A rape victim speaks out

By EMILY PARKHURST  |  January 17, 2007

Stumbling around in the dark, I managed to find my blood-soaked clothes and dress myself. He then drove me back to my car. We could not speak in the eternity between his apartment in South Portland and my car downtown because he is deaf. I’m not certain I would have spoken to him, but I might have asked what happened in those five hours that I was unconscious, as he is the only one who knows. When I got back to my car I drove myself to my apartment, my head still cloudy with whatever he had put in my drink. Then, in my disorientation and confusion, I showered, washed my clothes, re-bandaged my throbbing hand and fell into a deep sleep. I woke and called a friend at noon the next day. It was her, not me, who first knew I had been raped. I could not understand it; I was unable to accept it for nearly three days after.

These facts that I tell you now, I have put together from the fragments of my own memory and from what the police and my friend who saw me the next day tell me. When questioned by the police, the rapist denied ever bringing me back to his apartment. Because there is no physical evidence, my case will never see trial.

I have run into this man three times since he brutalized me in his apartment last January. The most recent time I saw him, in late September in a parking lot near the Maine Mall, he met my eyes with the cold glare of a man who knows what he got away with. But rather than fall apart, rather than confront him in anger, rather than act on any of the emotions surging through me right then, instead I walked away. In order to keep on living my life, doing the things I love, and moving forward, I must accept that he is out there and he will never be punished for the violence he forced into my life. That does not mean I have moved on. That does not mean I am not angry. It just means I’ve survived.

But as a survivor, I live with more than that knowledge. In the early stages of my recovery I suffered from a rape victim’s version of post-traumatic stress disorder, also called Rape Trauma Syndrome; I lived with anxiety attacks, constant vigilance, insomnia, nightmares, and a general jumpiness kept me in a state of suspended emotions. I would hide in the ladies’ room at my office sitting out half-hour panic attacks shivering uncontrollably on the cold, tile floor. I would sit in my car and talk myself into getting out and making the necessary walk through a dark parking lot alone. I still often sleep with my lights on, bedroom doors locked, and cell phone ready by my bed. Although it has been a year since he raped me and nine years since I was attacked the first time, the knowledge of my own vulnerability is forever a part of me.

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