A daughter's brutal rape, a father's response:
April 2005
By Steve Bush
Photograph by Mary Ellen Mark

At 3:30 in the afternoon of Halloween 2001, just as my daughter, Jenny, walked through her front door after finishing her waitressing shift at a Tucson, Arizona, resort, a man she'd never seen before jumped out of the closet. "Don't scream or I’ll cut your throat," he said, waving a knife to show he meant business. He led Jenny, 22, down the hall to her bedroom, where he forced her to lie on her stomach on the floor. Tying her hands behind her back with duct tape, he stuffed a rolled‑up sock into her mouth and wound more tape around her head to hold the gag in place. At first he said that he intended only to rob her ‑ "You came home too early," he said. But then he dragged my daughter onto the bed, "to make you more comfortable," pulled off her clothes, wrapped a robe around her face, forced himself on top of her and raped her. Jenny sobbed softly. "Quit crying," he barked.

Even though her mind was almost paralyzed with fear Jenny knew that her next actions could determine whether she lived or died. "I considered for an instant trying to kick him off me and hoping he would run away," she told me later. "But he could get angry and do something even worse." She endured by mentally distancing herself from the horrible reality, even while her attacker was asking her, "Are you a virgin? Do you like your boyfriend better?" Jenny just stayed quiet.

When he was through, the man hauled her into the shower, taped her ankles together and bound them to her hands so she couldn't move. Jenny waited several minutes after he left the room and then began struggling to remove the duct tape. "I nearly gave up trying to free myself," she later testified, "but I was embarrassed that my roommates would come home and find me that way, so I gave one final tug." The tape broke. "I picked the knife up off the counter," she said, "and called 911." When Tucson detectives arrived at her door, the duct tape was still on her arms; the gag still dangled from her neck.

"Jenny is in the emergency room. She was raped." Hearing those words, I felt nauseated and could barely breathe. My ex‑wife, Jenny's mom, was calling on her cell phone from Phoenix, where she lives, while I sat in my house in San Diego. She and our son, John, Jenny's brother, then 27, were racing toward the Tucson emergency room. After I hung up, I dialed my own mother. "Jenny's been raped," I gasped, and then choked. Nothing more would come out.

Although I longed to grab the first flight to Arizona, John told me not to come right away ‑"There is nothing you could do here now, Dad, except wait like us. They have to do a sexual assault examination on Jenny" ‑ so I listened to the kitchen clock tick and thought about my daughter's last visit to me in San Diego only a few weeks earlier. She had just graduated from college, and although she'd piled up many accomplishments ‑ good grades, lots of friends in her sorority ‑ she seemed adrift and lacking in self‑confidence. She was frustrated that she hadn't been able to find a job in the field she'd majored in, marketing. One day I'd seen her sitting by herself on a rock at the beach, staring vacantly at the waves. "I just felt like I was staring up from the bottom of a dark hole," she told me later. As we talked and walked along the sand, I tried to buoy her spirits, reminding her how smart and capable she was, and I thought I'd succeeded. But now I worried: Would this brutal attack set her back?

What kind of emotional scars would it leave?

Meanwhile, at the hospital, the staff were treating Jenny's wounds, drawing blood for pregnancy and HIV tests, and preparing her for the postrape examinations. Jenny, amazingly, was holding up quite well. She later told me she'd realized that, as a sexual assault victim, her body was a crime scene, and she wanted to make sure all the evidence was collected. Although she was aching to shower away the smell of her attacker, she followed police instructions not to wash or go to the bathroom while she went though hours of tests. A specially trained sexual assault response nurse came in and told her, "I have to be clinical and dispassionate during my examination, but you should have another person present." Rather than make her mother listen to the graphic account of her attack, Jenny asked a victims' advocate, provided by a rape‑crisis center, to stay with her.

She faced the worst, head on: Jenny Bush and her dad Steve.
"My heroes were always quiet, selfless folks not the John Waynes. Now it’s my 25 year old daughter who inspires me."

