You can’t break my daughter or me!
It was a November day just 6 years ago today. The day was nice and ordinary; outside was bit cold and gloomy, but still. I’m making dinner in the kitchen when my 14 year old son Eirik comes to me. He is a bit worried, and I can see that he wants to tell me something, but he is hestitating. He looks at me, looks down, looks at me again and says; Hey dad … -Yes, I say. What is it?
Ahhhh, Charlen has been raped, and she is in Sandefjord now……
I look at my son and don’t understand what he is saying. – What are you saying? – I ask.
Charlen has been raped, and she is in Sandefjord. I look at him again and see the hurt in his eyes. He is hurt, and it feels like he really didn’t want to tell me this. I’m grabbing my head and trying to understand what he is saying… I’m hearing the words over and over again, but I don’t really understand what he is saying. This is not happening, this is not true. I’m dreaming, I’m having nightmares…
We are a family of 3 children who at this time are 8, 14 and 16 years old. We moved from the north of Norway to a beautiful city in eastern Norway 8 years ago, 2 months after the youngest was born.
My wife worked in the municipality, and I was the director of a kindergarten, something I had been doing for the past 16 years. We were enjoying, had many friends and often did things with the kids. The kids were good at school, had many friends and we felt like we were living a happy life. We felt we had done a good job in the upbringing and that most of the things went smoothly.
It turned out that the life of the whole family was totally turned upside down overnight, and that many years of pain would follow.
I am looking through a kitchen window. I pinch myself in the arm, look at my son who is standing with his head bent. I sit down on the couch for a few minutes and think…. I do not know what I’m thinking about… I ask Eirik if he knows when she’s coming home … No, he can’t reach her. I’m trying to call her, but I’m not coming through. Something that I have never experienced before or after is growing inside me. It’s beginning to get to me that my dear daughter has been raped, but I do not know anything anymore. Has it happened today, is it happening now? What should I do? Should I call the police? Right now I don’t control the mind or the body. I’m going into a trance and acting without thinking.
I’m calling my brother in Sandefjord and shouting on the phone: -You must help me, Charlen has been raped. Find something to hit with and I’ll pick you up right away. He agrees without asking any questions and tells me to call when I’m on my way. We have to catch the beast who did it. My body is shaking, I’m going back and forth in the living room. I’m crying and thinking of my daughter. The worst thing is not knowing what has happened. I’m getting pictures in my head, getting angrier and angrier. I’m trying to call her, no answer. I’m shouting, swearing and am frustrated. I found a bat kids have been playing with. I found a steel pipe down in the basement and put it next to me.
Eirik comes into me and says Charlen is on a bus on the way home from Sandefjord. I’m taking the “equipment” with me and driving to the bus station which is 5 min away. I get up to wait, but I do not know what to expect. The seconds pass, the buses are coming, the people are leaving, but no Charlen.
The minute’s pass, more buses are arriving, but still no Charlen. I try to call her, but no answer. “The hours” are passing while I’m in the car, looking into the mirror, shaking and being angry, frustrated and crying…
Then she comes out of the bus and sees me standing there. She comes to the car with her sad face and looks down. She gets in the car. I say; -I know what has happened. Tell me!
She begins to tell… She said that something has happened but she was hesitating to talk about it. I’m waiting a bit, giving her the time. I actually didn’t want to hear the story, I just wanted to know who it was, what his name and address were. She said his first name and where he approximately lived, but she didn’t know his last name or address. I am driving her home, dropping her off and driving on. I am calling my brother again telling him I am on my way and asking him if he is ready. I am calling my wife asking her if she can talk to Charlen and ask about the boy’s last name. We get his last name. I’m checking the information and I find an address where the same surname is registered. NOW I’m ready to take revenge. I’m in my own world, full of adrenaline, and I know that it will be good to take down the devil. Still don’t know what to do, I’ll figure it out there and then.
I am driving towards Sandefjord to pick up my brother looking at the baseball bat and the steel pipe that are ready to be used. I get a good feeling in me. He’s going to be beaten senseless, and I’m looking forward to it.
There and then I could have killed, gone to prison for 10-15 years, waking up every day with a smile on my face, as long as I knew he was dead. He took something from me, he took something from my daughter and he is going to pay for it. How could he???
