Rape Reporting… If You Want Justice, You Must Participate and Report It !

This week,  an article about a famous individual who was raped many, many years ago and opted not to report it showed up online.  It came up during a radio interview, and the one who was raped moved the conversation along, not dwelling on it, or even bringing it up intentionally, to begin with.  Then the online comments started flowing about how hard it is to report rape, how bad rape victims are treated, blah, blah, blah.  But, these folks also seem to know  that they’d be treated horribly, even though they never came forward.  That, along with someone who was beating a dead horse, and more of a troll than anything else (I’ll call her ‘Inot’), really got to my belief that if someone wants something to change in their life, or a part of their life, they have to show up and contribute to the process.  For rape, that means going to the police and doing the rape kit at a hospital.

*For the purposes of this blog, I’m referring to females, but there are a LOT of  reported and unreported cases of male rape.  The stigma is even worse for them.  I still encourage them to report the rape/assault to the police, and seek justice.

*My main points refer to “general” rape (stranger/acquainance), one-time attack- which can be minutes to weeks in length (or longer- look at Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard).

Justice isn’t passive; it requires participation.  Being a survivor, vs. a victim, takes work.  The victim mentality is absolutely repulsive to me.  I don’t have sympathy for those who won’t take part in their own recovery and justice process.  Staying mired in the traumas of the past is as good as that person’s life will ever be- and that’s a choice. That isn’t the responsibility of the one who did the abusing- OR the justice system. That’s on the one who has to go on living.  It requires a lot of work to work through sexual assault and trauma recovery, but the alternative is to go around feeling defined by victimization, stuck in the memories of what happened.  Working through rape doesn’t mean the memories ever go away… it makes it so the attack isn’t the defining event in someone’s life.  Rape doesn’t define survivors.  It defines victims.  And survivors don’t use the rape to manipulate others- whether for pity, a means to be taken care of, or anything else that is age inappropriate, or indicative of regression to an earlier developmental stage.  It isn’t the focal point of the life of a survivor.

Once the man who raped me was no longer ‘in’ me, my survival and recovery were on me.  Not him. Not ‘the system’.  Not the courts.  Because no matter what happened, my life had to go on.  I’m an RN.  I’m a dog owner, a doll artist, a gemstone/mineral collector, a daughter, and many other things.  The rape was 6 hours of my life- that’s it.  With his imprisonment, I became the strong one.  He became the captive.  His parole protests are still hard, but I’m still the one who ‘won’. 

As I’ve blogged before, I was raped for 6 hours at knifepoint in 1987.  I managed to escape when numbnuts fell asleep after  exhausting, constant sexual assault and beating of me.  The police came and shot him in my bedroom, not killing him.  I went through the trial process, and long story short, he’s either in prison (as he is now), or on parole until 2047.  He’s my bitch now.  I showed up to make sure of that, and I was a 23 year old ‘kid’, who had no experience with being vocal about anything to do with sex, or crime.  I wasn’t brave, but I was determined.   I wouldn’t accept the lower number of years offered in the plea bargain that happened mid-trial after I’d testified after 2 hours.  I went ‘all out’ to get the maximum punishment possible.  I could sleep better at night knowing I did all I could to keep him off the streets- for myself, and whoever else he might have gone after, for as long as possible.  He has a very long list of convictions for progressively more violent crimes.

I was treated very well by the police, District Attorney’s office, judge, rape crisis personnel, detectives, people at the hospital, and pretty much everyone but my employer at the time (being off work as an RN is very much frowned upon, and they actually “encouraged my resignation” about 2 weeks before the trial, because I was distracted – ya think?- … so sweet of them).  My apartment complex also tried to bill me for the damage to the sliding glass door in my bedroom, as well as the carpet, from the shooting (bullet damage and blood).  Otherwise, the actual people in the legal process were extremely compassionate.   In 1987, in good-ol’-boy Texas.  And things are improving all the time..

For those who don’t report rape, that’s their decision.  I get it.  It’s not an easy thing to discuss, and while I disagree with that decision to let someone stay on the street to rape someone else, I know it’s  ultimately their  decision.  But then they have no room to whine about the system, or how rape victims are treated (since they have no clue).  IF someone wants ‘the system’ to treat rape victims better (but hasn’t gone through the process to actually know what that is), they have to show up and report what was done to them.  Show up or shut up.  Get some help in making that decision if needed. Rape crisis centers have hotlines, and trained folks to help with these things- they’re free, and available 24/7.

