By Holly Anne Petrie
What is rape to you? Anytime you say NO, right? Yeah, thats the way its supposed to work, but it doesnt. One out of three women are raped before the age of 18. Have you been a victim, or do you know a predator? In the city of Rockford, there has been no prosecution for those who have been raped by an acquaintance in more than 10 years. Do I understand it? No. Do I wish they would do something about it? Of course. But will they? Probably not.
I know how hard it is to come forth and tell someone when you have been raped. I thought about it a lot. I didnt want to say anything because I thought I did something wrong. You dont do anything wrong when youre a victim of assault or rape. Its not your fault when someone thinks they can take something from you when its not theirs to take.
Do you know that an adult woman is raped every six minutes? Many will ask, how can I help stop this horrible crime? The only way is to get them to prosecute the predatorthat doesnt mean that they will be put behind bars.
Many are not emotionally stable enough to go to court to testify. Heaven knows that I wouldnt be strong enough to go to court. I was, and still am not strong enough to do that. My case didnt make it to court; even if it would have, he would have only gotten two to six months probation. Is he going to go out and do this to someone else? I am, in a way, kind of thankful that I didnt go to court because the defense attorney would have ripped me apart.
I wanted him to be prosecuted so badly, and when I heard the news that he was going to walk away free, I became angry. It is time for teenagers like myself and women everywhere to fight back.
Dont just sit there; do something. I know what youre probably thinking. I wouldnt know what to do. Well, heres your answer. Volunteer to help. Donate clothes, funds and your time to your local rape crisis center. Lobby your local government. We need tougher laws on juvenile offenders. We need the prosecution to be able to win cases, to be able to have the ammunition to lock away even juvenile offenders.
Did you know that all (I mean every) serial rapist started out when they were only 12 to 14 years of age? What did you think, they all waited until they were in their 20s to start being violent? What if this was your child? Would you want her to be treated as the victim or the criminal? Right now, she would be treated as the criminal. I was so scared and confused at points, and I still am. I know how those women feel. I have been there and done that, and dont ever want to go through it again. Its an experience no one should ever have to go through. Sometimes I sit back and start into the what ifs. There is no what if. I didnt do anything wrong, and neither did the women who have been raped.
I ask myself, why did I get treated like a criminal? Why, when I was a victim? The whys will probably never be answered. And thats why I am going to fight back. In this booklet that I was reading, it said that being raped carries serious penalties. If thats the case, then why is my attacker still walking the streets?
In a single year, 94,000 women in the United States report rape to law enforcement officials. Only three out of 10 rapes are reported; 90 percent of victims are raped by someone they know. Now you tell me: if this happens to your child, are you going to fight back? Youre probably thinking, Well, this wouldnt happen to me or my children. Well, you couldnt be more wrong. This can happen anywhere at any time, and to anyone. The only question is, are you going to fight back if it happens?
It is very hard to overcome the fearthe sleepless nights, the loss of appetite, the anxiety, all the emotional and physical pain. They tried to tell me there wasnt enough evidence to take my case to court. The bruising, the physical and emotional pain. But yet, not enough evidence?
The way they put me through the questioning, as though I was the criminal and not the victim. I understand what a lot of those women feel, like they cant get out of bed in the morning, like they cant do anything, almost like they feel worthless. I understand. You have to seek help, thoughor the pain wont ever go away. You wont be able to live the life you want to live. The counseling at your local rape crisis center is free of charge. But you have to make the call. It is the only way youre ever going to be yourself again.
Are you going to fight back? Or are you going to be heard?
I choose to be heard, and now my silence is broken.
No more silent screams.
Editors Note: Column used by permission of the author. For more information, contact Rockford Sexual Assault Counseling at 636-9811.