Stop This World

Trying to gracefully go from victim to survivor to servant

I hate tornadoes. Not just a mild hatred, but a phobia I have had since I was very little. I guess I used to ask if there would even be a tornado during a snow storm at times because I was so scared. That phobia followed me into adult-hood and I feel like I have it under control pretty well now. I don’t run to the basement when there is only a tornado watch. I do keep my eyes on the skies though and can tell you where the storms are. Old habits die hard!

 
I would even have recurring dreams of tornadoes destroying my house and farm. For decades this was a recurring dream. The kicker was that in my dream, nobody believed me that there was an impending tornado. So, part of the dream is me freaking out and telling people to take cover and another part of the dream is me walking in the rubble and calmly saying, “I told you so”.

 
Fortunately, this dream has subsided. Unfortunately, it has been replaced by trauma filled dreams. I would kind of welcome the tornado dreams again.

 
I had the privilege of growing up in a close-knit farming community. My best friends were my neighbors and cousins. We went to school together, went to church together, and grew up together.

 

This past weekend I went back to my small hometown church for the Christmas program. It had been a long time since I had been to a service at my hometown church. The great thing is that the church is the same and outside of some gray hair and aching joints, the people are the same too. These are the people who raised me along with my family. They were Sunday School teachers, 4-H leaders, neighbors and friends. There was always a feeling of looking out for each other. To me that equals safety. Something that I have been missing for a long time.

 
The church is my firm foundation and my family and community reinforce that. My assault was the tornado that destroyed everything in my life, except that firm foundation. I like to think of it as I had a nice ‘house’ that I thought was built well, but when the winds of trauma kicked up my house just couldn’t withstand the pressure. What was left? Wreckage. Everywhere. Nothing intact.  But, the foundation of my ‘house’ was also left. The deep bedrock was still there and the bricks forming the basement were still there too. The deep bedrock is my faith and the basement bricks are my family and community. They withstood the storm.

 
In Washington, DC I would go between a couple churches over the years. One of those churches was National Community Church (NCC). It was unlike anything I had ever been to before, especially coming from a more strict upbringing. It was so joyous! All walks of life there to praise the Lord and listen to scripture. I like being filled with joy!

 
NCC was a refuge for me. For a few months I was doing intense therapy on the weekends called EMDR that would last 90 minutes. Imagine 90 minutes of the most intense imagery and reliving what happened. All to help the images go away and move on with life. Those weekends left me exhausted for days. My brain literally hurt. If my therapy session was on a Sunday morning I would immediately go to NCC for church.  I had a smile on my face entering, but underneath my sunglasses were my red, puffy eyes and face. I sat in back on the left side (I’m a creature of habit and this is where my family always sits in church…don’t get me started). I didn’t really want to be near anybody because I didn’t want people to know that I had been through such emotional work just a few minutes before. But, I knew that I needed to be there to be revived. It was my firm foundation.

 
One Sunday after yet another intense, tear filled therapy session I found myself at NCC. Almost literally at the feet of God. I was weak, tired and in great despair. Every week of therapy got harder and harder. I didn’t know how much more I could take. I just wanted everything to be like it was before the assault. I wanted this all to be done.

 
The message that day was talking about Matthew 7:24 and having a life built on a firm foundation. The house on the rock.  He talked about how sometimes life brings in a big bulldozer and levels your life down to the foundation. Some people have a foundation built on bedrock and some have a foundation built on sand. Which are you?

 
That message really hit home for me. At that point I realized that my ‘house’ was built on a firm foundation. I had been raised in the church and by my family, friends and community. The dreaded tornado happened and I felt so stripped of everything at that point. Stripped of my identity, my passion for life and full of shame. But, I realized that I could rebuild my ‘house’. One step at a time. My foundation was built on bedrock. Now to figure out how to build a ‘house’ again.

 
After the message the church band played a song I had never heard before called, “You Make Beautiful Things”, by Gungor.  Music is something that is a great emotional release for me and I was not expecting what was to come. The song talks about building beautiful things out of dust. Being torn down and built back up. That is all it took for full-on sobs to start. I had never had that happen before at church. Sure, maybe a few tears here and there when there is an emotional service, but never anything like this. For the first time ever in any church, I didn’t care what people thought about me or how I was acting. I just sobbed through the whole thing. It was an ugly cry and it was beautiful. It touched me and I knew that I would be okay and that recovery was possible. Life might not be the same as it once was, but my foundation never changed. The Lord is rebuilding me piece by piece and that is beautiful to me.

