“Hi Kendra, this is the Victim’s Advocate at the prosecutors office. I was calling because the prosecutor has decided that they’re unable to prosecute your case. They didn’t believe that they would be able to prove it to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a very high burden of proof. Unfortunately, this is often the case. I’m sorry that we can’t do anything in this case and if you need to speak with me, I can be reached at…”
This is the voice mail that I received on Thursday afternoon. Since the beginning, I had expected a call like this at some point and yet, as I heard those words in the stairwell of my office, I felt dizzy and breathless. Suddenly the world felt like it was not an okay place to be.
And it’s not okay.
The burden of proof shouldn’t be so insurmountably high that only about 3% of rapists ever spend any time in jail. Something is wrong.
I struggled my way through the rest of the day feeling a confused combination of what I later realized were my PTSD symptoms resurfacing. It wasn’t until later when I was talking to a friend about it that I realized that, as awful as this felt, it didn’t feel nearly as bad as keeping it a secret had felt. This might feel awful but that was devastating.
Last year when I finally told the story of my rape, I said that I had decided not to go to the police. I didn’t feel like a credible victim and I didn’t want That Certain Someone to know what had happened to me. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I still felt like it was my fault. I wasn’t sure that it really was rape and I felt like I couldn’t risk ruining someone’s life because of something I wasn’t sure about.
It took eight months of therapy and the Republican party to finally make me walk into a police station.
And, I guess, two other sexual attacks.
The first one happened on my birthday. When I posted about how horrible my birthday was, I left this out because I wasn’t ready to talk about it. Unfortunately, I was repeating the same pattern as last time. I didn’t tell because I didn’t think that it was technically rape and because I didn’t want My Gentleman Friend to know what had happened. I reacted the exact same way as I had the last time.
Maybe because the circumstances were also strikingly similar.
After we discovered that my things had been stolen and that I couldn’t get into my apartment that night, I burst into tears. My tequila soaked brain couldn’t even begin to think of what to do. One of my friends hugged me, told me that he’d help sort out my key and wallet situation in the morning and that I could crash on his couch. He wasn’t my first choice of who I would have gone with, but he was the first to offer and I went.
The last thing I remember was laying on his living room floor with him while he was confessing that he had feelings for me and that he’d been really jealous when I’d been seeing one of his friends. He asked why I wasn’t interested in him and why I would want to have sex with the friend when he wasn’t that attractive. I told him that his friend had been fun and charming. Somewhere in that conversation I remember saying the words, “I would have sex with you.”
I briefly and groggily woke up the next morning in his bed with no clothes on, realizing what must of happened, and immediately fell back asleep. I woke up again to him rolling on top of me. I didn’t fight or say anything because I figured that since we had apparently done it already, I didn’t really have a right to say no even though it made me feel incredibly sick.
He later told me that he knew that I was blacked out and that he shouldn’t have done it. He knew that he had taken advantage of me and that it was wrong. Unfortunately, that statement coming out of my mouth just before I completely blacked out made his actions technically legal, which still doesn’t make it right.
A week later I was standing outside with some friends while they were smoking when someone I kind of knew walked up. He and I talked for a few minutes before he got closer to me. I backed up and he asked what was wrong. Saying that he was just trying to give me a hug, he moved closer again. I still pulled back and he grabbed the back of my neck. I struggled to get out of his grasp and he grabbed my hair and pulled me against him. With dozens of people standing on that street, I didn’t even think to yell out. I was focused on getting free from him. He tightened his grip and stuck one of his hands down my pants and grabbed my butt. I told him that he had no right to touch me and he responded saying that he would do what he wanted and that he would touch me wherever he wanted.
I furiously fought him off and had a stand off of sorts with him as he called me a crazy bitch and told me to walk away. I wasn’t even thinking through what had just happened. All that I was thinking about was that I was not going to be told what to do.
This time it didn’t even occur to me that this was assault. It did occur to me, however, how entitled he felt to my body because he knew me and was attracted to me. It didn’t matter to him that I was in a relationship and that I didn’t want to have sex with him. He wanted to hook up with me and that was that.
About a month later, I was sent on an errand for work. I didn’t think about where I was going but as I got off the bus, I realized that I was standing less than fifty feet from where I’d been raped. I walked over to the window I knew belonged to Kevin (whom I’ve called Dread until now but, really, there’s no reason to protect his identity) and just stood there for a few minutes, staring. I tore myself away to go pick up the plans I was supposed to get but as I walked back past his apartment building, I felt a fury like I’ve rarely felt in my life. I was burning with anger. It took every bit of strength I had to not break his windows and to not damage every single thing I walked past on my return to work.
Again, the sense of entitlement he had felt over my body made me beyond furious. I reflected over everything I’ve just told and over all the stories I haven’t told where I’ve given in and had sex with someone when I wasn’t really into it. I wanted to fight.
I wanted to fight for every person’s right to do what they want with their own body. Whether that’s saying no, sleeping with your same gender or both genders, being promiscuous, or whatever you want to do, no one else should be able to tell you what to do with your body. I wanted to somehow stand up and fight for every one of us but I didn’t know how.
It still took a few months before I realized how I could start to fight. I was talking to a friend who had been brutally attacked for being gay. He was telling me how he pressed charges and got every one of his attackers sent to prison for at least twenty years. In the process of doing so, he got the hate crime laws changed in Salt Lake City. This was right around the time when the “legitimate rape” comment came out.
My desire to fight for sexual rights was ignited again and I started to write a post about it. I realized, though, that I couldn’t ask anyone to fight when I hadn’t fought for myself. As I realized this, I got out of bed, got dressed, walked to the police station, and pressed charges.
Next Week: Telling my story again and again and again.