Jenny described for the nurse what her attacker had done, where he had touched her and when. She watched, fascinated, as the nurse turned off the overhead illumination and waved a black light over her body, searching for fingerprints and bodily fluids. "Under the light, I could see his hand marks on my stomach!" she told me later. The nurse took swabs of every area of contact. "She even ran a tiny camera up inside me searching for tears and abrasions," Jenny said. After the forensic exam, the nurse gave Jenny a morning‑after pill that would cause her to vomit every hour for the next day, She was discharged from the emergency room at 10 P.M. four hours after she'd arrived. "I was exhausted," she says. "I wanted to go to bed and to forget."


From my vantage point 400 miles away, I thought I knew exactly how to help Jenny: I'd whisk her away to San Diego, where I could protect her. Her mom had the same instinct, hoping Jenny would come live with her in Phoenix.  But rape counselors told us it's important for survivors to feel that they're in control of their lives. So when Jenny announced that she wanted to move in with friends in Tucson, her mother and I supported her decision. We reluctantly agreed, too, when the counselors told us to "give her some space." Even though I wanted to be in Arizona with Jenny, I remained in California, as she requested, keeping in touch with her via several heartfelt phone calls every week.

People have different ways of coping with trauma; Jenny's was to try to get back to normal as quickly as possible. Two days after the rape, she was once again waiting tables. I couldn't believe it. The rest of us were still reeling and she was heading off to work! It seemed unimaginably brave, but when I next saw Jenny at our family's Christmas get‑together in Phoenix, she told me that she'd really been in a daze during those first postrape days: "I was just going through the motions, doing what I needed to do in order to get on with my life." Certainly the attack had left scars. For months, whenever she entered an empty house, she'd call a friend or family member on her cell phone, and, holding a can of mace in her outstretched band, she'd talk as she searched each room. Even today, every time she enters her bedroom, she looks behind the door.

Besides regaining her equilibrium, Jenny had another mission, and that was to help police identify her still‑unknown assailant. During the assault, the rapist had taunted her, "You know me. Don't you recognize me?" She hadn't, but his questions still tortured her. Had she met him previously? Had she in some way left herself open to this attack? Was he still in the area, and would he come looking for her? She told investigators every detail of her history, anything that might lead them to a name or link Jenny to any other victims who might be out there.

Seven months later the police called with alarming news. Another woman in Tucson had been raped, and the attacker had said to his victim, "If the police want to know who I am, tell them to ask Jennifer Bush."

Arizona detectives now suspected they had a serial rapist on their hands, but they still didn't know his name. They widened the search, trading data with other cities plagued by unsolved sex crimes ‑ and in August 2002 the pieces began clicking into place. Oklahoma police who were pursuing the particularly appalling case of an eight‑year‑old girl who'd been abducted from her home and raped in the woods nearby found evidence on the child that led them to a 35‑year‑old drifter named James Allen Selby. Selby's DNA was entered into a national database, and soon cops around the U.S. were analyzing their evidence for Selby's genetic fingerprints. In 11 instances they found a match, connecting Selby to crimes that ranged from kidnapping to rape to attempted murder in Oklahoma, Nevada, California, Colorado and Arizona. Jenny's attack was one of them.

The manhunt was on. As news media in those five states broadcast Selby's picture, Jenny and I and the rest of our family devoured every scrap of information we could find. It was on an Arizona news Web site that my daughter saw Selby's face for the first time since the attack. "I shuddered as I watched a photo of the man who raped me fill my computer screen," she said. My reaction was relief ‑ police now had a target to pursue ‑ mixed with fury when I learned that in 1998 Selby had been charged with kidnapping a coworker, then sexually assaulting and viciously beating her. Thanks to the vagaries of the legal system, he had been sentenced to just one month of probation. I wanted to ask the judge and lawyers how they'd felt knowing they'd allowed a sexual predator back on the streets to rape again. I wanted to say, 'Would you have done the same if the victim had been your daughter?"

