My letter to my rapist's bar exam board
Thank you for reading this. This is a difficult for me to write because Iím having to re-live two of the worst moments of my life: losing my virginity to rape by MP. and the judicial hearing that followed. But I thank you for giving me the opportunity to continue to voice the truth.
On December 4th, 2009, MP made the decision to rape me when I was unconscious. I clearly could not have given him, nor would I have given him, consent. He saw an opportunity and made the selfish decision to violate me. I apologize in advance for the length of this letter, but I feel that a full explanation of the ramifications of this act of sexual violence against me is the only way to tell my side of the story. I am still not the same, and I never will be, Iím afraid.
This is the whole story:
In December 2009, I went to the bar with my housemates and some classmates. After a long day of classes and a midterm, we wanted to celebrate leaving for the holidays.
I don't remember leaving the bar. I remember I woke up in my classmate N's bed and my underwear felt wet. I remember we were going to be late for class if we didnít hurry, so I went home to shower quickly. To be frank, my genitals didnít feel ďrightĒ, but I remember trying not to think too hard about it since I woke up in a girlís bed.
N came to pick me up for class and when I got in the car she said, "Someone had fun last night." When I asked her what she meant she said, "Well you got with that guy, right?" Without thinking I said, "I couldn't have. I don't do that. I'm a virgin."
She could tell from the face I made that something was wrong. When I asked her who the guy was, she said it was my housemate. Her description of him didnít sound like any of my housemates. She hadnít gotten his name, but told me that he and my housemate B gave us a ride to her house. According to N, we had gotten separated from the group and started walking home because she was too drunk to drive--I could barely walk without her holding me up.
N said they pulled up to us and offered us a ride because the walk was 15 minutes whereas the drive was 3. The plan was that I would return to my house with my housemate B. I didnít make it home, though. N told me she found a used condom on the floor near the couch, and since she had seen MP and me go into the living room, she assumed it had been used in a sex act between MP and myself. She was right, but unfortunately it was used in a non-consensual sex act.
I don't know why, but we still went to class. I couldn't focus, so I finally sent B a text message that said ďWHO WAS THAT GUY?Ē His response, "Call me after class." It took everything in me to not break down in my seat. I wanted to run out, but I didnít for fear of having to explain myself.
After class, N said she didn't really see much, but told me that the man led me to her living room and we were gone for a while. She said she didn't think much of it for two reasons: 1. She and I didn't know each other well, and 2. She assumed he, like B, was one of my many housemates.
She repeatedly tried to reassure me that maybe he hadnít had sex with me, that maybe he just claimed to have had sex with me to look good in front of B. N's housemate, BR (who I'd known for a few months at that point) saw us in the school hallway. She was with us that night, so we told her what happened.
I was on the edge of being just plain hysterical. I couldn't get my mind to believe that he was "with" me. It didn't make sense. I didn't know this guy. I didn't even meet this guy. How could it be possible that he used me in this way?
We called B. He told me the manís name was MP, that he didn't know him well, but they had law classes together. I told him to ask MP if he had had sex with me.
BR took me to the grocery store to keep me from going home and panicking. B called me back with an answer as soon as we parked. He said yes, that MP had had sex with me. I told B that I wanted the go to the hospital, and he just said, "Okay. Do what you have to." He told me to let him know if I needed anything. That was the last time B and I spoke.
I went to the campus health clinic. I whispered to the woman I spoke with and said, "Do you do rape kits here?" She looked me up and down and pointed me to the stairs that lead down to the rape center. I met the advocate, told her my story, and then she took me to the hospital to do the sexual assault evidence kit. Even though the advocate showed her card to the man at the Emergency Room desk, he insisted upon asking me why I was there anyway. I felt like I was standing there naked. The nurse who checked me in asked as well. The number of people who knew was growing.
I had to wait about an hour for a S.A.N.E. Nurse to arrive. At one point, a male doctor poked in, and I nearly passed out from fear that he would be doing the exam. I can't remember why he came in my room. My advocate needed to leave so another volunteer came to join BR and me. Finally, the nurse arrived and we got started.
I had to choose who would stay in the room with me, the advocate or my friend. I gave BR the book I was carrying in my purse at the time, and she headed to the waiting room. The nurse and advocate made small talk with me while the nurse prepared the test. I knew what they were doing. They didn't want me thinking about what was to come, so they were trying to distract me.
The volunteer stood in the corner with her face to the wall, continually talking to me and encouraging me from her post. The nurse was kind and tried to joke too. I laughed out of politeness. I was on autopilot.
But the exam got worse. After taking off all of my clothes in front of the nurse, she took samples from my body and some of my clothes. She had to touch me and swab me all over my body. She had to take pictures of me. I had to let her. When she asked me if I wanted to see what I looked like inside, I couldnít stand to look. At 23, this was my first gynecological exam.
She determined that he had been inside of me. She told me I was lucky I wasn't damaged (physically, at least). She let me get dressed but she kept my underwear.
When she packed away all of the evidence, she pulled out a pen and a sheet of paper. I had to recount everything I could remember, which wasnít much at the time because I was still in shock, in denial.
