How I Think My Friends Could've Best Helped Me After I Was Sexually Assaulted

By Daniela Jaime

If you had asked me to talk about how to help sexual assault survivors before I became one, I’d have probably told you to do your own research. Two years and no report later, I say, if you really want to help survivors get through this, make us laugh like we used to. Make us bare our teeth, clench our stomachs and wrinkle our eyes with joy. Help us feel connected to the bodies that feel like shells now.

Like many others, I educated myself on being an ally for survivors, making sure their stories were shared with the weight they deserved. I was hyper aware of how, more often than not, sexual assault cases are rarely given the justice they deserve. For instance, in People v. Turner, rapist Brock Turner was given just six months jail time with three years’ probation, and then let out on good behavior after three months. It was constantly hearing about cases like this that made me think the reason survivors don’t report is to avoid more trauma from the same event, and heal more easily.

In fact, it was because of this common narrative of not reporting that I decided filing a criminal report wasn't the right choice for me. There would just be too many opportunities throughout that night to blame me instead. Would they try to use the fact that I had gotten a wax beforehand against me? When witnesses confirm seeing me leave the party with my rapist, would that be counted as a detail of events or a strike against me? If my report was miraculously one of the 13 in 1,000 sexual assault reports that actually get prosecuted, would my rapist testify that I walked him to the door and let him kiss me goodbye? When I’d have no choice but to confirm, would a jury only hear a smoking gun? I’ve never regretted choosing not to report, but I only picked it because I thought it would be the lighter load. I figured if I was going to get through this pain then I wasn’t going to willingly subject myself to more of it.

It turns out, that’s not how rape works.

The week of my sexual assault I had gone on a shopping spree. I bought an eyeshadow palette from Anastasia Beverly Hills (ABH), party clothes from Forever 21, and lingerie I love to wear for the hell of it. All my packages arrived the day of my assault. I was also given a free, limited-edition lip gloss from ABH, which was the perfect nude for my skin tone. I decided to bring my lip gloss that night and hide it in one of the kitchen cabinets, because nice women’s clothes never have pockets.

At some point I no longer remember anything, got raped, and ended up leaving my lip gloss there. When I went back for it the next day, someone had already taken it. Now, when I think about that night, I can’t help but think about my lip gloss, too.

For the first year I made myself sick with guilt ruminating over the series of events in my head, choosing to dedicate a part of that story to a simple lip gloss, instead of thinking of the women he could have hurt after me. In a way it felt as if that happening would be my fault, too. Of course, I know now it’s not that simple. Anything my rapist does is solely his fault. I could have reported him, and he could still choose to do the same thing. Choosing not to report doesn’t turn you from victim to accomplice, it just makes you someone who understands what they need to survive. For me, that meant only allowing myself to regret losing a lip gloss at first. Anything more felt too much like blame.

Like so many other women who experience sexual assault while at college, I was blacked out, drugged, or asleep at the time, and remember very few details of the actual physical assault. This was one of the main things that informed my decision not to report, but I was also influenced by my days starting to move at their normal pace. I had convinced myself that I was already getting better, and chalked it up to the fact that I didn’t have much recollection of the event, therefore I could just move on. Realizing later that many of my trauma triggers were rooted in my recollection of the morning after, rather than the act itself, only made the not-normal days harder. On the days where I felt like a shell of myself, I didn’t know how to take the time to feel the trauma and pain the assault left me with, but I knew how to feel angry for losing my lip gloss. It ended up being one of the only things from that night that I’ve been completely sure of. Knowing that helped me have a place to put all the other feelings I didn’t know what to do with yet. It was remembering the amount of joy and frustration I felt in the 12 hours of owning and loosing that lip gloss that helped me see how much I could still be capable of feeling. It gave me hope.

I never shared with friends and family how much I thought about that lip gloss, for fear of sounding vain, but looking back I wonder if I would have been able to laugh about it sooner had I chosen to laugh about it with them, first. If you really want to help a victim of sexual assault get through this month, remember that learning and sharing information about rape culture can help everyone, but choosing to listen to our stories and staying long enough to hear us remember how to laugh after is what helps us heal. 

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