For five years, I’ve shared my story in this space but I always avoided it. I danced around it. I alluded to it. But I never acknowledged it. I never said the words I was raped on paper until yesterday. It’s never been a secret. It’s something I share in conversation with friends. It’s something I’ve never hid from, but why was I hiding here. Why did I consciously choose to not share?
The answer is simple. Fear. I was afraid. I was afraid of people believing me. I was afraid people from my past would verbally attack me again. I was afraid I would be called a liar. I didn’t want to relive the trauma – not of the rape but of not being believed.
Recent news has brought attention to the rape culture in our society. Today in 2016 a dad of a rapist believes that six months in jail is “too steep a price to pay for 20 minutes of action.” Today in 2016 a judge believes that six months in jail is a worthy sentencing for a man who raped an unconscious woman. When is our society going to stand together and say enough is enough. You will not do this to our children. You can not sexually violate my daughter or my son.
Rape is historically a silent crime. The victims suffer in silence. 68% of all rapes are not reported to the police. 98% of rapist won’t spend one single day in jail. By remaining silent, we are sending the message that this is okay. IT IS NOT OKAY. It will never be okay.
I remained quiet on my blog because of the same fear that silenced me in my journey. I was afraid, but today I’m breaking my silence.
This is my story.
This is my truth.
I was raped.
On May 4, 1998, a friend pulled into my driveway. As soon as I saw his car, my instincts told me to hide. I thought to myself, “I should pretend like I’m not home.” I quickly dismissed my thoughts as irrational, and I answered my door. We chatted. We hung out. He kissed me. He then disappeared upstairs. I called and called for him to come downstairs. He ignored me. Finally I ventured upstairs too. He needed to leave, but he wouldn’t get out. He wouldn’t put me down. He wouldn’t stop touching me. He wouldn’t leave my pants on. He wouldn’t get off me.
I begged him to stop. I said no over and over again. First as a statement then as a whisper. The more aggressive he became, the more I got lost in my fear. My nos turned to whispers. I became paralyzed by fear. I cried when he walked out of my room. As he finally went to walk out of my house he looked at me and said “I feel bad. You said no the whole time.” He left like nothing happened. He went about his day like what had just happened was normal. I was broken.
I crawled into a ball on the couch because my bedroom felt disgusting. I cried myself to sleep. I entered a fog of confusion. In the days that followed, I seeked support. A phone call to a friend left me more confused. When I shared the details of the story, she told me “it’s normal. That happens to every girl.” Finally another friend looked at me and said “there is a term for what happened to you. It’s called date rape. Kristy, you were raped.” I was broken.
My downward spiral continued. I slept in every class at school. A few teachers pulled me aside to ask if I was okay. I finally went to our brand new computer at home. We had just got internet and AOL. I searched date raped. I finally understood what happened to me. I understood the filth I felt all over my body. I was raped. I was broken.
Four days after I was raped, I crawled into my parents bed late at night. I couldn’t stop crying. My dad had seen my searches on the computer. He knew. He called the police.
What happened next I wasn’t prepared for. Police swarmed our house. Detectives took apart my bedroom. Fingerprint dust was spread on everything I remembered him touching. I was then taken to a local hospital with a rape center. In the middle of the night, I was escorted down back hallways to a secluded part of the hospital. I was greeted by a male nurse who explained everything that was about to happen. I was striped of my clothes. I was examined and photographed. Every part of my body was measured and touched and examined. My insides and my outsides were photgraphed. They were looking for all evidence of trauma. I laid naked on an examine table being photgraphed, and I cried. I broke again.
As wonderful as the detective was who oversaw my case, and as gentle and compassionate as the nurse was who guided me through a fragile moment, I felt exposed all over again, but this was just the beginning.
My rapist was arrested at school. Rumors began to fly. He was released on bond, and quickly began talking. I became the attacker in the eyes of gossip-driven, drama-hungry high schoolers. I was the girl who cried rape. People stopped talking to me. They whispered as I walked by. Then it got worse. People started threatening to beat me up after school. I was afraid to walk down the hallways alone. I broke again.
It didn’t stop. With my rapist back at school, I saw him. I saw him everywhere. I broke every single day.
