• Wed, May 2 2012

I Regret: Not Pressing Charges Against My Rapist

Do you have regrets? Tell TheGloss your story in 600-800 words.

Anybody who knows me might say I take an excessive number of photos. Going out to eat? Tumbled it. Beach time? I will Instagram the shit out of our day. Having a party? Count on me to document all the drunkness. I’m by no means good at, nor interested in photography—I just can’t remember things very well without photographs. If I take photos, I can keep certain things in order, tucked in a folder the way most peoples’ memories work. Most of my youth is muddled and confusing because I have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; the way my brain specifically has dealt with events it finds uncomfortable or upsetting is to forget them.

When I was thirteen, I was sexually assaulted. He was an acquaintance older than I and much stronger. Going into the details is something I’m still not good with, but I know that after it happened, I put makeup—which would later become my job—on my bruises and began forcing myself to forget about it. I’m certain anyone reading this who has been through a sexual assault knows how difficult forgetting can be.

It was a few more years before I was able to tell my parents. Until then, I had good grades, zero detentions, sang opera, never snuck out, tutored children…overall, I seemed like a fairly well-adjusted teenager. But after the event, I could never sleep and therefore would be so exhausted that going to classes sounded impossible. People always tell me that their parents would’ve just forced them to go, but they don’t know how I was—I was unmanageable. I threw up my food, I physically injured myself daily, I constantly threw temper tantrums. My parents thought I was crazy; my friends thought I was dramatic. After I told my parents, things seemed better—but nothing like this, unless it’s truly addressed, stays dormant for long.

I became incredibly depressed. Every day, the same questions played on repeat:
What if I’d screamed?
Does this mean I’m too weak?
Is he hurting somebody else today? Is that on me?
As somebody who had suffered with depression and insomnia since childhood, being traumatized acted as an anchor that kept me out at sea, completely alone and terribly confused.

In my mind, it was partially my fault—I had chosen to go with this guy and I believed that no matter who I told, they would feel the same. Sometimes, it felt like people did think I was just this ridiculous drama queen; I’ve been asked, “Why can’t you get over it?” too many times to count.

College brought more bad habits. Due to the PTSD, I get vivid nightmares with flashbacks: in them, I’m being assaulted, sometimes physically disfigured. I always know it’s coming, so I drink nearly every night to help me fall asleep without having to dream. It’s also how I ease my profound guilt over not telling anybody sooner—perhaps preventing my attacker from harming others. Each night, I wonder if another girl is currently aching because I never said anything—a thought I know is irrational, but cannot prevent myself from thinking.

Vicious remorse consumed the potential for happiness; the light surrounding me always seemed like just enough to illuminate the scars but never bright enough to light the way to something better. I’ve since been assaulted more than once, and, after a somewhat recent, very unpleasant incident that I do not wish to recall, I realized that the thing I regret more than any other is not going after the guy who did this to me at thirteen. I keep wondering if it would have happened again by other attackers had I been strong enough to go to the police the first time, but a person told me that being a repeat victim is comparable to being bit by a shark—once your blood’s in the water, other sharks come. It isn’t your fault any more than the first bite.

I realized I needed to tell somebody everything, but didn’t want to see a psychiatrist or doctor or friend: I wanted a stranger that would never see my face, so I called RAINN’s hotline. The woman was incredibly kind and talked to me for ages. She said all the things I’d always heard but never really believed until that moment when a person, who had no real stake in my future happiness, said it. She told me how much I needed to forgive myself and that no matter what I chose to do, the assault was never my fault—something I’d known logically for ages but only began to internalize that day.

While I am doing better, I admittedly still regret not doing something about my attacker. It’s been 9 years, so hopefully by the time I’ve hit a decade since the event, I will finally be able be honest when I say, “I regret nothing about my youth” and start remembering it without the use of photos.

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  • Amanda Chatel

    Honest and candid – beautifully written, Sam.

    • Sam

      Thanks so much, Amanda.<3 Really.

  • Victoria

    (Well I just lost my original comment so I’m writing this again and hoping I remember what I wrote…)

    (I know I was just telling you this the other day, but this piece just proves it.) Even with everything you’ve been through, you are such an incredibly strong person and you should be so proud of all the things you have accomplished, especially this piece! I have so much hope for you Sam!

    • Sam

      Thanks Toya :) You are wonderful and I genuinely am so glad we got to know each other through writing/alcohol/tea. You also have so much to be proud of and a hell of a lot to feel strong about. I will see you soon! <3

  • Magda

    I’m glad you’re on the mend. =) I will never be able to understand what you’ve gone through, I can try and pretend, but its not the same. I’m happy for you and you give me hope that a friend that I have that had a similar experience will some day be able to reach some sort of closure.