The entire time two things ran through my mind, 1. that this man took my virginity from me through rape, and equally as taunting, 2. that they didnít believe me. The test was invasive, embarrassing, and agonizing. It took over six hours.
I was a mess for a long time. My friends AJ and AL took turns babysitting me because I was crumbling, actually, I felt like I was tearing apart from the inside out.
I went to a counselor, but she made me feel stupid, so I stopped going. Slowly memories started coming to me. I actually remembered him on top of me. I started having nightmares of lying helpless while MP forced himself on me. I became withdrawn, and then suicidal.
MP, a stranger, took more than just my virginity. He bled me of my joy, my drive, my will...I feel like less of a person because rape takes from a person something they can never get back. For the rest of my life I will always be a rape victim and survivor.
It took me four months, and badgering from friends, to tell the police. I couldn't even start the process myself. AJ arranged it for me. I felt so small standing in that police station, like I was naked with the word "victim" tattooed down my body.
When the police officer finally called me back for an interview, he closed his notebook and said, "Now I have to ask, are you just trying to get back at an ex you're mad at?" I nearly had a break-down in front of him, but managed to wait until he left. I felt like a whore before, but after that I felt like nothing. I still regret not showing him how much that hurt.
Later, a male detective for the city and a female detective from the school's department of public safety took my statement, which was just as traumatic as the hospital. They showed me a printed line up of six guys. I froze. I couldn't pick him out. I couldn't get past the fact that I was looking at him. Everything looks so cut and dry on Law & Order: SVU, but the whole time I felt like they were judging me, like they didn't believe me.
Two weeks later, the male detective came to my house with another man Iíd never met. The man looked intense. I felt like I was the criminal. He told me that there was not enough evidence. He said that MP got a lawyer, and so they didn't question him. He said that based on B's report, and N's, he couldn't determine if what I said was true. Especially, since I couldn't remember all of it.
"But I passed the test," I thought. "You said the chair I picked in the interview room is the one victims always picked." I asked him about the evidence kit from the hospital, the stained underwear and dress that I kept like the hospital told me to. I even still had the condom and jacket MP left. He said since they were not going forward with the case, they were not going to process it. I wanted to ask him, "Then why did I even go through all of this?!" But I didn't. I just nodded, shook his hand, and walked them out.
A few days later, I tried to kill myself. Walking home from school one night, I saw a car speeding down the road. I stepped off the curb. Mercifully, the car swerved out of the way. A week later, I enrolled myself into counseling. I went back to talk to the advocate at the campus rape center and she convinced me to go through the schoolís judicial process.
I had to give my statement again, but the advocate went with me. The female detective from before was professional about it, but nicer than the first time I saw her. She was honest about my chances to win the hearing. She said that I just have to be truthful with the panel and that they just needed to believe that it was more likely to have happened than not.
She gave me four options:
1) Submit a written statement for someone to read for me.
2) Appear in the hearing room for my statement, only.
3) Appear in the hearing room for part or all of the trial, with a partition between my side of the room and his.
4) Appear in the hearing room for the entire trial.
I chose the fourth option.
She and the officer representing me explained the process. They said it should last about 2-3 hours. They walked me through the questions that MP and I would be asked by the officer representing me. They told me they felt good about the case, and that I was really brave. I didnít feel brave.
The trial was set for the day after my graduation. The last day my parents and grandmother would be in town.
When I walked into the hearing room there were only four panel members and the woman recording the hearing, but I nearly fainted. I was a zombie. I knew he would be walking in after me, and when he did, I couldnít breathe. Had my friends not been in the waiting room, I donít think I would have lasted.
The trial took 8 hours, not the 2-3 that we expected. I never even got to hug my family goodbye.
AL, my character witness, read her speech. She cried. I cried. She gave up her last day in town, too, just for me.
MPís first character witness explained that she lived with him, and said he could get any girl he wanted. That he didn't need me.
His second witness couldn't remember how many girls left the bar with them.
My housemate, M, submitted a letter to discredit N.
AJ sent one telling how distraught I was the months after.
I read my statement. I talked about my commitment to abstinence, explaining that I've been in 3 committed relationships lasting no less than 2 years, and that all of those men had respected my resolve to remain abstinent.
I shared with them how the rape had affected me, much like I am sharing with you. I dropped severe amounts of weight. I couldnít focus. My hair was falling out. I tried to kill myself. I told them how Iíve changed--how MP had taken so much from me.
The panel didn't have many questions for me since I couldn't remember the whole night, but they did ask me if I was in counseling, and I admitted having started anti-depressants.
MP, being a law student, asked my witness N at least 50 questions. So many of his questions seemed like the same question repeated in different ways. He tried the same tactics on me, but I broke down when he said something I didnít expect at all--He didnít just admit that he had sex with me, he accused me of coming on to him.
I never could look at him. Even when I left the "stand" (which was just a chair facing the panel), I looked toward my side. I had to grip my chair when I stood up and hold my table when I walked back. I never felt so weak.
My housemate, B, was one of MPís witnesses. B did his best to discredit my account of the level of my intoxication. He argued the semantics of the word. He avoided the fact that he saw me lying unconscious on the couch. He tried to make it seem as if I were just a girl who made a mistake. He even turned and looked at me as he lied about our conversation back in December.
