This post shifts gears quite a bit from my previous blogs, but it is so important to me and feel it necessary to share.
While 1 in 3 women (and 1 in 33 men) have experienced a sexual assault, only 6% of these horrendous crimes were reported to the police. And from those reported, only 25% end in arrest [Abbey, A., BeShears, R., Clinton-Sherrod, A. M., & McAuslan, P. (2004).Psychology of Women Quarterly].
And so I ask myself, what the hell gives?
Several years ago, I found myself to be the one in three; I was raped. On three separate occasions, spanning from my 15th birthday through my 17th. It took me years to finally come forward and say anything about my experience to anyone. That one fateful day, I had finally built up enough confidence to speak up. I decided that even if nothing would come of it, at least I would know that I didn’t let the rapist silence me. My counselor and I called Child Protective Services and then both my local police department and the one of the town it occurred in. Here’s about how the conversation went:
-I was raped.
–When and where?
-A couple months ago on vacation.
–What were you wearing?
-Why is that important? I was wearing a long sleeve and shorts.
-Just in case it was pertinent to the case. Were you drinking?
-He forced the alcohol down my throat.
–*scoffs* You shouldn’t have been drinking. Why weren’t you using the buddy system?
-I was trying to protect my friends. I know it was a bad decision, but in the moment I was more scared for their safety than my own.
–Did you get a rape kit?
-No, I was too scared.
–So you have no physical evidence.
-I have a full confession from the boy who did it.
-It probably won’t hold up in court.
Let me first start by saying that I have nothing against the general police department, but in this situation, they completely dropped the ball. It would’ve been one thing if this was some grouchy old man shoving his opinion where no one wants it, but this was an officer charged with keeping me safe. A FEMALE officer. Silly old me had hoped that I would feel safe with these people; instead I felt attacked and vulnerable.
After this call, there were several months without any word from the officer on my case, despite my many emails and calls. Finally, I received the call from the out-of-state police department:
-Your perpetrator got a lawyer.
-I understand, I expected that to happen. What’s the next step in this case?
–Actually we’re dropping it.
-You didn’t get a rape kit, so we don’t actually have any evidence. This won’t hold up in court, and honestly, we don’t think you can handle the stress that comes with actually following through on your claims, should they even be true.
-So my full confession and CPS support mean nothing? Even you don’t believe me?
–His lawyer’s good and we don’t feel like taking this case. Plus how do we know you didn’t want it to happen?
And that was it. I wasn’t believed, supported or even treated as a victim. As far as they were concerned, I made the whole thing up, and in the case that I hadn’t, I must’ve wanted it.
I have since reconciled myself with the fact of being raped. It was horrible and traumatizing, and I don’t think I will ever be “over it”, but I have grown so much as a person, and have found it in my heart to forgive the officer, the police department as a whole and even the rapist. I’ve since done my best to advocate for rape victims, including spreading the word and making it an ongoing conversation as well as simply offering support and belief to victims. I’d like to share with you a free verse poem I wrote not too long ago on that specific matter:
Let me tell you about a little girl:
A girl who’s childhood was taken because she was alone.
Because she was dressed wrong.
Because she was asking for it.
Let me tell you about a girl who was told to stay quiet.
Told to get over it.
Told she was worthless.
Let me tell you about a girl who was stripped of her love and innocence when she was stripped of her clothes.
Now let me tell you about another girl:
A girl who can stand for herself because she is empowered.
Because she loves who she is.
Because she is loved.
Let me tell you about how this girl is told that she’s beautiful.
Told that she has a voice.
Told that she matters.
Let me tell you about how this girl can say “no” because she lives in a world where “no” has meaning.
You choose what life our girls live.
I was once that little girl. And today I strive to be the other girl: a girl who loves herself and the world we live in. But the only way we can make this world better for girls like me is to stop the perpetuation of rape culture. We have to teach our children that “no” means no and that rape isn’t funny. We have to teach our society that the victim is never at fault, and that this is a REAL issue that can happen to anyone from any race, socioeconomic background or gender. It happened to me. Now let’s stop it from happening altogether.
Image from wortfm.org
Statistics from wikipedia.com (cross referenced)