Rape is defined as the unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person, with or without force, by a sex organ, other body part, or foreign object, without the consent of the victim. (Kentucky Revised Statutes 510) The state of Kentucky classifies rape into three different categories: Rape in the third Degree, Rape in the Second Degree, and Rape in the First Degree. In this paper, I will explain to you what constitutes the different degrees of rape, share with you my own experience as a rape victim/survivor and how it has affected my life as well as the lives of others, where our community fail to protect the victims of this crime, and ways to find help for you or a loved one living with similar struggles to that of my own.
Rape in the third degree is classified as a Class D Felony in the state of Kentucky and can carry a punishment of one to five years in prison. It is the least serious offense for the crime. A person is guilty of Rape in the third degree when (a) they engage in sexual intercourse with an individual who is incapable of consent due to an intellectual disability, (b) A person the age of twenty one or older engages in sexual intercourse with an individual under the age of sixteen, (c) A person the age of twenty one or older engages in sexual intercourse with an individual less than eighteen years old who lives in the home as a foster child, (d) A person in a position of authority or special trust engages in sexual intercourse with an individual under the age of eighteen whom they come into contact with as a result of their position, or (e) A jailer, employee, contractor, vendor or volunteer of the Department of Corrections, Department of Juvenile Justice, or a detention facility engage in sexual intercourse with an individual they know to be incarcerated or under evaluation. (KRS 510.060 effective July 12, 2012).
Rape in the second degree is classified as a Class C Felony in the state of Kentucky and can carry a punishment of five to ten years in prison. It is the third most serious offense for the crime. A person is guilty of Rape in the second degree when (a) A person of the age of eighteen years old or more engages in sexual intercourse with an individual less than the age of fourteen, or (b) A person engages in sexual intercourse with an individual who is mentally incapacitated. (KRS 510.050 effective July 15, 2002).
Rape in the first degree is a Class B Felony unless (a) the victim is under the age of twelve, or (b) the victim receives a serious physical injury, in which case it is classified as a Class A Felony. A Class B Felony carries a sentence of ten to twenty years in prison and is the second most serious offense for the crime. A Class A felony, the most serious offense for this crime carriers a sentence of twenty years imprisonment to life. A person is guilty of Rape in the first degree when (a) A person engages in sexual intercourse with an individual forcibly, or (b) A person engages in sexual intercourse with an individual who is incapable of consent due to physical helplessness or is under the age of twelve years old. (KRS 510.040 effective January 1, 1975) It is important to note that being incapable of consent can be due to a variety of incapacitates such as alcohol intoxication and drug intoxication. The epidemic of date rape and alcohol related rape is plaguing not only our colleges and universities around the world, but our military instillation and social scenes as well. The physical and emotional consequences of such violent acts against any person are life-changing and, can, for many be devastating. I can attest to these consequences, because I am a survivor of rape myself.
My life really began in March of 2008, the day I departed for military training in Great Lakes, Illinois. I was in no way different than the other men and women who joined me on my journey to serve this great nation in the World’s Finest Navy. My initial training took place over eight weeks in Illinois, continuing for another four months in Pensacola, Florida and eventually landing me in Norfolk, Virginia. When I look back on those times, I often reflect on the fact that they were, indeed, the best days of my life. I come from a small town in south central Kentucky where I lived a fairly structured lifestyle. I grew up with rules and requirements set forth by my parents who expected nothing but great things from their children. My desire to serve my country started at a very early age and continued throughout my high school and college years. While it was not always my mother’s desire for me to serve, I was met with her support when I shared with her my decision to enlist. My father, an Army veteran himself, had always been supportive of my wishes, even from the beginning. While they both struggled with the thought of me leaving and potentially making a life for myself elsewhere, they never wavered when it came to encouragement and support. Their encouragement and support served as motivation for me to finish my training. However, when you are plucked from the roots of everything and everyone you know, and thrown into an environment where you have to learn to open up to complete strangers, you begin to develop a life all your own. I have always said I may have left behind my family to go off on my own explorations, but in doing so, I gained another one. I refer to them and think of them as my family away from family. We develop relationships and trust for one another that go far beyond that of a typical friendship. Perhaps that is why, what happened to me was so psychologically and emotionally devastating. While I hav e and do contemplate questions to understand this experience, questions like Was it the act itself that has left me with questions years later? Or was it the betrayal I still feel that makes it difficult to move on from the fact? I have come to terms with the fact that I may never have the answers or the closure that I desire. Most troubling is that I may never fully come to terms with my assault.
