The Damage Done: Second of two parts

The Damage Done: Heroin in Centreville and the death of Alicia Lannes

Centreville comes to grips with the destructive grasp of drugs on its young people.
By Caitlin Gibson
Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Greg and Donna Lannes sat on either side of their daughter in the Bethesda office of psychiatrist Steven Pankopf. Between them, Alicia was composed, her head up and her voice steady.

"I have to say this quick or I'm not going to say it," Alicia said. "Something happened to me in California. I was raped."

Alicia had been to California when she was 14.

That was all she'd say. She didn't want to discuss details, and her parents didn't press. The three just held each other and cried.

Details would spill out over the months that followed Alicia's March 2006 revelation, as Alicia's composure unraveled. She started suffering panic attacks and flashbacks, sometimes hyperventilating until she passed out. Through each episode, fragments of her secret would emerge.

It was during the summer before her freshman year of high school when she was invited to accompany a friend and her family to visit relatives in the suburbs of Los Angeles. The two girls sneaked out late one night and walked a few blocks to get ice cream at a 7-Eleven attached to a gas station.

Four men pulled up to ask directions. The girls made the mistake of walking toward their car. They grabbed Alicia and yanked her in.

Leaving the screaming friend behind, the four drove her a short distance away. Alicia's recollection of what happened next was halting and uncertain, freeze-framed horror. She was taken into some small room, maybe a trailer. She was tied up, strangled until she passed out. She was serially raped. There were flashes of light -- someone was taking pictures.

How long had it taken? Fifteen minutes? Fifty? Alicia had no idea. When she was released, her friend was still outside the gas station, paralyzed by shock and indecision.

Alicia reacted with the wisdom of her 14 years: "This didn't happen," she told her friend. Both girls vowed to tell no one, as if their silence would wipe it away.

In the days that followed, Alicia wore sunglasses and avoided contact with her friend's parents. She hid her bruises beneath turtlenecks and scarves.

Those wounds healed. Others bloomed below the surface. Outwardly, Alicia was becoming the smart, outgoing young woman who loved to pull pranks and spend time with her family. Inside, her secret festered.

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