by Jeffrey Stockbridge

Darlene, 2009.

I met Darlene the same afternoon I met Sarah on the corner of Kensington and Harold Street. Sarah and I were in the middle of making a photograph when we saw a young woman running down the Ave hysterically sobbing. Sarah yelled out to her by name but she ran right past us. Sarah ran after her and yelled again, “Darlene, Darlene,” and then the woman turned and stopped. Sarah reminded her that in fact they knew each other and had even been friendly in the past. Sarah had lent her some clothing recently on a cold night. Darlene approached shyly and Sarah put her arms around her and asked what was wrong. Between sobs, Darlene told us a horrific account of how she had just been raped.

Alone and getting high up on the tracks, Darlene had been overtaken by a group of men, was hit over the back of the head and lost consciousness. It was only when she came too that she realized what had happened. In a state of disbelief she got up, ran along the tracks through the weeds and out to the street where Sarah and I spotted her.

At Sarah’s request, Darlene sat down, twisting and turning as she fought off the urge to keep running. She calmed enough to tell us what had happened, and reflected on the violent acts which had occurred just moments ago. With brutal awareness, Darlene admitted that her situation was helpless. Going to the police was not an option she said. She’d been picked up on drug and prostitution charges before and knew that like other prostitutes on the Ave who had been raped, she had zero credibility with the cops and no chance of seeking asylum. They’ll just laugh at me and tell me I got what I deserved, she said.