Here I am again, up well past my bed time.
There are a zillion thoughts running through my mind right now, most of them to do with two very specific and very traumatic events in my life. On the one hand, I feel compelled to talk about my perspective, and on the other, they are things that I have only really ever discussed with a tiny number of people, and there is so much anxiety wreaking havoc upon my brain that at least tonight I can say without doubt that I know from where my insomnia is coming.
Don’t read the rest of this if you think it might upset/bother/offend you. Please. In the rest of this post I talk about rape and abortion. Consider yourself warned.
I was raped. Twice.
I’m not going to get into the gory details. I don’t think I can, even now that it’s been a few years.
The first incident occurred shortly after I moved here to Omaha. Again, as I said, I’m not going into the gory details, but what happened is pertinent to the second incident.
After it happened, I took myself straight to the hospital. I was frightened and confused and unsure of what to do with myself. So, to the Emergency Room I went. By law, the hospital was required to notify law enforcement, and it wasn’t long at all before Omaha Police officers were taking statements from me. Over the course of explaining what had happened, and where specifically it had happened, OPD realised that it was technically outside their jurisdiction, and the responsibility for my case fell to the Douglas County Sheriff’s department. I waited for yet more people to show up to the hospital to listen to me recount the events again.
I did my best to give them as much information and detail as I could. My parents had to be called to come pick me up, as the event happened in my vehicle, and it had to be taken in for the purpose of collecting evidence.
In the days that followed, I was either visited by an officer or asked to come to the Sheriff’s office many times. I told them over and over exactly what happened, and each time I relived the events in my mind. It was a hellish experience.
At no point in time did anyone actually really ask me how I was handling anything. I think that everyone made the assumption that it was hard, and maybe they just didn’t know what to say, or what to ask. In those days, I quit eating. I couldn’t sleep. If I did sleep, it was because exhaustion took me, and invariably I had nightmares, again reliving the events, or dreaming of worse.
Evidence had been found in and collected from my car. There were fingerprints on the door and dashboard, bodily fluids on my upholstery (and patches of it cut out to preserve the evidence). Honestly, I have to applaud them for their efficiency, because it really wasn’t long before I was once again at the Sheriff’s office, looking through photographs and picking out the person who had raped me.
It was the talk of going to trial where everything began to fall apart in my head. The idea of facing the person that had done this to me in court terrified me. Officer Wheeler tried to prepare me for what that would be like, and tried to assure me that I’d be safe, and it would be all right. But I just could not cope. I asked if there was any way that I could avoid testifying in court, but was told that the best that I could hope for was that it didn’t have to be in open court.
I was so scared. And so stupid. I pleaded with Officer Wheeler to drop the case. He informed me that he just couldn’t do that. In a panic, I shouted at him that I’d made the whole thing up.
Four times Officer Wheeler insisted he was sure that I wasn’t making it up, and pointed out there was plenty of physical evidence, between the rape kit done at the hospital and my car. Four times I insisted that I was making it up. Finally, he handed me a notepad and a pen, and told me that I should write a statement to the effect that I had lied.
And then he slapped me with a citation for filing a false report, complete with court date.
As I left his office that day, he said again that he knew that I hadn’t made it up.
I still had to appear in court for filing a false report. At my hearing, an assistant district attorney suggested that I be placed on probation pending the results of a psychiatric evaluation. My public defender thought that this was also the way to go, and so, I found myself with an appointment with a court-appointed psychiatrist.
After the evaluation, the psychiatrist suggested that not only should I be placed on probation, but that part of the terms of said probation should be that I continue therapy. As I left his office, again, I had someone telling me he was sure I hadn’t made anything up.
And yet, I was still stuck on probation, and guilty of a crime.
I understand the reasons – I know that in the end, my case amounted to a huge waste of time for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department. And believe me when I say that I feel guilty for that time wasted. I feel guilty for the fact that because I couldn’t bear the thought of testifying, a rapist was off the hook. I hope, sincerely, that that was a one-time event, but I am not so stupid as to think that’s likely. I feel horrible for a woman out there who may have gone through just what I did because I wasn’t strong enough to help put a stop to it.
All of these things considered, you would think that when I was raped a second time, but by someone I actually knew, that I would have been quick to report it, and sure not to repeat the same mistake in just letting him off the hook.
I have no excuse. I can tell you that the reason that I never reported the second event is because all that I could think of was how I had been the only one to suffer consequences for what had already happened to me. I’d been the one with a record, the one stuck going to therapy that I was resentful of, and which therefore technically wasn’t that helpful. (You sort of need to want help to actually benefit from help).
That’s my reason, but it’s not an excuse. There is no excuse for what I did. Or rather, didn’t do.
Because I’d made up my mind that I wasn’t reporting it, I certainly didn’t take myself to a doctor. It wasn’t until I missed my period that I even began to allow myself to think about all of the possible consequences of unprotected sex. Three home pregnancy tests later, I finally started to pull my head out of my ass and start thinking and acting like a woman with some kind of sense. I went to my doctor. I made no mention of exactly how I had found myself where I was, but I did request that I be tested for venereal disease as well. Thankfully, no VD. But, the pregnancy was confirmed.
Here’s the part where a nagging little voice in my head tells me that it’s time to start making my excuses. Shall I? Shall I tell you that I have a bleeding disorder, and that I don’t clot? Shall I tell you that, when all I’d ever steadily wanted to do when I grew up was be a mom, I was told at sixteen that I should never get pregnant. Not that I couldn’t, mind you, but that I shouldn’t.
Could I have loved that baby? Could I have raised him or her? You know what? I could have. It’s never the child’s fault, in these situations. Never.
The moment the pregnancy was confirmed, though, my doctor was already talking about the realities I was facing, and more than just suggesting that I should not go through with it. Even as I listened to him detail exactly why I should not carry that baby to term, I knew that it wasn’t what I wanted to hear.
The decision to follow my doctor’s advice is without doubt the hardest one that I’ve ever had to make.
As someone with some personal experience on the matter, I suppose that I think an awful lot about it. Maybe I think too much about it.
Do we really ever want to go back to a place where a woman who finds herself with an unplanned pregnancy is desperate enough to accept back-alley medical “care”? And someone please tell me who decides who is “allowed” or who counts as a “special case”? A doctor? Some panel? If pregnancy as a result of rape is considered a “special case”, then what of the woman who is too afraid to report? Does she go to the quack with the coat hanger?
I’m not okay with these thoughts.