September 8, 2017
Drinks were had, I was designated sober friend. The hurricane was coming and we wanted one last hoorah before having to be indoors all weekend. My friends went home earlier in the evening and I hung out with another friend, watching the news. The hours rolled by.
My uber driver was late because she couldn't get gasoline. I should have been home an hour ago.
"Spend the night here!" my friend suggested. He was kind, and I did not want to be an inconvenience.
"No, no. I'll wait out the Uber. I've waited this long."
"Your Uber has arrived!"
I say goodnight to my friend, now he can finally sleep. I hop in and have very forced conversation with a kind woman. She asks me what I do, my year, plans after graduation. The traffic took forever as people were evacuating. I get a text from an old friend from high school. We haven't spoken in a while but we had been keeping up since an ironic right swipe on Tinder from the both of us.
"Come over, I have Overwatch."
I changed the drop-off location to his house. I leave the car, go into his house. We flirt, we talk. He offers a drink. I decline. He offers again. I accept.
September 9, 2017
I wake up sweaty at 7 AM. I want to forget last night happened. His touch made me feel dirty. I had been violated. I wanted to punch him, he took away my power to say yes and to say no, I was empowered to not let myself be a victim of the evening … the evening… it played back in my head and I sat up.
His arm held me down as if I were his lover. He went to grope my chest as if he were searching for my heart. I slapped his hand away and pulled my dress down and underwear up. I called another Uber.
"Wait, you're leaving?"
He has no idea what he did to me.
"Will I see you again?"
He really doesn't know.. does he? I don't want to make this a big deal. I shake my head no, and run outside. I slide into the green van, grimey from the evening before. The driver asks how I'm doing. I burst into tears.
"I think I was just sexually assaulted."
Silence in the vehicle.
"See, that is what is the matter with you girls. You just go home to random men you don't know, accept drinks from random men you do not know!"
He was right. I didn't fight hard enough. My body was tired, my body was not cooperating. I wasn't strong enough to keep pushing him off. I deserved this. I had no business being in that apartment at 3 in the morning. My being the price I knew I should have been paying for lodging there that evening. If my van driver said this, I'm sure the police would say the same.
I was dropped off and entered my home. The neighborhood was empty from people evacuating. I text my best friend who was living in Denver.
"I think I just got assaulted."
We called on Facetime. I cried. She cried. I sat in the shower for 2 hours. Scrub with soap, wash with shampoo, scrub again, rinse. Scrub, wash, scrub, rinse. My skin was raw from constantly washing it, dry from all the soap I used. No matter how much water I poured on myself, I could not be cleansed. I was dirty.
I get a text from him.
"I am so sorry about last night. I bet you're probably real mad at me, huh?"
I go to my sorority sister's home to take shelter. I'm the first to arrive. We sit in her living room, and we casually talk. I wonder if I should bring this up. She is a level-headed person, she would tell me if I was being dramatic, if it really wasn't a big deal.
"So.. haha.. last night.. I went to [person]'s house…" and thus began my tale. She got quiet.
"Vale.. do you want to go the hospital? Or the police?"
Immediately my mind went to the procedure of doing a rape kit. Fuck, I washed everything away. Fuck, I washed all the evidence away. Was there any evidence? Don't even mention the police reports. I knew I was going to be asked "What were you doing at his place at 3 in the morning?" I'm not stupid. If Brock Turner got caught in the act and was given 3 months and a slap on the wrist, my allegation would just be that… an allegation from a girl who "probably just changed her mind."
"No. I don't. I want to pretend this never happened."
September 12, 2017
I'm alone. Tinder swipes to get validation. I'm not dirty. I'm not broken. I need my autonomy back. I was tired of my no's not being respected in intimate relationships, and now some stupid boy wanted to take away my choice from even having the ability to say yes or no?
I find someone to spend the evening with. The next time I was going to participate in sex, it would be from my own will and volition. I am in control. I have the power to say yes or no. Friday night did not happen.
September 13, 2017
I am not in control. I need to tell someone. Not my parents, they'll be furious I was at someone's home so late. Not my little sister, this isn't her burden. Not my friends from different organizations. Not my professors, not my supervisors, not my roommates. 3 hours into work and I could not focus. I felt dirty and ashamed at my ill attempt to regain a sense of autonomy. I walk up to my boss.
"Cher.. can I talk to you about something..?"
We sit in her office and I cry. She cries too. She holds my hand and tells me it is not my fault. I try to believe her, but it's so hard. I don't know if I should tell my parents. I don't know what to do.
