Many have PTSD amnesia after being assaulted. I was not so lucky. I remembered everything in minute detail. It wouldn’t leave me.
There was one major problem. After the rape, I ran out of the car following one of the men that was not as aggressive as the other three. He took me to his cousin’s house. He was terrified at this point, of the consequences for their actions. Imagine that – he was terrified. So, I recalled his face. He had turned state’s witness and named those that I named “the other three”.
The problem. I have never been able to remember the faces of “the other three”. Never. And I don’t want to. There have been singular moments when I questioned why I couldn’t recall them, and I tried but those moments were brief and unsuccessful.
It took several months before the case came to trial. I was 15. I had to sit in the courtroom for days with the friends and family of those that had raped me while the jury was selected. They despised me and I could hear them calling me names beneath their breath quietly but not so quiet that I couldn’t hear them.
Finally, the trial began. I took the stand. I had avoided looking at them up until that point. Finally, one of their lawyers asked me to look at them and identify them. My heart still speeds up thinking about it and I can feel the same overwhelming anxiety that I felt then. I looked at them – and, nothing. Absolutely nothing. Gratefully, nothing.
It was not long before the man that had turned state’s witness lied on the stand and his testimony was thrown out. My lawyer had told me it would be likely that this would happen. After a break, he told us to go home and not return to the courtroom. They were going to dismiss the trial and he didn’t want me to be in the room when the men were set free to their rejoicing families.
The trial was meant to give me some kind of honor. Some kind of justice. Was it worth it? Not for me. I was at boarding school in another state at that time and had to leave for the trial. Though I was a minor, somehow everyone knew what had happened and that I was the girl that had made the news in three states after being raped and then again for the trial. A trial that had failed.
So many men raped me over the next few years, the idea of any type of justice was not even a glimmer in my mind.
Over the years, the statistics have been dismal as to the reporting of sexual assault for so many reasons. Social stigma and shame have always been a strong deterrent. The inability to gain justice or have adequate representation can be daunting to even the most determined. The struggle to prove that sexual assault has occurred can rely solely on rape kits immediately following the rape before evidence is washed away. That relies on the person assaulted to have the presence of mind to understand or have the ability to get to a facility to administer the kit.
Now, I often hear about trials where those that have sexually assaulted are exonerated or let go with some type of minor infraction on their record. Those that were sexually assaulted are often made to look as though they are the ones attacking the attacker’s reputation.
Justice? What has changed?