We all know everyone starts at the first chapter, but everyone has different experiences, and moments that no one can entirely understand. People say,
“You don’t know someone’s history or situation, until you stand in someone else’s shoes,”
but it isn’t always that easy. No one can just slip into somebody else’s shoes or simply “understand”, what the victims of sexual assault, in particular, have had to go through or felt.
In my situation, when I had been raped my mom and sister were wonderful supporters, as my sister had been raped when she was in high school as well. Ironically, both of our rapists went to Campus High School but were different races, different relationships with the rapist and different atmosphere at the high school.
The day that my sister was raped, she went over to the Campus star running back’s apartment to get a notebook that he had taken that day at school. She needed to pick it up because she needed to study for a test the next day. When she walked into his apartment, he sexually assaulted her. As she returned home that day, she told my mom about what had happened and they went straight to the hospital. Now, this was in 1995, back then, rape was a bigger issue than it is now. The police treated my sister as if she was lying and just wanting attention. They didn’t take her seriously at all.
She was treated the same way at school. One day when she was in class, she was called into the principal’s office where her rapist was sitting. She was then told to apologize to the guy for potentially “ruining” his football career. She, of course, refused and called my mom – who was angry at the administration for treating her daughter like this when she was the victim. Can you blame her??? During her last year at Campus High, she was blocked from classrooms through doorways and called names by friends of the rapist.
When I was raped, it was by my boyfriend at the time. He had been abusing me physically and manipulating me for several months. I didn’t want to realize that my family was right, as it was my first relationship with anyone. When I had told him that I wanted to break up, he did not take it very well. I hadn’t broken it off, officially yet, which gave him the idea to rape me.
“If I rape her and she ended up pregnant, she won’t break it off with me.”
The day it happened, we went to my basement to get a board game. He decided that was a good place to do it, I guess.
After he assaulted me, I didn’t tell my mom for a month as I was ashamed no one would believe me, since he was my boyfriend at the time. My mom hadn’t seen him in about a month, so she figured that we had broken it off. One day as I came home from school, she called me into her office room and told me that she tested me for a pregnancy test earlier that day. Twice. I didn’t want to believe what she had said and tried to tell her
“It’s just like Michele’s situation,”
but she didn’t believe me at first. Eventually, after I had told her again and again, that it was like my sister’s, she believed me. It was that day that she gave me options about keeping the baby, giving it up for adoption or getting an abortion.
For most people, it may seem as a hasty decision about getting an abortion, but it was the only situation I could see myself happy. The other options only left me miserable, depressed and having other issues with my rapist, if I had kept the child. The police in my situation were a lot friendlier, trained, and sympathetic than they were in my sister’s case. There was one police officer, the lieutenant that handled it with such grace that I am eternally grateful for him. I also had sexual assault advocates, free therapy sessions, and other resources that were available for me during the restraining order and even to this day, which my sister did not always have for her use.
Even though my sister and I had different situations, it can sometimes be harder for her to deal with having to go through it all over again when it happened to me; since I don’t remember much of her situation, as I was young at the time it happened. She didn’t go to therapy right after the assault like I did. She didn’t have the support by the police officers, WASAC advocates or the judge at the restraining order. She did experience bullying and harassment by the school administration, the rapist, and fellow classmates. We did lose our innocence, self-confidence, strength, friends and in a way…who we were.
These tiny differences could happen to anyone. You may be a victim of a robbery or victim of sexual assault, but every victim/survivor will have a different story to what happened to them. So the “You don’t know someone’s history or situation until you stand in someone else’s shoes,” isn’t always that simple. We all wish we could just step into someone’s shoes and understand the pain, regret, loss of confidence or loss of themselves, but it doesn’t work that way. If it did, the world would be a lot kinder, open-minded, and peaceful.
From the Ashes,
The Rising Phoenix