The second day my life began on September 15, 2009. It was a Tuesday evening out with friends that was in no way different from the Tuesday evenings preceding that night. Life in Norfolk, Virginia, at least my life, was structured much like my life at home. I have always been a creature of habit and routine, that characteristic is one I still display today. My Tuesday routine found me at the same place each week, Baxter’s Sports Bar on cheap night, with the same group of friends, doing the same thing, playing pool. It was so routine that nearly every server and even most patrons at the bar, knew each of us by name.
The night started just like every other one before. We ordered a few half priced appetizers, some pitchers of bud light, and picked a table and playing partner for the night. As always, to make it fair, we paired off into groups consisting of one female and one male. That night, I was partnered with Michael, a friend I had played with many times before. He was a first class petty officer on my ship as well as a fellow team mate on the USS Nassau’s softball team. Our relationship was fairly tightly wound upon trust. We had served together, he as my supervisor, for nearly 9 months and spent a fair amount of time outside of work together because we shared the same tight knit group of friends.
As with any large group of people, each person brought to the group their own personality and talents. I was known by most as Kentucky, a nickname given to be in basic training that never really seemed to lose its hold. I was the fun loving, happy go lucky girl in the group who never had a bad word to say about anything let alone anyone. I was easy to like back then. Witty and funny with a very salty sense of humor, one that would probably be slightly offensive to the normal person today.
Michael was known by his last name, one I don’t wish to share. He was the life of the party. He had a knack for making people laugh and a personality that made it impossible not to like to be around him. I always thought he was going to be a real catch for someone someday. As for me, I was not interested. I had met my boyfriend at the time on December 4th, 2008, within my first week of arriving in Norfolk. He was ex-military, working on base as a civilian. We had been together consistently ever since. So Michael and my friendship, while very strong, was simply just that: a friendship. I have asked myself hundreds, if not thousands of times, if there were warning signs I should have seen. Did he say something that I just blew off as banter? Had I sent any signals that he could have misconstrued?
The night went on as it always had. We played pool for hours, ordering pitcher after pitcher of beer. Laughing and enjoying the company of each other. Before we knew it, it was closing time and as usual, our trusty bartenders had called us all cabs. They knew our routine nearly as well as we did. As we were closing out our tabs, the topic turned to the rest of the evening. It was not uncommon for the group to continue the night at one of our apartments afterwards. That night, we decided to go back to Michael’s place for a night cap. His roommate was out to sea, and he had the most room for all of us to crash for the night.
It is at that point that things started getting a little fuzzy for me. The night became a broken strand of snapshots. I remember being in the cab and being at the apartment, but I have no recollection of time. I can remember having another drink at the apartment and playing cards. But I do not remember exactly what happened after that, at least nothing up until “it”. The “it” I am refereeing to is the moment I was raped. Like the latter portion of the evening, the majority of my memories come in broken pieces. I do not know if the scattered memories are due to going in and out of a drunken consciousness, or if I was in fact awake the entire time.
Unlike the fuzzy snippets from earlier in the night, my memories of the rape are clear and concise. The images are not blurry at all. While there are only a few of them, I can remember pleading with my attacker to stop, sobbing as he pushed my face into the mattress. I felt sick to my stomach, like I was going to throw up. I remember pleading internally for it to stop. I can remember telling myself, “Be strong! You can get through this.” I do not remember yelling at all. I have asked myself why I did not. I was so drunk that even my weak attempts to fight and get away came with no success. My memories bleed in and out even today, as I recall that night. I remember feeling like my arms and legs were like anchors weighing me down, and every attempt to get away seemed too labor intensive for my body to succeed. I feel at one point, I must have given up because that is where the memories stop. My only recollection beyond that is waking up the next morning.
