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Cover 05/22/2013

The Survivors Project

Excerpts from ebook that gives sexual-abuse survivors a chance to tell their stories

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He returned to my doorway and I saw the condom in his hand. He removed my underwear and then he raped me. As I lost my virginity in the way nightmares are made of, my rapist asked me a question. “Who loves you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Say I do.” In my dazed state, I repeated that back to him. “I do.” Though it wasn’t what he meant, he didn’t comment. It didn’t really matter to him. But in that moment, it mattered a lot to me. One part of my mind was furious. He wanted me to say that he loved me? The rage that this inspired cannot be overstated. Another piece clung to the truth of the statement. “I do.” In that moment, though my sobbing continued, a tiny corner of my mind was calm. Yeah. I love me. Nothing he was doing, or would do, could change that. No torture still to come would alter that fact. He couldn’t take it away from me.

Then the police were outside my door. Hearing their shouts, my only thought was, What? After checking to see if there was another way out, he surrendered to them. There were suddenly so many voices. A police officer appeared in my doorway and asked me what happened. I said, “He raped me.” It was the first time I said any variation of the sentence I would be saying countless times over the following months. The screaming I’d done hadn’t been a conscious choice, but this was. I remember thinking, Just say it. If you don’t say it now, you never will. So I did. And I’ve been able to talk about it since.

As the police got my rapist out of the apartment, a female officer sat on the floor next to me. She cursed steadily under her breath. There was a great deal of comfort in that. That someone else would be so angry about what was done to me. I asked how they knew to come. She said that someone had heard my screams and called 911. I don’t believe I’d have lived through that morning if the police hadn’t arrived. It wasn’t until later that I realized it was my roommate who called them. My best friend saved my life. Just the first example of why, despite living through horror I can’t adequately describe, I’m extremely lucky. My rapist was never again out of custody.

He pleaded guilty to the crime, and seven months later was sentenced to 24 years in prison. I spoke at his sentencing and wore the gold shirt from the morning of the rape. Now, when I look at it I don’t see the shirt I was raped in, but the shirt that I was wearing when I put my rapist behind bars. Once, it was just a nice shirt – now, it’s a statement. On that horrible morning, I encountered the worst evil I’ve known. In the days following, I dealt with nothing but good. The responding officers were wonderful. The detectives made themselves available at all hours throughout the legal process. The assistant U.S. attorney assigned to the case is one of the best women I’ve had the privilege to know, and someone with whom I still keep in touch. Friends and family came in droves. But I know this is somewhat unique. On the day I met her, the attorney commented that she rarely dealt with survivors who had such a strong support system. I’ve heard many similar statements from people who are so happy for me because I have support.

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