Unofficially Raped

I have no jokes here. I barely have words. This story speaks for itself and sickens me with the kind of inarticulate rage usually reserved for genocide.

But if genocide is the act of obliterating an entire ethnic group, then this tragedy of errors is clearly the act of obliterating a person so completely, invalidating them, that her bravery in choosing to resist and live is simple incalculable.

Just a small handful of the tools and documents required for the average rape kit. I speak from experience here when I say getting one of these done is both time consuming and deeply humiliating.

For some statistics on just how many assaults there are every year, you can go here to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network. Among the important highlights? One in six women, on average, and one in thirty three men are sexually assaulted at some point in their life. College age women are at four times the national average risk. About 3/4 of victims knew their assailant beforehand, as a friend, colleague, peer, someone they interacted with on at least a few occasions.

But there’s more to this story …

That, more than likely, is Hannah’s story, reconstructed from her sworn deposition in a major lawsuit by Amanda Hess and appearing on Alternet.org.

Hannah (not her real name as alleged victims of sexual assault have their identities protected, one of the few rights she was allowed to enjoy in this story) is a young woman who was “unofficially raped”. Interesting term, you might say. What on earth can it mean?

Here’s what it means. If you were drugged into unconsciousness before the assault, you can be told when brought to a hospital for a rape kit (critical for gathering evidence in any criminal trial), that you’re unable to give informed consent to the kit and sent home. Given how many people in this story seem to think her being drugged means she gave consent for sex, that’s a bitter irony.

It means that if you have a few bites of a sandwich, your first food in many many hours, and without being told before hand this will interfere with the test (or indeed how it would interfere at all), you can be sent home again the next day by another hospital.

It means that when you try to report the crime, because you don’t know who did it and therefore cannot charge anyone, that a crime has not officially been committed and police will refuse you multiple times when you ask for a kit.

It means trying to avoid a shower for days to preserve evidence. It means vomiting nearly non stop from prophylactic drugs to prevent possible HIV, drugs you can thankfully obtain, but still no one thinks she should have the rape kit. It means being stonewalled for weeks that drag into months, being called a liar, being called a drunk party slut or “street” girl. It means questioning all the friendships you developed at a critical point in your life, realizing that men you were getting to know may have been “casing” you like a house, waiting for your guard to drop so they could drug you.

It means your one chance to ever bring evidence based charges against your assailant (or assailants), disappears. Because doctors were afraid of being known as “the rape hospital”. Because bros come before hos. Because police see “fakers” all the time and they don’t need to test or hear your story to know.

I was, in some ways, perversely lucky. I was fully conscious for my experience. I had a respectful officer amid the chaos and impersonal collection of evidence. He never called me “sir” despite my ID, always said miss, even held my hand. I had a kit completed in hours. No, it never went anywhere. But being treated civilly, being reminded that there IS a civil society, went a long long way to helping me heal.

So I cannot imagine what it must have been like for Hannah. To endure all she has and then find the strength to decide life is still worth living and she’s going to fight hard against gross malpractice, brutality, and malfeasance? Who has that courage?

Some time ago, in one of my classes, I brought in materials on various campus efforts to combat rape. It provoked an interesting debate among students, as I hoped. What I didn’t anticipate was how fiercely people continued to defend the idea that young girls who go to a party, or dress a certain way, any number of excuses, are all “asking for it”.

I can’t speak on this topic coherently for any length of time. That, so often, is another casualty of sexual assault: being able to speak up for oneself against pervasive sexual violence. You start to see rape culture everywhere. You can’t listen to the same jokes, watch TV, read news without seeing it, being further alienated, needing to talk and be understood, but being drastically ineffective.

Thank you, Hannah. For not letting it destroy you. I pray you make those who should have helped you see their cruelty for what it is.

3 Responses to “Unofficially Raped”

  1. That was a decent read,I recently subscribed to your rss feed.

  2. Impressive post,Maybe I will sign up to your rss.

  3. paigetsindfw Says:

    Thank you very kindly ❤

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