Drowning in Justice

I was told by other survivors that the legal process would not be easy. I knew that it would involve reliving my assault again and again, as I shared my testimony with police, advocates, attorney’s, judges and juries. I knew that I would have to face my assailant throughout the proceedings, even have to coexist with him in the same room, and worse still that he’d be present at hearings and trials where my testimony was required, watching and listening as I recounted the worst night of my life, the night he is responsible for. I had heard countless times that the legal process could often be re-traumatizing for the victim and considered all of the above reason enough for this to be the case.

What I couldn’t foresee were the ceaseless times my hope of the light at the end of a very long tunnel would be thwarted by delay after delay. Believing the end was near, so near I could touch, taste and smell it, only to have it ripped from my hands. Most recently, I traveled the eight plus hours north for my rapist’s plea hearing. At which, we complied with several of his requests, in hopes of avoiding the trauma of a trial. After stringing us along for the day, he rejected the plea and trial was set for a few weeks later. Days before the jury was to be selected, another delay, he’d hired a new attorney who’d requested and received a 3 month continuance on the case.

Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in the system. That every time I’m able to get my head above water and catch a breath, I’m called on to be present for a hearing or to give my testimony or to be told that things have been delayed, and down I go again. Just when I think I’ve found my footing, a way to live my life in whatever stage of the process I’m in (waiting for a hearing, preparing to give my testimony…), the ground shifts, everything changes and I must begin again, finding a way to move forward in the new circumstances I find myself in. Each time having to ask myself, “Am I strong enough for this?” “Can I do this?”

This last time, having the trial, which was days away delayed another three months, potentially more, was perhaps the hardest blow yet. I felt so beaten down. “Why would anyone put themselves through this?”, I thought. I can’t answer for anyone else, but I can answer for myself…

I will continue to take whatever suffering this process brings because while at times it may feel like my rapist is yet again in control, at times it may feel like I’m reliving the worst night of my life, at times it may seem this darkness will never end, HE IS NOT, I AM NOT, AND IT WILL. Unlike the night he held me in his car for three hours in an abandoned location, yielding total control over me; through the legal process, I am free to say No More and be heard. Unlike that night when he exploited my weakness; through the proceedings, I can utilize my strength.

Are there times I want to quit? Yes. Undoubtedly. To just walk away from it all and move on with my life. But, to do so, for me, would be the hardest blow yet. Throughout the assault and throughout these proceedings, my assailant has attempted to wield his power over me. The first time, there was nothing I could do to stop him. This time, there is. This time, through my persistence in spite of his delays, my steadfastness in spite of the pain, my commitment to the truth in spite of the risks (that he may never be convicted for his crime against me), I am given the power. The power to defend my dignity as a person who was violated and the power to be a sacrificial lamb for the victim(s) who would likely follow after me were I not to continue.

For these reasons, I will continue to seek whatever help I need to gather the strength to see this through. I could never make it through this alone. I am grateful to the advocates, counselors, pastors, family and friends who continue to walk with me through this darkness. And I am grateful to the One who is Light.

Transform the Conversation

Here are two articles I read recently that aim to transform the conversation about sexual assault from “what could the victim have done differently” to  “what could we have done to prevent the perpetrator from raping?”

The Times I  Wasn’t Raped
by: Zoe Zolbrod

“We’d all be better off if we’d quit implying that not raping under certain conditions is what’s unexpected.
Instead of only looking at the actions and attitudes of girls and women as the basis for reducing sexual assault against them (which also contributes to the relative silence around the sexual assault of boys and men), let’s ask what the *f* is wrong with that six percent that commit the crime.
Let’s insist more strongly as a society that they change.”

11 Ways to Solve Rape Better than Nail Polish
by: Elizabeth Plank

“However well-intentioned, there seems to be an awful lot of resources, time and energy dedicated to telling women how not to get raped, and comparatively little going to preventing men from raping in the first place.”

Eve of the Plea Hearing

Written on the Eve of the Plea Hearing

Tomorrow is the plea hearing for my case. It is also, the one year anniversary of the evening that lead into my assault. In preparation, I am working to write my Victim Impact Statement which I will read to the court should he accept a plea.

But, how does one begin to address the courts about what’s happened to them and how it’s affected them? And how does one speak to the one who raped them?

**I have eliminated my Victim Impact Statement from this post, as it can now be read in full in my post entitled “Final Plea.”

When Friends are Rapists

“I’m sad that rape culture is so entrenched that we see believing a rape survivor and not remaining friends with her attacker as an act of bravery.”

The above is a quote from a beautiful interview with a girl who, upon learning a good friend of her’s was also a rapist, had to answer some tough questions and make some difficult decisions.

I’ve posted it here for you to take a look…


Perhaps one of the most hidden and yet difficult underlying struggles throughout this healing process, has been a sense of unworthiness. That somehow I am, now, unworthy of being treated with the same dignity and care as before the assault. I find myself settling for men who want to “like” me when it’s convenient for them, and cowering away from any thought or hope of interest from the really good men I meet. It is a lie, I know. And yet, its whispers seem to echo through my soul.

