Find Your Uncomfortable Place
Updated: Jan 28, 2020
I was a twenty-one-year-old senior in college when I walked into a campus police station for the first time. I approached the desk as tears filled my eyes and a woman asked “May I help you?” One swift blink and my tear ducts erupted. Water rushed down my face as I looked up and nodded. The woman waited for me to speak but I couldn’t. I couldn’t even open my mouth. I stood there with lips pressed tightly together, unable to control the tears streaming down my face.
The woman stood up from her seat, leaned toward me over the desk and asked “Do you want to write it down?” Again I nodded. My sight was almost completely obstructed on account of the tears that I couldn’t manage to wipe away fast enough. The woman slid a piece of paper across the desk toward me. I skipped my name and went straight to the question about a crime I’d like to report. I didn't even recognize my own writing as I wrote that one word: R – A – P – E.
I reported the crime to the campus police a month after it occurred. [To be honest, I didn't know that campus police were different than any other police. I just thought they had a station on campus. How Convenient!?] The suspect was interviewed and the case was reviewed by the DA. After which, I received a letter from the prosecutors office stating that "no jury would convict" and pointed out that the suspect seemed sorry. I was told that because alcohol was involved, they were hesitant to file charges. And the fact that I was unconscious during the events left me with very little information to disagree with their assessment of the facts.
I was married the following year and started a life with my husband. To the outside world, I was the same person I had always been but I was hiding the emptiness I felt. I was diagnosed with PTSD and experienced flashbacks and panic attacks, even over the simplest of inconveniences. But the world told me to be "over it." So, unless you were in charge of my prescription or counseling, I never let my outer mood reflect my internal struggles.
I filed a civil suit against the suspect within the 2 years statute of limitation for this crime in the state of Indiana. My attorney reviewed the case and I was told that there wasn't much there. Over the next 10 years I learned to live with the fact that something had clearly happened but there was not enough evidence for legal recourse. That happens right? Like theft that you can't prove.
I spent the next decade smiling through the healing and pretending nothing was wrong. I focused on our family and children we were raising. People around me never mentioned it for fear of upsetting me. All while I was screaming on the inside for people to ask how I was coping. But they weren't talking about it, so I wasn't talking about it. And I wasn't talking about it, so everyone assumed I was over it.
I never let my outer mood reflect my internal struggles.
More than a decade later, I watched the police interviews for the first time. I had decided to go public with my story as the #metoo movement was at it's peak and I needed to know what he had said in his police interview. I had a glass of wine and sat alone in my living room and watched 49 minutes of a man explaining in disturbing detail how he waited for me to be asleep and stole my virginity from me.
This was the day that I learned how I lost my innocence. I was 33, mother of three children, and I was watching, for the first time, someone explain something so important to me and yet I knew nothing about it. This was the day I realized that a school that I loved had seen a video of someone recounting my rape and they chose to do nothing. The DA, the campus police, the Dean of Students, my attorney... everyone knew more about that night than I did.
This was the day I began a new kind of mourning. I found that the cover-up was an entire new assault on my being. Young college-aged kids do stupid things. That will never change. But the adults in charge, they should know better. I should have been protected, advocated for. I should have been worth more.
My journey has been rough. Anger, anxiety, alcohol to calm the anxiety, self-hate, flashbacks, and apathy have turned to forgiveness, self-acceptance, and humor. I still cope in strange ways. I make jokes to normalize the whole event. I remind my husband that he missed my rape-aversery again. He laughs and hugs me because he knows this is my way of talking about a dark event in a way that makes me laugh. And then I demand he remember to get a cake next year. This is my life now. I could be quiet and never ruffle any feathers. I could be silent and never make anyone uncomfortable. But that doesn't sound like me. I could pretend everything is perfect. But this... this is real. This is me.