A very flawed system.

I know of two men who have gotten away with rape. I know this for a fact because both times, it happened to me. They are two very different scenarios, but both events have had a tremendous effect on me. I know it might seem far-fetched. Being raped once is hard enough to fathom. But twice?

Something most people don’t know is that being a victim of sexual assault puts you at a much higher risk of being assaulted again. The percentage of women who were raped in adolescence and also raped as adults is two times higher than the percentage of women who were not previously victimized. There are a number of reasons as to why this happens and each case is different. Here is my story.

My first rape was violent. It made me believe that I was not allowed to say no. I became terrified whenever a man would become even slightly aggressive or a little too flirty and I would freeze up. I didn’t know that I could set boundaries. I just knew that if someone wanted to have their way with me, I should not fight it because I would end up hurt or worse. I associated sex with fear and pain. It was easier to just give in, because “no” was not an option. I wasn’t given the chance to learn about consent.

I told my best friend what had happened and she didn’t believe me. Therefore, I was taught silence.

I started reliving the rape 10 years later. I contacted the authorities to see if anything could be done about it. I knew that this man had gone on to rape other women, most of whom I was friends with. The statute of limitations is 10 years. So my story did not matter, even though it took me that long to have the courage to speak up.

My second rape happened this past June. Again, it was someone I knew. I was intoxicated. I only remember bits and pieces, but what I do remember haunts me every day. I did not consent. I was not capable of consent. But I also did not fight or scream. I learned how to dissociate. My first rape taught me that also. I was able to leave my body. It’s like watching from above. I was physically there, but mentally, I went far away.

I woke up at 5 pm the next day with bruises and soreness. I knew what had happened but it was too hard to face. Why didn’t I fight back? Why didn’t I run away? Why didn’t I go straight to the police? Well, when you’re violently raped once, you certainly don’t want it to happen again. And what’s the point in going to the police when no one would believe me anyways. Besides, I was drunk so it must be partially my fault right?

Wrong. An intoxicated person cannot give consent. And I know there are a handful of people who refer to this as “buyer’s remorse” or regret. But how can I regret something that I had no control over? I had no control.

I went to the police a few days after the assault in June. I have lived with so much guilt for not reporting my first rape and knowing it continued to happen to other girls, I could not take that chance again. This was not going to happen to anyone else.

There was an investigation. The D.A. decided that my memory was too foggy to convince a jury of what had happened. Even though there was a recorded phone conversation where he acknowledged what he did to me, it still was not enough to convince a jury that I was assaulted. In other words, I couldn’t convince a jury that I didn’t want it. That thought makes me sick.

As if victims don’t carry enough guilt and shame with them, now I’m told that being assaulted while I was incoherent is acceptable.

Things need to change. There should be no statute of limitations on rape cases. I’m fully aware that there may be no evidence. But there should at least be a trial, something, ANYTHING! This could give so many more women the courage to come forward, which would prevent future attacks. We carry the shame around with us for so long. Coming forward is terrifying, especially in this culture of victim blaming. No wonder so many of us are afraid to speak. We feel guilty and ashamed and we probably won’t be believed anyways!

I also feel that if the victim does not pursue a civil case and the state dismisses the criminal case, the perpetrator should still be contacted if the victim so chooses. A phone call from a police officer might just be enough to scare the offender into never doing it again. He should at least be questioned. That fear alone might just be enough. And there should be a file kept on every person accused of assault so that when it happens again, maybe that next person will be believed. Maybe something will actually be done about it.

At this point, all I have is my voice. Two men got away with something horrendous. It pains me to think of all the other women out there who have received no justice, who feel unheard and shamed. I have to have hope that laws will change, that procedures and policies will change to give the victims the validation they so deserve. If the system can’t step up and make a few changes, assaults will just keep happening and this ugly pattern won’t stop. It needs to stop. We need to find our voices and we need to create change. We need to feel safe again.

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