“I was naked. My clothes were taken and examined for evidence. I was urine and blood tested. The bottoms of my fingernails were scraped. I was swabbed on every surface and crevice of my body…”
The phone call I made to my mother that dreadful morning is something that still deeply scars her to this day. Every time I call her now, she answers with a panicked voice, “What’s wrong?” Every time. I hate that for her. Whenever I call I make sure to preface with, “Everything’s ok, Mom.”
She cries when she recounts the moments of that call. She tells me, “That day is the worst day of my life.” And considering this came weeks after a cancer diagnosis, those are large words for a human being to utter.
She didn’t want me to share this story. When referring to the start of this blog and my decision to share my deepest of stories, my darkest of colors, she said, “I’m so happy you’ve discovered this talent, and it’s healing for you, and you’re helping other women. I’m very proud of your writing. But this “Me Too” part. It’s too hard for me, Kelly. It’s too much for a mother. Just knowing it happened is more than I can take. I dread it.”
Again, I hate this for her. “Mom, this is so much bigger than me,” I say, reassuring her. It’s my mission. My purpose. “This is bigger than all of us.”
As soon as I hung up the phone with her that morning, I remember inhaling deeply. So deep it hurt. So deep I thought I would pass out. I had to dial 911. But the thought of it was terrifying. I wanted to go to a dark, silent room like the one I referenced in “Me too. Part one.” I wanted to vanish.
I knew in that moment, I couldn’t allow myself any hesitation. There was no time for thinking, no time for processing nor debating. Like jumping off a cliff into water below – if I allowed myself time to think about it, to assess, to analyze, to stand on that ledge for too long, my fear would have taken over. Just jump, Kelly.
The voice of the operator, “911, what’s your emergency?”
“I’ve been raped and I need to have a rape kit done.” Every atom of my being was in an active state of fission. Vulnerability and strength.
I remember the operator’s voice changing from a tone of matter of fact, to a feeling of deep compassion. I don’t remember the exact words that followed. But I will always remember the calmness and comfort in her voice.
Minutes later, an ambulance arrived, accompanied by numerous police vehicles. They blocked the street. I remember watching from a distance as the police officers talked to my friend. As they talked to Him.
I remember being in the ambulance and I remember the paramedic – a woman. She held my hand and helped me enter the rear doors of the vehicle. I remember sitting. Every part of my body – hunched over – hiding, embarrassed, ashamed. Tears flowed from my swollen eyes. Before conducting any sort of physical examination, she cried with me. She continued to hold my hand and she cried with me. Yes, that deserves a repeated mention. I will never forget her and I hope some day our paths cross so I can thank her. She went above and beyond the call of duty. She met me at my humanness and I will be forever thankful for that. In that moment, I wasn’t a patient. I was a sister, a friend, a loved one.
I remember arriving at the hospital. My paramedic stayed with me every moment until they escorted me to the exam room. I remember turning backwards, looking over my shoulder, to see her one last time. “Thank you,” I said. And I don’t know if I’ve ever meant that phrase more than I did in that moment.
The exam room.
I remember how soulless it felt. Empty. Sterile. Lifeless. The humm of the lights on the ceiling.
I was naked. My clothes were taken and examined for evidence. I was urine and blood tested. The bottoms of my fingernails were scraped. I was swabbed on every surface and crevice of my body – where a sexual assault would occur – mouth, vagina, thighs, stomach, anus. How vulnerable and excruciating of a process. Laying open-legged on an exam table under the bright, invasive lights. I was swabbed and prodded. Poked and inserted. Layers of skin, spread and examined. Eyes targeted and focused, analyzing every inch, every follicle, every cell – combing for evidence.
I felt my intestines jerk and squeeze with the click of each frame. Everything was documented. Shots were taken from a distance, shots were taken up close. Imagine, for a moment, what it feels like to have been raped and to then have a camera capturing every inch of the parts of you that were just violated. The most intimate parts of you. Invasive.
It took hours. Hours.