It was still dark outside and the apartment was quiet. I was alone in the room, stripped of my clothes, wrapped in only a sheet. My head throbbed from the amount of alcohol intake the night before. All I could think to do was get out of there and go home. As I stumbled through the dark room, still under the influence from the night before, I managed to find my clothes. I slipped through the apartment and out into the parking lot without waking the others inside. I stood there, numb, and void of any emotion, my mind completely silent, as I waited for the cab. I remember climbing in and giving the driver my address to the barracks but I cannot recall my thoughts during that ride home.
When I arrived at the barracks, I exited the cab, made my way through the darkness of the early morning hours, slipped inside, and walked towards my room. My only desire at that point was to shower off the remnants of the night before. Emotionally void and in denial of what had happened, I did just that. I showered, put on my camies and boots, and went off to work as though nothing had changed from the day before.
As I arrived at the ship, I knew I needed medical attention, but was too afraid to seek it in fear of the questions that would follow. I sought out another shipmate of mine, a friend that worked in the medical bay and told him only that I needed a Plan B packet which is a morning after pill meant to prevent unwanted pregnancies. He asked why I did not just go to sick call when the medical bay opened and request one. I told him it is because I was embarrassed to ask, which was in no way the truth. I was running from the questions that would have surely come had I went about it in that way. Rather reluctantly, he obliged my offer and returned to me later in the day with the medication I had asked for. When I returned home to my barracks that evening, I took the medication as prescribed and continued about my life as best as I knew how. I never reported my rape. I was afraid that people would look at me differently if they knew. I was fearful of being blamed for the attack because of the circumstances surround the evening.
It was not until close to seven weeks later, that I found out about my pregnancy. We had been out to sea for three weeks on work ups for our upcoming deployment. I had spent a great number of days on that work up sick in my quarters. I was convinced that I had contracted the flu. Never imagining the actual illness was due to pregnancy. It was not until we returned to port that I suspected I was pregnant. It was only after looking up my symptoms online that I thought to take a test. On 22, November, 2009. This was the third day that my life changed forever. After sharing with him what I had been through, he made the decision it was too much for us to get beyond together. I lost the love of my life that day.
Now, I was not only pregnant, but I was pregnant with the child of a rape. I acted on my first instinct and called my mother. I only told her that I was pregnant, I could not muster the courage to tell her of the rape. I knew immediately that I wanted an abortion and, that there was no way I could carry or love a child that reminded me of that night weeks before. I have said many times since that day, how I am thankful it was a Sunday and that the doctor’s office was closed. I did the only thing I knew to do, I surrounded myself with people I loved. I called a fellow Air Traffic Controller, a woman who I had known for only a short time, and asked her to meet me for lunch. A few hours later, we sat at a table on the patio of Montana Grill in Norfolk, Virginia, as I told her everything. I told her about the rape, the pregnancy, and my desire for an abortion. I cried as she listened. It is her I have to thank for the life I have today. She, a strong woman in faith, told me of her past. At the time, she was newly married but had spent the past six years with her husband.
She spoke to me of a time in her life, early on in her relationship with her husband, that she too became pregnant. She told me of their decision to abort her pregnancy out of fear of the backlash that would come from her family had they known that she was so young, unmarried, and pregnant. She cried as she told me her story of abortion, regret, and hurt. This time, I listened. I thought of her words and her struggles as if they were one day to be my own. It was during that time spent with her on that patio, I knew the choice I had to make. It was not abortion, but rather a potentially much more difficult path: a path where I chose to keep my baby. I went home that night and lay awake trying to come up with a way to tell my family my decision. At close to three in the morning, I called home. I knew I would never sleep until my secret was out. I told my mother. I then told my father, the hardest announcement of the two.