About 18 months later I found myself at a new church called Waterfront Church and after an especially poignant message they played, “You Make Beautiful Things”. I hadn’t heard that song at a worship service since that date in August 2015. I was new at this church, but hearing this song helped me realize I was in the right place and doing the right things. Keep on moving forward. Keep building.

 
So, I find myself back where my firm foundation was built. In small-town America with my faith fully intact. I’m nervous about building my house again. I’m like my young-self wondering if a tornado will hit in the winter. But this time around I know how to reinforce it with faith, family and friends. I can’t do it alone.

 

Truly,

J.Lynn

13 months after my assault I was able to take the first step in regaining some control of my case. I was finally able to make a decision about something. Up until that point I felt pretty helpless. I could e-mail, text or call my detective to see what was going on with my case, but after the first couple months I didn’t hear much anymore. I felt overlooked and like I didn’t matter. Where are the results of my labs? Who is this guy? What can I do?

 

It was two years ago that I finally met an ally who would talk with me, listen, be brutally honest and respect my situation. My case had landed on his desk somehow. He gets the strange cases that nobody else wants.  He wanted to meet me in person to see if we should shut the case or move forward. All the other detectives thought it should be closed, but for some reason he saw something in my files that the others didn’t. Thank goodness.

 

He was also trying to get a good read on me. Was I being honest? Of course I was being honest! But, I soon learned that there are a lot of liars out there and people calling wolf on sexual assault is an everyday occurrence. So, I had to prove that I was telling the truth.

 

So, Detective 3 came to my apartment to meet with me. I cleaned my place like I was having The Queen over. I didn’t need him judging me anymore than he already was.   What does a dirty apartment say?  Being a good hostess, I figured that I better have some cookies or something available and some coffee. I’ve never had a detective in my house before, so I should be ready. (I chuckle now thinking of this, but my Grandma would be proud)

 

I asked a friend to be there with me when we met so that I would have a second set of ears to listen to information, and because having a stranger in my own apartment freaked me out. To this day, I still don’t like being alone with men I don’t know.

 

Detective 3 went through everything he knew about my case. I found out that he was actually at the scene of the crime right away. I guess they sent out a group of detectives to go through everything at the apartment.

 

We didn’t really have too much evidence to go from, but I thought it was enough to move forward. We had the guy putting himself at the scene by talking to the building manager & video of the guy with me in the apartment elevator. I kept on thinking to myself and eventually asked, what is the big deal about talking to this guy? Nobody has tried. I need someone to believe me and help me. The Detective told me it’s not that easy. All the guy has to say is that it was consensual and it is case closed. There is no evidence to the contrary saying that I didn’t want to be there. If there is no evidence, there is no case. He needed to figure out a way to catch him off guard and gain his trust to see if he could get information.

 

He laid the options out about closing the case or moving forward and was brutally honest. Everyone on the force wanted the case closed because it is near impossible to prove any wrongdoing. He said that, honestly, until he met me he thought the case should be closed too. Also, moving forward has the potential to be just as damaging emotionally and psychologically as the actual assault.

 

 

I’m sitting there thinking, “I’ve been through hell and back since the assault, I think I can handle this.”

 

Again, boy was I wrong. Granted, I did handle it but it about sent me into a nervous breakdown.

 

We met for 2 hours and they were intense. We went through options and he asked me a few times what getting justice meant to me. I didn’t know. I wanted the guy caught and serve time for what he did. But, what if that didn’t happen? There was a good chance that nothing would happen to him.  How would I feel about that and move forward with life? Good question.
I was pleading with him, “Just talk to him, please! Please try!”
How can you close a case if you have never even talked to the guy? That just seems insane to me.

 

Then, we had a good discussion about what I have faith in.