I know inherently that I cannot be made dirty by what was done to me. We are made unclean by our choices, and I most certainly did not choose what happened to me that night. Still, though, it seems that the wholeness or purity I once had to offer has been taken from me. That I somehow have less to offer a good, holy man than I did before. How do I break through these lies that leave me vulnerable to men who would only toy with my already fragile emotions or desire me for my body alone?

I know not how or when, but I do know that this too shall pass. But if I am to hope for that, I must work to see it changed. The lies will not disappear on their own. I must work diligently to stand guard against the whispers, reminding myself of truth, I must avoid the situations and variables I notice most present when choosing the wrong men to date, and as in all aspects of this healing process, I must be loving and patient with myself as I stumble through.

Can Dreams Speak?

Before this past year, I can’t say that I put much weight into my dreams or thought much of them. There may have been a handful that stood out over the course of my life, but for the most part they were relatively irrelevant to my daily activities. While, I must admit to knowing little, and I don’t believe I’m alone here, about the true origins of our dreams, I have learned over the course of this past year, that following a trauma, dreams, or more often nightmares, can in fact speak volumes. They can be the voice of our survival instincts, of our fears, of our truest desires and sometimes of the truth we fail to see in the daylight.

I wrestled often with the question, “What would you like to see happen to him?” The question asked of me by the ADA on my case as she prepped to meet with the man who assaulted me and the Defending Attorney for the first time following the preliminary hearing, back in February. I had no answer for her. I’d been protecting myself for months by telling myself that I had no say in the process and therefore should just not think about it.

The truth is, I don’t have any say in the outcome. I can’t control whether he pushes for a plea or a trial, I can’t control who will oversee that trial or sentencing. Ultimately, I have little power or control within the legal process. BUT, I am given some and it is important for me as someone recovering from an event in which my power and control were forcibly stolen from me, that I utilize the small opportunities I’m given in regards to the case. This means, that while it may not be much and it may not be what ends up happening, my ADA has given me an opportunity to be heard, by asking me my opinion about “What I’d like to see happen to him?”

How does this connect to all my discussion about dreams? Easy, I found my answer to her question in a dream. Mulling it over for weeks, I couldn’t seem to make my way to the heart of the matter. One night I went to sleep and dreamed a Detective had taken me back to the place of my assault and was suggesting that perhaps it wasn’t as bad as I remembered and maybe the charges should be lowered…My response to him, in the dream, was pure and righteous outrage, as I poured out my heart to him about specific moments of my assault and how the man had not only stripped me of my clothes, but my dignity and my freedom. The outrage was so intense that it awoke me from my dream, my heart still burning with indignation. I had my answer. It was as clear as day.

The certitude of my voice in the dream carried over and I now know within me what is true. I can no longer make excuses for his actions. I will seek neither vengeance nor will I allow myself to be berated with misplaced guilt or shame. I will see the legal process through to the end, whatever that may look like because the truth is that a crime was committed. The truth is that I was violated. The truth is that taking legal action is the only right thing for all parties involved, including the defendant.

House of Cards

Not so long ago, I found myself feeling like I was living in a fortress of strength. I had higher energy levels, was able to focus and accomplish tasks with the precision and efficiency I once knew so well, I felt confident, positive, and full of life. I gently told myself throughout the week to enjoy the fortress and to utilize its strength while it lasted because, I reminded myself, this is likely a house of cards masquerading as a fortress. And still, when my house of cards blew over this afternoon, with a tiny wind change, I found myself feeling betrayed by the fortress I had, against my better judgement, become attached to.

This seems to be the image of my healing process. There are sometimes moments, days, or even weeks of feeling as though I’m standing on rock solid ground, sheltered beneath mighty walls, until a change in the wind (which could be anything from plans changing last minute, to facing a room full of strangers, to getting a call regarding the trial) brings down the masquerade. And so often, this is the nature of healing. Rather than a direct route forward, it tends to consist of growth and set backs.

I live in the hope, though, that one day the sturdy fortress I find myself in, will in fact shock and dismay me in an opposite fashion, when despite mighty winds, it stands. Then I shall move in!

Beautifully Broken

As I write this entry, I find myself in a small town in Ireland, with a sheep dog at my feet, a fire in the hearth and a cup of tea in hand. How I love this country of rain, rolling green hills, public houses, and overflowing hospitality.

Preparing for and embarking on this trip, however, was less than serene or peaceful. I, a world traveler, with zero fear or anxiety, entrusting all to God, found myself in a nearly constant state of anxiety and panic about this venture. It seems I am constantly faced with my limitations as I strive to regain wholeness following the assault.

Reflecting upon this yesterday, amidst the serenity of my host family, I found this comparison most fitting. Like someone who’s been in an accident or suffered a freak medical crisis and in an instant lost the functionality of their limbs. On one side of that tiny moment in time, they were a person capable of walking around on their own two feet, fully autonomous…on the other side of that millisecond, they find themselves suddenly physically unable to accomplish the same tasks. Mentally though, they remain aware of what their body was previously capable of, knowing what it should be able to do and yet cannot now do.

