“You shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death-the young woman because she did not scream for help.”
I thought of these words while I got up on stand that day. The lawyer’s eyes all on me. My DA’s question came easy because I had heard them, I had listened. I knew what I had to expect, but once his lawyer got up there his words cut me like a knife. Each one digging deeper into soul. I went to his room. So it’s my fault. I was always around. So it’s my fault. As these questions flew at me, my rapist sat looking straight at me with a smirk on his face. My rapist doesn’t think he is a rapist. You taught him it wasn’t his fault. I flirted too much and my shorts will too short, so I am the slut who deserved it right? You are so right. I wanted this. I want to wake up every night screaming into the dark, feeling your fingers slide past my thighs, your breath baking my neck. I wasn’t strong enough to move you with a broken back. I wanted to lose my appetite. I wanted to lose my voice because there is nothing more I can say. I wanted to claw my skin inside out. I wanted to take 3 showers a day to try to scratch off every piece of me you touched. “There is no difference between being raped and being bit on the ankle by a rattlesnake except that people ask if your skirt was shot and why you were out alone anyhow.”
And now here we are. Me at the front of a giant room like some sort of animal on display. Questioning my every word and every memory I recalled from that night. The honest words of I don’t know and I don’t remember flew out of my mouth left and right. The questions about which way was I facing, which hand was used, what side of the bed was slightly off the frame giving me chance of escape. I don’t know and I don’t remember. But in my dreams every single night I remember the beating penetration, the feeling of my stomach lining coming straight up my throat, trying to fight trying to cry, but in too much pain to even make him budge. Then when I awake the next morning I always feel that all of the bad things from the universe have stepped out of the TV screen and crawled into my blood stream. “There is no difference between being raped and going head first through a windshield except that after you are afraid, not of cars, but of half the human race.”
Then they asked about the bleeding. The blood that had been shed from my body that should still be coursing happily through my veins. It took me back to the hospital that night. Where a gentle handed nurse had me lay on a starched hospital sheet with my legs in stirrups. I thought about all of the happy woman who had used those stirrups to bring a bundle of joy into the world. But my mind quickly went back to all of the woman who have probably been in this same hospital bed as me in the same situation. A bulky police officer outside the door trying to make you feel safe, when really the assault is not yet over. What felt like 100 bags of DNA taken. Pubic hair plucked, nails cut no matter how short they already are, and clothes taken and put in sealed bags. Suddenly that little ER room looks like a forensic crime seen. Then the male doctor comes in to do a pelvic DNA swab. He takes his forceps and for 5 minutes is conversing with the nurse while trying to get the swab. “ She is too swollen, there is no way to make this not painful.” So up the nurse came to my side and then there was the bleeding. Blood all over the starched sheet, blood all over the DNA swabs. “What about the bleeding you mentioned in your police report?” It is still happening. “There is no difference between being raped and being pushed down a flight of cement steps except the wounds also bleed inside.”
My eyes ran dry the morning after the rape. Being in a hospital and speaking with numerous police and doctors, and hardest of all parents. Luckily my parents came straight to me the second they sensed a tear fall over the phone. And while they made the 4-hour trek up to me, I sat in a bathtub trying to calm my throbbing back, and I realized my heart had died for a second. I became numb in that second because I realized what I was going to have to face in the coming months by just using my voice. And that is still where I sit, in the numbness of not being able to cry or be angry. I remember coming out of the courtroom and collapsing into my best friends arms while everyone around me told me what a good job I did. And all I was thinking was good job? I didn’t get to say half of what should have been said on that stands appropriate or not. Everyone told me how proud they were I used my voice and I thought voice? I answered questions from a noisy lawyer whose goal is to intimidate me and break me down. Whose goal is to blame me for his clients lack of humanity.
So here is really what I wanted to say in that courtroom that day: you made me something I didn’t want to be and that is a survivor. Since you gave me the ability to wear that title though I am going to scream it to the universe. I am going to use the voice that was given to me and let people know that it is never the victims fault no matter how lousy a lawyer may make you feel. I am going to tell people that reporting rape is one of the hardest things to do, but I will be there for them in that court room and I will be there for them when they decide to tell there story to the world. Because that is the most powerful thing us survivors have is our story. And no matter how many lawyers they try to send to my locked residence hall dorm room to intimidate me and no matter how many jabbing questions a lawyer asks I will never be afraid to tell my story.