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Life After My Assault, and Why I Haven't Reported My Rapist
*Content Warning: This essay goes into detail about material that could be sensitive to some readers, such as assault and rape.
Saturday evenings and Sundays are the worst. They’re a constant, weekly reminder of the first weekend of June, a weekend that was supposed to be full of birthday celebrations and a sardonic beginning to the summer. Instead I met a man who put me in a cab and drove me six hours into hell. It’s a cruel fate for someone who works nonstop and used to cherish the rare quiet weekend curled up in some fireside corner, pint of ale in hand and some fresh new novel in my lap. A sweet respite from work and the gym and the perpetual gloomy weather.
I’m writing this on the beach on a sunny Sunday afternoon, approximately 5,000 miles from where I was assaulted. There are children running and playing around me. Gymnasts practicing inversions and back tucks. My hair is soaked with salt and my muscles ache from battling my unfounded anxiety of the ocean. For an island girl, this new tumultuous relationship with the sea has me in a perpetual state of unease. The water used to represent freedom, a world without rules or boundaries. A place of play, of weightlessness, of possibility. Now I’m chest-deep and trembling as the breakers swell around me, terrified of being tumbled and not being able to breathe.
You never really appreciate breathing until you’re put in a position where you think you may never do it again.
In exactly one week it will have been three months since my assault.
Whatever you want to call it. Language builds the world around us but in this case I cannot seem to find a word to sum this up.
For the record, it will be three months in exactly one week where I also have avoided pursing legal charges. One botched rape kit (did you know many smaller hospitals don’t have the equipment or trained staff to perform a proper examination? Yeah, me neither. SVU misled me) and a slew of raised brows at the hospital put me off. At the time I was too numb to even eat, let alone stand before the police and point my finger at my own personal Boogeyman. I found myself questioning if anyone would even believe me. There was a condom but I asked my housemate to throw it away. Out of sight, out of mind. I knew it was self-sabotage but at the time I didn’t care. Just get it all away from me and let me forget. And then there was my assailant: respected member of the community; young, attractive, affluent. Beautiful wife and two charming little daughters. All-around family man. One of his daughters does ballet and gymnastics. I know this because he showed me videos of her dance recitals a few hours before he drugged, beat, sodomized, and raped me. But we know how this narrative goes: there’s a chance — a very good chance — that the courts wouldn’t see this charming man as the monster that terrorized me for six hours straight. If recent rape trials are any indication, his “bright future” could be potentially damaged by these allegations. And after all, he’s a family man. Why punish his children by stripping them of their father?
I write all of this with as little bitterness as I can possibly muster (there is still plenty of bitterness). My future is still bright. My career is taking off. All things considered, I’m in good health, surrounded by people I adore, people who miraculously love and respect me, too. Anxiety is a constant test of my resolve, my ability to convince my muddled brain that yes, these people do still love you.
The future is a topic oft brought up in these cases. Most recently it has been the futures of the perpetrators brought to light in court, these poor boys (men) who have strayed from the path, but can certainly find redemption if we, the American people, find it in our hearts to forgive and forget. How dare we ruin their futures over “twenty minutes of action”?
Let me talk to you about my future for a minute. Through sheer force of will I am pushing on. I am still working. I am creating art I am proud of and I am seeing more of the world than many do over a lifetime. I refuse to let this end my life. That said, the panic attacks and flashbacks are fierce and often. The intrusive thoughts are callous and bellowing. I am afraid of flinching when friends go to pat me on the back. I vomited blood twice after my attack. Cue the paranoia: maybe this will kill me yet. I find myself irrationally timid: around new people, when I travel, in the ocean. I flip-flop between being daring and adventurous and channeling some doe-eyed stock character from some needless Final Destination sequel. I somehow cheated (corporeal) death three months ago. Who knows if or when fate will whip the carpet out from underneath me?