Let’s say that over time, physical therapy will allow them to regain the movement of their limbs. Perhaps completely, perhaps it will never be quite the same, or perhaps they will end up better than before. Either way, it will be a long and arduous road to get to that place of mobility and one that will require a great deal of patience and steadfast persistence. And will undoubtedly, at times, be infuriatingly frustrating.

This is where I find myself in the healing process. I have internally lost certain mobility. It is frustrating for me to know that I am capable of so much, as I have done it before (traveling independently, exploring a village on my own free of anxiety, preparing for a trip with great excitement and precision). Being patient with myself that I literally can not accomplish those same things at this time, and focusing on celebrating every milestone. Just as I’m sure the first time, someone paralyzed is able to move their pinky rejoices. It may seem a small victory in light of their remaining immobility, but the movement of that pinky is a sign of a greater hope, a sign of healing to come. And so, I must celebrate what I am now capable of that I wasn’t directly following the assault and wait patiently for the rest of my mobility to return. Choosing diligently every day and in every moment to push the boundaries of my limitations.

I am broken, but I will not always be broken, and in God, I know for certain, I am being beautifully remade.

What is Mercy?

In the midst of legal proceedings regarding my assault, I find myself often pondering what mercy truly means? We are always called to forgiveness. God is always merciful and truly just. On earth we have the justice system, which serves a good and necessary purpose. How and where do all of these things intersect when faced with the reality of calling one of your brother men to earthly justice? Where is earthly justice’s place? And where is the place for my forgiveness and God’s mercy?

It was an arduous, drawn out over several months, prayerful decision when I initially reported my assault to the police. I had literally been broken by my rapist’s acts; and yet, I knew that nothing that could happen to him or not happen to him through our legal system would heal that brokenness and mend the damage that was done. Only my own perseverance in taking each new day as an opportunity to grow and change, humility in admitting that I couldn’t do it alone and seeking counsel from professional counselors and advocates, as well as the support of my family and friends, and God’s grace were going to move the mountains of hurt inside of me.

I also knew, though, that we can never know the heart of another. And I would never truly know if other women would be in danger because I said nothing. Lastly, I knew that ALL things are better in the Light. Truth, goodness, beauty, life, love, happiness, all reside in the light and only deceit, shame, and all forms of evil remain in the dark. Through guidance and counsel, I knew that I needed to at least report the crime as it happened. To bring it to the light. From there, I decided to take it, as I take life, one step at a time.

A close friend of mine put it well, when I was sharing with him about my anxiety over the court case. He quoted scripture saying, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s.” In this I take my refuge. The weight of my assailant’s soul does not rest upon my shoulders. Neither does the weight of his sentencing. I shall give to the State what is the State’s to have, my testimony of the crime and allow the legal process to do what it does best and surrender to the results. Likewise, I shall hand over to God the man who hurt me, for I could never hope to know his heart and why he made the choices he made that night.

So, it seems that what I first believed to be polarized opposites incapable of coinciding, can in fact cohabitate.

I CAN live in forgiveness and desire his conversion AND follow through with the legal proceedings that will determine how the State handles his crime, with neither contradicting the other.

It remains my hope that hearts will be changed through this process.

8 Month Anniversary: Just Another Day

Written on the 8 Month Anniversary of my Assault

Today marks eight months and one day since my assault. I would have preferred to write these reflections on the actual anniversary day, but let’s be real, I still get a little funky each month when the 28th rolls around. This post, though, is not meant to be entirely consumed by these “dark days,” as I like to call them, but also to allow the light that grows ever brighter with each passing anniversary to shine through.

*This is important. Please note that this is my journey and that everyone heals differently and handles things differently. Some reading this may, God-willing never have to go through this process, others will have gone through it more quickly or more slowly or entirely differently…Just remember not to compare. The only goal is wholeness. All that matters is focusing on what, for each of us individually, is the right next step forward. As long as we keep putting one foot in front of the other on our own pathway, not side-stepping onto others’, we’ll make our way to healing, happiness and freedom. 

8 months: Yesterday, I found myself caught up in the moving parts of my day, distracted from the date or that it held any particular significance other than it was Monday. It wasn’t until, I made my way home, curled up in my bed and found this gnawing feeling in my gut, that I picked up the calendar and noted its origin. Until that moment, it had been a relatively normal day, that alone a HUGE accomplishment. Amazingly enough, yesterday was also my first day at my new job. Perhaps not that significant to anyone else, but for me it was a massive milestone because this is the first time I’ve held a full time job since the assault. I’m 29 years old and I will be financially independent for the first time in 8 months. Can we just celebrate that for a second?!?! At this point, I still can’t accomplish more than a few hours of tormented sleep without the help of a prescription sleep aid, I still can’t fall asleep without the TV on (or in my case Hulu Plus) to distract my thoughts, I still need a night light left on in the house, I still can’t go for a run without the anxiety symptom of the PTSD causing my heart to race, I see a counselor, a trauma therapist, go to a group for sex assault survivors and so much more…but, it doesn’t matter. Tomorrow is another day. Another day to grow and heal. And if tomorrow happens to be a bad day, which come along every so often to pull me back down again, then I will wait out the storm knowing that following tomorrow comes yet ANOTHER DAY!