When MP was on the stand, I kept my head down on the table. If I had to take a drink of water, I faced toward my advocate beside me. He was cocky; overconfident that everything would be in his favor.
He argued with the panel several times. First, he was angry that someone was defending me. They explained to him that it was not I bringing the case but the school DPS, so the officer had a right to be there. Then he argued that they shouldn't allow any reference to my virginity. I lost my breath. The panel explained to him that the law to not reveal prior sexual history is to protect the victim, not to go against her.
During the lunch break they made sure that his and my groups didn't go to the same place. The advocate, my defending officer, and the female campus officer walked before and behind me. My friends flanked my side. Someone bought my lunch. I don't remember if I managed to eat. I tried to get the girls up to speed on what was happening as they continually encouraged me. Then, I had to go back to that room.
The panel was tough with their questions to clarify things that were said. They pried everyone a lot. It was determined that both MP and B were sober. That B had hoped to "get with" N, but he played it off as just being a guy thing. One panelist even asked MP if he "finished", which he proudly confirmed that he did twice. He said he gave me a kiss on the cheek and left me laying in the living room. I didnít need to hear that.
I cried. I cried hard. It started as silent tears streaming down my face as I listened to everyone discussing this degrading thing that happened to me. As they talked about me and what he did to me. I tried to stop the tears, but they flowed harder, and I sobbed louder. I knew these boys were lying. I could feel it. What they were saying about me wasn't even in my character. I understand MP didn't want to be punished, but hearing what they were saying hurt, in some ways, so much more than discovering I was raped to begin with. I felt anger for the first time. The angrier I got, the worse my body shook, and the harder I cried.
Everyone spoke over me at first, continuing to pretend like I wasn't there. Someone got me a box of tissues. Eventually my sobs got to one of the panelists and they called for a 15 minute break.
I never saw MPís face. I didnít want it in my memory. The one time my advocate didnít walk ahead of me to make sure his group wasnít in the hall, he was sitting there, so I know his build and that he is either white or white hispanic. B was also sitting there. MPís advocate quickly ushered them away, and then I lost it. It took ALís encouragement for me to return to the room.
Other than the tremendous amount of support I had from my friends, the officer and my advocate, I remember one good thing: the turning point of the panelís questioning. After hearing both MP and Bís testimonies, one of the panel members said: "I find it hard to believe that two people who were at a bar and didn't have a conversation and flirt with each other, and did not talk in the drive to N's house, would just walk into a house and just go have sex." When the panelist said that (about 7 hours into the trial), that was the first time I felt I had a chance. The truth had become clear to them.
After the trial, I continued to see my counselor and met with a school psychiatrist until I moved back home. I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome. Honestly, I was sort of relieved. Someone unattached to the situation could see the pain I was in and really believed me.
On the first day of my summer semester, I received an email notification on my phone about the results, so I went to a computer lab with my friends to look up the official decision. They found him responsible for breaking the student code of conduct by having non-consensual sex with a student. They gave him 80 hours of community service and a mark on his student record. They told him that he could not contact me in any way or have his friends contact me in any way. If he did, or if he committed any other offense against the student code of conduct, he would be kicked out of school. I was told that as a result of this trial he would be expelled, but I guess because I was graduating, they let him stay. I hope he didnít hurt anyone else.
MP's sentence was obviously just a slap on the wrist, but I was so emotionally drained after the whole series of events that I was content that they believed me.
MP appealed the decision, just as the school officer said he probably would. It took nearly two months for all the paperwork to be processed. It hurt me that he argued with the decision, but it doesnít surprise me after what he did to me. I was able to write a letter in my defense, but was given no guarantee that it would even be considered. Writing the letter was just like reliving everything all over again. This letter is, too.
The final decision arrived at the end of June. I couldnít bring myself to look at the results until November 18th. Eight months and one day after reporting the rape, six months after the trial. This is how profoundly affected I am.
The decision stood. They still believed me. AL sat with me from Florida via Facebook chat. Before I looked, she encouraged me. After I looked, she told me how proud she was of me. For the first time, I felt proud too. Of course, I cried.
I always thought of rape as something violent. A rapist as a stranger in the dark. As a woman Iíve been taught about risk and protecting myself, but never did I prepare for someone taking advantage of a situation in which I couldnít do anything to help myself. The thought "It was my fault" repeated in my head for the longest time. If I had just stayed home instead of going out to celebrate with friends...If only I hadnít gotten so drunk. I should have insisted that B take me straight home. I should have woken up when MP was on top of me...
I understand now that the bad decisions were MPís, not mine--there was nothing I could do to stop him.
The past three years I have been working hard on my healing process. As you know, it has taken me a long time to write this letter. Recounting these events over again knocks me back a few steps in my recovery process, but I sincerely thank you for reaching out for my account of the rape, following up with me and giving me hope about the integrity of the legal system. I do not believe that MP. can be trusted to uphold the laws of this country as he clearly has no problem violating them himself. Thank you for the opportunity to share the truth with you about that night, and for reading this extremely lengthy testament to MPís character.