How I Got Justice As A Sexual Assault Survivor

“We will stand by you with whatever you decide to do,” my friends said as I sat soaking in a puddle of my own tears. It was late at night on no particular day this past April after I had finally disclosed to my two best friends that I had been sexually assaulted twice over a four-month period by the same man. The relief I felt was short-lived. While I had admitted the secret I had repressed since December of 2015, I was admitting to myself the even starker reality that was at the root of my secrecy: There was seemingly nothing in the world I could do about it. There was no DNA and no witnesses. It was my word against his. No one would take a sexual assault case like mine to trial because no one could prove that he did sexually assault me beyond reasonable doubt, and if nothing short of a miracle took place and they did charge him, the trial process would be draining, triggering, and tedious with no guaranteed outcome.

Up until this point in my life, I believed in the American justice system, but over the last year I realized that a legal system built on the idea of proof beyond a reasonable doubt didn’t leave much room for an almost always imperfect sexual assault or rape survivor. Please know this article is not meant to discourage anyone who has been sexually assaulted to report the incident to the authorities. Rather, it is the opposite. My point is that I feel that our justice system is not equipped to handle the epidemic of sexual violence that has swept across this country. According to RAINN, out of every 1,000 reported rapes, 944 of those rapists will walk free. That’s not justice. That’s reckless. I know that the man who assaulted me is out there, inevitably targeting other young girls and women, and that scares me. I hate feeling powerless and out of control so I decided to not let the man that has taken so much from me take anything more. In the grand scheme of things, I, as an individual, don’t have control over much of anything, but I do have control of my reaction to his actions.  

In order to speak out against sexual assault and speak up for sexual assault survivors, myself included, I knew that I had to get help first. Although I know what happened to me isn’t my fault, I take responsibility for my actions as a naïve, insecure freshman in college that put me in a really terrible situation. However, the Women’s Resource Center at the University of Utah not only helped me to emotionally heal, but allowed me realize that my sexual assaults, like so many others, are not as black and white as other forms of crime. In a world where more often than not people like me don’t get the formal forms of justice we seek, the best way to get justice is to first become strong and resilient. Although I’ve regained the voice that was stolen from me, I feel that my fight for justice will never be quite done. Luckily, I have been afforded so many opportunities to speak out and use my story as a cautionary tale to my peers, especially those younger and more vulnerable.  

As I look back over the past year since the first sexual assault in December 2015, I’m filled with a strange sense of gratitude. Although my experiences with sexual assault are some of the worst things that ever happened to me, they completely changed the trajectory of my life, my perception, and my purpose. I have met so many amazing people (and one special dog) through this journey. I am incredibly thankful and touched by both those who contributed something special to my healing and those who have shared their personal stories with me. Whether you’re speaking out or listening, you have brought me hope that our society can make a change with the dedicated effort of each individual. I am excited to see many of you out in the trenches fighting the good fight against sexual assault.