LOSING IT

But after the assault, Hillya Mooney's life unraveled in such a way that she was no longer capable of negotiating the relatively simple dispute.

On the day she was scheduled to appear in small-claims court to settle the conflict over her rent, Hillya Mooney was subpoenaed to appear in Superior Court on the rape trial.

Instead of using her training as a legal secretary to resolve this scheduling impasse, she ignored the justice-court proceeding and found herself evicted and facing an order of seizure of all her household goods.

When Hillya Mooney attempted to stop the constable from carting off all her earthly possessions, she was promptly arrested and thrown into a holding tank with prostitutes.

Hillya felt she could handle the rape, but this was too much. Faced with the unthinkable, she fell back upon her upbringing to explain her circumstances. "We are not jail people," said Hillya. "I have relatives who are judges."

When she emerged from her cell, the county attorney put her up at the downtown Y. She found it impossible to focus upon her classes, to make the necessary bus connections to reach her students.

"The location of the Y is not very safe," explains Hillya. "I was not familiar with that kind of street life. It wasn't the nicest clientele: people down on their luck, people who were drunks. There was no way I could teach at night and take the bus back to that neighborhood. It was very difficult to continue teaching."
Hillya's recollection is only an approximation. In fact, the downtown Y is one of the few places in the Valley that is convenient to bus service. The larger truth is that she was shaken to her core with the suspicion that she'd been robbed of her dignity by Timberlake and that her students suspected the truth.

In a more candid moment she says, "I didn't want people to know I'd been the victim of a serial rapist."

Hillya did find a single sympathetic ear that she felt comfortable in confiding to in the early part of the crisis.

The person who understood what Hillya was going through was Helene Abrams.
As juvenile chief for the Maricopa County Public Defenders Office, Abrams had initiated a class, taught by Hillya, to acquaint her staff with conversational Spanish.

"The class began before the rape. Shortly into the teaching, we became friends. I, too, am a rape victim. I understood the range of emotions she was going through. We talked about it quite a bit, the survivor's experience. Hillya finished the class and all of us went out to a Mexican restaurant and ordered in Spanish. She did a great job, but we couldn't have her back because of the conflict of interest.

"Our office represented Sidney Timberlake."
And so Hillya Mooney found herself alone.
Hillya's home was gone and she now spent disquieting evenings sitting on the edge of a strange bed in the YWCA. After 44 years of travel and accumulation, every stick of furniture and every black-and-white photograph from her childhood was under a sheriff's padlock. Her employment as a teacher was over.

Hillya Mooney's grip on reality was reduced to a single, slender thread that was too delicate to support the weight of her dilemma: She believed that if she did not confront the rape, she could ignore it; if she ignored it, she could not be labeled a rape victim.

Her grasp loosened, however, when others went about their jobs, insisting that Hillya Mooney play her role in the rape drama. Two events in quick succession pushed her over the edge.

The prosecutor, in what Hillya describes as an attempt to secure her cooperation as a witness, showed her pictures of the bludgeoned faces of Timberlake's other victims. Hillya could no more face their rapes any more than she could confront her own.

"Bill Clayton was an excellent prosecutor," said Hillya. "He just didn't know me as a person. The women in those pictures had the appearance of someone's grandmother who'd been terribly beaten. I understood the legal purpose, but it was so dehumanizing. The county attorney and the police did not want us to communicate or know who the other victims were. It was like not being able to talk to your support group. The first photo was the only one I really looked at. The woman's face was all bashed in and red with blood. It looked like someone had hit her with a pipe or stomped on her with boots. I glanced away from the other photos."
Hillya was quickly jolted again by press coverage.
"I was at a bus stop and someone was reading your newspaper, Mr. Lacey. I looked and saw a picture of Sidney in your column. I couldn't believe it. The police had been so reassuring, told me the system was on my side. Everything would be kept confidential. Well nothing was confidential. It was all there in your column, Mr. Lacey. All my students would know. There was no personal self that I could keep behind the walls. I was devastated."
Every reporter should have the opportunity to look into the eyes of a victim when words like this are finally uttered.

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