My wife calls me saying there were two boys who raped her. Two???? I got the other boy’s name, too… I don’t remember what I was thinking when I got the message, because revenge was to be carried out. Now there were two people who were to be taken down.
While the adrenaline is rising as I’m driving with loud music on, a thought comes out of the blue. Should I call the police..? -No, they can’t do anything or have no time anyways… I’m driving on, approaching my brother’s house. Then the thought comes back, it kind of wants to tell me something. I listen to this thought, stop the car and pick up the mobile phone. I’m thinking about it, and it feels that the body is starting to calm down. I’m calling and getting answered quickly. I’m explaining what has happened and what me and my brother are about to do. They are calming me down even more, telling me they will send a patrol to the address and a patrol home to my daughter. I am calming down and thanking them. I sink into the driver’s seat and cry. The pictures of two boys raping my daughter are coming. I am sobbing, holding my head and loudly shouting NOOOOOOOOOO inside the car. I am alone in the parking lot and can’t see clearly because of the tears. I’m thinking of Charlen, how she is doing. I’m calling my wife again, she confirms that the police have arrived and they are going
The trial, restraining order
This happened on a Tuesday. It afterward appears that the rape had occurred on Friday afternoon the week before. Charlen heard that the rumors had begun to go. She wanted to do something about it and went to the neighbor town with a girlfriend and her mobile in the pocket with recording on. She wanted to sort things out and make the boys admit what they had done so that she had evidence. She herself stated later that one does not think rationally after the rape, and all she wanted was to be able to prove that it had happened. What happened was that the same thing was about to happen again, but this time she had agreed with her friend to call her after a few minutes. It saved her this time and she got out and away from there.
The time that followed was strange. An attorney was appointed, there were interrogations and the time was hard. The boys had filmed this, and there were rumors that the clip was shown to many others at the high school they were going to. Powerlessness one feels when one does not get something done is cruel. Everything is in the hands of the police.
I understood later that it is not the rape itself that necessarily makes that many girls start with self-harm, get anxiety and depression and, in the worst case, commit suicide. It is what happens afterward. They are the ones who feel guilt and shame over what has happened. They don’t dare to report this to the police. This brings the discussion of the criminal justice system we have in Norway. Based on more cases I have read about in the media, old-school judges are in positions to judge and condemn. They have in several cases asked the victim how she was dressed, if she had been drinking etc. THIS has absolutely NOTHING with the case to do, although in the case of my daughter it happened in the afternoon and she was not intoxicated.
Since the rape has happened a few days earlier, the clothes she had on had then been washed. It is a natural feeling after being raped. The victim feels very dirty in many cases, both physically and mentally. The boys got a restraining order and the attorney raised a case which was later dismissed. The irony in all this was that the boys could report my daughter. She was 16, and they were 15 years old. In the worst case, she could have been punished for having sex with minors…. This is the law in Norway.
Charlen likes to express herself and her feelings in writing. She wrote a blog post about the incident approximately a year after the rape. My wife and I were suddenly reading about the incident on Facebook, and I remember the shame I felt then and there. Our daughter told everyone that she had been raped, and she described everything in detail. I was terrified of all the comments, the looks and the questions I would now get.
This was shared tens of thousands of times on Facebook, and she received hundreds of comments from girls and boys who had experienced the same. 99% of the comments were positive and many wrote that the Charlen’s post had inspired them to tell their story and they dared to come forward. She was described as brave, tough, the one who dared to come forward with her story.
When it had sunk in, and I saw all the positive reactions, the shame turned into something very positive. I was suddenly proud and pleased that Charlen had done it. I understood her, and then it was much easier to support her in what she had done.
The police call
A while after the blog was posted Charlen returned home and said that the police in Sandefjord had called her and asked her to remove the blog post because the parents of the boys felt offended. I got angry when I heard it. I thought she had misunderstood what the police said. I got the phone number they had called from and the next morning I got to talk to the same person. I asked why they had called her, she was 17, and did not call us. He explained the case and said that the parents of the boys felt upset and the police asked her to remove the blog post. I had to ask several times if he really meant that, and he confirmed it every time. I “understood” that it was not the police officer I was talking to, but a social worker who might have worked with youth and who had talked to the boys and the parents.
