“Tura Thursday” is a regular series celebrating the legacy of the late, great Tura Satana, best known as Varla in the 1965 Russ Meyer cult classic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. This series is curated by Tura’s longtime manager, friend, confidant and CEO of Tura Satana Productions, Siouxzan Perry.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and to commemorate, we present an exclusive, never before published excerpt from Tura’s memoirs which she wrote before her death in 2011. In this chapter, Tura writes about being gang raped when she was nine and how that impacted her life. Her family had recently been released from the Manzanar internment camp (her father was Japanese, her mother Caucasian) and relocated to Chicago when the incident occurred.
WARNING: The description of Tura’s sexual assault is very graphic. Reader discretion is advised.
I digress with this chapter because it is a large part of who I am and why I became who I am. I didn’t know it at that time, but this incident is where VARLA was created in me. She was born in Chicago on the Westside.
One June afternoon, my mother told me I had to go to the bakery and pick up the sweets she had ordered earlier that day. The bakery was only about five blocks away from the house and it was still light out. It was about 5:30 p.m. and the bakery closed at 6 so I would have to make sure I got there in time. My mother had a sweet tooth and she could not do without her crumb cake with her coffee in the mornings. Since I was the oldest girl, I was selected to go. I was 9 1/2 years old. My birthday was still a month away. I would be 10 in July. I was looking forward to my upcoming birthday, because then I could get a bigger paper route and save more money.
I walked the five blocks to the bakery and picked up the order for my mother. As I was walking back home on Taylor St., I noticed there was a car full of guys following me. I recognized the car from the better section of our neighborhood–it belonged to the neighbor of one of my customers.
Though I didn’t know the guys in the car, I knew the car so I didn’t think anything of it. What you have to understand is that at 9 1/2 years, I was already developed bust-wise. My bust line was 34C. I tried to wear large shirts and loose sweaters to hide my build, but it was summertime and too hot for that. I was wearing a t-shirt with shorts.
When one of the guys called me over and asked if I knew some girl, I didn’t think anything of it. I walked over and told him that I didn’t know where she lived. The next thing I knew, I had a hand wrapped around my mouth and I was being pulled into the car. I was thrown to the floor with a dirty hanky shoved in my mouth. I tried to get up and kick my way out and that’s when the first fist hit me. I saw stars for a few moments. One of the guys told me to shut up and keep still.
The three guys in the back had me under their feet and one of them started feeling under my shirt. He seemed surprised, because he said, “Hey, those tits are real.” One of the other guys yelled at him and told him to wait because everyone would get a feel. When I heard that, my skin began to crawl, because I knew then and there what was going to happen. I knew that I wasn’t going to get away unscathed. I just prayed that GOD would let me pass and not feel anything. I guess he didn’t hear me, because I felt it all.
They drove through the back alleys and pulled up into a garage. I wasn’t sure exactly what was going to happen but I knew I was going to get hurt. I made up my mind then and there that they wouldn’t make me beg. I knew that was one of the things they wanted to hear. They wanted this Japanese child to beg for mercy. They weren’t going to get it though.
After they pulled into the garage, there was a four-door sedan sitting there. They pulled me out of the convertible and put me in the back seat of the sedan. Four guys were holding me by all of my extremities. I tried to buck myself free, but it didn’t help. They put my feet in the hand straps between the doors. This way, I couldn’t get my legs together and was spread eagle from the waist down.
They tore off my underwear and then they took turns feeling my chest and pulling my shirt up so that they could get a better look and grab a handful of bust. I remember the bruises afterwards, but that didn’t hurt half as much as when the first guy drove into me. He was the oldest one and the one who owned the car. He tore through the membrane of my virginity and gloated to the others that he was the first. Yes, he was and it took him all of about one minute to last, before he shot his load into me. The pain and the ripping sensation of that penetration has never left me, but I have managed to overcome it. When he drove into me, it felt as though I were being split in two. The pain was so intense that I almost passed out.
As soon as he was finished, the next guy climbed on and pushed his way into me. I could feel the rawness of the first one and the salt and sweat from this one. This one was a short-timer as well, but he was brutal at the same time. He wanted me to yell, which was a little hard to do when you have a dirty hanky shoved in your mouth. He also liked to squeeze my breasts. Sometimes he almost brought tears to my eyes, but I wouldn’t let them fall.
