Guest Post: Jen’s Tale

The name’s Jen and I work at a nonprofit clinic that deals specifically in reproductive issues (guess which one!). I own two cats and a dog and we all like ice cream and cheese. I’ve lived in RVA for 10ish years and lack the gumption to move but that’s not on my mind. I’m a single childless lady and all I really care about at this point in my life is where the nearest pizza is.

Trigger warning: rape

Online dating sites are sketchy. We all know that. You’d think I’d give up the ghost after my dates with not one but two ex-heroin addicts, the guy who told me he loved muscular ginger hunks, the homeless man and the fellow who only talked about tree frogs. Yet, for some reason (boredom, intrigue and self-loathing with a touch of hopefulness) I keep logging back on. At the very least I have some peculiar stories to tell.

So here we go again, I have re-activated my account and as this ain’t my first rodeo I know to expect very little. I’ve gotten some charming messages so far:

“Luv ur tat.”
“You should smile.”
“You are funny and girls are not funny.”

Anyway, it’s a fun thing to look at when you’re in between conversations at the bar. In fact, that is exactly what I was doing this weekend when suddenly the “fun” came to an abrupt halt and I almost fell out of my seat.

The man who raped me in 2011 appeared under my top matches.

Now, no one “gets over” sexual assault. It is something you’ll always have with you no matter how many YWCA group therapy classes you go to or how long you stay with an individual counselor. No matter how many drugs you take (the ones prescribed by a psychiatrist and/or the ones you bought off that guy named Cheeseburger who lives down the block) or how hammered drunk you get all the time. It’s just going to be there. At this particular point in my life, however, the constant nausea, guilt and crippling depression aren’t looming overhead as they once were three years ago. And then BANG – every horrible feeling I have ever felt hit me like a bus. My throat fell straight down through my asshole, my vision went gray, I got the cold sweats and wanted to disappear into myself. Even writing this makes me want to vomit and poop and cry and sweat and basically release any kind of bodily fluid I have through all of my orifices. Then jump out of my skin and take a lifelong nap.

The fact that a perfect stranger can make someone feel such things in just an instant is contemptible. I did not know this man three years ago. I still do not know him. But I know his name and I know his face and that is enough to make me want to die just by getting a quick glance of it on my stupid fucking dating app on my phone.

I had a lot of guilt after I was raped. I blamed myself entirely. After all, I was drunk and I did flirt with him at the bar. In therapy they say that “Yes” is not a blanket term. I said “yes” by flirting with him and I said “yes” by even kissing him once. But that is where the yeses ended. “Yes” did not pull me to the alley behind a bar without my coat in early February. “Yes” did not push me down onto gravel and pull my pants down.

I don’t have you tell you it was an unpleasant time. But it got even less pleasant when the Richmond PD first responders came to my house after my boyfriend called to tell them what happened. Let me stop you here because I know you are wondering why I was wasted at a bar flirting with and kissing a perfect stranger. My boyfriend and I had a terrible relationship. That is not an excuse but it’s just the situation I was dealing with at the time. So, to get back on track, two police officers arrived – one younger and one older. The young cop saw immediately that I was drunk and started badgering me and basically insinuated what I was already blaming myself for — I was just a drunk girl who lead a guy on and now I was complaining about it. My boyfriend was sitting next to me on the couch listening to me tell the police officer that yes, I had kissed him. At this point I was beyond sobbing and stopped talking. I could not even continue going into detail with my boyfriend right there. The older cop told his partner to go outside. Once he was gone, the older (much nicer) cop explained that I have the option to go to the hospital, which he highly recommended and which I did. My boyfriend drove me.

Once at the hospital I was met by an amazingly compassionate nurse whom I just wanted to hug the entire time. I told her my experience with the policemen and she was outraged. She was so angry at the way they responded to me that she actually left to have words with them. Once in my hospital room I was told to disrobe – they would have to confiscate everything. My new jeans, my underwear, my favorite long sleeve men’s pullover along with my socks and shoes. I would not be getting these things back. They did a “rape kit” and a vaginal exam where they panted my vulva with blue dye in order to see all of the tearing and rupturing. They found bits of gravel inside my vagina and the beginning of bruising on my ass and back from where I fell after being pushed down. After the exam the magnificent intake nurse gave me a box that included yoga pants, a large t shirt, and a toiletry bag that included a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash and deodorant. The box also included a stuffed bear, which, for some reason made me weep. It still makes me weep when I think of that bear (which my dog later used as a chew toy but that’s beside the point.) After dressing I was met first by a detective who gave me his card and told me he would be there for me. He also told me his partner, who specializes in sex crimes would be investigating this case and I would eventually have to meet with her but not to worry about right now. After he left I met with a victim advocate, who gave me another care package filled with more toiletries. She took my information and gave me hers, letting me know that she, too, would be there for me. She left after providing me with a folder filled with pamphlets for the YWCA, Safe Harbor and other resources. Once I got the prescriptions for the STD-fighting drugs that I’d have to take for the next month, I was set free back into the care of my boyfriend. Who was beyond mad.

As I said before, I blamed myself. I shouldn’t have been drunk. Why was I so drunk? Why didn’t I have a better relationship with my boyfriend? During the ride home he vocalized all of these things in a less than sympathetic manner. Needless to say, I would stay with this guy for another six months and endure all the blame for everything that ever went wrong between us.

After a plethora of meetings with different “rape authorities” the guy did not get charged. I would not be going to court. HOWEVER, I discovered that my breathtakingly amazing nurse from the hospital filed a complaint with the Richmond Police Department in response to the way I was treated. Long story short, RPD now has a special training for first responders when dealing with victims of sexual assault and rape. HUZZAH!

So, anyway, now it is three years later. I’d like to think I’m a stronger person not only for “surviving” (I don’t really care for that term) but for eventually admitting I needed help and getting said help from the YWCA. Got the help, did the work even when it was hard and I thought it was so unfair that I was taking time out of my life to re-live my experience every week twice a week for several months. But hey, it truly helped. Three years have gone by and yet, all it took was a quick look down at my phone to bring all the terrible emotions back. But you know what? I only wanted to vomit/poop/cry/sweat, etc. at that very moment and when I started writing this. I honestly didn’t think I could write this because of how sick it made me. But now I feel fabulous. I cannot even tell you how many people I have come across that have dealt with some form of sexual assault and have kept it inside. This is way too commonplace to not talk about. So here we go. I talked about it. I strongly urge you to talk about it. But you know, only if you wanna.

Also, I’m still on the dating site. I just blocked that fool because ain’t nobody got time for that.

Update: The rapist referenced was reported by Jen to the dating site and his profile has been deleted and banned.

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