• Tue, Apr 10 2012

The Hardest Part of My Rape Recovery: The Guilt Of Not Reporting

reporting rape
On January 16th, 2005, the Colts lost to the Patriots in the NFL play-offs. I was a freshman in college, watching the game with a girl I had met at work at her boyfriend’s house. Initially, I thought she and her boyfriend were trying to set me up with his roommate. It was just the four of us, eating a dinner of chicken and asparagus, drinking white wine. It felt very grown up to a girl who was still 18, living in a big city seven hours away from home. My friend was four years older than me, her boyfriend was older still. He and his roommate were police officers. Looking back, I remember feeling mature and happy to be included in this quiet night in to a watch a football game. The final 20-3 score is the last thing I can recall clearly about that evening.

January 16th, 2005 is the night that I was raped. By the end of the game, I was starting to feel disoriented and confused. I couldn’t understand why I was reacting so strongly to a single glass of wine. I had drank alcohol before, getting sick once or twice in high school from cheap vodka with my girlfriends. I knew that this was different. I vaguely recall heading upstairs to the bathroom with my friend, incredibly embarrassed to be feeling sick when I was surrounded by older boys who would sneer at a girl who couldn’t hold her liquor.

After that, my next memory is waking up naked in a shower, freezing cold. Having been a virgin before that evening, there was very little question as to what had happened. I was sore and my sensitive skin was already sporting bruises on my hips and legs. I shook with fear, desperate to leave the house but terrified at who I might encounter if I moved.

Once I got my eyes on a clock, I saw that it was 6am. Hopefully it was still early enough that the house would be sleeping. I snuck around, tracking down my clothes and purse. I stole a 20 out of someone’s billfold in the kitchen. Then, in the middle of a January ice storm, I ran out into a Pittsburgh neighborhood and called a cab to take me back to my dorm.

This is the story of one night that changed my life. It was one day, but it effected every day that came after it.

I spent the next two weeks in my dorm room, skipping classes and missing work. I got fired from my job and told off by my professors. I’m sure my parents would’ve joined in the anger at my irresponsibility but I had stopped returning phone calls and I let my voicemail fill up until people simply couldn’t leave messages.

I remember considering walking into a police station and sharing my story, but I had no idea which station my rapists worked at and I couldn’t bear to see them face-to-face. I thought about going to my campus clinic, maybe for the morning after pill or to talk to a counselor. But at the same time, the story seemed too unreal to accept in my own head, let alone explain it to other people. There was even a day when I thought that I had invited this behavior, that simply by going to their house and enjoying their company I had given away my right to say no. I thought that these people must have assumed I wanted to do this.

In those weeks, there were plenty of unhealthy and untrue thoughts that plagued my conscience. But in all honesty, once I had decided not to report my rape, I never re-visited the subject. Finding myself in a shower, I was pretty convinced that there would be no physical evidence to prove my side of the story. I knew that I would have to admit to drinking alcohol underage, a factor that didn’t seem likely to help my case. And then there was that whole “police officer” business. I didn’t assume accusing two officers would be easy. I considered legal action a lost cause.

It took my years to cope with my rape. This year marked the seventh anniversary and I’ve finally started to open up about my experience and how it changed me. I dropped out of college that year, deciding to move home with my parents. I drank a lot, alternately trying to forget what happened or pretend it didn’t matter. The trajectory of my life took a sharp turn from where it was before that school year. I was a high honors student who planned on a career in international business. I ended the year as a drop-out who only wanted to ignore the reality of her life that was stretched out before her. I was so skinny that my mother thought I was on drugs, a fact which she still feels sorry for today.

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  • Colby

    Ava, I wish this article had been out last year when I was faced with the difficult decision of whether to report my drugging/rape. Nobody understands how drastically rape can alter your life forever–I was in college at the time of my assault and your process of dealing reminds me very much of my own. Thanks to California laws which allow a victim to complete a rape kit before they’ve decided whether or not they want to report allowed me time to make my decision without pressure–my thought process was really similar to this in that I also didn’t see the point legally of reporting (even though investigation is under way it often feels like theres no chance of finding them or conviction) but I’m glad I did in the end bc I hope no other person EVER has to go through this. The last sentence of your piece indicates you hope other girls are stronger….but I just wanted to let you know that to be a survivor is to be strong, regardless of whether you report or not. YOU ARE STRONG TOO! Thanks for sharing~!

  • TheBuffyProject

    Wonderful and brave story. Thank you so much for posting this.

    Now, to blisstreedotcom: is a “find a date” advertisement appropriate here? Really?

  • Rebecca

    Your story is very similar to mine. I was drugged and raped in October 2004 while at a party as a freshman in college. I didn’t know the guy. I remember feeling the same exact way you did the next day. I didn’t believe I had been raped until I was diagnosed with a STD in January 2005. Unfortunately, it is an STD I will live with for the rest of my life. I think guilt is something every rape victim deals with. I did not report my rape because it was 3 months later when I realized what had actually happened. Thanks for sharing your story. It is not easy!