There are situations that make it more difficult to report…

For those who were raped by people in their families (no matter how often), or friends they’d known for a long time, it’s more difficult. I understand that.  I’d encourage them to report the situation as soon as possible.   Someone can call a local rape crisis center to find out where to go for kit collection, without naming names at the time, and to get some counseling for the violation aspect of what happened.

For children, it’s even more difficult- especially if they don’t tell their parent/ guardian because of threats or fear.  But if a parent knows about incest or non-familial sexual assault, it’s really not a favor to the child to try and pretend it didn’t happen (think future addict to numb the pain of the memories).  Rape crisis centers can also help with kids.  And if you know your kid was molested by someone you know, don’t make the kid see them socially.  I’m not sure what could make someone want contact with their child’s molester, but I’ve heard about it repeatedly.  That in itself is abuse, and continues the pain.

No matter when someone is sexually assaulted, their life changes.  If they don’t deal with it, it can become a chronic ‘victim mentality’, and the chances of meaningful recovery dwindle, and increase the risk of drug/alcohol addiction.  That healing process starts when someone seeks justice, and deals with the emotional and physical violation.  There are statutes of limitations on rape… it differs by state, as well as when it happened (i.e. if someone was raped as a child, but doesn’t disclose it until they’re 18, the clock starts then, I believe; each state is different there, as well).  But, at least for now, there comes a time when the rape can’t be prosecuted.  Better to deal with things sooner than later, whenever possible, before the choice is taken away in an already “powerless” situation.

For someone in a domestic violence situation, it’s even trickier.  There can be threats that are very real  if the victim has been physically injured before by the perpetrator.   My suggestion to someone in that situation would be to do as much documentation as possible, including photos, and keeping any clothing that they’re wearing in the photos, to at least have something if they report the crime later.  Having a trusted friend keep the evidence, so it’s not discovered by the perpetrator, might also be something to consider. Obviously, the best scenario is to get away from the abuser and report it immediately to police, for collection of evidence (rape kit) ASAP.   But, I understand that sadly there are  situations when someone’s safety after the rape might be even worse than during it.  Safety is always the priority.  Domestic violence shelters can be a resource, knowing that getting away is a delicate process.  They can offer support and advice.

The military and university campuses have notoriously been lousy at listening to someone who makes accusations of sexual assault.  They’re getting better, but it’s not great yet- but those who have been assaulted still need to TRY !  If you don’t do anything, you’ll get nothing in terms of help- or improvements in how cases are handled. 

The rape kit isn’t horrible.  It’s not painful- but does require some intrusive things that can be very hard after being violated.  But it’s one of the best ways to convict someone.  Now, with DNA, a rape kit can link other rapes, and get serial rapists off the streets (think if someone had done that and gotten your rapist convicted before he got to you).  Mostly, it’s swabbing the mouth, vulva, anal area, collecting hairs, trimming fingernails, and taking photos of any injuries.  That can be very daunting after something so traumatic, but it doesn’t take that long, and HELPS the police when a suspect is found.  It will prove what happened, in terms of the physical contact.  Knowing the purpose of the kit made it easier to tolerate for me.  There are backlogs of kits that haven’t been tested, but the more information someone has to give police (including the information in a rape kit), the faster they can find a suspect.  There are many states that are making rape kit testing more of a priority.    You might also be fingerprinted, to corroborate who touched what and when.  It’s not to make you ‘complicit’ in the rape, but to clarify what is going on with the evidence.  I had to do that, and it was just to see if my fingerprints were on some of the things used to penetrate me (they weren’t).  They must have the evidence to make sure the chance of conviction is as good as possible.

Dealing with the detectives was sort of hard for me initially, but not because of them.  It was only 6-7 hours after I’d gotten free, and I was still a little shocky.  But they made it as tolerable as possible, and had me come back the next day to finish when I was getting sort of punchy from being exhausted and overwhelmed. It required detailed descriptions of what happened. I talked with two male detectives, and that wasn’t an issue, as I knew they had a job to do. They were very professional, and I had a female friend or rape crisis volunteer with me.   It was not easy to talk about what happened.  My fervent belief that reporting rape is necessary isn’t in any way to say that it’s easy.   But for the type of justice I wanted  (lengthy imprisonment), it was what I had to do.  I had to know that I’d done all I could to prevent him from hurting someone else- and to keep him locked up for what he did to me.  He’d been on parole when he raped me, after being in prison for attacking someone at a bus stop with a screwdriver.  His violence was escalating.