 

Did I have faith in the justice system? No.
Did I have faith in him as a Detective? Questionable.
As I sat there weeping with red, swollen eyes I told him I have faith in God. That is all I have and that is enough. I don’t think that I have ever so intently stared at someone as when I said those words. I just felt this strength inside me that told me to not give up. Do not be shaken. TRUST.

 

During this time I had my television on playing some music and the song ‘Riser’ by Dierks Bentley came on at that exact time. It was a song I clung to at the time. If you haven’t heard the song, I encourage you to check it out. It talks about rising above hard times. Here are some of the lyrics:
And I’m a riser
I’m a get up off the ground, don’t run and hider
Pushin’ comes a-shovin’
Hey I’m a fighter
When darkness comes to town, I’m a lighter
A get out aliver, of the fire, survivor
I’m a trier
I’m a get down low so I can lift you higher
An army couldn’t keep down my desire

 

That sealed the deal. I wanted to move forward with the case. At least talk to the guy and see where it goes. I will not be the one that willingly closes the case. I will leave it up to the Commonwealth of Virginia to close my case. I knew that I couldn’t live with myself if I gave up. I would always wonder, “what if?”. I’m going to push through until they tell me to stop. The Detective warned me that he has seen trials ruin people because of the stress. I’ll be fine. I’m tough.

 

At the end of our meeting, I asked the Detective why he took my case when nobody else on the force would.
He said, “I believe you & we did not do our best work for you.”
Those are the most empowering and beautiful words I had ever heard. He believed me! Someone actually believed me! Wow. Looking back I never knew that telling the truth could be questioned so much and not believed. It took one person believing in me and I do believe it was heaven-sent.

 

So, for the first time in over a year after the assault I finally got to take some power back and make a decision. It was more difficult than I thought to make that decision because I knew that moving forward would open me up to more scrutiny and attorneys questioning my every step. Do I want to put myself through this? Do I want to put my family through this? Do I want to waste taxpayer dollars on this? (Yes, this was an actual thought). For the first time in my life I realized that I deserved to be heard and I deserved to fight for justice.

 

From that day forward, two years ago, Detective 3 and I were a team. I had to be completely honest with him and he had to be completely honest with me. If we were going to make a go of this then we had to be on the same page. He said that I could change my mind at any time if it got to be too much. There were a few times that I thought about quitting, but it never happened.

 

After the meeting I felt like a ran a marathon. I was exhausted, but I felt good. I had faith that God would lead me and help me move forward. That is all I had and it was enough.

 

I’m sharing a photo that I took of myself immediately after the meeting with  my detective.  Why did I take this photo?  Because I wanted to remind myself of the day I started to reclaim my life.  It is still emotional looking at the photo, but it now makes me happy instead of sad.

20151123_150327.jpg

Truly,
J.Lynn

**Featured image credit to Acrylics 139**

Over the past three years Thanksgiving has been somewhat difficult.  Living with this huge cloud of shame over my head was difficult.  I was of course thankful for several things, but that cloud always lingered.  Last year, when we sat around the Thanksgiving table with family we all went around and said what we were thankful for.  I honestly couldn’t think of something where I wouldn’t break out crying.  Only my parents and sister knew at that time about my assault and I was extremely emotional at the time.  Little did people know around the Thanksgiving table that I was preparing to go to court in two weeks to face my rapist.  I put on a brave face and talked about being thankful for family and friends.  No tears, thank goodness.  My Dad and I joked beforehand that we are thankful that 2016 was close to being done.  It was a rough year.

 

This Thanksgiving, I am in a much different place and am extremely thankful for that.  I am happy that I can now talk about my assault openly and I hope that my story is helping people.  I am even more thankful for friends, family and strangers who have reached out with their support.  I’m thankful for southern Minnesota for being a soft place to land and heal.  I’m thankful that even though I feel like a prodigal, my family has wrapped me in so much love. They have let me rest when I need it, are patient, keep a watchful eye on me and are helping me move forward.   I’m thankful for friends who have been with me the past three years of my struggle.  Checking in on me, listening, going to court with me, looking out for me, and encouraging me to go out for dinner and have fun again.  I am blessed.

 

Thank you to everyone who has supported my family since finding out about my assault.  The last three years have not been easy on them and have taken their toll.  Your kind words at the grocery store, church or in passing are appreciated.  There were many times over the past three years where I prayed for mercy for my family.  My prayers are being answered.  Assault affects the whole family and we are coming back stronger than before.

