled to take him an ice-cold glass of juice. His name was Bill, and his warm smile made me feel like I’d known him for a lifetime. I learned he was married and had two children. Number three was on the way.

Visiting with Bill became a part of my daily routine. I soon realized that no one in the surrounding shops was a stranger to Bill. He’d wave and greet people by their names as they passed.

He loved to tease me, and after a few repeat visits, he told me, “You know, Karen, heated discussions have broken out at the police department. Officers are fighting over whose turn it is to be stationed on this corner where a pretty young teenager serves cold drinks with a smile.” A hot crimson flush crept over my face. Finally, the day arrived when Bill’s assignment came to an end. I really missed our chats.

A few weeks later, a stranger came to our door, posing as a contractor. He had personal information that convinced me he had been hired by my dad, and I allowed him into the house. But when he got me alone, he grabbed me from behind. I felt a knife blade against my throat as he said, “Don’t scream, or I’ll kill you.” A ripple of terror shot through my whole body. The rapist stole my innocence and left behind a shadow of fear that seemed to attach itself to my soul.

After he left, I escaped to a neighbor’s, with my sister and brothers at my side. She called my parents, and they called the police. That afternoon, I longed to be my daddy’s little girl once more, to have him hold me and tell me that I’d be all right. But when he learned I’d been raped, he turned and walked away from me. The foundation of my world crumbled. When the police questioned me, I felt more like a criminal than a victim. In the fifties no rape crisis centers or support groups were available for victims and their families. My parents had their own pain and were unable to meet my needs. I felt alone and abandoned.

The day Mom called me to talk with two detectives, I had reached the bottom of my despair. Suicidal thoughts plagued me. It was with a reluctant heart I entered the room where two men waited for me. My head was lowered as I sat on a dining-room chair. My hands were clasped so tightly they ached. Inside I screamed, Don’t they know each time I repeat my story, it’s like being tortured? My thoughts were interrupted when I heard a familiar voice. “Karen, don’t you remember me?”

As I looked up at the detective sitting in the chair opposite mine, I found myself looking into the blue eyes of the police officer who had befriended me earlier that summer. With relief, I smiled and said, “Bill!” His warm blue eyes smiled back at me.

Since we’d last met, he had been promoted to detective and had been assigned to my case. That afternoon, Bill’s words felt like a healing balm touching my soul.

“Karen,” Bill said, “this terrible thing is not your fault.” He stood, walked over to me, and pulled me close. “It’s okay to cry,” he added. At those words a floodgate of emotions burst open—tears flowed.

For the first time, I realized that the shame inflicted on me had not been my fault. I understood that God wanted me to choose life and the freedom that came with that incredible choice.

On his off-duty time, Bill would stop by at my house and sit at our kitchen table, talking with Mom and me. I didn’t understand, but Bill realized I needed my hope restored, and he’d started a campaign to help me. We drove to the grocery store and around the surrounding neighborhood.

“Watch for anyone that looks like him,” Bill said. “Karen, it takes time, but eventually he’ll mess up, get careless, and we’ll arrest him.”

Bill became a surrogate dad to me. His friendship brought hope back into my life. He introduced me to his wife, Helen, who welcomed me, and their home became a safe place for me where love embraced me.

Bill’s confidence that justice would be carried out gave me new strength. And his prediction came true. Finally, one morning in November, Mom walked into the kitchen with the newspaper in her hand and said, “Karen, look at this composite police picture and see if the man resembles your rapist.” My hands shook as I looked at the familiar face. “Yes. It’s him!”

After my rapist was caught and sentenced, my friendship with Bill and Helen continued. We’ve shared graduations, weddings, births, funerals, and a blended mixture of tears and laughter. Our friendship has endured fifty-one years.

I know how blessed I was to have met a policeman whose warm, compassionate heart became a key that unlocked my prison of fear. Over the years, I have tried to instill the gift of helping others in the hearts of my children and grandchildren, for what would the world be like if every individual reached out to help one hurting soul—like Bill did for me?

Karen Kosman

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