Eventually, it turned out that it was actually a police officer I was talking to, and then I was disappointed and wanted to end the conversation. So I asked him if I understood correctly that if Charlen removed the blog post, the boys would leave her alone in the future. “Yes,” said the police officer. Then I concluded the conversation by saying I couldn’t care less about what the parents of the boys felt, I had to take care of my daughter, of course! So I said that if they did not have a court order that she had to remove the post, it would remain. I thanked for the conversation and hung up! What the h …… was that, I was thinking afterward. I felt this was a new assault on my daughter. What the police really said was that they believed the boys and not her….
If it hadn’t been just one year after the incident during which Charlen struggled a lot, I would have contacted the media. I’m thinking this is not possible.
Shortly after that, Charlen was visiting her grandmother in Sandefjord with a friend. Suddenly, the two boys are coming by bike, bicycling past them, spitting on Charlen and shouting – fucking whore. I contacted the police in Sandefjord and explained the situation and asked if they could take a DNA sample of the spit that she had on both the jacket and the bag. They denied it and said it was way too expensive.
Charlen was offered psychological help and was regularly going to therapy until one day she came home and said that the psychologist, who was probably over 60 years old, was insinuating that she was sweet, commenting on her makeup and clothes in a way you maybe expect to hear in a club, but NOT from a psychologist. I immediately called and asked to talk to the psychologist’s chief. I briefly explained why I called and asked them to call me back. I NEVER heard anything from them. Charlen was in such “bad” condition that I did not want to expose her any further.
Self-harm, suicide letter
Charlen started 3 years of a high school in a row and completed all 3 of them. She would sometimes see shadows of the boys in the windows, get anxiety attacks and rush out of the classroom, or could sit behind a boy looking like one of the boys, which has happened.
Charlen started cutting her arms. She was bloody and had marks on both arms that were very ugly. It was awful to feel that one could not help. I was cleaning her room two times. I found a well-hidden folded paper. It looked like it should be thrown. I opened it to make sure it should be thrown. What I read is something that I wouldn’t wish my worst enemy to read from his child. She described how she felt, she described that it was totally dark in the tunnel and that she would commit suicide. She wrote that she would end her life. I cried and cried when I read this. What can I do? How can I get her on better thoughts? How can I prevent the most valuable thing one has, his own child, from committing a suicide.
I woke up every day for 2-3 years and was afraid to go to Charlen’s room. I was terrified she had committed a suicide. Every day for 2-3 years I woke up wondering not if she had committed a suicide, but when … I was terrified. The awful feeling every day, day and night. I was scared and looking out of the window when Charlen was not home. I was afraid that a priest would come to the door. I was afraid of getting a phone call saying Charlen was gone, like so many other girls who have experienced rape.
I felt guilty because I had not prevented the rape. It was my mistake. A father should always protect his daughter against such thing. I struggled with the thoughts and feelings of guilt. Work was a nightmare and I could not think of anything else and feared her worst. I walked the wall, as it’s called, and was gone from work for two years. I simply couldn’t work.
The thought on revenge was frequent in the next few years. I felt that the only way Charlen could be more in peace with what had happened and make people start believing her, was to make the boys pay. I thought they had to be beaten properly so they would realize it was wrong and to prevent them from doing it again to other girls. I planned in detail how to get my revenge without it being traced back to me. Time passed, and I talked to someone who knew someone from The Eastern Bloc countries who did such things. The mission was to beat them so hard that they could not walk for a while. I felt this was the only way to make amends so my daughter and I could move on. I was having this thought the first three to four years after the rape.
How many are exposed? Am I the only who feels this way?
I have been working on developing applications for mobile phones for almost 10 years now. The thoughts, feelings and seeing what it was like for my daughter made me think if it were possible to make something that could help prevent rapes from happening and help when they have already happened…..
I started to investigate the international market and searched for statistics on whether rape was widespread, or if I was just a father of a rape victim who was wondering if there were more. www.rainn.org in the US wrote that as many women ages 18-24 (College age) are 3 times more likely to be victim of rape, attempted rape.
Sexual violence also affects victims relationship with family, friends, Co-workers. 38% experience work or school problems and 37% experience family/friends problems. Sexual violence can have long-term effects on victims. 94% of women experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder during the two weeks after the rape. 33% of women who are raped contemplate suicide and 13% of women who are raped attempt suicide.
