Sometimes it’s hard to discuss my rape without feeling disgusted and vulnerable. So the only way I am able to express how hard these last 18 months have been for me is through my poetry.
So, where is the justice for the rape victims who get treated like the perps while the actual perps get treated like victims? Backwards, huh?
Nothing could have prepared me for court-martial, but the only thing I had was my voice. And that voice will continue to speak out until the military justice system does more. The military is sooooo proud to announce this year that more victims are coming forward and they actually believe it’s because we trust them to hold our perps accountable. We only come forward so we can get the help we need and with the hope that our perps will be tried by a jury of their peers and found guilty. But that is not the case at all. If anything, most rape victims usually end up ending their time with the military after they come forward and that is the case for me. After 5.5 going on 6 years, I am through with the military and how they glorify sexual assault prevention, but it’s all a front when it comes down to how actual rape cases are handled.
So here’s my story, written as a poem called, “No Longer Silenced”. Poetry was the ONLY way I was able to find my voice again after testifying against my rapist and watching him be set free to rape more women in the Navy, even after I came forward and another victim came forward.
NO LONGER SILENCED
When I walked down the halls of the hospital of the fleet as a bubbly HM3 and greeted those that passed me by
They could never see the demons I was fighting on the inside and the beaming smile conveyed to mask the pain that was tormenting me on the inside
Unspoken pain that was overshadowed by debilitating stigmas
Pain masked by smiles and exuberant joy conveyed to the outside world
The see-saw effect of wanting to come forward but overtaken by the fear of wearing a scarlet letter
Self-esteem destroyed by the recurring nightmares of being violated curling into a ball in the middle of the floor crying like an orphaned lost little girl
I was raped 18 months ago and in February 2018 my case was sent to court-martial for proceedings to begin.
Fear, guilt, anxiety, and sheer terror overcame my body at the thought of having to see him again.
But the Phoenix arose from her ashes and went forward to speak and face her rapist
But nothing could have prepared her for the insults, the victim-blaming and shaming, and the recurring voices telling her she deserved it
A rapist is given more rights than the survivor whose life he destroyed after she said no
A defense attorney who excuses her client’s behavior because he was drunk and his prey gave off the impression that she wanted to be violated——that in itself was a gut-wrenching blow
And what they didn’t know was that even though she had two drinks that night with her dinner, she knows that she yelled, “No” and that she wanted to leave and escape
She was cornered at the door by him, pushed back on his bed, and raped
Her rapist smiles as the woman whom he victimized is destroyed with question after question for seven straight hours while he never takes the stand
A jury made of mostly males couldn’t fathom the magnitude of embarrassment having to testify to what that monster did, they would never truly understand
Hearing the “NOT Guilty” verdict, instantly felt like a dagger went straight through my heart and I fell apart on the floor
I cried with my lawyer and victim advocate, asking them and screaming, “What could I have done more?”
I wanted to disappear right there, I wanted to break everything in sight but all the energy left inside was left for me to cry
But the feelings on the inside encompassed of shame, regret, blame, and guilt are the demons that truly made me want to die
When I got home later that night, I contemplated drinking myself into a coma or just drinking myself into a deep sleep
With thoughts swirling in my mind telling me, “Why didn’t he just kill me the night he raped me?”
After being on the witness stand for seven hours, I began to question myself and ask myself, “Did I ask to be raped by this guy who was supposed to be my shipmate?”