I have never looked back from that night forward and regretted my decision. I knew that the choice I had made was the right one. I had allowed a man to take my life, my career and, my dreams and destroy them with no consequences of his own. I was not going to allow him to force me to live with the pain of ending a child’s life. It is that choice, the one I made for myself, that allowed me to save my own.
Although I have made this statement three times before, on July 16, 2010, my life really began anew. I brought into this world, my greatest blessing, my son Bentley Grant Wright, named after two of my great grandfathers. My life has never been the same. What once was an empty shell of a person, void of all emotion, became the loving mother of an incredible miracle born from such devastation.
It was proof to me that life is fragile and beautiful. I found myself, time after time, contemplating ending my life. It was Bentley who kept me here. I began turning to alcohol to drown out my own pain and misery. For over four years, I drank myself to sleep every night after putting my son to bed. I had turned into a recluse, locking myself away in my own home, never interacting with anyone other than my son and family, and even then there was little interaction, not even with the family whom I loved so very much. I did not recognize myself anymore and, neither did they. Now it was I who was slowly killing the new self that had emerged after the birth of my son.
I was depressed, addicted to alcohol, and heading nowhere in a hurry. The alcohol that use to numb the pain temporarily, now had a hold on my life. It no longer numbed anything but my rationalization. After a six day continual binge following the five year anniversary of my rape that a blessing was sent to me by way of a very unlikely courier.
In the early morning hours of September 22, 2014, I was speaking with a military buddy of mine in Hawaii. Highly intoxicated as was usual for that time of day, I told him that I no longer had the desire to live. I felt as if my son deserved a better mother than what I was giving him. I was sick with addiction and saw no light at the end. It was after hanging up that call, that this friend pulled me out of my self-destruction and saved my life. He called the police department in my town. A very dear family friend was on duty that night and responded to the welfare check that had been placed for me.
After trying to get me to answer the door with no success, he called my father to come assist. For nearly 2 hours they knocked and pried at every entrance, desperate to get in, fearful that when they did, they would find the unthinkable. After breaking in my front door, they found my son asleep in his room, and I passed out on the couch, unresponsive to their stimulation to wake me. I was three times the legal limit. Knowing nothing else to do to change my life choices, he placed me under arrest for endangering the welfare of a minor. It came as a complete shock to my entire community as well as me. I awoke in the one place I swore I would never be: jail. With no memory of why I was there, no idea if my son was okay, I asked to make a call. I was too ashamed to call my parents, so I called my Aunt Philly. She told me what had happened as I sat there weeping in the arms of a jailer. After hanging up the phone, knowing that I was going to be released, the jailer, who has known me all my life said, “This is your second chance, but only you can decide to change. This is not you, this is your addiction.” Those words ring in my head every time I think of taking a drink.
I came home that day, hell bent on never going back. From that point forward, faced with losing the only thing I have ever loved, I vowed to make a change. I sought help and was successful in getting sober, I enrolled in parenting classes and completed dozens of hours of therapy. I started using the money I had once used to buy my demons to pay off school loans. Setting a goal of going back to school in the fall. I attended Celebrate Recovery, a faith based program in my community geared towards all types of addictions. I began to get my life back, sharing my secret I had held so long with people who listened with open arms and hearts, never judging me for anything. I knew however, in order to recover, I had to be honest with the ones closest to me. I knew it would hurt them, I knew I would have to answer the questions I had tried for more than five years to avoid.
It was April 26th, 2015 I told my truth. After receiving assistance from the state of Kentucky, I was required to pursue support from Bentley’s father. I knew at that point, it was now or never. They were going to find out from me at that point or someone else. I wanted to be the one to tell them. It was in no way easy, but the first one I told was my mother. We were sitting on the patio at her house, watching Bentley play in the yard. I told her there was something I had been hiding from her for a very long time and I felt like I needed to share it with her. As I told her what I have now told you, she sat there silent, just listening. When I finished, she asked me if I planned to tell my father and I shared with her that I did. I could not find the courage to ask him to sit with me so she did it for me.