    • Sam

      Thank you :) I know that feeling; I think with tons of other stories I’ve heard from friends, family members, and especially strangers, it’s incredibly difficult to know what to say when somebody has been through something very difficult. I’ve never been in a devastating car crash or had a parent die or been through true financial poverty, so it’s so hard for me to imagine that and empathize. But knowing that a person wants to be there has seriously been one of the the most integral parts of healing–knowing that somebody will answer if I call or won’t think I’m crazy (in a bad way, at least) if I can’t stop crying. I know it gets exhausting but it’s not something anyone can help. Your friend is really lucky to have a person who is as caring and empathetic as you in his/her life.

  • Sabrina

    Very powerful, thank you.

    • Sam

      And thank you for reading it. That compliment means a hell of a lot to me.

  • Nat C

    You’re a great writer, Sam. Glad you wrote this down, and I hope things only continue to get better. I’m here for you girl <3

    • Sam

      Thanks so much. :) I think things are going upwards from here (insert theme song from “The Jeffersons”). <3

  • DeistBrawler

    I’m so sorry for what happened to you.

    Keep putting one foot in front of the other.

    • Sam

      Thank you, sincerely, for the sentiments. I definitely will try to keep doing that as best as I can.

  • Tsueimoney

    That was ridiculously powerful.

    Your honesty, Sam, makes me feel so (un)worthy to know you. You’re encouraging, and you’re an inspiration.

    • Sam

      Wow, that is an incredibly nice thing to say. Thank you so, so, so much.

  • Leah

    This rings to true to me. Thanks for posting that.

    I don’t like the idea of regret…but still I’m with you on this.

    • Sam

      Regret upsets me because I don’t want to feel like the bad choices of my youth rule my present-day attitude, but nevertheless…it happens. I’m glad it helped, really. Thanks for responding.<3

  • Kelli

    I hope telling your story brings you strength. I think when we hold on to our stories in silence, we are somehow saying what happened was our fault. But it wasn’t; we would never choose for these things to happen. Thanks for lighting the way for the rest of us who still struggle with our dark silences.

    • Sam

      It definitely has helped in a sort of “there’s no turning back, you might as well just deal with it now” sort of way. It’s terrifying to have my name be attached to the worst thing I’ve felt but at the same time, I am done being ashamed or freaked out by the things that I have no chosen. Thank you for your response…I think others’ abilities to light the way for me made all the difference so it means so much to me that I was able to help you with your struggle, even if it was only a little. If you ever need somebody to talk to, please tell me. <3

  • MR

    It’s horrible when bad people hurt good people. In the end you wonder, when will there be justice?

    • Sam

      A long time ago, I began to recognize that there wasn’t, and that that was a fact I would have to deal with but wasn’t a fact I would have to be silent about. I don’t stay quiet about rape jokes, I don’t silently condone anyone for sexual misconduct, and I don’t let friends go off with people when they’re drunk. I may not be able to change my past or completely upheave the current laws, but I can change how I, personally, behave and help others. We all can. :)

  • Sydney

    Your story really struck a nerve with me. Not just because of the candor you’ve employed (which I really admire), but because everything you describe after the incident, all of the emotions, and the nightmares, and the drinking to sleep at all, and… just basically everything, reminded me of how I’ve been feeling since I lost my virginity. Everything you said completely resonated and now I’m not sure how to feel about the experience I’ve been convincing myself had no lasting effects. I don’t know. I guess I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your story. I think you just added a very valuable piece to mine.

  • Sam Christine Katz

    I can say nothing that others haven’t already shared, but I want to thank you for putting this into words anyway. For my entire life I have lived in a confusingly forgetful state…I remember close to nothing about ANYTHING. My childhood, my teen years, even something that happened a month ago. Friends will bring up beloved memories we’ve shared and more often than not I can not recall them. I feel a profound sense of guilt much of the time, and cannot shake the feeling that I am a bad person. I’ve cut myself since I was 9 years old and had suicidal ideations since I was 12. Mu guilt was only ever reinforced by the fact that I never saw a root for any of those behaviors or feelings. I often compare myself in my mind to a baby who is being reborn every day with the emotional remnants of a past life I could never recall. I got fed up with feeling like that…I’m STILL fed up with feeling like that. I’ve been digging into my mind for a reason why, trying to remember something, anything, that would make me into the person I have become. The memories are so foggy it is often impossible to see anything at all. But I do have one glimpse of a memory, something that troubles me deeply and I still don’t completely understand. But it’s there…a faceless person touching me when I was very small. That’s all I remember, nothing more. But it’s a memory that I am slowly becoming more and more sure meant more than I ever knew. What I really want to say to you is that reading this was very validating for me. You sharing your story makes mine feel a little more real, and makes me feel a little less crazy. The world needs more people who are willing to display vulnerability and honesty when it counts. We really are not alone.