Long time readers know this about me, know that I've talked before, and will undoubtably talk about it again....however, today's postings and the wonderful outpouring of support and people who are coming out of long term self-imposed imprisonments got me thinking again...it is so good to find support in a safe place and so good that so many people are receiving the community for which they have always longed. Telling our stories is a step, not be afraid to let it be known that the women and men that surround you have been through so much, survived, and perservered....It makes my heart warm. And so, I'm going to venture into my story, because even the ones that know it, don't know much....
The first time, I was in college, 20 yrs old. I was at a friend's house and everyone but me and my guy friend went to bed. We had fooled around, things got heavy, and I tried to be the responsible one and asked about condoms. Neither of us had one, but he was drunk and outweighed me, and he took advantage. I went crying back to my dorm room, and the only thing I could think to do was to call RAINN. I stayed on the phone with them for four more hours, and then ran to my therapist's office. She was the first person I told face to face, and she took me where I needed to go. I tried to prosecute, but the courts didn't want to, claiming lack of evidence and trying to convince me that those 9 days he spent waiting in jail for the pretrial were enough punishment. He was released, quit school, and my entire friend group split in half over who to believe. I spent the next year numbing myself with alcohol, drugs, and casual sex before I left that city for greener pastures in Asheville NC.
Asheville was the change I needed. From the moment I got there, I changed. I stopped drinking, limited drug use to antidepressants and marijuana. Went completely celebate for three years. I was happy, I graduated, stopped the antidepressants....was in the best place, emotionally, of my life. And then one night when I was freshly 24, I left my friend's house at 10:30 PM, and was stopped by a man on the street. First for a cigarette, then for the time, then he wanted a ride. I refused all, politely. When I opened my car door, he rushed in and attacked me, pushing me into the car with a sharp object on my neck and a hand over my mouth to stifle my screams. We rode for hours in the car, he taking us 2 hours away from Asheville before pulling over onto a back road. I thought that it was all over for me, I was positive he was going to kill me. He stopped the card in an old unused farm field, smoked crack, and then told me to undress. When I resisted, he began to beat the hell out of me. Before loosing consciousness, I stopped fighting and ending up having to follow all instructions. I was raped, then tossed aside and told that I should have said to him that I had AIDS, because then he never would have done that. We spent more time in the car, blood always running down my face. He picked up a woman off the street, had me get money out of my bank account, purchase more crack, and then they smoked it.....thirteen hours later, still bleeding, I used my wits to convince the other woman to return to Asheville with us, and with that, managed to get him out of the car so that I could escape. A little over three months ago (over 3 years from the abduction), I finally had my day in court. I was humiliated, slandered, torn down, and made fun of on the stand. There was only my statement, pictures of my injuries, and my friend's statement on my departure and return to collaborate. The police officers in all three counties that worked on my case had dropped the ball on every opportunity. Crime scenes were not investigated until 3 wks to 1 month after the incidents, false witnesses appeared in statements saying that they had seen me and I wasn't injured or distressed. I was crushed. The jury considered my case for 2 days, and decided to believe me. That man is now in jail for over 20 years, and with hope, he will die there.
The icon I am using today was made following the trial. The phrase "beautiful, after all" came from a friend describing me after all my experiences I could still contain this strength, vitality, and beauty. When she said it, I was taken aback, and I finally realized that it was true. So I will stand strong and I will be the voice for those that can't because through it all, we are all beautiful, after all.
My name is Susan. I am a survivor of sexual assault.
"No pity. No silence. No shame." ever again....