As I sat there again, going through the same story, my mother held me as we both cried. It was in those moments that my burden was lifted. The shame, guilt, and overwhelming heaviness that I carried with me for so long poured out of me with each tear I shed. This is truly the day I stopped being a victim and started my life as a survivor.
Some may question why I never reported my rape to the appropriate authorities. My parents even question why I do not have the desire to see him brought to justice. My response is simply, I do not want to have to relive the events of that night, in a court room full of people who are there to judge the event of that night and find a party to place the blame upon. Not just that though. I have always been known for my kind hearted nature. Much like the woman I was before, I have no desire to see the negative in anyone. I think back on what would “that me” have done. Before I was tarnished and thrown to the side as if my life had no value to him. The person I was then would say, while I may have to live the rest of my life with the emotions of that evening, I will not allow those same emotions to change the core of who I am.
I have chosen to live the rest of my life as a stronger, better me. I will not compare who I was before that night, to who I am today. While that same girl still exists somewhere inside of me, I am much wiser now. I have grown through my experiences. I have been through every emotion imaginable and seen my own life diminish from something to nothing and back again. I have come out on the other end of those more than 5 years, as a survivor.
I have found I do not have to let my rape and addiction define the type of person I am allowed to be. I can write my own path moving forward without living under the control he had on me for all those years. I have found myself in this process to be a much stronger person than I ever gave myself credit for. I have forgiven him for what he did to me and thanked him a million times in my mind for giving me the most important thing in my life, my son. I struggled for so long, beating myself up over the years of his life where I wasn’t the best mother I should have been. But I now realize that to move forward, I have to let go of the past and the things I cannot change.
I am lucky that my son saw very little of the bad parts of me and all of the good things. I have learned, he too, is much stronger than I ever gave him credit for. I always thought if I allowed him to see my hurt and my tears, I was somehow harming him. I now refuse to hide my feelings, I let him see me cry. I want him to understand that we all get sad sometimes, but the way to overcome your grief is not to internalize it, but rather to let it out. Life has a funny way of teaching us our lessons, what matters is not where we have been, but where we wind up on the other end. I am one of the lucky ones, there are many victims out there who are not as fortunate as I am.
The statistics of sexual assault are staggering. What is even more worrisome is there are thousands of rapes, like mine, that go unreported and are never factored into the statistics. In the year 2014 alone, the 45th Commonwealth of Kentucky Crime Report produced by Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer, put the number of reported forcible sexual assaults in the state at 4,779 – an increase of 6.48% from 2013. I would like to point out that 814 – nearly 17% — of all forcible sexual assaults reported throughout Kentucky’s 120 counties in 2014, occurred in Warren and its surrounding counties: 161 reported offenses in Warren County, 23 reported offenses in Simpson County, 10 reported offenses in Allen County, 22 reported offenses in Barren County, 9 reported offenses in Edmonson County, 49 reported offenses in Butler County, and 540 reported offenses in Logan County.
While the bordering Logan County’s numbers are staggering even in comparison to the 161 in Warren County, what is perhaps more disturbing is the fact that Logan County ranked #1 in the state for the highest forcible sexual assaults while Warren County also made the top coming it at #4 in the state falling short by only eight for #3 behind Ohio County’s 169 reported offenses. The #2 spot went to Kenton County with 192 reported offenses. What do these number really boil down to one might ask? If you are not good with numbers then I will give it to you like this. In the state of Kentucky, one forcible sexual assault is committed approximately every one hour. The number of those cases cleared only sits at 43%. (44th Commonwealth of Kentucky Crime Report 2013) Some may look at that and say, “Hey, that’s great! They caught 43% of the “bad guys”!” I look at that number and say, “That means that 57% of the “bad guys” are still out there, mingling amongst us at our children’s soccer games and Fourth of July celebrations.
This is an epidemic, plaguing our towns and communities, the places we call home to our families and children. Until we are ready to stand together to stop the violence, we are going to see little to no change in those numbers in years to come.