I didn't have too long to stew. On September 24, 2002, I picked up the phone to hear Jenny crying tears of joy. "Dad," she said, "they caught him." Selby, a Gulf War vet, had tried to refill an asthma prescription at a veterans' clinic, where a worker had recognized him from a police flyer. He would go on trial for attacking Jenny, and five other Arizona women, sometime within the next two years.

But as the trial date neared, we learned that we had something else to worry about: Selby had announced he was going to represent himself in court. That meant that he would have another chance to terrorize his victims during opening and closing arguments and during cross‑examination. I was outraged. Jenny, though, was unfazed. Although she had the option to testify by video, she declined, saying, "If the jury has to see me cry in order to convict him, I'm ready."


"He's in there already," Jenny's victim advocate whispered as we arrived at the courthouse on September 27, 2004. Jenny, her mom, her stepmom and I peered into the courtroom and saw, for the first time, James Allen Selby. I wanted him to look like a monster, but instead I observed what seemed to be an ordinary youngish man chatting with his attorney and even smiling. He was wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and, around his waist, an electric shock belt controlled by sheriff's deputies. More than once I wished I had control of that belt.

Selby's opening statement was restrained and articulate. "My heart goes out to these ladies... but I didn't commit these crimes," he said. One by one, he recited the victims' names, and as he did, he turned to face each woman and make deliberate eye contact. Jenny stared right back without blinking or showing emotion. I, on the other hand, could feel my temperature rising. Determined not to let Selby continue staring at my daughter, I gently leaned in toward Jenny, placing myself between his eyes and hers.

Jenny and her fellow victims were not allowed to discuss the case with each other or even to stay in the same hotel, to prevent the defense from claiming they'd collaborated on their testimony, but over the next few days everyone learned their stories. Two women and a 13‑year‑old girl were there to say that Selby had attempted to rape them; their screams had alerted others and Selby had run away. The remaining three ‑ Jenny, Tiffany Nakajima, then 20, and Tamara Faust, 27‑would testify on rape charges, and, in Tiffany's case, attempted murder.

 Tiffany was the first of that trio to go before the jury. At the prosecutor's request, she told how Selby had raped her and slit her throat. "I could hear his knife tearing my skin," she said, the scar still visible on her neck. Unperturbed, Selby followed up with his cross‑exam. "Do you recognize my voice?" he asked. "Yes,” Tiffany replied, "and it makes me nauseous."

Watching Selby badger Tiffany with questions ‑ most of them repetitious and ineffectual ‑ Jenny felt her own attitude changing. Before the trial started, she'd been apprehensive about how she'd face him in court. Now, though, she felt more annoyed than worried. I can deal with him, she thought, and became almost eager to take her turn in the witness chair.

But by the time Jenny was scheduled to testify, Selby had gotten tired of his game and turned his defense over to a court appointed attorney. When Selby's lawyer called Jenny to the stand, she got her first chance to go eyeball to eyeball with her attacker. "Does this man look familiar?" the defense attorney asked, pointing across the courtroom. Selby stared hard at my daughter in an effort to intimidate her. Jenny ‑ who refused to let Selby control her emotions in any way ‑ neither glared nor cowered; her gaze was steady and calm.

Then the prosecutor played a tape of Jenny's 911 call. The whole courtroom hunched forward to hear a sobbing young woman tell the operator, "I've just been raped," and go onto describe how a man had held a knife to her throat, tied her up and gagged her with duct tape. Listening to those terrified words made my heart contract. Even as I write this today, it makes me ache inside. The D.A. asked Jenny, "Do you recognize the voice on the tape?" It was the only time that her voice quavered and her eyes showed a hint of tears. "Yes," she answered. "It's me."


After six days of victims' testimony, two men and 10 women entered the jury room to decide Selby's fate. With their part of the trial over, Tiffany, Tamara and Jenny could finally talk to one another. All three had been extraordinarily poised while in court: now they wanted to let down their guard and discuss their shared experience. That night, over drinks and appetizers, they learned something else they had in common: Although the media had been barred from reporting their identities, each of the women had decided, independently, that once the verdict was read, she wanted her name and face made public, in hopes of demonstrating to all rape victims that they have nothing to fear by coming forward.

