There's a daunting document I can't seem to delete off my computer. It's titled "The Script." It's not some unfinished screenplay; it's the written recollection of my sexual assault.
One night in 2007, when I was 16, I ended up at a male friend's house with two other boys whom I knew in passing from high school. I overindulged in cheap beer that night and ended up eventually passing out. I awoke in a drunken stupor naked with the three boys sexually assaulting me. I wanted to scream, I wanted to run, but I was paralyzed. Within seconds I passed out again.
The next morning I woke up and was again surrounded by the three boys. Before I even had the chance to speak, the mental manipulation began. I was told that it was my fault, I drank too much, I wanted it, and if I told anyone they wouldn't believe me and it would end up ruining my life. Despite the boys' continuous threats, however, one of my attackers wrote me an apology letter admitting what they did was wrong and that he was deeply sorry. That's when I broke my silence about the attack and confided in a close friend. Luckily, that friend had enough sense to report it to school security, who quickly notified my parents.
The subsequent events were heartbreaking. Having to explain the attack to my parents was incredibly shameful. To make matters worse, we couldn't even get someone from my county's investigative department to come take a statement from me due to a lack of manpower. But thanks to the persistence and support of my parents, over the next couple days I was able to file a police report, withdraw from school, and start working with two detectives to pursue a criminal case.
From the beginning my detectives told me that they rarely take cases like mine due to conflicting statements and little evidence. So my first assignment from them was to write down every single detail of my attack. They called it a "script." They chose this particular word because my written story needed to be memorized, like a play, so I could accurately retell my story. Any missed or improvised details could prove fatal to my case. Amid seemingly endless doctor visits and coping with PTSD, I was expected to constantly relive the gruesome details of my attack.
Within the next month, two of the three attackers were arrested and interviewed. Unsurprisingly, their recollection of the attack differed greatly from mine. This meant communicating the details of my script to the grand jury was even more vital.
After weeks of preparation, it was time to present my case to the grand jury. My anxiety increased as soon as I stepped through the courthouse doors. When it came time to speak, I was escorted into a small, stuffy room and presented to an audience of strangers. I started out strong, but my insecurity and anxiety started clouding my mind. I cried, I stuttered, I lost my train of thought and forgot details from my script. I left the room in tears and waited for their decision.
Three excruciating hours passed before I received the grand jury's verdict. They were not going to charge my three attackers. My entire body shut down; I was numb. The district attorney told me this was a classic "he said, she said" case, and the grand jury wasn't presented with enough evidence to indict my attackers. The written apology didn't carry weight with the grand jury, as he never explicitly mentioned what he was apologizing for.
In my eyes this verdict meant they were calling me a liar, that the attack was my fault. I blamed myself for the loss, as I wasn't able to represent myself and the facts to the best of my best ability.
To add to my anxiety from the verdict, school was set to start in a few weeks and I was notified that one of my attackers would be returning to finish his senior year. My parents went directly to the administration to see what could be done; the administration said their hands were tied and there was nothing they could legally do. I spent an entire school year dodging glares and vicious words from my attacker and his friends who tormented me on a daily basis. What shocked me the most was that the majority of harassment and shaming came from women. This forced me to face, and cope with, my sexual assault every day.
I am happy to report that with the support of friends, family, and therapists, I was finally able to write a happy ending to my script. This experience instilled a strong will within me to fight for myself. I've learned to accept that not everyone will believe my story. I'm not going to let the ignorance of others define my life.
Lauren Jones is a pseudonym.
Contact Lauren Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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