As I’ve said in other blogs, it’s not a bad idea to have a mental plan of what you will do in the event you are attacked.  Survival is the first priority, and sometimes that means dealing with being violated.  I made it clear that I wasn’t consenting to anything, but complied purely to avoid physical injury.  I had to make a calculated decision when I escaped.  It took 6 hours for him to not have the knife at my neck or my body.  Even when he peed, he had me on all fours, tracing the blade on my spine.  You have to stay alive in order to survive.  Do whatever it takes to stay alive.

After an attack, the priority shifts to getting medical attention, and hopefully, reporting the rape, and participating in the legal process.  Have a mental list of who you would call in such a situation.  DO NOT wash or shower after the attack.  Save clothing and anything the attacker touched or left saliva on (even your face or other parts of your body).  If you are bleeding, take off the underwear you were wearing during the attack, and put it in a bag to take to the police/hospital. Put on clean underwear without washing/wiping your vulva/anus/ perineum (area between the anus and vulva), and a pad- not a tampon.  Do not brush your teeth.  If he kissed you, make sure you don’t wash those areas of your body.  They will be swabbed.  In short, don’t do anything that could remove body fluids before getting help.  You will have a chance to shower- as long as you want- after the exam.   It’s a small price to pay for increasing the odds of catching the jerk.  If a lot of things happened in your home, there is a chance that it will be sealed as a crime scene- so know where or who  you can stay with for a few days.  (I ended up with a friend/co-worker I trusted for a week).

Reporting rape can sound overwhelmingly frightening.  There have been stories of victims not being believed, stupid and hurtful things being said to them, and other dismissive and inappropriate actions.  That isn’t everywhere.  More education about sexual assault has been done in police departments for years.  I’m an example of someone who was treated very well, nearly 30 years ago.  Nobody deserves to be raped.  Everybody deserves justice- but that involves coming forward and reporting the assault.  It’s not easy, but in the end, there is such a sense of getting some sort of justice, and relief.   For those who choose not to report, for whatever reasons, please reconsider (for some, that means when it’s safe to do so).  If you don’t report, don’t complain about the way rape victims are treated, or ‘the system’.  Even if someone you know was treated badly, everyone is different- and every case is different (not to excuse being treated poorly at all- but it’s not a sure thing that it will be the same for you).  The only rape that applies to you is the one that happened to you. 

Rape victims stay stuck in the past in a self-defeating way.  Rape survivors work to put the rape in perspective, and don’t let the rape define who they are.

 

 

Open Letter to Rape Survivors

On the Texas Hill Country Facebook page, a flyer of a serial rape suspect in Austin, TX was shared.  This young man is wanted for questioning in EIGHT sexual assaults in Austin.  Those are the survivors who have come forward.  There is no word as to the possibility of any more women who haven’t come forward.  He happens to be Hispanic, is of relatively small stature for a man, and thin.  That became the focus of some comments.  If he’s so small, why didn’t the women just fight him off.   It doesn’t work that way. Sometimes, depending on how an attack starts, a survivor does have more options- but that’s not how it goes for everyone.

Nobody knows when someone is going to attack another person.  Otherwise, they’d be called appointments!!.  In my situation (he’s a scrawny white guy), I was targeted specifically, and an elaborate lie was fed to me, and being a naive 23 year old in 1987, I fell for it.   He had access to me and my apartment for the entire six hours he raped, sodomized, beat me, and used wine cooler bottles to penetrate me vaginally and rectally.  For six hours.  During that time, he had a knife to my neck or next to his hand the entire time- even when he had to go to the bathroom (he made me get down on all fours and traced the knife along my spine).  If I had to go to the bathroom, he kept the knife in the doorway of the bathroom .  This was long before cell phones.  I didn’t have a weapon.  And, he was dazed but just kept going, as if on drugs and had the stamina and force sufficient enough to let me know I’d die if I didn’t do what he said.  As the day went on, I knew I’d be murdered anyway- he couldn’t leave someone behind who knew his name, address, and family contact.  He traced the knife under my breast a few times and asked what I thought I’d look like if he cut it off…  At one point, after repeated insertion of the wine cooler bottle, he withdrew both of his arms from me, and they were covered with blood to his mid-forearm.

