This story was submitted by Shauna-Li through the Share page.
About two and a half years ago I was sexually assaulted. I proceeded to press charges against my perpetrator and take him to court. After five rescheduled court dates, a settlement was reached and a hearing was held a few months ago. I was given the opportunity to write and read aloud an impact statement that my perpetrator had to listen to at this hearing.
To say the impact this crime has had on my life is immense would be an understatement. This process was emotionally draining in every way. After all that he has put me through in the past two and a half years, finding the will power to write this impact statement took the last bit of emotional energy I had left in me. But I know he is in this room and I want him to hear my voice, hear me choke back tears, and understand the irreversible trauma that he has inflicted upon me.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a very private person. Having to disclose this to people over and over again was incredibly exhausting. But I had no choice, I had to. I am now dealing with a kind of anxiety and stress that I have never dealt with before. I now get triggered by the smallest things. I cry more than I ever have, my chest aches more than it ever has, and I feel more unsafe in this world than I ever have. I disclosed to coworkers, employers, professors, friends, and family consistently because I had to provide them with an explanation for my sudden changes in attendance, anxiety and stress levels, and lack of motivation to be active.
This man assaulted me while I was sleeping; not once, not twice, but seven times I awoke to him touching me in places where he knew he shouldn’t without my consent. Since October of 2016, I have not had a single night where I haven’t feared that I will wake up with someone’s hands in my underwear or underneath my shirt. I am now constantly paranoid about my bedroom door being locked at night. Every night I walk to my bedroom door on at least four separate occasions to make sure that it is properly locked before I go to sleep. But even after the fourth time, I still lay in my bed uneasy. I still listen for any possible sound of someone lurking outside my door. In my own home I no longer feel safe.
He was a friend of a friend that I had just met one week before he assaulted me. When I first met him he was friendly and outgoing, I thought we would eventually become friends ourselves. But he made sure that would never happen when he violated my body. It is because of him that I no longer trust my own judgement of people’s character. It is because of him that I will now have my guard up higher than ever before. And it is because of him that the thought of being alone with a man behind closed doors now terrifies me.
One of the most heartbreaking impacts this has had on me involves one of my best friends. He raped her while she was unconscious in her own bed on the same night that he assaulted me. Just a few months before this happened, her and I had become roommates. Moving in with one of your best friends is probably one of the most exciting things ever. The closeness that you gain from living together is unlike any other. We were each others shoulder to lean on after rough days as well as open arms to hug when we had happy news to share.
After the night I was assaulted and she was raped, our friendship abruptly changed forever. Just as we did before, we tried to support one another, but very quickly that became too difficult. Supporting your friend through a trauma that is directly related to your own, occurred on the same night, and was inflicted by the same person is extremely difficult. Soon after the investigation began and charges were pressed, I moved out of our apartment. Making that decision was unbelievably heart wrenching. But we both knew that our friendship needed space and time apart in order for us to salvage it in the long run.
For a long time it felt like I had lost my best friend for the foreseeable future during a time when I needed her the most. I blame him for that. If he hadn’t inflicted pain on our bodies, in our apartment, in our own home, we would’ve never been put in this position. I would’ve never lost my best friend at all.
Slowly but surely our friendship began to repair itself as we started coming back into eachothers lives over the next several months. We both knew that things would be different. It felt as if we had made up from some fight, for a while things were awkward and uncomfortable. Every time we got together, my heart hurt a little because I knew we weren’t the same. We had both been irreversibly affected by the assault and rape to no fault of our own. We now live thousands of miles apart and our friendship, while still close, is very different. We see each other in person once every six months now if we’re lucky. We speak on the phone when we can, we text, and we share stuff on social media but it’s not the same.
Things will never be as they once were because of one person who decided that his need for sexual satisfaction was far more important than respecting our bodies and our lack of consent. My heart still hurts for my friend on a daily basis because I know that the impact that night had on her was all too damaging. As for myself, this world will never feel as safe to me as it once used to. Today, almost three years after I was assaulted, I am still coping with triggers on a daily basis. But I am endlessly grateful to have the loving community that I do, who have helped me every day in overcoming this trauma.
There are thousands of other survivor stories out there that encapsulate just as much, if not more, pain, heartbreak, and fear. The most effective way to avoid causing irreversible harm like this to someone is to practice consent in every situation.
The State of Colorado defines consent as:
Cooperation in act and attitude
Exercise of free will
Knowledge of what’s happening
Thank you Dani for allowing me to share my impact statement and thank you for being an incredible advocate for sexual violence survivors.
This story was submitted by an anonymous contributor through the Share page.