I Reported My Sexual Abuse After 43 Years
October 11th, 2019, I drove to the Ascension Parish sheriff’s office, my heart racing. I had no doubt I was doing the right thing, and yet I was petrified. Even though I had requested to speak to a female officer, I still didn't feel confident she wouldn't be dismissive. I worried she would mock or disregard me. I was bracing myself for that. I mean, it has been 43 years, and because of that, so many people seem to think that if someone has gotten away with a crime against you for so long, why not just let them keep on getting away with it.
No matter, I knew what I had to do. I kept giving myself a pep talk, reassuring myself and hearing the line from Anne Marie Miller’s book, Healing Together, in my head, “I am not responsible for the repercussions that result from the abuse I experienced. It’s the abuser who decides to take advantage of the victim, and the victim is not responsible for the impact that decision may have on the abuser in the future.”
When I arrived at the substation, I found Deputy Jennifer Dean. Two male officers left the building, and then it was just her and I. She shut the door to the office. It wasn't long before I could tell she wouldn't judge me for waiting 43 years. She was very understanding. She told me about her friend in her 50's who’d been abused by her father and just reported him to the police. She started to take my statement…
My very first sexual experience ever in my life was when I was nine years old, waking to the noise of my stepdad Donnie masturbating beside my bed, inches from my face, seeing a penis that belonged to the man my mother was married to. It was him walking naked in the dining room that was adjacent to my room. The bright light was on, so I would wake up and see him. It was a man who had stepped into the father role in our family, someone who should have protected me from such behavior, but instead, he ejaculated all over me while I pretended to sleep, having no idea why he “peed” on me or why his “pee” didn’t stink or understand why, when I woke up the following day, I didn’t see yellow pee all over me. (I didn’t know until years later that he didn’t pee on me because at nine, I had no idea what came out of a penis when you yanked on it repeatedly.)
The first time I had to tell a man no to a sexual advance was a grown man, my new stepdad, my mother’s husband, as he stood naked by my bed when I was nine years old when he grabbed my shoulder and tried to turn me toward his naked body to do more than just the perversions as mentioned above. But when he grabbed my shoulder and turned me toward him, I knew I had to scream. I sat up in my bed and called for my mother. It startled him, and he told me to be quiet. But she was in her room with the door shut and the window unit AC on, so there wasn’t much chance of her hearing me. I screamed again. He told me to stop screaming again then he left. He wasn’t expecting THIS fiery little bitch who resisted. HA!
I don’t know how many nights these things happened. I don’t know if it was all one night or many nights. I know I tried to stay away from home as much as I could or sleep in my five your old brother’s bed with him by the wall so he would be between Donnie and me.
After a few weeks (I think), I told a friend of mine, and she told her mom, then her mom told my mom. My mom asked me about it. She believed me, she held me, and we cried together. Later we packed our stuff and left. I’ll never forget how relieved I was when we left.
I would see Donnie from time to time around town and get physically ill. We lived in a tiny town. Once when I was a teenager, I was at a friend’s house. Her parents were friends with Donnie and his new wife, they happened to be at a Bar B Q there, and my friend asked me to come out and sing for everyone (I sang all the time). I looked outside, saw him, he looked at me, and I had a literal breakdown. Back then, we didn’t call them panic attacks, but that’s what I had. I started shaking, crying uncontrollably, curled up in a ball in the corner of her room, and told her I couldn’t go out there. She thought it was just stage fright.
I told all of that to detective Jennifer Dean on October 11th, 2019. She pulled up Google maps and found the house it all happened in. That was so weird to revisit the place visually while discussing what happened. She asked if I had a picture of him, and I went to Facebook and found one on his stepson’s page. Officer Dean assigned me a case number and wrote up the charges as Indecent Behavior with a Juvenile. She sent it to Okeechobee, Florida Sheriffs' office. That's the city where it happened. I was relieved that the crime Donnie Chandler committed 43 years ago against 9-year-old Carole was finally reported to the police.
There are a few reasons I chose now to file a police report. First, my daughter was recently sexually assaulted by a woman, and I told her she should press charges. She didn’t want to; she kept brushing it off, saying it wasn’t a big deal. I realized I had never pressed charges against my abuser, who most certainly has gone on to abuse others. Second, before he did that to me, he'd been charged with making obscene phone calls to a woman in town, that was before the time of caller ID and any real way to trace calls; therefore, they couldn’t prove it was him, but I have no doubt he was guilty. He'd already been investigated for criminal sexual behavior before he assaulted me, so indeed, it didn’t stop with me. The third reason is he has a great young granddaughter now, and I got physically ill when I saw her fearing he would do the same to her if given a chance.
And the final reason is the courage of brave women like Rose McGowan, who've spoken up against really powerful men like Harvey Weinstein. Rose spoke out about her rape when no one else would. She started the takedown of one of the most notorious rapists. She was so brave. Watching her and other women publicly say their abusers' names over and over gave me courage. She spoke out against a man who could have her killed, a man who did have her stalked, had drugs planted on her in an airport, and repeatedly smeared her in the media. So that helped me say, "F#ck it!" This man committed a crime against me. He's a pedophile. I was a 9 yrs old child. I will call him out publicly. I will seek any and all legal recourse available. I will fight to change the laws for myself and victims of sexual abuse now and in the future. That crime, that trauma caused me so many mental and physical problems throughout my life, many of which I am just now working through.
I'm not blaming anyone from my past other than the perpetrator. We know better NOW. I know better now. My daughter knows better now, so we're gonna do better now.
Sadly I found out that Florida has a statute of limitations, so there's very little that can be done to Donnie. He gets to continue to get away with being a pedophile. Florida had a chance to change its laws last legislative session, but the bill died in committee. The Catholic Church in Florida is very powerful, and they don’t want all the grown victims of pedophile priests to be able to file charges and sue the church for being raped by priests when they were children. Similar laws are currently being considered this session, but all of the ones I’ve read so far would change the statute going forward, not for those of us who now are victims of crimes committed against us as children.
How pathetic that in 2020 a state can’t come to a consensus that people who were sexually violated as CHILDREN should be able to file charges against their assailants?
The average age a survivor of sexual abuse comes to terms with what happened to them is 45, so every state needs to lift the statute of limitations. Pedophiles and rapists need to be in jail, not being protected by powerful lobbies in Congress.
As far as I know, Donnie Chandler is in his 70’s still living in Okeechobee, Florida. I am looking into pursuing civil charges since criminal charges are not currently a possibility.