A Cautionary True Story
Fall 2002 was supposed to be a new beginning for me. I was fresh out of high school and embarking on the next phase of my life, College. Like many new college students I was naïve and believed that everyone was my friend and had my best interest in hand. I unfortunately learned the hard way that this is not always the case.
It has taken me 10 years to be able to share and even now I do it anonymously. But something must be done and someone must talk about this silent killer. Yes it can be physically deadly but the mental scars left behind can make death seem like a better fate. It affects present and future relationships. Many survivors don’t feel safe enough to talk about it because they are often shunned and ashamed. The “it” I refer to is RAPE.
Yes, that first semester of college I was raped. It wasn’t a random person. This person was supposed to be an upstanding member of my college community. He was involved in all types of extracurricular activities and was popular. That fateful night I wasn’t even hanging out with him. I was hanging with his roommate whom I was supposedly dating at the time.
I remember having one drink. And then I blacked out. When I finally came to I remember the roommate raping me in the middle of the room. I DID NOT consent to this, yet I couldn’t speak. I was in shock. I remember looking around and noticed the guy I was dating laying on his bed watching. Yes, watching. Not stopping the atrocious act that was happening. I fell numb. I remember my rapist saying “this would have been more fun had she been awake.” Once he was done, he made sure I regained consciousness before kicking me out their room.
As I stumbled back to my dorm room, many noticed that something was wrong with me. Most just figured I was drunk, high or both. Then I just broke down. I did have the courage to tell my friends who stayed across the hall from me. They took me to the campus police and I told them exactly what happened.
I told them every agonizing detail that I could remember. I gave all but one, rather two major details; the names of my rapist and the guy who watched. I was terrified. I was angry. The officer who helped me was very kind and understanding. The crazy part of it all is that I wasn’t scared of my assailants but rather what others would think of me. I was scared of how I would be viewed if I had to go to trial. Mind you the black community at my school was very small so word would have traveled quickly. I loved my school and I didn’t want to have to transfer. Yes, these thoughts were going through my head.
As I went through the grueling process of a rape kit, I remember feeling ashamed of what happened to me. I had to give both vaginal and anal swabs because I couldn’t remember every detail of what happened. Although the person helping me was nice, I still felt like I was being violated all over again. I had the courage to get the process started but I couldn’t move forward and give their names.
I decided to stay in school and keep my little secret. I graduated in four years and thought I had moved on with my life. Then the nightmares came. I couldn’t figure them out. They were vivid and I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep again for hours. In some of my dreams I could see a demon and it would just hold me down and although I tried to scream, my body was unable to move. I began to see a counselor and that would help but something was still wrong.
One day it hit me. I had become a wife and a mother yet I still needed to heal. I began to cry uncontrollably and I finally let it out. Only a few people knew my little secret at this time. It had been 9 years since I was raped and I never even told my parents. I didn’t want to disappoint them. When I decided to tell them, I wasn’t met with disappointment, I was met with love. They encouraged me to follow up with the police department.
I happened to be within the statue of limitations and the police looked into reopening my case. Every few months I would get an update on the case. They still had my rape kit and my original statement. I had to give a new statement and I finally gave them the names. Months went by again and they went to interview the assailant and the one who did nothing. One immediately asked for a lawyer and the other said we had consensual sex. It was he said versus she said, and my case was going nowhere. The prosecutor didn’t even pick up my case. I know I still have options in civil court but I may just give it a rest.
My only regret is that I didn’t say something sooner. I wish I would have had the strength then to do what I am trying to do now. My message now is that rape is very real. I know that there are cases out there where a girl cries rape although it never happened. Cases like that make it hard for true survivors to get their rapes taken seriously. I am willing to bet that the readers of this article know someone who has survived a sexual assault. They may have been assaulted themselves. I encourage you to share my story with others, especially those who will be entering school this fall. I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone and each person who is informed may be one less person who gets assaulted or one more survivor who can share his or her story.
I wish I had a better closing for this piece. I wish I could say that my assailants were prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Since the case hasn’t been tried, that is part of the reason I write in anonymity. I inadvertently found out that my rapist recently got married and also has a profession where he is around children. This outrages me, yet there is nothing I can do about it. My true wish is that future victims will have the courage to speak up and out against rape. This article for me is a start.