 

Thank you to those of you reading this blog and offering words of encouragement and prayer.  The healing process has sped up greatly since starting the blog.  This is the best I have felt in three years.

 

 

Finally, I am thankful for those of you that have shared your personal story with me.  Thank you for trusting me with your story.  Thank you for being an ally against assault, abuse and harassment.  Thank you for your prayers and notes.  Thank you for the quiet nod that we give each other in public to show that we unfortunately are joined in a common sisterhood/brotherhood.  You are brave and I am thankful for you.

 

Happy Thanksgiving,

-J.Lynn

I seriously don’t even know where to start. More and more people are coming forward with sexual harassment and sexual abuse claims across the country and my head is spinning. This is a watershed moment and I really don’t know whether to cry because so many people have been affected or to be proud that people feel comfortable coming forward. I guess that I can feel both, but it is overwhelming.

 
There is power in numbers. Why are people comfortable speaking up about past sexual assault and harassment claims now? I’m sure some out there think that this is a big witch hunt going after wealthy, famous men in power. I mean, really, how could this many men really have been such filthy, slimy perverts. This just simply can’t be true, right?

 
It boils down to the typical he said/she said scenario. I’ve lived it and let me tell you it majorly messes with your mind when you are not believed. I had evidence of my rape and it still wasn’t enough. I was still attacked on the stand after the guy was convicted because, well, I don’t know. Because they could still mess with me I guess.

 
She Said –
Guess what? The detectives knew who my rapist was within 48 hours. They were able to convince the apartment manager to call him up & tell him that there was a noise complaint about his condo. He said he had a female guest over and said it wouldn’t happen again. All of this was heard by detectives. Put himself there. Evidence.

 
The first detective (we’ll call him Detective 1) on the case called the guy and wanted to talk to him and the guy said, “talk to my lawyer.” Know what? There was no attempt made (that I know of) to talk to the guy or his lawyer for over a YEAR. A year! I felt completely sabotaged from the beginning.

 
Do you know why they didn’t talk to the guy? Well, there was a video of the both of us in the apartment elevator. On the video I appear coherent, am talking and laughing and get out of the elevator before the guy. That obviously means I’m consenting to having sex with him right? Right. I mean every man I ride an elevator with I end up sleeping with. That’s just how I roll. (sarcasm) That couldn’t be further from the truth.

 
So, Detective 1 calls me into the police station to take a look at this video 5 months after my assault. It is amazing how two people see two different things. I was excited that they had a video and evidence that I was there.

 

“See? I was there and you can tell who the guy is. You’ve got him!”

 
Yeah, not so fast. I quickly learned that I am very naïve and what I think looks obvious is definitely not obvious. Basically, the consensus between Detective 1 and several others on the force is that this video looks bad for me and the case should be closed. WHAT? Yep. They said my case will never get past a District Attorney because I appear to be just fine in the elevator. I must be crying wolf or blowing things out of proportion. Case closed. Move along…

 
Talk about a slap in the face! I was completely blacked out during that whole time and remember nothing, even to this day. So, even though they didn’t talk to the guy at all they were going to close the case. Never mind all of the evidence collected in my rape kit (which took 10 months to process, but thankfully was processed) and my testimony. Case closed.

 
You want trauma? Get told that your rape isn’t worth pursuing.

 

“Sorry, the District Attorney won’t let this go through. It’s weak evidence.”
“Can you at least TRY talking to the guy?”, I pleaded. “I just want you to talk to him.”

 
It wasn’t even he said/she said at this point, it was she said and it’s not worth much. It was finally my THIRD detective (Detective 3) that talked to the guy & got him to confess. That was 16 months after the assault.

 

Now, I want to shift your focus to the people coming out in the last weeks about sexual harassment and assault. I’ve heard some pundits say that these women are coming out and attacking powerful men to get their ’15 minutes of fame’. Seriously? You think anyone wants to be known as the person who was assaulted? Guess again. I’m not popular by any means and my rapist isn’t either, but it is hard enough coming forward and talking about it. If you think people are so starved for fame that they would falsely accuse someone of heinous acts, you need to rethink your idea. Survivors already wear a scarlet letter of shame. They don’t need your dismissive opinions.