I was prescribed medication. “Do you know if he used a condom?” My guess was – probably not. I received an extensive supply of medications and was given a strict regimen of follow-up. The most alarming – HIV preventative. For six months I was on that medication. For six months.
Later – I wound up buying a pregnancy test. Obsessing over what I would do if I was pregnant.
By that time, my father was at the hospital. My mom had called him. Remember, my family was preparing for our annual 4th of July party. My mom was already at the beach, along with other family members. My dad, however, was on the road driving when my mom called him – turn around.
My dad didn’t know what to do. As a decorated former Captain of the Marine Corps, war hero, and a very successful businessman, this was unfamiliar territory to my father. And it was written all over his face.
He was a mixture of strength and crumble. His frustration and sense of lost control, directed at the hospital workers. How did this happen to her? Why did it happen? What happens next? What are you doing to her? And at the same time – silence. My dad is a funny guy. Always inserting moments of humor – even at the worst of times. This time though, stoic. Silent.
I remember feeling uncomfortable around him. A feeling I desperately tried to swallow and ignore. This is my Daddy – I kept repeating over and over in my head. But I couldn’t get the sickening feeling in my stomach to go away. The sickening feeling his presence caused. That day, my father was not my father. He was another man. Another man that my survival-mode-brain kept telling me was a threat. Awful.
After the exam, we went to the police department. I was interrogated. Yes, I say it in that way because that’s what it was. No matter how soothing the decor, I was interrogated. And the worst part? He was there too. Him. In another room on the same floor. He was there. I could almost feel his presence. What if he sees me? What if I see him? I was paralyzed with fear.
The detectives were doing their job. And it’s important to me to say that I fault them for none of what I am going to say next.
The system is broken. Being shut in a room with the knowledge that my attacker is separated from me by nothing but a wall or two – is wrong. Taking me to the station directly after my experience at the hospital – is wrong. I understand that they need information as fast as they can get it. Under different circumstances, I can understand the importance that may provide for gathering evidence. However. I was not in the right state of mind. How could I possibly give accurate, solid details? My mind was a scrambled mess of fear, shock, and terror. I’m sure my answers to their questions had holes, were missing information, were out of order. My brain was in no shape or form capable of producing what they were asking.
That process is in need of serious reform.
There’s not enough evidence to prosecute.
In my next entry, I will discuss the events that occurred thereafter. The response of my family, PTSD, therapy, and my battles as a victim transitioning to a survivor.
For now though, I want to stop and reflect on the events of that day.
First and foremost, I need to say that I am so proud of myself for completing that process. I dialed 911. As excruciatingly hard as it was – I did it.
When all was said and done, even though there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute, I walked away from that nightmare knowing I stood up for myself. I gave it my all. I tried. Even when I thought I had no strength left, I realized my worth and I fought for it. I fought for me.
Finding inner strength after going through something that leaves you broken to your core is not easy. But – to everyone reading this – I want you to know that you are worth it. It’s tempting to hope someone else will step up and do it for you because you feel too broken, too fragile, too incapable of enduring anything else. But things like this are things only you can do. You are your own best advocate. Sometimes – you are all you’ve got. Go to war for yourself. Fight for yourself as you would for someone else.
If you are someone this happens to or someone this has already happened to:
Is it ok if you never tell anyone? Yes.
Is it ok if you tell everyone? Yes.
Your story is your story. Your process is your process. It is yours and yours alone.
However, I hope that after reading this, you feel inspired. If you are someone who has never told anyone – revisit the reasons why. If any of them start or end with – shame, embarrassment, secrecy, privacy, self-doubt, I didn’t do enough, it’s not bad enough, no one cares, they’ll judge me – then do me a favor and prove yourself wrong.
I feel the army of women behind me. Whether you reach out with words or not, I feel you. You add fuel to my fire. You ignite my soul. You give me purpose.
Thank you. Me too.
Progress is uncomfortable. Growth is uncomfortable. Standing up for yourself is sometimes uncomfortable. Relish in the discomfort. It means you are growing. Never stop growing.