I babysat this guy’s infant nephew. He made up a story about me needing to come and get the baby as the baby’s dad had been in a car accident, and they needed me to watch the infant so they could deal with things at the hospital.  He called from a corner 7-11; I knew the sister with whom  he was staying didn’t have a phone.  NO red flags there.  I loved that baby, and immediately went to go get him.  More lies- but at the time I didn’t know that, and he had my weakness figured out- I would do anything to help the baby.  I had been raised to ‘help my neighbors’ and didn’t feel a ‘right’ to listen to my gut about not really knowing him.  I fell for his story hook, line, and sinker.  They’d bring the baby to my apartment later; they needed to hurry to the hospital, and wanted to know if he could wait for word on his sister’s boyfriend at my place. They’d pick him up there.

Long story short, after 6 hours, he passed out in my bed, and I had a way to escape; I grabbed a towel and ran after going to the bathroom, and walking back to the bedroom to be sure he was asleep. At that point, it was die then, die later, or actually escape. Minimal risk (that’s what you aim for- but sometimes you have to take more risk to stay alive).  Neighbors let me in to call 911, and then the police cars, helicopters (news and hospital), news station vans, radio stations, and neighbors showed up in force.  I was in the neighbors’ apartment by then (I’d only lived there for ten days- and met them the day before), and didn’t hear much after that. I was exhausted, and filing details away to be able to tell the detectives.  I never heard the shots fired by police, shooting him in my bedroom (had to clean up the blood later).  He didn’t die, so I had to get ready to go through the legal system.  The officers, detectives, and District Attorney’s office folks were all very nice to me.  Brenda Kennedy is now a Judge; she was the Assistant DA who handled ‘my’ case (I was a witness for the state of Texas).

Here’s what I want people to know.  If you are attacked, do what you have to do in order to get out alive.  In my case, that meant going through a LOT.  Torn uterine ligaments, a dislocated jaw, concussion, teeth through my bottom lip, pregnancy and miscarriage (I was a virgin; it was his kid), and emotional battering.  But I made it.  I made a conscious effort to keep track of details. I gave myself a job during the attack.  If you survive, you didn’t do anything ‘wrong’.  One thing I’ve heard several times and through several sources- never let someone take you to a secondary location. If you’re going to fight to the death, do it to avoid being moved. Look up some of these ‘attack survival tips’ online to be sure you have the information you need.

If you have access to a weapon and can get to it once the attack starts, use it.  Be careful when you go for a weapon if there’s a chance he could beat you to it.   Try to keep HIM calm, and do what you can to make yourself human to him (at the trial, my attacker listened to my testimony for 2 1/2 hours and changed his plea to guilty, saying he had no reason to believe I was lying; he got a 60 year sentence- I wouldn’t take less at the plea bargain since I knew it was the same as ‘life’ in terms of parole eligibility at that time- he’d be in for 1/3 before he’d be eligible for parole. He’ll be on parole or in prison until 2047).  He’s been out, and now back in… the woman who MARRIED him while he was serving the sentence for my rape got beat up by him. EVERY time he’s been out on parole he reoffends (since at least age 18, when the records show up; his sister said he’d been in trouble as a kid).  Hello?  The next mandatory release date is in 2033, I think. I’ve got a notebook full of paperwork on this mess.

If the guy who attacks you tells you to shut up, then shut up. Just get through it. You can second guess yourself for the rest of your life- but buy yourself another day however you need to do so.  If you’re dead, nothing will matter.

If it’s a ‘quick’ attack, call 911 as soon as you can, but do NOT take a shower- you NEED to have a rape kit exam done for evidence (don’t shower no matter how long it takes- I had to fake washing myself to preserve evidence when he forced me to shower with him- and evidence was still there in abundance).  It’s not a particularly painful exam- but it does make that feeling of being so vulnerable kick in.  It will be worth it in the end to have solid evidence to help the case, especially if police don’t have the ‘luxury’ of finding him in your bed, as in my case.  Don’t brush your teeth before going to the ER.  Save all clothing and panty liners or pads.  Yes- you will feel gross, and the exam is more emotionally invasive than physically painful.  But let the investigators get what they need to nail the bastard.  You may not be the first, and probably won’t be the last; help get him off the streets.