We have a meeting that evening. I try to smile, but it feels so forced. I did not want to be energetic Valeria. I did not want to be involved Valeria. I did not want to be go-getter, inspirational Valeria. I wanted to be hidden and away.
My sorority sisters noticed and reached out. We sat outside of Turlington and I tell them the story. They all empathize and give me hugs. They tell me they will be supporting me every step of the way.
"We can report this! You can get justice!"
September 14, 2017
I sit in a study room with a close friend. He teases me about my attitude and I play along. I tread the line and ask him about his opinion on something. I tell him my thoughts. He gets quiet.
"I'm so sorry I wasn't there to pick you up." He helps me, brings some ice cream, and as I talk, he drafts an email to my professors.
"You don't need to send this, but I think you should. You can let them know and that way if something does happen later on, they will know what has been going on."
How do I tell a group of my mentors and professors something so intimate and raw? But he was right. I click send. I immediately get a response.
"Valeria, are you okay? Come into my office to talk. We can call the police together."
September 15, 2017
I go into my professor's office and see the individuals from my department. They tell me they believe me. They tell me they want to help me. I feel confident for just a moment.
My other professor escorts me to Counseling and Victim Services. We talk about his life, about bullet journals and cats, and for a moment I am lost in conversation. I go into my appointment and begin to talk to the therapist.
I have to recall the evening again? Okay.. I stop halfway through, mid-tears. I feel crazy. Have I made this whole thing up? If I go to the police, I will have to re-tell this traumatic story over.. and over.. and over again to strangers, to people who will accuse me of lying, to people who will think I am a slut.
I think of all the rulings in the past…I have no proof. It's my word against his. I am not a fool. I did not want to waste my time or resources on a "solution" that would be draining and unsatisfying.
October 10, 2017
I get the courage to call my mother and tell her what happened. She is stunned, but does not cry on the phone. I tell her "Please don't tell me what I know you will tell me.."
She is angry and hurt.
She tells me she thinks I should tell my dad too.
I gather up the courage and tell my dad. I try to be brave for him. He is quiet. My father is a man of few words.
" This is not your fault. This would have happened at 3 AM or 3 PM and if it wasn't you, it means it would have been another girl. Whatever you choose to do, Wally, we will support you. If that means not reporting, I believe you. If that means taking this kid to court, I promise you we will find the best damn lawyer in the South East."
October 19, 2017
I've ignored his messages to talk and "catch up". He claims he doesn't remember what happened. I ask him to please leave me alone, I told him I wouldn't press charges. He says he doesn't know what I am talking about. Maybe this is a misunderstanding after all.
I meet up for coffee with one of my professors. I talk through my feelings. I tell her I am functioning and working at high rates of productivity to not let anyone else know that this thing happened to me. I did not want pity. She asked why I didn't choose to report.
"Honestly, he is so close to graduating and I would just feel like a bitch to put up road blocks for him. There's no point, considering he is almost done."
She takes a sip from her coffee and frowns.
"You're being awfully considerate about his future. It's a shame he wasn't being considerate about yours."
October 25, 2017
Please stop texting me. His guilt is showing through. His texts don't add up. Please leave me alone. I want a restraining order. I tried to shove it away. I really tried.
My friend who drafted the email escorts me to the Dean's office. I say I do not want to file an official police report, I just want him to leave me alone and pretend I do not exist. I will happily do the same for him.
Everything seems as if it's over.
I'm carbon-copied to an email sent to him.
Oh no. He knows I reported him. Does he know what I told them? Is he going to call me a liar? Do I have to testify in front of people? I don't want to do all of that. I just wanted to be left alone... I sit in my shower and cry.
December 10, 2017
It is all over. I have not heard from him. This situation has been exhausting. I cannot wait for the new year. I feel panicked every time I see someone who nearly resembles him. Always on edge and strategically avoiding Plaza of the Americas.
"If anyone should feel ashamed to be seen, it is him."
Then why do I still feel so scared?
I am at Maple Street with my new boyfriend. He is everything I could have ever wanted and more. He makes me feel safe, he makes me feel valued and loved. We chat and my eyes wander around the restaurant.
My face turns pale. My stomach hurts. My eyes water.
It has been 6 months and I still feel as if I am running. How could I not? I want to shrink, I want to be small. Instead of sadness, I feel rage towards the system, rage towards myself. He is probably living his life not giving what he did a second thought.
Damn it, I missed my chance to report. But how could I given the circumstances?
Did I really miss my chance?
Did I even have one to begin with?