 
I do believe in due process. That is why I stayed with my case for almost three years. Just because a person is accused of assault or harassment, should we jump to the conclusion that he is guilty? Absolutely not. There should be due process. But, how people treat victims needs to change. What I experienced is that the defendant was innocent until proven guilty. I was guilty until proven believable and we struck a plea deal.

 
Why does the victim have to prove their validity over and over again? I’m the one who was poked & prodded in the hospital. I’m the one who had countless sleepless nights because of nightmares of the assault. I’m the one who put my career on the line to deal with the assault head-on. I’m the one who lived through PTSD. Sure, test my validity. I dare you.

 
They did take that dare and I had to prove my validity at sentencing of all place. The guy already confessed and we reached a plea deal of 2 counts of sexual battery, but I was still being drilled by the defense attorney on my story and if I’m being truthful. I still wasn’t believed even though he was convicted. The judge warned the defense attorney to stop this line of questioning, but he continued until he was warned again. Until the very, very end I was guilty until proven believable. I can promise you that these people coming forward in recent cases aren’t out for 15 minutes worth of fame. They are looking for justice, to be heard and to be believed. Being famous for being a victim is one of my worst nightmares.

 
Maybe women finally feel comfortable coming forward about being assaulted, and that is a good thing. For the record, there should be no ‘crying wolf’ for the sake of attention. That is disgusting and there is a special place in hell for those people.

 
So, maybe instead of jumping to conclusions that these women coming forward are lying, why not take the time to think about me. I didn’t lie and still wasn’t believed for 16 months. I was completely dismissed. These women in the news are someone’s daughters, mothers, sisters, friends, etc. They all have names and have lived with these secrets for a long time. Think about what you would do if your daughter came and told you about these assaults and harassment. Would you not believe her? Would you?

 

I’m going to be bouncing around with this blog between past experiences and the current day. Today, I’m excited to write about this past weekend.

The last 3 years have been a constant journey of hills & valleys. Very few plateaus where I could gather myself, but I persisted. I really had no idea how I was going to get through the past years, but knew that God would be by my side always. There were several days where I thought to myself, “Lord, you really must have a sick sense of humor for the constant battles I’m facing. How am I going to do this?”

 

Recently, I began to get excited to see how he was going to get me through this season of life. I wasn’t as anxious. Let go, have patience and watch with wonder how God works for the good. Watching the last 6 months unfold, it definitely shows me that God is by my side and that life is revealing itself as it should.

 
Four months ago, on June 29th, I was able to face my rapist and make peace with everything. You see, after working with three detectives over the course of almost three years, my rapist was behind bars. The damage done mentally & emotionally from the rape is as bad as the damage done going through the process of pressing charges & going to court. I will write about all of that in future posts and the awful hell I endured. But, this is a positive post, so let’s get on with it!

 
Glorious Unfolding

 
June 26th I had people in to pack my belongings, June 27th they loaded up my belongings to travel to Minnesota and on Thursday, June 29th I faced my rapist at his sentencing and on Saturday, July 1st I left Washington, DC for good on the first flight out. The first thing I was able to do when I got home was have brunch with a great friend and then go and celebrate the wedding of two former students, now friends. The Lord couldn’t have worked it any better. I felt safe being around familiar people and it was glorious! I’m home.

 
All through the summer, things unfolded as they should. I was anxious about getting a job, but nothing ever felt right. I had a few interviews, but nothing panned out and I was okay with that. Now, my hard-working family probably have other thoughts about this, but I know that they are all seeing the benefits of me having time off to ‘right the ship’ and get back on track.

 
I came back to MN and it felt good, but I was exhausted both mentally & physically. I was also very apprehensive to see people. I felt like a failure. Even though I had just gotten done doing one of the bravest things of my life in confronting my rapist and reading my victim impact statement, I still felt like a failure. My identity was always my job and here I was, tail between my legs, back home.

