I would like to share the statement I made in court as I stood in front of the man who attempted to rape me. It provides a glimpse of the powerlessness and trauma survivors experience after being sexually assaulted.
As you read this keep in mind that in the world of sexual assault my case is very unusual. In the world of sexual assault I am one of the lucky ones.
Not only was I able to fight off the man who had me pinned to the ground, but I also saw him taken away in handcuffs that night. 60% of sexual assaults are never reported to the police. 97% of rapists will never spend a single day in jail.
I am one of the lucky ones.
The support I have received since that night has made it possible for me to fight back. I want to provide that support to other survivors, to give them the strength to fight back as well. The strength to stand up. To speak out. To heal.
This crime is far too common and far too quiet. 1 out of 3 American women will be sexually abused in her lifetime. Your mother. Your sister. Your girlfriend. That’s three women. Defend your mother, stand up for your sister, fight for your girlfriend.
Take Back The Night with us.
April 10th was a Wednesday. That Wednesday evening found itself nestled into the peak of our cherry blossom season. As I jogged through my neighborhood I thought it must’ve been one of the most beautiful nights I had ever seen in DC. The way the flowers hung from the branches, the spring scent that lingered in the air, the details from that night are still vivid in my mind.
What began as such a pretty night quickly became the ugliest I’ve ever experienced. Those details remain just as vivid and they always will.
A forceful hand over my mouth. Another between my legs. The collision of a mans body against mine. The pavement. The panic. The pain.
For days I could still feel his hands on my body. With each step I took I could feel the sidewalk tearing into my skin again. In my own reflection I was reminded of the man who left my face swollen and bruised.
Those sensations subsided, only to be replaced by anxiety and fear. Most nights I laid in bed waiting for the birds to chirp and the sun to come up too afraid to close my eyes. Then there were the nights when exhaustion forced me into a restless sleep that was riddled with nightmares. I often woke up screaming, gasping, in a sweat and entirely terrified.
My waking hours were no easier. I couldn’t go anywhere alone, everywhere I was I felt unsafe. I jumped at the sound of footsteps behind me. I saw a potential predator in every man I saw on the street. My nerves were entirely shot.
Accomplishing even the simplest task was a challenge. My work suffered greatly. I felt as though I was constantly making mistakes and could hardly hold normal conversations with my clients. It took me twice as long to execute anything and more often than not the results were an embarrassment. I was devastated by this on a daily basis. It took everything I had to show up and usually I wished I hadn’t.
My life has drastically changed. I replaced the locks on my door hoping to feel safer. I still don’t feel safe. I added etched glass and heavy curtains to my windows to keep anyone from looking in. I still feel exposed. I bought pepper spray in a vain attempt to feel secure. I still can’t close the door behind me fast enough.
My daily routine has been totally altered. I no longer run. I haven’t been on a run since that night. Instead I wake up at 5:30 and go to an early morning yoga class. I don’t go out after work to catch up with friends over dinner or drinks anymore. I hate being outside at night. I can’t even walk my dog after dark.
I have been very fortunate to have incredible people the depend on through the fall-out. Without these people I wouldn’t have the strength to gather my thoughts and feelings or to be here and share them today. Not just my friends who held my hand and wiped away my tears, but also my colleagues who have been endlessly patient and kind. The neighbors who ran out of their house in pajamas when they heard my cries for help. The police officers and detectives that arrived in seconds and stayed for hours. Every person that answered my phone calls or filed paperwork. Every person here who is committed to justice. All of these people have given me hope. Hope that maybe the world isn’t such a bad place after all. Hope that good can actually prevail.