No Rest For The Rape Victim
Variables Victims Face
There is a misconception out there that because rape is now a strongly punishable offense then women victims are no longer singled out or judged. That is not true at all. What is true is that it is easier to report the abhor-able crime. That being said it is also easier for some foolish women to report falsely. It is because of these women, among other reasons, that true victims are uneasy about reporting. Unfortunately the reasons women have for not reporting are valid and we have nobody to blame but ourselves..
In 1999, I was raped. I was just shy of 19 years old and still an innocent. Somebody decided that I had waited long enough and he took the honors. The range of emotions that I went through was dizzying. Anger topped the list followed closely by shame. The next week I went about my life as normally as possible while agonizing over whether or not to report. Crying myself to sleep, I avoided my friends, who would have instantly known something was wrong, I ate minimally only because I knew I had to, not because I was hungry, I tried in vain to make my mind focus on work and only barely succeeded. After six days I was an internal mess.
In an effort to further the 'everything is okay' image I was clinging to, I kept a date I had made two weeks earlier. Despite my best efforts, he noticed my lack of honest enthusiasm and had a mutal friend drive me home. Being a police officer, I asked non-chalent questions about what would happen if "my friend" reported the crime. By the time we got back I had broke down and told the story. He advised me to sleep on it and come by in the morning. I did. I had to write down what happened to me in detail first and then I had to spend the next few months being grilled on what I wrote. It was easier for me to write it then it was for me to say it because I had, and still have, a hard time saying that little four letter word. In my book the word is unspeakable because the act is so horrible.
The worst was yet to come. People in my community split. Some on my side, some on his. I never asked for their sympathy. By making the act public, I was thrown onto a public pedestal where I was subjected to the cruelties of my peers. Every loud whisper and accusing glance tore at my heart. Some outright accused me of lying saying that it was nothing but next day regret. He lied to me and took away my rights, but I did him wrong. The injustice of being socially outcast over this terrible violation was unbearable.
After three months I put in for some leave time. I was exhausted by the interrogations and the accusations and needed a break. What I really needed was a little time to forget about it all. I was ready to move on but I was not allowed to. All I was allowed to do was relive that night over and over and over again in order to prove that my story stayed consistent. The day before my leave I got a call asking to end the months of interrogations via a plea bargain for less jail time for him, the alternative was court martial to be held the next day. Another slap in the face. Nobody had told me there was a trial date. Besides that, I had physical proof of my rape and an untainted reputation and I was still being treated as though I might be lying. The plea bargain went through and his conviction was processed. The conviction did nothing to stop the rumors. Six months after the conviction, I was visiting with a friend who had to stop by a new guy's place for something. I saw an item that had belonged to the man in question and lost my breath. Not having a clue, they spouted off about how some chick cried rape and got this guy behind bars. Losing my cool I lectured them about judging people they have never met and making poor judgement calls based on knowing a guy for less than three weeks. My friend got me out of there and I do not know that my rant did any good but they may as well have stuck me in the stomach with a knife for how much I hurt.
Fast forward ten years and I am sitting at home watching a mystery show that is showcasing a rape victim. They portray her as irrational, moody, mentally unstable, and completely unable to trust any males. This is the image many see. Yes, some female victims portray those characteristics. Some display a few of those, others do not show any of those traits. In my case, my initial shock and default to appear normal in the face of adversity proved to be my social downfall. Others viewed my stoic lack of angry emotion as a tell-tale sign of guilt. Those that knew me know that I am not a fan of public airing of personal problems. Again, my downfall. Apparently, if I had acted the grief stricken, paranoid helpless damsel in distress as the media suggests I should have, then I would be credible. These are the kinds of misnomers that desperately need to be retracted.
Every person deals with adversity in their own way and it is not for us to judge how guilty or innocent a person is based on what dramatic movies and television shows tell us is the normal reaction. Rape is not normal, each circumstance, though similar in some ways, is unique to the individual. We have come a long way from the way we look at AIDS patients and even the way we view domestic abuse. There needs to be more change in how we view rape victims. I have moved on with my life but not without immensely struggling with the loss of my feeling of self-worth. It has taken ten years to regain most of that and I am still healing in many ways. I have a strong will, a stronger moral compass, and supportive friends and family which have gotten me this far. I am a very lucky girl. Plenty of women go through what I went through and do not have the support system I have and if I am still hurting from so long ago, I can only imagine the pain they are in. More awareness needs to happen and stronger punishments for false reporters need to be in place. Maybe then real victims can get the peace of mind they deserve. Maybe then the general public will understand that a person who has already suffered the pain of the attack and the indignity of the report and trial has suffered enough and needs your support, not your accusations or sympathy.