 
In a rural area you know lots of people and you run into them a lot at town festivals and county fairs over the summer. The #1 question asked was of course, “why did you leave DC?”. I wasn’t ready to come out with my story yet, so for the first two weeks I stumbled around with my words. And, the people who have known me for a long time were skeptical that I just up & left DC with no job lined up. They knew something was off. I told people, “DC wears on you. I wanted to get home to be with family. The best view of DC is in the rearview mirror.” All statements were true, but I still felt like a fraud. Slowly, I was able to piece things together to form a confident statement without talking about the ‘real’ reason.

 
The county fair is my favorite time of the year. I grew up showing dairy cattle in 4-H and the county fair was, and still is, like my own personal Disney World. I hadn’t gotten to attend our county fair for over 5 years, so being there this past year was like a big welcome home party. I volunteered for 4-H, worked the malt machine and caught up with old friends. It was perfect. Just as God planned.

 
The rest of the summer involved a family fishing trip, lots of time with my family, the Minnesota State Fair, and quality time with friends. Anxiety started to come back once fall hit and I didn’t have a job yet, but I knew it was all in God’s timing so I decided to continue to enjoy my ‘sabbatical’.

 
Fast forward to getting to facilitate some listening sessions around the state and getting to see former colleagues. Seeing them again made me extremely happy and reminded me that I want to continue my career in agriculture and stay connected to these salt-of-the-earth people. These people are the ones who worked with me as a young career-woman and guided me in the right direction to being a good leader. Again, the Lord knew what he was doing.

 
Which brings us to this past weekend. I was afforded the opportunity to travel to Kansas City and do a workshop on servant leadership with 90 graduating seniors in college. This was my first presentation in about 6-months, so I was a little rusty. I also didn’t know if I was still relevant. I hadn’t worked with college students in over five years. Fortunately, once I got started and found my stride I remembered how much I love public speaking and working with college students. It was the quickest 2-hour workshop I have ever done (not sure what the students thought)! It felt good! I shared stories about my life and being a servant leader. Being back in my ‘wheelhouse’ was amazing. For the first time in several months I felt like I belonged and that I could get back into my career. I’m home.

 
Later on in the weekend I was able to attend a gala for the sorority that I was in during college. The friends I made at this tiny sorority that focused on agriculture are still my best friends today. There was no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t attend the gala. It was a given. I wanted to see friends that I hadn’t seen in ages and I wanted to celebrate the sorority that changed my life. Do you know what is funny? I never really thought about the fact that this would be the first time seeing many of these women since I came out about my assault. It honestly didn’t cross my mind, which to me is a win. The assault and the thoughts of others didn’t even cross my mind.

 
It was a beautiful, glorious night! Over 250 people gathered to celebrate our sisterhood and to raise money for the upkeep of the house and for scholarships. We were all dressed in our best clothes and there were lots of hugs and memories shared. All ages of ladies from current college students to women in their 80’s. My heart was full.

 

Throughout the night I received several hugs and heard from friends who said that they are thinking of and praying for me. Those words & hugs really meant a lot. I knew that putting my story out there might turn me into a leper and people might not want to talk to me. But, what I’ve found out is the exact opposite. People are rallying behind me and it feels good. I was dressed in a beautiful red & black gown and I felt like I floated in it. I belonged there. I was home.

 
I honestly haven’t been this content and at peace in over three years. Going back to the roots of my life before I moved away 5-years ago has been cathartic. My life is built on a good, firm foundation. There are good people in this world and I have the privilege of getting to go through this journey of life with many of them. Thank you, Lord.

 
I’m still job-hunting, but am starting to do some independent consulting gigs and public speaking appearances. Am I worried about finding a job? Not anymore because God has brought me this far and I can’t wait to see how much farther he will take me. I’m happy & I’m home. Nothing else matters.

 
Steven Curtis Chapman’s song ‘Glorious Unfolding’ sums it all up.

 

Truly,
J.Lynn

 

 

Fortunately, I have never been asked this question about my assault. Many other people are not so fortunate. This is honestly the very first thought many people have when they hear about an assault because they must have been asking for sex, right? I’m hoping that by writing about this topic that you will take a minute and think honestly about how you respond verbally or just inside your head when you hear that someone was assaulted. I’m going to take a guess and say that one of the immediate thoughts in your head if you hear about an assault is, “well she was asking for it” or “she shouldn’t have dressed that way”. Yeah, I used to think that way too. Not verbally, but inside my own head. I mean there must be a reason why people get raped, right? Wrong. People get raped because the rapist chooses to violate somebody. It is about power. It is never about being drunk, what clothes you wear, your location, your age, etc. Victims do not choose to be raped. The rapists choose to rape. Plain & simple.