In Norway www.forskning.no write that as many as 1 in 4 girls growing up is exposed to sexual abuse and 1 in 10 girls have been raped. In Norway. Half of them before they were 18 years old. Additionally, only 1 in 10 reports a rape, and 8 out of 10 charges are being dismissed. Less than 1% of perpetrators are being sentenced.
These figures made me feel this is something that concerns many people. I was not alone as a father of a rape victim. This is a major social problem that I had never thought of before.
I searched online and app stores for applications related to rape. The Norwegian app bSafe was very popular and appeared in every search. It seemed to be the best product in the world and with the most downloads. bSafe has an alarm alerting relatives with location and recording of audio and video if a victim turns it on. It has additional features, such as Follow Me, where you can digitally follow a person home via the map on the phone, and Fake Call, which can be used to get a fake phone call to get out of threatening situations. I found out that bSafe had over 100,000 positive articles in the media such as CNN, NBC, Fox News, BBC, Forbes, Elle among others, and was available in over 100 countries.
I started the development of Safyy, an app that should be better than anything on the market, including bSafe. I went to the USA in the summer of 2016 and my work got a lot of attention. This was something I strongly believed in, so I raised loans and invested about NOK 1.5 million of my own money to get started. The response in the United States was so good that I moved to New York for a few months to build a network. I also met the founder of bSafe at an event at the Norwegian Consulate in New York. I founded a company in the United States, Mobile Safety Technology Inc., which is a subsidiary of my Norwegian company Mobile Software AS.
I was in December 2016 told that the Bipper Communications AS, company that owned bSafe, was maybe selling bSafe with all its privileges. To cut a long story short, I got on board a person who had about 20 years of experience as business lawyer to start negotiations with creditors and shareholders in Bipper Communications AS for a possible acquisition. It was a complex matter since it was spent over NOK 60 million over several years, there were many shareholders and the process was finished after a half year. In May 2017, my company was finally the owner of bSafe, the world’s largest personal safety and security app with 1.3 million downloads in over 100 countries.
I decided to build the good brand name, but over the past year I have collected about $1,2 million in capital and spent the last 18 months implementing functionalities that I worked on in Safyy to the bSafe.
We’ve now tested it and are ready to launch bSafe with new features, such as voice activation of the alarm, live streaming and up to 5 minutes of automatic audio and video recording when the alarm is activated.
The statistics show that the alarm is triggered on average about 5,000 times per month and the Follow Me and Face Call features are used over 10,000 times. That means we make a difference.
Today I live a wonderful and good life. I have a wonderful fiancé I am gonna marry and she has supported me all the time and has been a wonderful help for me during the last year. Charlen is good and working, and with people. She has been sooo tough, although some years have been hard on her. She has been tough and worked her way through this with a lot of her boyfriend Andreas`s help who has supported her and been there for here in past years. Without knowing it for sure, but I think he has contributed greatly to Charlen doing well today and not choosing to end her life.
Charlen is a shareholder in the American company and is a board member there. She has been accepted exceptionally well in the United States, and they love that we have taken something so cruel and turned it into something positive.
My oldest son is an apprentice in my company and plans to start his own company based on the experience, knowledge and motivation he has gained through his apprenticeship and my youngest son is doing very good at school.
We have established offices in Philadelphia and New York, collaborating with NACC (Norway-American-Chamber of Commerce), Innovation Norway and have received research funds via SkatteFUNN for the next two years. I am a part of 1776`accelerator program in Washington DC and got a lot of help and connections. We are now investor ready and gonna raise $2,5 million the next couple of months to lauch bSafe and finalize or software to increase safety- and security at college campus and in cities.
I love my life today as opposed to the first years after the rape. I’m working with my children now on rape prevention and providing help in cases when it has happened. I have never thought that one could make a difference, but now my daughter and me are 100% sure that bSafe will help many girls in future. We will give our best now and help many more benefit from the bSafe alarm and functionality. We want to make the world a safer place!
You can’t break my daughter or me!
New York City, November, 26 2018
Rich Larsen, CEO Mobile Safety Technology Inc,
Read more about bSafe at http://getbsafe.com/