I was raped in 1997 while I was a student at the University of Florida. It took 8 years to go to trial with enough evidence to potentially convict the rapist. My fight or flight was in full force. I fought, I hit, I bit, I scratched and I even jumped out of my bedroom window to escape.
After escaping, I went straight to the hospital and was subjected to a disorienting process of completing a rape kit. After what felt like a few hours’ medical exam, a rape victim’s advocate came to my hospital room. After the process, I couldn’t tell you the details of that experience because I was traumatized. I don’t remember when I talked to the police. However, I do remember working with a sketch artist to try to create a clear representation of the attacker. I remember very well closing my eyes and replaying the attack over and over in my head and searching my mind for anything specifically memorable about his face and his appearance in general. Did he have a mole, a birthmark, any piercings or tattoos?
In 2006, we had a DNA match. I went to my local police department to pick him out of a photo array. All the men in the photo array looked so similar. They did not throw in any outliers. All the same skin tone and the same color hair as my attacker. I had to once again close my eyes and relive the trauma. The officers in the department were disruptive and abrasive. They made me feel ashamed and embarrassed. I felt humiliated and dirty. I pushed through and successfully selected the rapist. The photo and the DNA match were of the same person.
When I went to trial I felt like I was being put on trial. The burden of proof was on me. How could that be?
I worried that I wouldn’t appear poised and pleasant. How would they judge me? Was my suit modest? My voice annoying? What if I cried — would I irritate the jury?
Victims relive the trauma, face the attacker, and are questioned over and over about so many details from the horrifying experience. You have to describe every sickening detail of the rape; your body is the crime scene that is debated in court.
The rapist was sentenced. I survived the assault, and I survived the trial.
In America, that’s what we do to rape victims.
Even when you do what they say you’re supposed to do. You go to the hospital (get the rape kit done), you go to the police, and you go through the shame of everyone knowing what happened to you.
You are still put on trial.
You are still violated… again.