 

The day of my assault, I was dressed to go to church, so I was dressed very conservatively. You can see the basic outfit I had on below. The only changes are that I had on a black top and black dress pants. I was also wearing my most trendy comfort shoes. I say this sarcastically because they were not trendy, but after walking in DC all the time I needed some comfortable dress shoes. I was comfortable. Never once did I think that my clothing invited someone to violate me.

cabi sweater

But, even if I were dressed in the most revealing, tight, low cut dress with stiletto heels it does not mean that I want to have sex with someone. A woman likes getting dressed up every now & then. Nothing wrong with that. I know that I like to get dressed up occasionally when my self-confidence is strong. I used to dress up to get noticed, or to get looks and compliments from others. It made me feel good to have the attention. That isn’t the case anymore. I get dressed up for me and me alone. I honestly don’t care what other people think anymore. When I take care of myself enough that I have the confidence to go out in public it is a victory for me. I might be in yoga pants & a t-shirt, or I might be in a dress. Regardless of what I wear, I do it for me.
Asking what you were wearing is on par with asking why you put yourself in the situation to get raped, or you should have known what would happen if you went to his apartment. I ran into this form of questioning because there is video of me in the elevator at the apartment where I was raped and in it I appear coherent and talking normally. (remember, I was completely blacked out for 10-12 hours) Some of the investigators & the defense attorneys involved in my case actually insinuated several times that since I was riding in an elevator with a guy that this consents to having sex. “He let you off the elevator first and you seemed fine.” Riding an elevator does not equate you get to have sex with me.  I seriously had to argue this fact over & over again!

 

I had to fight that tooth & nail with everyone involved. The case was nearly closed because of this video.  I was even cross-examined on the video after I gave my victim impact statement. I might not have been questioned on my clothes, but it was the same intent. You were asking for it. You willingly rode in an elevator with a guy, you were talking, you touched your hair and you got out of the elevator first. You clearly wanted to have sex with this guy. It’s not his fault.  Shame on you.
So beware, wearing clothes and riding elevators now means that you are ‘asking for it’.

-J.Lynn

Picking up from where we left off…

 
Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much the night at my friend’s place, aka the safe house. I just could not wrap my head around what had happened in the past 36 hours. It must be a bad dream because I’m absolutely ‘fine’.

 
Now was time to take some control back of the situation and get a to-do list together. Get door lock changed, pick up medication, rest and figure out next steps. I was given the all-clear on going back to my apartment by the detective, thank goodness. He didn’t think that the guy knew where I lived. PS – I struggle still with what to call the ‘guy’. There are many curse words I would like to write down to describe him, but I’m trying to work on my cursing. I thought about calling him ‘dude’, but that is just down right disrespectful to The Big Lebowski, and I can’t do that. So, he’s still the guy, or the perp, or the accused. Whatever it is I don’t really care.

 
A friend took me back to my apartment and the first thing I did was talk with the building manager about getting my door lock changed. I told him what had happened and he was a little bucky with me and not really willing to change the lock. I called my detective & told him this. He was less than impressed. Let’s just say someone was changing my lock very quickly.

 
Next order of business was to get my medication prescribed by the SANE nurse. She & the detective told me that I might have a hard time filling the prescription at some places because it isn’t carried everywhere. Fortunately, my pharmacy carried it and it was filled immediately. Why didn’t every pharmacy carry it? Well, it is medication to prevent HIV called Truvada. It is a very powerful drug and I needed to be on it (along with anti-nausea medicine) for at least a month. This was a preventative measure because we didn’t know what this guy had for STD’s, so just to be safe I was treated. Nice. Let the nightmare continue because that stuff literally tears you up inside. Fortunately, the pharmacist was very nice and must have seen the look of sheer terror in my eyes as she explained everything to me.

