Image by Nick Scheerbart

Guest Speaker: Kathy Young from Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

June 10, 2000

Our featured guest speaker for June, 2000, Kathy Young, will talk about
her comprehensive near-death experience and transformation as the result
of a violent crime. Hers is a powerful message of forgiveness.

KATHY YOUNG

by Vanessa Bauza

Kathy Young sleeps in her shoes because short term memory loss makes it
difficult to find them in the morning. She brushes her teeth over the
kitchen sink to avoid her scarred reflection in the bathroom mirror. Her
pockets are full of medicated drops to relieve the pain in her right
eye, which no longer blinks. Hers is a life reconstructed.

Five years ago this month, a neighbor slipped into her Fort Lauderdale
home, beat her face in with a rifle butt, stabbed her seven times, raped
her with a kitchen knife and sodomized her with the barrel of a shotgun.
Her attacker, Rodney Wayne Jones, 45, lived down the street from Young
but the two barely knew each other. While Jones got 22 years for
attempted murder and other charges, Young says there are days she feels
like she is serving a life sentence.

A nurse for 12 years, Young, 40, now lives off a Social Security
disability check and food donations from several charities.

She has short term memory loss from brain injuries and is incontinent.
Through it all she is committed to making her Flagler Heights
neighborhood in northeast Fort Lauderdale a safer place. Since the
attack, Young has become active in the Citizen\'s Crime Alert and is
helping organize her community\'s National Night Out on Crime tonight at
a nearby church.

Hers is one of scores of South Florida communities throwing block
parties to support grassroots crime fighting. Organizers hope the
cookouts, SWAT demonstrations and kiddie games will build community
spirit and increase ties between police officers and residents. In the
past year, Young has attended citizen\'s police academy programs through
the Fort Lauderdale Police department and the Broward Sheriff\'s Office.
She also completed the Broward County Fire Rescue Civilian Emergency
Response Team program to give her a better idea of what police deal with
on a daily basis.

Young\'s dream is to start a support group for survivors of violent
crimes, something she said she hasn\'t been able to find. \"I want to be
the spark,\" Young said. \"People have been disabled by crime. There\'s
a small minority of survivors but it\'s out there and I want to reach
it.\" Young started to organize her neighborhood by walking door-to-door
and handing out fliers for homeowner association and crime watch
meetings. Now some streets have been closed to limit traffic and Citizen
Crime Watch signs are posted.

Cal Deal, past president of Citizens Crime Alert in Fort Lauderdale,
said Young has been instrumental in spurring neighbors\' to band against
crime -- be it by condemning dilapidated houses, organizing block
parties or simply keeping an eye on each other\'s homes. \"She\'s come
out to the meetings and pushed people,\" Deal said. \"She was trying to
save Flagler Heights. The bad guys see this stuff and it affects them.
It changes the chemistry of the neighborhood. It\'s second, I think,
only to what the police do.\"

For Young, taking back her neighborhood is another mile marker on the
road to recovery. Because of her brain injuries diagnosed this spring,
Young takes hours completing simple tasks like showering and dressing.
Her house is peppered with notes and daily reminders. Because she is
incontinent, she plans errands days in advance and carefully regulates
her diet.

The past five years have been full of adjustments great and small.
Sometimes it\'s the little things she misses about her old life, like
wearing her cheetah print or blue satin high heels. She still hasn\'t
had the heart to give them away though she knows she\'ll never wear them
again because of trouble balancing.

Still, everyday she finds it a little easier to let the attack go. In
October, she saw her trauma room photos for the first time. They show
Young\'s face swollen, smeared with blood and crisscrossed with tubes.
For Young, they have made the attack more real, helping her get over a
stage of denial. \"They might be gruesome to other people but to me it
was proof that it really happened,\" she said. \"I thought for long time
that this was a bad dream. It took me a long time but I woke up.\"