I certainly believe his defense attorney thought so, as she blamed me on the stand and all I could feel on the inside was a growing flame of embarrassment and hate
Asking a victim why they did not yell for help or punch, kick, and/or slap their rapist will not change what already happened that night
And through my tears, all I could say was I used my hands to prevent him from penetrating me and that he disregarded my pleas for him to stop and chose to rape me; the guy I thought I knew disappeared from my sight
This aggressive person was going to do whatever it took to make me vulnerable and submit to him so I would willingly consent to sex
But I had already made up my mind that evening and said, “No,” but he had a direct disregard for my boundaries when he came to kiss my neck
When I was berated by the defense about my tampon and if there was difficulty being penetrated, I was emotionally starting to fall apart worse than when I started on the stand three hours ago
I felt like my mind was growing exhausted of having to retell this story especially about the tampon because I felt disgusted when he ripped my panties and pants down and penetrated me with my tampon still in and the cringe I got in my body feeling his semen run down my leg. I feel disgusted even now, knowing what I know
I was accused of being a liar who wanted to get off sea duty and used a rape allegation to get that, which wasn’t the case, that’s not what I wanted the jurors to think of me
I got angry and reminded them that I was given orders to leave once the MPO was in place, the judge put her in line and threw out the evidence of a meme posted by my HM1 six months before the assault, but my ego was shattered into pieces
My rapist sat there his chair, cool as cucumber watching me be shredded to pieces on the stand with no remorse in his eyes
As I sat there on the stand answering question after question and crying out, “Why?”
The blame game that defense attorney threw at me?
- It’s your fault you got raped.
- You didn’t do enough to the stop the rape.
- You put yourself in the position to be raped.
- You gave the defendant the impression that you wanted to have sex.
- The defendant was surprised and didn’t know you were not enjoying yourself.
This is the kind of system that claims we have a rape problem in the military as a whole, but instead blames the victims who get raped
Those demeaning words have been glued into my brain as if they have nowhere to escape
Engrained in my brain are the burning images and words of my rapist telling me why didn’t I fight back harder or grab his penis to make him stop
Those images are forever recurrent in my nightmares and flashbacks, the pain that comes after surviving a rape is nonstop
What hurt me the most was watching my rapist walk away, free to go back into the military
Meanwhile, I’m picking up the remaining pieces of the life I once knew; knowing that this military life is no longer the life for me
Drinking until I blacked out was easy because I never had to think about the trauma or be reminded that I am a rape victim still going through the legal process of wanting my rapist punished
And sometimes I drink because I’m often reminded by smells and visuals of my rapist viciously raping me; and now I want to drink even more because the military justice system raped me just as bad leaving him out there unpunished
And the military justice system once again
Allows him get away with rape for a second time against a second victim, leaving him to be the good guy while the victim is condemned
The Phoenix could have crumbled beneath the surface to drown her sorrows with a bottle of dark liquor
Hoping she would black out from her reality and no longer suffer from the debilitating triggers
Every day, I wake up and tell myself that I am BEAUTIFUL, PROUD, STRONG, and BRAVE and that I am destined for the best of the best
No one can take those positive qualities away from me and I will no longer carry the scarlet letters of VICTIM engraved on my chest
Going through the pain and suffering for 16 months made me realize why most rape victims never come forward like the military wants them to
Is it worth waiting months and even years for justice only to be ripped apart for your story not being consistent as it was when you initially met with the investigators?
I wouldn’t blame them for that fear, would you?
She stands at the edge of the ocean and stares beyond the horizon
Feeling liberated from no longer being silenced
My rapist’s M.O. does not get to win because although I did NOT get justice and lost this battle, I have not lost the war
I am no longer afraid, ashamed, or embarrassed
I took back control and told a story that was painful to hear but the truth was told with empowerment and strength and dignity coming from the core
Because of me speaking up first, it will encourage another victim to do so and I know that I am worth it, I am a warrior, a survivor, and diamond to be cherished
Knowing that I faced what others couldn’t face
Knowing that my story has made its mark and has left its trace
In a pitiful justice system that fails its rape survivors
Even when dealing with defendants who have priors
But that’s okay, victory is for the survivors
Forging a path that will allow others to speak up even if they’ll be thrown into the ring of fire
A strong black woman is what the military gained, chained, and tried to destroy
But Aaralyn is the real warrior who is destined for great things and has finally found pure happiness and unconditional joy.