It didn’t stop there. In the middle of his science class, he threatened to kill me. He threatened to come to school and shoot me. He was finally asked to not return to school, but the attacks didn’t stop. His friends still threatened me. His supporters still tormented me.
I was broken. I was lost.
The next year of my life I relived every moment as I navigated the legal system. I went to therapy. I tried to create a life for myself that had nothing to do with rape, but it found me everywhere. I met my college boyfriend, and people told him not to date me because I was the girl who cried rape. While working at the mall, my rapist would walk back and forth in front of my store. My rape was everywhere. It clung to me. I couldn’t get it off my body or out of my life. I was broken.
A year later, his court date finally arrived. Since it was the state versus my attacker, I was a witness in the courtroom. This meant I wasn’t allowed to be present during the court case. I could only be in the courtroom to testify and for the verdict. While I waited outside, I imagined pictures of my vagina being shown to the court, my rapist and his supporters. I know pictures of the lesions inside my body were shown. They shared my bruises. They shared my blood. They stole more of my privacy.
During my testimony, I was asked hundreds of questions that felt irrelevant and confusing. Everyone wanted to know details about Internet searches and my understanding of the Internet. For what felt like a hour, I was asked about instant messaging and how I saved conversations. When he apologized to me for raping me over instant messager, I saved it. This became a focal point. When his highly paid attorney asked me questions, he got closer and closer to me in the witness stand. At one point his foot was propped up on the step that lead to my chair. I don’t know what he asked. I couldn’t breathe. My rapist was staring at me, and his lawyer was inches from my face.
I was broken. Our system is broken.
His lawyer is well known around town. He’s expensive, and to criminals, he’s worth every penny. I didn’t have a lawyer. I was a witness in a crime against the state of Virginia. The district attorney who was in charge of my case quit before the trail. The new lawyer meet me for the first time minutes before court began.
He was found not guilty. He confessed to the detectives when he was arrested. He confessed to me over a recorded conversation set up by detectives. He apologized over instant messager. He was found not guilty.
I ran and I ran and I ran. Down every flight of stairs in the courtroom. I ran until I hit a deadend, and I fell on the floor. I cried. I was broken.
No one tells you what to do next. No one picks you up and tells you it’s okay. No one said they believed me.
At nineteen years old, I had a solid (yet small) group of believers. My side of the courtroom was filled with my family, my boyfriend, and my two best friends. They believed me. They were my champions. They held me together when every piece of me fell apart.
It’s been eighteen years, one month and two days since I was raped. I take pride in overcoming something so large and so traumatic. I’m proud of my strength. But as I read the story of the rape survivor over the weekend, I still felt broken. I cried with her, and when she rose up and used her voice to fight back, I cheered her on! I would be her champion. I would share her words and rally behind her. But something deep inside of me still felt broken. Maybe you never heal. Maybe all the pieces never get put back together.
I need to be her champion, but I need to be my champion too.
For years I’ve been afraid. I’ve been afraid to put my story on paper because people don’t believe, didn’t believe, or won’t believe me. I don’t want to be the girl walking down the hallway in high school that hears nothing but whispers and fears for her physical safety.
But this is my story. This is my truth.
I was raped.
But I’m not broken.
I’ve always wonder which break hurt the worst: being raped or reliving the rape for the year after and during the trial. The wounds may heal, but the scars last a lifetime.
I still panic the moment I feel like I don’t have control of my body. I’m sensitive to touch. I still have nightmares.
But I’m not broken.
Rape changed me forever. It altered my life path, and it has impacted all my life choices. It’s part of who I am. It’s part of my story.
But it’s my story. It’s my story to tell. For nearly five years, I’ve avoided it because I still let the story belong to him. I let the story belong to his supports.
Today I’m taking my voice back.
I beg you. Please stand with me. Rape doesn’t come in one size fits all. It looks like my story. It looks like the woman’s story who was raped in Princton. It looks like the story of the approximately 293,000 woman and men who will be raped this year. We are millions of people strong. We deserve to have a voice. We deserve to be heard. We owe it to our children to rewrite the script of rape in our society.
Share my story. Share your story. Please keep this conversation going.
Rape is something that happened to me, but it is not who I am. I am a mother. I am a wife. I am a friend. I am strong. I am unbreakable.
This is my story.