After he finished, the next one and the next and finally the last one took their turns on me. I could feel their juices running down the crack of rear and onto the seat and floor. After they were all done, they each took another turn and this time it was longer because they weren’t in such a hurry any more. After a while, there was no more pain, there was just a dull aching feeling down there. All of them had my blood on them, but that didn’t seem to bother them. Finally, they removed my feet from the straps and took me back to another car, but never put me in it. I thought they were going to do the same thing to me again, but they got into the car and told me that if I told anyone what happened, they would kill me.
I just stared at them as they drove off. I tried to get up off the ground and couldn’t do it at first. I had no strength left and I was sore all over from the punches, jabs and pokes. I tried to walk through a sewer pipe to get back to the street and wound up cutting my ankle on a broken bottle. I tried to stop the bleeding, but I couldn’t so I started to crawl home. I was approximately two miles from my house. I crawled, walked and fell numerous times, but no one would help me. People looked and saw the blood, but not one person offered to help.
By the time I got close to my house, I was absolutely worn out. I crawled up the sidewalk towards our apartment and saw a couple of police officers there. My dad was talking to them and I must have made a sound, because they turned and started running towards me. My father was the first there. I told him that I was sorry, but I lost mom’s sweets. I started to cry and then I guess I finally passed out.
The next thing I knew, I woke up in the county hospital. The doctor was examining me and my ankle was being sewn up. I almost came out of my skin when the doctor went to touch me and it took my father to calm me down. The doctor gathered evidence, but somewhere between the hospital and the courtroom, it got lost. I found out that one of the policemen was the cousin of one of the rapists. Guess what happened to the evidence? It took me several weeks to heal and then I had to put up with the taunts in school about being “used”.
I guess I could have spent the rest of my life crying about what happened and hating all males. For the longest time, I wouldn’t let my father or my brother touch me. It brought back too many memories, but then one day my father sat me down. He told me I could either dwell on what happened and continue to live with it all of my life, or I can put it behind me and learn from it. The one thing he didn’t want is to let this eat me up inside. He said I had but one goal in life right now and that was to live; that I had the will to overcome this and I could learn from it and not let it rule my life.
He continued: “I have taught you to accept things that you can’t change and to overcome things that you can. You are my daughter and I love you very much. You will never be any less in my eyes than the day you were born and I thought what a wonder you will be. We will begin more intensive training now and you will get better and you will never let this happen to you again. Will you, my daughter?”
I looked at my father and felt the tears run down my face, but I shook my head and told him, that it would never happen again! I have kept that promise to my father and to myself to this day. If I could help every woman that this has ever happened to, I would. They have to know that there is a life after rape and that you can overcome it. It is in your spirit to conquer this degradation. I learned that I could love again and be loved in return. No matter what life throws at you, you can get the better of it as long as YOU WANT TO.
During my rapists’ trial, I learned that one of them was from a fairly wealthy family and they paid the judge $1000 for my virginity. I was sent to reform school because I “tempted” those five young men into doing what they did. The message was clear: I was the one at fault and I was the one who was punished.
My father and mother were outraged, but there was nothing they could do about it. Since all of our money was taken during the war and the property that my father owned was lost or confiscated by the government when our family was interned, we had no money to fight back. Besides, we were the losing side; we were less than the blacks that lived in our neighborhood. These are some of the twists of life during the times after the war. I don’t think I will ever truly forget that episode, but I have learned to live with it.
If it hadn’t been for some of the men that have been in my life, I probably would have been a man-hater, but my father and brother helped me through a very tough time and because they were males, it helped me get through that part of my life. I learned at a very early age that my body and my face could either bring me trouble or fantastic lovers. If I had let this incident eat at me, I probably would have been the world’s number one man-hater, but I learned that it is not the fault of all men. What happened to me was a result of prejudice, avarice and lust. They had wanted to make me pay for what Japan did during the war, even though I had no say in the matter one way or another.
I keep thinking it could have been worse. They could have left me tied up in that garage and used me over and over again and then just killed me. For the longest time, I blamed my mother for what happened to me. But she wasn’t at fault either. I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I should probably tell you all how I finally got even with those guys, or should I? If I do, you will think I am the bitch of the world, but it had to be done. They got away with tearing my life to shreds for a long time. After I finally got even with them, it was like a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
As a adult, Tura did eventually track down each of her assailants and exacted her own form of justice. We’ll share the details, in Tura’s own words, in future editions of “Tura Thursday”.