In 1995, I was 16, and I was raped by a 25-year-old man.
It wasn’t a date rape. I wouldn’t even call him an acquaintance, he was just this guy who hung around with some people I knew.
I’d met him a few weeks before, and seen him around maybe once or twice after that. I won't go into the graphic details, but for several hours he raped me in my car in a remote location in the hills above my city.
Afterward, he drove my car to his apartment, forced me to take a shower, told me he would kill me if I told anyone, kissed me and asked for my phone number, and then let me go.
The rape was really violent. I’d been punched, slapped, and strangled, and there was blood running down my legs. I knew I needed to go to the hospital, and reporting it to the police was the only choice I considered.
As soon as he let me go, I drove to a hotel just down the street from his apartment complex and asked to use the phone to call 911.
I was like a zombie, shuffling around, totally numb. I don't think I was crying. A blanket appeared around me, I guess from the hotel front desk staff. I asked the 911 operator to tell the ambulance driver to not use lights or sirens because the only clear thought I had was that I didn't want the rapist to know I'd called 911, but about three firetrucks, five ambulances, and a million cop cars showed up with lights and sirens anyway.
I remember I could barely answer the cops' questions; it was like there was nothing left inside my brain. I kept saying over and over that I'd been drinking (I had, many hours before), to explain my confusion. I thought I was drunk, but I realized later that I was literally in shock.
I don't remember much about the hospital or talking to the police. I have a vague recollection of the rape exam, which was awful but necessary. I had to have surgery because I had internal injuries; I actually don't even know what exactly was wrong, but I think I had some sort of tear in my vaginal wall and my cervix had been badly damaged.
It was actually kind of a blessing in disguise that I was so badly injured, as it later made it hard for him to claim it was consensual.
I spent a couple days in the hospital. It's all pretty fuzzy (I was on a lot of painkillers), but I know I gave a description to the police and told them where he lived and I knew his first name. I looked at a set of mugshots and I picked out his photo immediately.
From what I remember, most of the police questioning was kind and compassionate, though they kept hounding me about why I didn't climb out the window of the bathroom when he put me in the shower.
After I got out of the hospital, I couldn't go back to school because the police hadn't arrested him yet and I was terrified that he'd find out I'd reported it. He knew what high school I went to. He even called my house at least once and bizarrely asked for Tiffany (not my name, or even close to my name). I'm not sure what he was trying to do.
He was finally arrested six days after it happened. About a month after the rape, I testified before the grand jury, and they decided that there was enough evidence to go ahead with a trial. There were a few other times I was in the courtroom too, but I was just there to watch and didn't have to testify.
I wish I remembered more details, but that whole time is such a blur. The trial was scheduled for about six months after it had happened. There was so much evidence against him that he ended up pleading guilty at the last minute in the hope of gaining leniency, so there wasn't actually a trial, just a sentencing hearing with a judge (no jury).
His main defense strategy was that he claimed I was a prostitute. I thought there was some rule that they can't use the victim's sexuality as a defense? I don't know, but they did.
I was actually a virgin at the time. I'd barely even made out with anyone. The defense had two random men I had never seen in my life testify that they'd paid me for sex and that my name on the street was Alexis (also nowhere near my real name or any name I've ever used).
I wasn't planning to testify, because the evidence was really strong and the prosecutor wanted to spare me the additional trauma, but he ended up putting me on the stand so I could say that I wasn't a prostitute.
Once I was up there, I had to tell the whole story and answer some questions. It was rough, but it wasn’t super terrible. After the testimony by me and those two random dudes and some cops and doctors (including my therapist, who testified about things I'd said in our sessions. That surprised me, to say the least...), the rapist was given a chance to say whatever he wanted.
He rambled on and on about how I said I was into S&M and rough sex and it was consensual and he threw in the prostitute thing a bunch more times and talked about the slutty way I supposedly dressed (BTW the night it happened I was in baggy jeans, a loose T-shirt, and an oversized cardigan. Real slutty, right? This was the mid-90s and that was how I always dressed), he never took any responsibility or admitted to any sort of wrong-doing.
He tried to portray me as some sort of "black widow," who manipulated and used men. It was all so offensive but it actually worked in my favor because he looked like such a jackass and it was so obvious that he was lying.
Then the judge announced his sentence, which was 10-30 YEARS in prison! That long of a sentence is practically unheard of for a rapist as far as I know.
He became eligible for parole in 2005, and I planned to read a statement at his parole hearing, but at the last minute I freaked out and decided not to go. Like, I had a plane ticket, went to the airport and then turned around and went home instead.
