I don’t think I’ve ever really been fearless or brave. Truth is, if I hadn’t been on my period and wearing a tampon, and it hadn’t been shoved so far up inside of me that I had to go to the hospital to have it removed, I probably wouldn’t have reported the crime. Who would have believed me? He was my friend from work. I had hung out with him on multiple occasions and gone to lunch with him several times. We weren’t dating, nor had that discussion ever come up. He was moving to California to go to law school at the end of the summer, and although he wasn’t my type, he was interesting, and I’m generally indiscriminately social. I like to see life from different perspectives, and he sure had a different one, although, until that night, I had never felt threatened by him.
Even with that kind of physical evidence however, the state’s attorney didn’t believe me. Even if they did, I wasn’t the victim that they needed to get a conviction. My demeanor wasn’t appropriate. When I’m uncomfortable, I crack jokes, and during my exam, I’m sure I said some things to lighten the mood. I’ve done that since I was a kid. Yes, I had been sobbing for the majority of the day, and numb and confused, but I was naked in a room full of doctors, police, advocates, and my mom. It was humiliating, and I didn’t know how to act. I refused a morning after pill because of my religious convictions. I’m sure me getting engaged to Bryan 7 weeks after the assault didn’t help either, but the truth is, I had only met my husband the day before the attack, and only saw him a second time because all of the clothes I had purchased from his store were confiscated by the police and I went back to make an identical purchase. I told him on the way out when he questioned my buying everything a second time that my clothes had been confiscated by the police, and I’d tell him the story if I ever got to know him better. He knows the story now.
The state’s attorney chose not to indict, and never followed up to tell me. I went on, never knowing what happened or why. I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder, and took medication off and on to deal with my irrational anxiety and panic attacks. Eventually, over a year later, I conjured up the courage to call Prairie Center Against Sexual Assault and ask what had happened and why nothing ever came of it after I had been through an embarrassing exam and gave my statement to a detective at the police station. She was new to the job, but began to dig. I typed up my story and sent it to her, and not surprisingly, my account had not changed. The detective I spoke with said he had always believed me, but the guy had moved to California to go to law school (more quickly than planned after being questioned by the police), and since the state’s attorney who had been assigned my file didn’t think I was a viable case, it had just faded into the background and was dropped. My new advocate continued to work for me. Almost 2 years after the attack, I had a meeting with the Sangamon County state’s attorney, the 3rd in command attorney who didn’t believe me initially, the original detective, and my new advocate. As a result of the meeting and my solid account, they decided to go forward with the case in 2003, and he was indicted. The statute of limitations in Illinois was 3 years at that time, and if I had waited any longer, nothing would have been done.
The case drug on and on. Even after he was indicted, it didn’t end until November 2007, 6 years and 5 months after the assault. His attorneys delayed several times. We had to wait for the DNA evidence to process. The state delayed when I became pregnant with Matthew. He faced 6-14 years in prison for felony sexual assault, but the longer it drug out, the more I questioned what was the right thing to do. He had gotten married in California. I felt for his wife, and honestly believed that he wouldn’t be a danger to anyone else, so I approached the state’s attorney and asked if they could charge him with a lesser crime. I felt he still needed to be convicted of something, but I was hoping offering grace and mercy in that situation would allow him to move on and be a productive member of society. Although it seemed like the best thing to do at the time, I have no idea whether it was the right thing or not. After seeing the kind of man he has become, I would say no, but all I know is I did what I felt was right at the time.
At the end of the day, he plead guilty to misdemeanor sexual assault or inappropriate touching. He spent no time in jail. He was on probation for 2 years, having to fly back to Illinois every 6 months to check in with his parole officer. He attended alcohol counseling, paid $500.00 to Prairie Center Against Sexual Assault, and wrote me a letter of “apology” for his crime. In the letter, he basically spat in my face and acted like I was crazy. It was his final blow, because through it all, he had to keep putting forth that he was the victim of a false rape accusation. I had a panic attack when I read it in the courtroom, and they withdrew the plea deal. Unfortunately, my attorney (you know, the one who didn’t want to try the case in the beginning) chose to recuse himself after the deal he had worked so hard to put together fell through, so their office ended up putting it back on the table at a few months later, with my rapist rewriting a more obviously forced, disingenuous, and polite version of his required apology.
He had to retake his bar exam, because his original one expired during his indictment period. He eventually bid to have his record expunged, which was a condition of the plea agreement, and it was granted. Other than him running his mouth about being “falsely” accused of rape on the internet, no one would really know what happened, or why he had to retake the bar or why it took him so long to get licensed to practice law in California. Lucky for me (sarcasm font) he has been running his mouth for years on the internet about the experience, mixing his tale with lies and half truths, calling himself “patient zero to the false rape epidemic” and painting the anonymous accuser as a psycho with a vendetta against men. It’s repulsive, and he’s a liar.
Even in the past, I’ve shared more than most do about my experiences with sexual assault. That is not my only experience, but probably the one that affected me the most because of the prolonged legal action. While I thought I had worked through most of my anxiety and PTSD, this past Spring, I was hit in the face with it all again. I read about my rapist in national news, and I wanted to throw up. I literally shook. I was anxious. Panic attacks reemerged. This went on for about 3 months. By summer, I was getting better again, but honestly, it’s horrible feeling that way again. People in the news like Donald Trump, Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, and Harvey Weinstein pick the scabs open again and again. Reading random people on Facebook lash out at the victims and blame them for being victims, opens very real wounds for me and countless others.
For those who question why women don’t report, read my story again. Does that sound fun to you? For those who claim they’re just after fame or money, ask yourself, who wants that kind of fame? I made a conscious decision not to file a civil suit because I didn’t want anyone to ever be able to say it was about money, because it wasn’t. It was about justice, and that was it.
For those of you who question why those women never called out Harvey Weinstein before now, consider how powerful he was. He could have probably ruined them and their whole family. Did you know that if you talk about a criminal sexual assault that happened to you and call out your perpetrator, that YOU could be sued for libel/defamation? I do. If I ever felt like calling out anyone by name, that has stopped me in my tracks. I still fear for my family, and while it may be unsubstantiated, it hasn’t gone away in 16 years. As much as the legal system traumatized me when I pressed charges against a man who raped me, I couldn’t even imagine going through that fight too.
I know what those women are feeling, because I’ve been there, and some days, I still am. There is truly safety in numbers. Sexual assault is a crime that can be easily dismissed because evidence is tricky, and it comes down to a he said/she said situation in the majority of cases. It’s maddening, and I have no idea how to fix it. Our culture’s broken view of sex and sexuality further complicates the issue, but when a pattern of abuse is established, people will listen, at least most of the time. To tell our stories is painful, but it is important. There are many more of us out there, hidden in the shadows, too scared or ashamed to say #MeToo.