What is even more disturbing is the number of assaults that go unreported and how they could factor in to the real statistics of sexual assault. There is a large constitute of people out there that question why a victim would choose not to report their assaults to authorities. I guess for some to understand, you first have to have walked a mile in their shoes. While researching the cause for under reporting, I happened upon an article titled, “Under reporting in Sexual Assault: A Review of Explanatory Factors” written by Theresa C. Kelly and Lana Stermac. The statistics they uncover in this article are frightening to say the least. It is estimated that one in three women living in the United States of America will experience some form of forced sexual assault over the span of their lives.
Some may look at the numbers and think to themselves, “This does not add up.”. However, studies show that the number of assaults reported is in fact a vast understatement in comparison to the number of actual assaults that occur annually. (Under reporting in Sexual Assault: A Review of Explanatory Factors (2008,9 (1,2), 30-45) It is speculated that the majority of all assaults is in fact go unreported which mean that the numbers provide are actually a small minority, estimated at only about 6%. When you take into consideration now, the clearance rate, compared to the 6% or so reported, it becomes more frightening knowing that the majority of assaulter are still at large. Knowing that by not reporting an assault, more perpetrators are left to scour our communities and campuses still plays very little into the reason women do not report. To put a set list to why women choose not to report is nearly impossible. All women process their assaults differently and no one assault is the same. There are, however, a few reasons that outshine some of the others.
We live in a society where “Victim Blaming” is running rampant in nearly every stage of reporting. For those that do report, often times at some point in the process they are questioned about a number of things such as what they were wearing, if they knew the perpetrator, if they had any type of relationship prior to their attack, could they have sent the wrong signal, etc. Being a victim myself, I look back over the line of questions I just listed and think to myself, “What does it matter?” What does it matter what the woman is wearing? Why does it matter if they had a friendship prior to becoming the victim? What do any of the questions have to do with finding the man responsible for the attack? And the answer is, absolutely nothing. It angers me at just the thought that any of that information were to be relevant in anyway.
So many victims blame themselves to begin with. I know I did. And all the questions above do nothing but require the victims to recount and think of way that they were potentially to blame. When did we become a people focused on defending the acts of a violent individual rather than restoring the humility of the victims? Even as unjust as the above may seem, what is potentially even more alarming is the fact that very little is actually done to find and bring to justice the attackers.
But that is only one of the reasons women choose not to report. Others go back to the internal struggle they have with themselves. Victims blame themselves for not seeing it coming. They also fear how the public will view them if they knew. There is a stigma when it comes to victims of sexual assaults. They feel like people view them as weak, less of a person, or as troublemakers when they stand up against their attackers. Media sources have went so far as to say how wronged the accused are if they feel the individual plays a role somewhat in representing something the think fondly of such as sports, television, and even ministries (Barglow, P. (2014). It is revolting to me to see the victim’s life play out in a manner in which no help is offered, not trust is given, and doubt finds them at every turn. Just knowing that alone, I understand fully why some women choose not to say anything at all and that saddens me tremendously. In turn, it leaves the victims alone in the process, left to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives alone with no one to help. This has to come to an end. We as a nation must come together as a whole to stand with our victims, to put them first for once and focus on their recovery rather than sympathize with men responsible for the acts themselves.
The part most difficult for nearly every survivor is not the rape itself but rather the recovery after the fact (Skinner, J. (2009). Coming from a survivor who traveled that road alone for so long, the years following my assault where much worse that the assault itself. The hardest part at times was living with my own thoughts. Too many of these victims act on the thoughts that plagues me for years. I am one of the lucky ones. I had something left to live for, it was the one thing that kept me from going over the edge time and time again. Other victims are not always as lucky. There is so much a women has to overcome after a sexual assault and it cannot be done alone. Extensive therapy is need, a strong support system is a must, and more than anything an open heart. For me, I needed someone to listen. I needed a way to let out all the bad things swirling inside of me. I needed someone to open their heart to me, pick me up and dust me off and tell me that I was going to get through this. It took me more than five years to refer to myself as a survivor rather than a victim. I am by no means healed and I cannot be certain I will ever feel that I am. What I am certain of however, is the fact that I am in a much better place than what I use to be. Survival is one day at a time.