A violent rapist doesn’t have to be physically imposing.  A wimpy-looking twit can become very violent, and with that comes strength that doesn’t seem to match what you see.  That doesn’t mean you are pathetic for not flattening the guy- threats of death and visual or implied weapons are very powerful.  I had a 12 inch knife to my neck- I believed he’d kill me. He’d already slugged me a few times.  Listen to your gut.  Just get through it.

Take advantage of any counseling groups or services offered.  At first you might be sort of in shock or dazed. Or you may be fuming.  There’s no ‘right’ way to begin healing, but it is important that you don’t let the guy define who you are.  He took enough. YES, your life has to find a new normal.  Your friends, family, and co-workers who you decide to tell will be a bit weird around you- that’s not about you, it’s because they don’t want to upset you by asking the ‘wrong’ questions.  You can tell them what is OK to talk about.

You might not want to talk about it, but from my experience, making it something that was ‘out there’ took away a lot of its power over me. And nobody who is raped ‘asked for it’ or did anything wrong to get raped.  It’s about the defective thinking of the rapist.  You will have ups and downs.  That doesn’t mean your life will always be like that.  I was a mess in the beginning, and when the first parole hearing came up 22 years after sentencing (he had to finish serving out his time for a crime before mine that I hadn’t known the full details of, and since I was always willing to help the baby, I don’t know if my 23 year old brain would have done anything differently).  But, the more I can ‘get it out’, the less power it has.  Blogging has been very helpful- and people find this when they’re needing to read something from someone who has been there.

If people ask questions that imply that you didn’t do ‘enough’ to get out of the situation, blow them off- if you survived, you have done well.   Do what you need to do to feel as safe as you can- and if you feel like you’re getting to a really dark place, please reach out to someone (a crisis hotline, therapist, friend- someone).  It does get better.

If you read this before anything happens, and you live in a state with good self-protection gun laws, consider having one. Practice with it, and make it something you are comfortable using. Keep it somewhere safe, but accessible.  If you don’t have a weapon, consider self-protection classes.  Find other weapons (the leftover ends of sliding glass door tract rods that prevent it from being opened can be useful and easy to hide).  If tasers are legal, check those out.  Do whatever you can- but don’t beat yourself up if you ‘just’ survive by getting through it by having to put up with it.  If you’re alive, you did well.  YOU have nothing to be ashamed of.

If you want to leave comments, I will answer you- they will likely not show up until I read them unless you have a Word Press account…. but I will read and respond to comments…. this is a safe place; disrespect won’t be tolerated towards anybody who needs some support ❤

When I Wasn’t Me

For the most part, I’ve dealt with the rape (January 10, 1987- Austin, TX) relatively well. Initially, there was a lot to deal with to prepare for the trial, and after that I just tried to get back to ‘normal’ (nothing is ever the same after being raped).  I coasted. For two decades.  I knew that Numbnuts (what I call  the ‘being’ who raped me) would be coming up for parole review in 2006 (? I’d have to dig up the files I’ve got for the exact date).  I had been seeing a therapist to help deal with being on disability, and she and I agreed that seeing someone who dealt with rape and sexual assault issues would also be helpful.  So I did.

During this time, I was also on some medications for the chronic medical issues I’ve got, and had some interactions that took a long time to get figured out. Between the weird physical stuff going on (medications and diagnoses) and the stress from the parole review, I got really batty. It was frightening and confusing, and made me a horrible client/patient to have to deal with for any therapist.  I had been in therapy before, and seldom called a therapist after office hours. During the ‘crazy year’  or however long it was, I wore those two therapists o.u.t.  I feel horrible about that; they were both very kind and compassionate. I was a mess.  I didn’t know that the medications (particularly a muscle relaxant combined with my other meds) were having some of  the effects that were going on, and part of that included increased ‘panic’.  I’d actually have mini-strokes from my blood pressure dropping too low, and was constantly in the ER (and very disliked by the nurses and MDs there- they didn’t figure out the medication thing either).  I’d lose the ability to swallow normally, and my balance was shot, which also stirred up the intense anxiety. It wasn’t unusual for my blood pressure to be in the 50s/30s….at home alone.  I’d freak out- thinking it was from all of the chaos going on with being on disability, and the loss of my life as a working RN, as well as the stress of the parole review.  I thought it was all in my head…and it wasn’t.  There were times the therapists called 911 to come to my apartment and get me.  Sometimes, I’d be passed out when they got there (I don’t remember what all was going on- or how they got me to unlock the front door…..?). I woke up in the ER many times, trying to remember why I was there.