I felt certain that there was no way they would let him out, so I didn't think it mattered if I went. I'd heard things from time to time from the victim services coordinator, about the rapist attacking his own lawyer with a chair, fighting other inmates, getting into all sorts of trouble.
She called me after the parole hearing, and much to my surprise they were probably going to grant him parole! He was asking to be paroled to a state on the other side of the country, where I guess he has family. The parole board gave him 30 days to get permission from that state to be paroled there, to get a housing situation set up and a plane ticket, and they scheduled another hearing for a month later to see if he'd done what he was supposed to do. I knew I had to go to this second hearing.
This was actually way harder than the original sentencing hearing. Maybe it's because the first time around I was in shock, and so much was going on. I was sort of numb to it all. 10 years later it felt a lot more real.
I'd made a lot of progress in those that time, dealt with it as much as I could, and I'd finally gotten to the point that it wasn't the main thing on my mind ALL the time anymore. Going back to relive it all again was harder than I’d even imagined.
I'd long since moved away from the city where it happened, so I had to fly back there. I chose to go to the parole hearing alone, which I realized as soon as I arrived was probably a mistake, because I was terrified. The hearing was held in the prison, which was way out in the desert and super creepy and desolate. There were armed guards in the towers and huge barking dogs between two layers of fences.
I’d written a statement on my laptop but I didn't have a printer at the time so I brought my computer with me. Turns out they wouldn't let me bring it into the hearing room, so I had to sit in the lobby and quickly copy down as much as possible into a notebook. I was really scared, shaking and having a bad anxiety attack. I could barely read my writing.
Before the hearing, I went into a little room with the victim services coordinator and she went over my statement and advised me to take out a few things. She said if I felt like crying I should let it happen, because it might make me look more sympathetic to the parole board.
I was sure I wouldn't cry. At the original hearing I'd been so calm and collected. But as soon as I stood up to read my statement, I started crying uncontrollably. It was really overwhelming seeing the rapist again. He was sitting maybe 10 feet away. He'd been instructed not to look at me, but I could see him looking out of the corner of his eye.
I'd always thought that I would recognize him if he escaped from prison and I saw him walking down the street, but when I saw him I realized I probably wouldn't have. He looked different than I remembered, but it had been 10 years and he was 35 instead of 25 now.
He got his chance to say whatever he wanted first, and it was pretty much the same as the first time around: I was a big whore, etc. Then the parole board asked him a few questions. The hearing was set up so the victim gets the last word, so after he was done answering their questions I stood up and read what I had written and also got to respond to what he'd said.
Then everyone left the room and we waited a little while for the board to make a decision. When they were ready we all went back into the room, and they announced that because of my statement they'd decided not to grant him parole.
He was potentially eligible for parole every year after the 10 years, but the parole board decided to push back his next eligibility date to five years later.
His second parole hearing was in 2010. I chose to send in a written victim impact statement instead of attending, mainly because I found out that my written statement would be confidential, only read by the parole board. I didn’t want him to know how deeply affected I still was by what he did to me. It’s clear to me that he feels no remorse.
I found out recently that at this hearing he finally, sort of, admitted that he raped me. His story now is that he was a pimp and planned to turn me out. I have no idea if that’s true. He was denied parole again but they set his next hearing for only a year later.
His third parole hearing was a few months ago, and this time he was granted parole. I also chose not to attend this hearing, because I was almost certain he would be getting out soon and I didn’t want him to see me and know what I look like now, in case he comes looking for me.
He has to complete a six-month sex offender treatment program and then he’ll be released. He’s been on a waiting list to get into the program, but a few days ago I received an automated call from the victim notification system, letting me know that he’s just been transferred to the prison with the treatment program.
I know that I got lucky in a lot of ways. I was the right kind of victim (white, middle class, virginal) and he was the right kind of rapist (black, poor, with a long criminal history). There was a lot of evidence and it was so brutal that I don’t think anyone ever believed it was consensual.
I feel grateful that I’ve had the last 17 years to live my life feeling relatively safe with him locked up, but it still doesn’t feel like enough time or punishment to me. Once he’s released I doubt I’ll ever stop looking over my shoulder, waiting for him to come after me again.
I recently ordered copies of the police reports from my case. Reading through them was one of the most gut-wrenching things I’ve ever done, but it helped fill in the blanks in my memory and clarify some things. It may seem strange, but I actually want to remember every detail of what happened to me.
Being raped has affected me more than anything else in my life, and it feels important to hold these memories close.