Twenty‑four hours later, in the packed but strangely silent courtroom, the jury foreperson handed verdict sheets to the clerk Dozens of people held their breath as the charges were read aloud. "Count 1, aggravated assault," said the clerk "Guilty." He went on. "Count 2, sexual assault Guilty. Count 3, kidnapping. Guilty." With each "guilty" the crowd responded with low murmurs of relief and the occasional thumbsup. Then came the big one, for 'Tiffany's case. "Attempted murder." There was a pause. "Guilty." The room broke out in cheers.

The joy that erupted among the families reflected more than a sense of vindication. For us the verdicts meant that Selby might never again be able to prey on women and children. After the tumult died down, Tamara and Tiffany read statements to the press, imploring rape survivors to talk openly. "I believe that feelings of shame only allow the perpetrator to have further control," Tamara said. "By telling the story, we can begin to heal." Asked by a reporter what she felt, Jenny replied, "Relief. It's like closing a door to the past. I’ll move on but never forget."

The ordeal was almost over Selby's sentencing would take place in six weeks This would be the only time the victims and their families could address him directly, and we all wondered what we would say to the man who had taken so much from so many. But we never got that chance. On November 22, 2004, the day he was to be sentenced, Selby hung himself in his cell. Many people rejoiced when they heard about his death. I did not. I'm not sorry that he's dead, but neither do I find any solace in it.

 A prosecutor later told me that victims feel a huge sense of empowerment when they can confront their attackers and that testifying is a way to regain their dignity. Tiffany and Tamara and Jenny had that opportunity; six other women and girls, who would have appeared at his trials in Oklahoma, Nevada and California, never will. Speaking to the media on the day Selby's death was announced, Jenny said, "He died the way he lived. Rather than suck it up and take responsibility for his horrible crimes, he snuck out."


Three and a half years ago, James Allen Selby violently entered my family's existence. Just as violently, five months ago, he left it. Since then our days have settled into something resembling normality, although none of us will ever be exactly the same. 

Jenny has grown tremendously during that time. Rather than retreat from life she's embraced it. Once fragile and unsure of herself, she's become more assertive and comfortable with who she is. The Jenny who used to be so malleable ‑ who often said "yes" when she was thinking, "I'd rather not" ‑ has learned the power of "no." The young woman who'd longed to find a passion in her life has now applied to law school and is considering a career in litigation, possibly as a prosecutor or victim advocate. "I've never felt better about my life," Jenny told me recently, "or happier about my future."

As for me, when I'm not working, I continue a hobby I've had for years: I collect articles about personalities I find inspiring. I'm less interested in the square‑jawed John Waynes than the selfless folks who do the hard things quietly, even when no one else is looking. I think about Fern Holland, an American civilian who was killed by insurgents in Iraq because she tried to ensure that women there would have equal rights. Or Peggy Rummel, a physician in tiny Colquitt, Georgia, who, when she was diagnosed with liver cancer and given only eight weeks to live, launched a national campaign to find someone to take over her practice so that her town's residents would always have a doctor close by.

I cram these clips into a battered and swollen folder labeled "Notes, Quotes and Collectibles." Ever since Jenny was in high school, I've sent her the occasional clip, as encouragement or simply a pick‑me‑up.

The day after Jenny's testimony, I got my own lesson in inspiration. I'd just taken my seat in the courtroom when one of the bailiffs, a big, intimidating guy, walked over.  I thought he was going to tell me to move. "I wanted you to know how proud we all are of your daughter," he said, indicating the approval of the entire court staff, "and what a great job she did." Suddenly my view of Jenny changed. I'd been amazed at her courage over the previous three years, and now I realized that other people were truly moved by her too. My formerly shy child had lived through a life‑threatening attack and refused to let it break her spirit or derail her life. She'd confronted her attacker in court, and she'd publicly told her story in order to help other rape victims.

I realized I'd have to make room for another set of clips. I'd found anew hero, and it was Jenny. 

Steve Bush is a health care entrepreneur in San Diego.