Anyone who has heard the doctor’s report has been in favor of me reporting him. This wasn’t some grey area case of two drunken adults, the cases so many rape apologists love to regurgitate when the subject arises. There were drugs in my system. My breasts, arms, thighs, and stomach were painted with bruises. My genitals and anus (my, how clinical this whole process has made me) were so badly swollen and bruised that sitting was excruciating. My throat was swollen; it was painful to swallow, every moment a constant reminder of where and how he choked me. At the hospital I was asked if I was pregnant; the trauma to my abdomen, it was later explained, could have caused a miscarriage. As it was I was on my period, although the stress from the ordeal made me stop bleeding entirely for several days. He forced me to vomit twice, would hit me when I began to slip into unconsciousness. He called me a whore, a bitch, told me he owned me, that I would be ruined after him. All things that in hindsight sound like poorly crafted lines for a cartoonish villain, but still manage to tap dance their way across my mind from time to time.
When he finally left that morning he kissed me and lamented that he wouldn’t be able to brag about fucking me because his wife might find out and she would be furious.
Trust me. I understand the argument behind why I should report this. I understand that not every case is a Brock Turner, an Austin Wilkerson, David Becker. Some rapists do get put away. At times there is justice. But Brock Turner walks away from prison on Friday after only three month of incarceration thanks to his “good behavior.” Brock Turner gets to leave his prison of three months; I don’t.
The morning of my assault the Stanford victim’s statement went viral. I remember reading her brave testament in bed, weeping for her but in awe of her strength and her resolve. “Should anything like this happen to me, I will follow in her footsteps.” But then the unspeakable happened that night and I shattered. And then Brock Turner got a slap on the wrist, and I wilted. And then I was questioned endlessly at the hospital: what was I wearing, why my career path, did I have a history of promiscuity, could I have possibly led him on? Was I a flirt? Did I enjoy rough sex? Was it possible this was all one big misunderstanding?
I want to see this man rot, but I want to survive even more. A darling friend recently told me that if I had been in a car accident and was subsequently confined to crutches and a cast that no one would fault me for showing my pain. You wouldn’t fault expect a person with a shattered leg to run a marathon. You would tell them to rest and heal so they may one day have full use of their leg. My external injuries have faded, but the madness that inhabits my brain lives on. I’ve told few people in my life about my assault. I’m crafting a strong mask; greeting people with a smile that extends to my eyes, wholly undamaged. This in and of itself is an exhausting exercise. Were I to take this to court I would most certainly be running a marathon on a shattered leg.
I do not want him to get away with this. More importantly still I do not want him to hurt another woman, or god forbid his wife or children. I want to protect them and I want to believe that the law is not so corrupt that a man who could charm Ted Bundy could walk away unscathed. But now is not the time to be a martyr. Now is not the time to willingly enter a witch trial, only to pray to a God I am rapidly losing faith in that a jury would focus less on his “bright future” and more on the safety of women who may cross his path.
This confessional is anonymous with details purposefully kept vague in the hopes of my cast coming off while the statute of limitations is still on my side. In the meantime, I implore you to stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault. I beg of you, be vocal — to your friends, your family, your colleagues, you constituents —when the Brock Turners and Austin Wilkersons and the David Beckers of the world walk away unscathed, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. I challenge you to rise above needless questions that shame the victim: what they wore, what they do for a living, how many partners they’ve gone to bed with is of no concern. Instead of lamenting on some comments section about how “THIS is why so many victims don’t report their assaults” take up arms in your community and help build a world where our children are taught the value of consent and where survivors do not have to pick between pursuing justice and healing their own souls.
I am constantly looking for some good that can be salvaged from this. I hope that this confessional can be part of that, a testament to resilience and survival. This journey is a long one and must be taken one day at a time. I don’t expect to heal over night, but I can slowly begin to rebuild. In the meantime, I will continue to conquer whatever obstacles I can. On Sunday I will wake up three months stronger. On Sunday I will dive into the ocean and embrace the waves without fear.
#Real #PersonlEssay #RapeCulture #Assault #BelieveLive #Anonymous
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