Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

Profile in Courage

Posted May 16, 2008 5:23 p.m. EDT

Every once in awhile I interview someone who personifies the word "courage.". Tomeshia Carrington-Artis is one of those people.

Last week she did her first television interview ever, that in itself is enough make most people's palms sweat. But the issue-her rape as a twelve-year-old child, was the real reason I say she is courageous beyond what most of us can imagine.

Tomeshia is tired of hiding. While we have a policy of not identifying rape victim's she has made a choice to come forward and tell her story. Her young, fresh face with its inviting smile belies her thirty-three years, but her eyes reveal something else, a woman who has lived most of her life in fear and pain.

For the past twenty-one years Tomeshia admits she felt "dead" in may ways, that she never really dealt with the trauma that "robbed" her of her childhood. A man climbed into her bedroom window and assaulted her as she lay just steps from her mother's room. A late bloomer, she had just started sleeping alone. She hasn't slept alone since. Nothing has ever been the same for her since that night. Nightfall brings on a sense of panic that Tomeshia cannot ward off even with adult logic. She checks and double-checks locks on doors and windows. She cannot be alone.

The tragedy is now back in her consciousness like never before. That's because she identified the wrong man, a man who spent eighteen years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Dwayne Dail was released from prison last year after a DNA test ruled him out as the perpetrator. Recently another man, William Neal, was charged with the crime. Tomeshia will have to go through the process all over again of testifying in a courtroom about the night that changed her life forever.

It is not the trial Tomeshia fears most, it is the feelings of guilt and remorse she carries inside her heart for helping send Dail to prison when he was an innocent man. Friends and family tell her she was only twelve, that she didn't intend to finger the wrong man, but she can't let it go. She is determined to meet him face-to-face and apologize. In many ways she feels like the person who raped her took two lives that night, hers and Dail's.

Why now? Why speak after twenty-one years of silence. Tomeshia says she is speaking out now because she is tired of her life being ruled by her attacker. She is ready to stop being a victim and start being a survivor. If that's not courage I don't know what is...

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About this Blog:

WRAL's Amanda Lamb offers a behind-the-scenes look at what TV news reporters do, the people they meet and how their jobs affect them.