Some events happen in our lives and leave us forever changed. One such event happened 3 years ago and as hard as it can be sometimes to shut it out of my brain, every August, it comes back to me, like it happened yesterday. My 18 year old daughter who had started college in Minneapolis, was sexually assaulted. I will never forget where I was when it happened and I will never forget that awful sick feeling that came over me as I was told what had happened. My heart stopped and it was hard to breathe as I listened to her broken voice...her screams...her terror.
All I knew is that I needed to get to her as soon as possible. I lived 120 miles from there and it seemed like it took forever to get there. Thankfully, my other daughter, who also lived there, was able to be with her at the hospital...in those moments that I couldn't be. That night as I laid in the bed, holding her in my arms, crying with her, hearing the terror in her voice as she questioned every good thing she knew, I wanted to kill him. I listened as she questioned weather she would always feel this dirty...this ashamed...if she would ever feel safe again. My veins flowed with such hate and anger at this young man that had taken so much from my precious child. She was smack in the middle of a nightmare and all she wanted to do was wake up and for it to be over...all I wanted to do was to take this from her.
My daughter already knew the pain of rape, but only from a distance. During her senior year of high school, she had done a year long leadership project on rape, called In her shoes. She researched, interviewed, spoke in classrooms and in the community to raise rape awareness in our community. She held a walk and rally at the end of this project, with rape survivors sharing their stories. Four months later she was in their shoes.
This young man was around the same age as my daughter and he was an acquaintance. He was a friend of the friends she was with. They were all at her friends house having a small house party. Yes, they were all drinking. This young man was at this party with his girlfriend but they got into a fight so the girlfriend had went home. I will spare you the details, other than that he put something in her drink and somehow got her into one of the bedrooms and she woke up to being raped. Her screams brought people into the room to pull him off of her. A short time later she was taken to the hospital. Because there were eye witnesses and good physical evidence they had a good case against him but he confessed shortly after being arrested anyways.
I will never forget the first time I laid eyes on this young man...it was in court. I will also never forget hearing the cries of his mother as she wept openly in court. In that moment my heart went out to this woman, who was also a mother, to a son, that had made wrong turns in life. In that moment, I came to realize, that no one wins here. Everyone loses. My daughter is a courageous, compassionate and forgiving young woman. All my daughter wanted was for this young man to get help before he ever did it again. Part of his sentencing was to go to treatment for sex offenders. As a mother, I wanted him punished to the fullest extent and there is no amount of time in my mind that would be enough, for him to pay for what he had done...for what he had taken from her.
I wasn't able to protect my daughter from one of the evils that exists in this world. I wonder to myself if I had done more to prepare her for the outside world...for the big city, after living in such a small town all her life, if this could have been prevented. I wonder if I taught her to be too trusting and friendly. I know I didn't talk to her about the dangers of guys putting drugs in her drink so that they could rape her. I didn't and now I regret all that I didn't teach her. My hope is that more parents would talk to their daughters and sons about these things...these things that are uncomfortable to talk about but happen way more than we realize. If you could take one thing from this story, it should be to teach your daughters and sons about these things. If what I share prevents even one rape from happening then sharing this is worth it...no matter how painful it is.
One thing I learned is that I am lucky that my daughter went to the hospital, reported it and came to me...that many girls don't report being raped, let alone tell their parents and so these guys get away with it and continue to rape other girls and these girls suffer alone in silence. I am glad that my daughter has not suffered alone in silence. I am glad that she is courageous and strong and stood up for what was right....and in the end she forgave and asked the judge to get this young man help. This, my friends, was the start of her journey to healing...and mine.
Although, that was the start to her healing, this event changed her life. On the road to healing she was not able to stay in college. Up to this point she had been doing very well in college but lost all ability to be there. Her life has been a rollercoaster ride since then and I believe it has influenced many of her decisions over the last 3 years...Including getting pregnant. Honestly, I don't think she has fully dealt with it and counseling would benifit her greatly, but she is now 21 and as her mom, I can suggest it but can't make her go. This is the part that we don't hear about with rape survivors...the after math or fallout in the years after a rape happens. As her mom, I see all this fallout damage and it's hard for me to not still hate him. I actually try to pray for him and I wonder if I will ever be able to fully forgive him.