The Letter

February 10, 2017

                                                       

It’s Okay To Not Be Okay

It is okay to be vulnerable and say that things are not going so well in your life. You can not always have everything go to the plan you created. Many of us have experience unexpected obstacles that get in our way or keep us from staying on the path we are on.

My realization of this started back in October of 2016 when something traumatic happened to me. I was sexually assulted by a “friend” of mine. I know this is a taboo topic to talk about, but I feel that it is not talked about enough. The society we live in thinks that it is okay and normal for this to happen to people. Not only to females, but also to males. It has been sickening to me as I became vulnerable to share with others, I hear more stories similar to mine. They have been sexually assulted. It was a shocker for me at first, but then I felt like I became so immune to hearing so many of the same stories. Let that sink it! That’s sickening. I had become so immune to hearing this over and. But when you look up the statistic, that are probably inaccurate because most people who have this kind of traumatic event happen to them, never tell anyone. 

Like many people who have had this happen you are in a state of shock about what just happened to you. You first tend to blame yourself for what just happened. Did I lead them on? Was I asking for it? Did I consent to this? The victim plays these many scenarios and questions in their head before they come to acceptance that “Yes, I was just assulted. Now what?” This is where things get tricky. I personally did not tell anyone for about week what had happened to me because I felt ashamed that it had happened. Which is very normal to feel after something like this happened. I debated for a long time whether to tell my parents or not. 

After two weeks passed, I finally had the courage to tell my parents what had happened. I  then proceeded to go to my school where I told a counselor who referred me to the advocate on campus, who referred me to the police to file a report. All this time I felt like I was becoming so exposed to what had just happened to me. So many mixed emotions on what do I say. Do I really want to do this? Am I remembering this all correctly? What is my future going to look like? So many feelings, I have to replay the scene in my head over and over in order to write it down  on paper for the police report. After I filled out the report the officers took me to go get my temporary order of protection. That was another ah ha moment, riding in a cop car when you had done nothing wrong. Just going to to file a report, I promise. I was telling myself and wishing I could tell the people who kept passing by and giving me dirty looks.

Then from there I meet an investigator to retell my story yet again.  I was nervous about being recorded and that anything I say can be used.  Not that I was telling him anything that wasn’t truth. However, being in a sound proof room, at night, with a male investigator who has a recorder is rather intimidating. All nerve racking yet again. Then, the moment the investigator told me that he was going to contact the person who assulted me to get a statement. Yikes, I froze in my chair, because now it was all out there. My biggest fear about everything ahead was that the person who assulted me was going to come murder me in my sleep. Since he knew where I lived, where I went to school, and where I worked. He could easily find me in Nashville and harm me. 

Dozens of more phone calls, going up to sever the order of protection myself ( that’s another story), getting an attorney, night terrorrs, missing school, anxiety attacks, lack of sleep, disassociation, car crash, and many more things happened the weeks to following me filing for an order of protection. I became a person who lived in fear 24/7. I refused to hangout with mutual friends of ours, leave my house after dark, go to the grocery store near my house, or go for daily runs for exercise. I lived in fear that he could show up anywhere to harm me as a retaliation against me for filing for an order of protection against him. I knew that he had guns, he was active military. 

All theses times and many more I had so many mixed emotions. I didn’t feel as if I could cry. I felt like I almost had to bottle it up inside of me because think about it, society really tells woman (primarily) to keep hush hush about this subject. It is not well received if someone comes forward about being sexual assulted. Let’s change this please. Not just for me, but for all the other victims I am fighting for. To give them a voice too! [ This may seem dated now, since the ‘Me Too’ movement. Let’s keep moving forward!]

All of this to say, I have been seeing a therapist, who is amazing since I filed the report.  I have been learning that it is OKAY to be not okay. Learning to not hide emotions from people or myself. I am a person who tends to keep my real emotions from people besides my family. Well sometimes even them, because I don’t like throwing my problems on others. I get choked up talking about how this traumatic event has affected me. How little sleep I had from all the triggers throughout the day or night terrors.

I allow myself to cry over it with my mom and therapist. I still apologize every time I do it because that is just who I am. I apologize for my emotions. 

I am learning to stop apologizing to others about how I really feel, because it is okay to not be okay. It is perfectly fine to cry. I have a right to cry and be mad because something traumatic happened to me and was out of my control. Some may challenge me saying, “You should have pushed them off. You should have fought harder. You wanted it to happen.”  The best line, “ Why didn’t you call 911.” Let me tell you if I wanted to have sex I wouldn’t be making a report about it. The fact that it was video taped and not being consensual is not okay.

I had to give my testimony in court for the order of protection. Looking your assaulter in the eyes while on the stand, I wanted to cry. I was so mad I could not cry. I had so much anxiety in my body I froze. My voice was really low and they had to ask me to speak up several times. I did not want to be on the stand, but I had to. If I didn’t bring it to attention of the authorities I would become another statistic, such as how many do not report being assulted. I would be letting down the ones who didn’t have a voice. To save the next girl he might think of assaulting. 

Being cross examined by my assaulter’s attorney was scary. I can recall several moments that put me in shock. One was when he asked me, “So you go to college right? So you must be an intelligent person. Do you know how to dial 911?” I replied, “Yes” His response was, “No further questions Your Honor.” Excuse me sir, but most people are in shock!  They don’t think about calling 911. This was a “friend” of mine that did this to me not a total stranger. Not a girl getting drunk at a party moment. No, this was a completely sober assault after my last sorority formal. Put yourself in my shoes sir. 

In my first hearing, the Order of Protection was not granted due to the video tape not being recovered ( the phone was still in the possession of the police department) and various other things. You could hear the gasp of shock, from so many in the court when they heard the ruling the next day. I can recall the door guard saying as I exited, “ I’m so mad right now at the judge. She did not make the right choice. Keep fighting.” 

Now, I am in a higher court system to see if the new judge, hoping she will grant the appeal on the order protection. I am still waiting for the investigator to gather all the information and evidence he needs to present the case to the District Attorney’s office where charges can be pressed. 

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