Hurt. Hope. Help. (Trigger warning)

I remember that night was cold and rainy.

I remember the sound of the brakes on your patrol car squeaking behind me. Unit 38-1. It was a running joke in our small town that 38-1 couldn’t catch the bad guys because the whole town could hear you coming. It never occurred to me that the monster who haunted me for decades was the bad guy, dressed as the good guy.

I remember feeling relieved that you offered me a ride home so I could warm up. That’s how it worked in our tiny little You’ll-Miss-It-If-You-Blink town. We all knew and helped each other. We were all acquaintances, friends, neighbors.

Because of that, I remember feeling safe. Until I wasn’t.

I remember the fabric of your black uniform was scratchy. I remember desperately trying to push you off me. I remember saying NO. I remember I begged you not to do this. Every word, every breath, fueled the violence. I remember how your voice growled, demon-like, as you threatened me to stop screaming. How my forearm got caught in your duty belt as I tried to fight back. It ripped off a chunk of skin. I still have that scar to this day. It is shaped like an arrowhead, like it’s pointing to the past and keeping me rooted there.

I remember the look on my neighbor’s face when he saw me a few hours later, bruised and crushed under the weight of self hatred and shame; crying in the laundry room to drown out my wailing sobs. I was terrified to go into my apartment; you knew where I lived. I remember how I recoiled as he tried to hold my hand and tell me I was going to be okay. He let me cry it out until I had nothing left. Later, he convinced me to go to the hospital.

I remember feeling humiliated and exposed as I had to undress on butcher paper to collect evidence. I remember the pinch of tweezers taking hair samples. The scrapings from under my nails. Being photographed by strangers at my most vulnerable, documenting my injuries and forever capturing the most traumatic thing I had ever gone through.

Inside I felt dead, and outside I wished I was. Being asked questions by detectives– your colleagues– was soul crushing and humiliating. I wished the floor would open from underneath me and suck me into an abyss so I wouldn’t be asked again which officer it was. Your threats about telling anyone echoed in my head. Your hissing taunts that no one will believe me over an officer gnawed at my soul and left me feeling defeated.

I felt alone and confused. What do you do when your assailant IS the police?

You’re still with the department and you rose through the ranks, while I was left trying to tape my soul back together. I ended up moving out of the city, and then out of the state. And then several states away. Being anywhere near you made my skin crawl.

I never again uttered your name. You are referred to as “my assailant”, if I refer to you at all. You clipped my wings, but forgot that I have claws. With a lot of work and a lot of help, I worked my ass off to claw my way back to feeling some semblance of whole again. I earned that. I have the life I always wanted and I no longer think of my scars as indelible ink that brands me as someone who is broken. That arrowhead shaped scar doesn’t point me to the past like I thought. It points me forward and drives me to use the voice you tried to silence to help others.

People often ask me how I feel about not getting justice.

Justice means different things for different people. As someone who has been disempowered by an act of sexual violence, I feel empowered by making my own choices.

I choose to not let your heinous, violent crime define me. I choose not to blame myself. I choose to place the blame squarely where it belongs: ON YOU.

And that’s how it’s going to stay. Because I have that choice and it’s not one you can take from me anymore.

 

Resources:

Immediate assistance: 911

www.RAINN.org

800-656-HOPE (4673)

 

www.SafeAlliance.org

704-375-9900

 

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