Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Rape Survivor Speaks

A while back, I wrote a piece about learning that a good friend of mind had been raped.  Today, I would like to present you with her victim impact statement, which she was not allowed to give in court, as well as some background in the case.  The name of her rapist has been redacted for legal purposes.  Please read what she has to say.

Lesley Benson has a BA in Sociology (criminology strain) from Brock University. She is currently working on a manuscript for a book and earning a certificate in Criminal Psychology and Behaviour. Lesley resides in St. Catharines, ON with her husband and two children.

The person who assaulted me plead guilty to simple assault, Friday, April 20, 2012 and was sentenced to 12 months of probation and, counseling, as per his appointed probation officer.

I was not permitted to read my victim impact statement at the hearing because there were parts of my statement which did not comply with the official guidelines attached to victim impact statements. Oddly enough, the impact statement I submitted was me attempting to censor myself, so that I could fit their prescribed mold. Apparently, I didn't do a good enough job. :)

Since I didn't get to read my statement, I thought I would share it here. I have chosen to share the original statement with you, the one that I wrote be for I discovered the numerous guidelines that had been imposed upon me. This was never submitted to anyone. Please see attachment below.

Warning: reading this may make you feel uncomfortable. Good! It should. :)

My name is Lesley. I have been sexually assaulted five times in my life. I am thirty years old. As a child I was assaulted by three different males, one adolescent, two adults, at the ages of 3, 8, and 12. All of them were to known to me. All of them were close friends of my father's. I reported one of those assaults at the age of 23 years old. I say to you, now, F., as I said to one of my abuser's then, “I am truly sorry for whatever happened to you to make you think that it was okay to treat me as if I had no soul. However, I am not the one who hurt you. I beg you, please, look inside yourself, and figure out why you do these things. Why you hurt people. People that have received you with kindness.

I do not support this plea agreement. As much as I have struggled to balance my compassion for you and your past with what you have done to me and my family, I am too troubled by the discourse today, that is the wording that you “entered my room and engaged in non-consensual “sexual” touching…” because what happened that early morning was not sex, it was rape.  Before your friend dated my cousin, he worked with an aunt of mine. I have always known this friend of yours to be a decent guy. I let you into my house because you were his longtime friend; I think you even ate dinner at my grandparents' house once, so I have heard. Even though I had only been introduced to you once, maybe twice in passing, and had barely had a conversation with you, that association with my extended family, gave me a false sense of security. You had been chatting up my single friend all night; you both seemed to be enjoying yourselves. Who was I to ask you to leave? After all we were all adults. So I went to bed. She rejected your sexual advances and so you RAPED me. I was asleep. We were partying all night. You knew I was intoxicated. I didn't even see it coming. You didn't have sex with me, you raped me. It is what it is and if this was any other crime my identification of you would be considered decent evidence. You were smart, though. You didn't leave any bruises or other physical markings. You didn't need to. You did leave your DNA, but in the end it didn't matter. The blitz attack and you're your ability to manipulate me afterwards were enough to psychologically traumatize me, in those hours afterwards, to such an extent that, devastatingly enough, I lost sight of myself for a little while…on the upside, however, long enough to convince you that you were in the clear, so that you didn't have to physically intimidate me further.

More importantly, I don't support this plea because you took so much from me that night. I was on HIV anti-virals for 28 days.  They are tremendously hard on the body. The side effects are similar to that of the stomach flu but for nearly a month straight. I endured two hospital stays since this happened which were directly caused by the stress of what you did to me and what this system proceeded to do to me in the aftermath. I spent three days in the psych ward after suffering multiple debilitating panic attacks which were aggravated by the pharmaceutical cocktail my former family doctor put me on only three weeks after the rape. You made my home a constant reminder of the ugliness that exists in the world, especially for women and children, and reminded me of how vulnerable I really am, and my children are…you have made it hard for me to live in this world. My anxiety has been so bad at times that I felt suicidal, like I just couldn't cope. I couldn't breathe. I felt so incredibly isolated. I tried to eat my pain away and I ended up in the hospital for three days with acute pancreatitis. You took me from my children.  I have had to change careers because of this. I had just graduated, with distinction, from Brock University and had started my first position as a crisis worker in the field of social services.  It was an emotionally challenging albeit rewarding line of work. I was excited about it. After I was raped I could not emotionally detach enough to even think about returning to it. While I have recently found a way to still advocate around these issues, in a manner that is emotionally-safe and appropriate for me at this time, I am saddened that I cannot trust myself to separate my pain from the pain of others so that I could work directly with those in need. I want to make the world better, safer for everyone. That's all I have ever wanted. So for me this loss has been particularly tragic and maddening.

Your violence towards me has isolated me from those I was closest to in such a profound way. My relationships with extended family members, my parents, and at times, my spouse, have been strained. This has brought out the worst in everyone involved, including myself. Rape is such a heinous violation of one's dignity that often people interacting with the victim just can't cope with it, so they minimize it and they distance themselves by blaming the victim. The exposure trauma of realizing how vulnerable women and children are is avoided; the serious issues obscured, when an individual can make rape about the victim instead of the rapist. These responses have a very human purpose as far as providing an emotional/psychological defense mechanism for individuals but are extremely alienating and hurtful towards the victim, only increasing the level of shame and humiliation attached to this particular kind of physical and psychological violation. Whatever happened to you, F., please know that you can't impose it on others like you have, because it does and will spread like cancer.

This man needs help and I hope you will seriously consider giving it to him. I have been in psychotherapy for two and a half years and my stuff, immense as it is, hasn't driven me to the places this man's has. I would like to conclude with two quotes. The first is to my nation's justice system:

“I ain't saying you treated me unkind, you could've done SO much better but I don't mind, you just kind of wasted my precious time, please think twice cuz it's not alright.” (Bob Dylan, amended by me)

To every single person in this room, including you, F.:

"Rape has long been considered a crime so unspeakable, so shameful to its victims, that they are rendered mute and cloaked in protective anonymity...The victims of rape must carry their memories with them for the rest of their lives. They must not also carry the burden of silence and shame..."
Nancy V. Raine
"After Silence: Rape and my Journey Back" 


"Rape really is a way of killing a person, but then asking them to get up afterwards. So it's a way of stealing one's spirit, but you're supposed to somehow keep going." (Salamishah Tillet).

“Never doubt that a few thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed it's the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead)

The Top 4 Things I learned from my Justice System:

How to rape and/or sexually assault and get away with it in a court of law

  1. Do not rape or otherwise sexually assault your target in the presence of others. This can be used as evidence against you in court.
  2. Avoid leaving any visible signs of injury. This can also be problematic in court. Instead, try using manipulation and intimidation to overthrow/silence your target/victim. Believe it or not, these tactics usually work and when they don't, no worries...as long as you haven't left bruises or broken bones.
  3. And for god sake, man, make sure others have seen you associating with your your target. All you really have to do is be seen speaking to her once, but you’re laughing if you can charm her into acting like she’s romantically interested in you in font of an audience.
  4. Always choose a jury. Lay people fall for and perpetuate rape myth all the time. Oh my God...they are so naive! (Hey.... don't shoot the messenger!)
*No one can possible know everything about everything, which is why I feel it is up to the crown/judge to stop the misuse of rape myth in the courts.

Sincerely

Lesley Benson