9 years ago I was raped, and I don’t remember a thing. Because of that, I struggle identifying myself as a rape survivor.
Content Warning: Rape, Sexual Violence
Like many other rape survivors, when I heard about the Stanford rape case, I was angry. I was angry that yet again, I have been reaffirmed that rape survivors in America are afforded little to no legal protection against their assailants.
In recently released documents, it has been revealed that Brock Turner, the 20-year old who raped a then 22-year-old woman near a dumpster outside of a Kappa Alpha fraternity house will be released after a mere three months of county jail, where he’ll be placed in protective custody.
“I was told that because I couldn’t remember, I technically could not prove it was unwanted .”
While the judge who presided over this case, Judge Aaron Persky, decided that a lengthy prison sentence would “have a severe impact” on Turner, the judge failed to consider the victim, only known as Emily Doe (who I will refer to as Emily), and the severe impact Turner’s actions would have on her for the rest of her life.In this case, and in many others, the legal system has offered more protection to the assailant than they have to the victim. Amid backlash of his decision, there is currently a petition on change.org to remove Persky from the bench. The petition has already garnered over 1 million signatures.
I stood there examining my body beneath the stream of water and decided, I don’t want my body anymore. I was terrified of it, I didn’t know what had been in it, if it had been contaminated, who had touched it. I wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else. –Emily Doe
Last week, Buzzfeed published the full 7,138-word victim-impact statement Emily read aloud to Turner before his sentencing. In the letter, Emily said she found out what happened to her while scrolling through articles on her phone while she was at work. Throughout the trial, the prosecution used Emily’s lack of memory against her to poke holes in her testimony. She wrote, “I was told that because I couldn’t remember, I technically could not prove it was unwanted […] I was warned, because he now knows you don’t remember, he is going to get to write the script. He can say whatever he wants and no one can contest it. I had no power, I had no voice, I was defenseless. My memory loss would be used against me. My testimony was weak, was incomplete, and I was made to believe that perhaps, I am not enough to win this. His attorney constantly reminded the jury, the only one we can believe is Brock, because she doesn’t remember. That helplessness was traumatizing.”
I am every woman.
In another statement released to KTVU Fox 2, Emily spoke on her reason to remain anonymous:
“I remain anonymous, yes to protect my identity. But it is also a statement, that all of these people are fighting for someone they don’t know. That’s the beauty of it. I don’t need labels, categories, to prove I am worthy of respect, to prove that I should be listened to. I am coming out to you as simply a woman wanting to be heard. Yes there is plenty more I’d like to tell you about me. For now, I am every woman.”
Like Emily, I am one of those women.
Nine years ago, 2 weeks shy of my 21st birthday, I was drugged and raped by three men at a house. I can recall bits and pieces of what happened to me that night. I remember watching anime shows on Adult Swim. I remember one of the guys, someone I later found out to be a known drug dealer, leaving to “pick something up.” I remember him returning, offering me a drink. I drank it. They laughed. I remember another guy sitting on a bed and told me to walk over. I remember taking a few steps, blacking out and waking up screaming as I laid sprawled out in a pool of my own vomit on cold tiles in the bathroom of someone else’s house. Like a fuzzy T.V that goes in and out, I remember bits and pieces I can’t quite make out.
I remember crying, asking them to stop, but I don’t remember why I was asking them to stop. I remember being dragged into a car. I remember being thrown out onto my neighbor’s lawn. In place of pine needles in my hair, my face was covered in mud.
I remember the police asking me where I lived. I remember waking up the next morning at home and going to the bathroom and seeing a discharge I have never seen before. I remember the numbness of my vagina. I remember breaking down into hysteria after asking my mom where the jeans I was wearing were. She responded, “What jeans? You came home in oversized sweatpants.”
I remember the shame and horror of taking a rape kit and seeing my co-worker (I was a nursing assistant at the time) being the one to do my intake. I remember a stranger asking me if I was okay as I threw up in the parking lot of a gas station on my way back from the hospital. I remember mustering up a smile — just food poisoning I told him.
Like Emily, I remember the intrusive questions, the incessant victim-blaming. I remember ALL these things, I just can’t remember being raped. Because of that, I struggle to identify as a rape survivor.
Where Emily and my story differs is that I was afforded no trial. The officer in my case, ironically named Detective Lucky, coldly told me he would do nothing to protect me when I requested a police car to sit out front my house, even if it was just a parked car that no one was in.
Unlike Emily, my then boyfriend did not meet me with compassion and support. Rather, he blamed me for cheating on him and told me I was a slut. Unlike Emily, I had little to no support from family or friends. When I told my best friend what happened to me, her response was “well, what did you expect?” The day I came home from the hospital, my mother yelled at me for “making her look bad to the neighbors,” and insisted I knock on their door and apologize to them. My rape kit is probably still unprocessed if it even still exists, like the other thousands of rape kits that go untested each year in the U.S. As Jezebel pointed out in their recent article, Brock Turner will spend more time in jail than 97 percent of rapists. My rapists never saw as much as a police vehicle for what they did to me.
Like Emily, I can’t remember what happened to me. But that doesn’t stop the crippling anxiety that sometimes keeps me inside for days at a time. It doesn’t stop me from getting physically ill during moments of intimacy with my partner. In the 9 years since it occurred, not a day has passed where the “20 minutes of action” hasn’t affected me in some way.
Even though I still struggle with identifying as a rape survivor, it doesn’t stop me from feeling like one.