I actually figured out the problem with tizanidine (muscle relaxant) and the other medications myself, and once I talked to my primary doc and changed to a different muscle relaxant (for fibromyalgia), the weird TIAs (mini-strokes/transient ischemic attacks) and many of the blood pressure plunges just plain stopped (with the dysautonomia, blood pressure issues are just part of life). I already had some scarring in my brain from the TIAs.  By then, those two therapists had turfed me to someone else.  And not long after that,  I had multiple severe blood clots in my right lung, and had to deal with that… but the memories of those many, many months of being so ‘not me’ aren’t good.  It’s all very detached and just weird.

I’d wake up (or never get to sleep) and be in a bizarre unprovoked panic that I couldn’t deal with, and I’d call one of those poor therapists either late at night or extremely early in the morning, to help talk me down from wherever I was.  I’d be so spaced out, but still absolutely unglued and removed from the fact that I was safe where I was- nothing was actually happening to me.  The years of shoving the rape to the side and the new crazy anxiety were life altering if I hadn’t already been on disability for physical disorders (including seizures and dysautonomia that caused problems with losing consciousness and being very foggy -sometimes when I’d be on the phone with one of the therapists). Other times, the seizures and/or dysautonomia happened first (there were times when I didn’t know which was which- I’d just wake up exhausted and more spacey), and I guess  I’d call in the middle of the episodes.  I don’t remember now exactly what was going on that I called, other than remembering months of weird panicky episodes that were very uncharacteristic of me.  And being a therapy client from hell.

Prior to the parole protest/review period, I’d spent a fair amount of time becoming a rape survivor and ditching the rape ‘victim’ title. I hate the ‘victim’ role in myself and others.  But I sunk way back into the victim role. I couldn’t stand that regression.  It reminded me of earlier times after the rape, and I wanted distance from that.  Some of the emotional upheaval was somewhat expected, I think. For twenty years, Numbnuts had been contained, and the possibility of him getting turned loose was terrifying (even though I knew consciously that it was a remote chance he’d ever find me).  I knew that there would come a time when the TX Department of Criminal Justice would have to turn him loose, because of mandatory release times…but I wanted it prolonged. After many letters and copying the many old newspaper articles to send to the parole board, the initial parole review/release was denied.  By then, the medication changes had been made, and life settled down.  But so much was still a fog during those bad months.

I was a really ratty therapy patient.  The medications were a big part of the physical reasons for the amplified anxiety.  The reminders of what Numbnuts had done to me were oppressively  vivid.  The way my life changed after the rape (and how differently it all turned out from my dreams and ‘expectations’ of a family of my own) was also in my face.  A  lot was going on.  But I’m not sure I really accept that those reasons are what caused so much to fall apart, and drastically change my ‘normal’ life (on disability) to one of childlike neediness (I’m repulsed writing that).

In the years since then, Numbnuts has been back in prison, after more protest letters. I’ve survived a very aggressive form of leukemia and 19 months of continuous chemotherapy of some form.  I’m dealing with significant diabetic issues and blood sugar control problems post-chemo.  And I’ve done it without therapy, and no freaking out in the middle of the night.  I still have seizures. I still have dysautonomia, that actually seems to be getting worse from the standpoint of heat intolerance (I had to shave my hair off; I can’t tolerate having heat from hair) and activity intolerance.  I can’t leave home without an ice vest to prevent overheating.  Other physical issues aren’t good.  And yet, I keep going on my own.  Blogging helps. It’s some sort of contact with someone, somewhere.  It’s ‘open’ 24/7, and only ‘bothers’ those who choose to read it. 🙂