 
Now, I was back at home by myself trying to collect my thoughts. Took another shower and convinced myself I was good. Just needed some rest and all would be okay. I also determined that I needed to tell someone at home, but I wasn’t ready to tell my parents or sister. I just couldn’t fathom that at that point. I ended up calling my brother-in-law because he was a detective and I knew that he had experience with assault cases. I figured he would handle the news the best out of my family.

 
Called him up and after some small talk I finally told him about the assault. I was very matter of fact about it and no tears. I wanted his advice on what to do now and to help me tell my sister. He offered help with all of that and then offered to come out and spend a few days with me. I told him that wasn’t necessary, but he insisted and booked a flight for the next day. He helped me tell my sister. I was on the phone and he was with her in person when I told her. Thank goodness he was there with her because this is not the kind of news you can ever prepare for. To say that she was upset is an understatement.

 
Brother-in-law came to DC and stayed with me for several days. I seriously felt like I was doing fine. Had a few days off to recover and we enjoyed hanging out and exploring the area. He also helped me buy things to make me feel safe at home and on the road traveling. Bought a door-jam that he promised only fire fighters could get through, pepper spray and some alarms for my hotel room when I traveled. We talked about a handgun, but I don’t trust myself with one. I would probably end up shooting myself in the foot before I shot somebody else. He put his detective skills to use and asked a lot of questions. He was also in touch with the detective I was working with and offered to help in any way possible. Looking back on him coming out immediately after the assault, I am so very grateful and blessed. I thought I was ‘fine’, but I really wasn’t. Having family there provided safety that I didn’t know I needed. Brother-in-law coming out to care for me was the start of several people rallying around me in this time of need when I honestly didn’t know how in over my head I was.

 
After a week off of work to rest it was time to go back to work and I hit the road almost immediately. The best medicine for me was going to the largest youth convention in America in Louisville. So uplifting and energizing seeing amazing youth in agriculture. I was also surrounded by several friends who kept me busy. They had no clue what happened, but being around familiar people helped a great deal. Even though I was on heightened alert all week, again, I thought that I’m going to get through this trauma quickly.

 
Boy was I wrong.

 

-J.Lynn

 

I can’t tell you how much better I feel after starting this blog. I feel like I’m not hiding from myself and from others anymore. Being back at home in a small community people have asked all summer and fall why I’m back from DC. I just told people that DC is a soul-sucking place and it was time to come home. It was the truth, but only the partial truth.

There is still plenty of the story to tell, but on this post I want to focus on supporting survivors. I’ve had a continuous outpouring of love since the blog started, but the #1 question asked of me is how can we help someone who is a victim of rape or assault?
I will use the term victim & survivor interchangeably sometimes. There are times in my recovery where I felt like a survivor, but the next day I felt like a victim. It all kind of melds together. I can honestly say that I finally feel like a survivor!

 
I was and am fortunate that I have a solid support system. I have had friends & family supporting me from the beginning. Having this type of support is unfortunately rare according to the detectives I worked with. They were in awe of the support I had and said that most people who come in after being assaulted come in by themselves and have nobody to support them. That safe house I stayed at the first night? That was my friend’s place. If I didn’t have somewhere to go they have emergency places for people to go. The places get used unfortunately because victims don’t have support.

 
I’ve been in the fight of my life to go from victim to survivor for the past three years, and I have had the best support around. I struggle even with the help of supportive people and can’t imagine what life is like not having that support.

 
The handful of people that I shared my rape story with, not one of them said something awful. Everyone was supportive, listened and cared. It’s that easy (yet I know it is so hard). Every one of them were stunned, but were there to listen. The best words I heard were some of the following:

“I am so sorry this happened to you. How can I best support you?”
“Thank you for sharing your story with me.”
“Thank you for trusting me with your story.”
“I believe you.”

 
Here are a few examples of things you shouldn’t ask (fortunately these were not things asked of me):

“What were you wearing?”
“Why were you out at that time?”
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
“Why did you let this happen?”

 

Telling someone, even your best friend, is a monumentally huge step for a victim. Saying what happened out loud validates what happened and it is traumatic. So, if someone opens up to you do two simple things – listen and don’t judge.

 
You are going to have so many questions for your friend/family member about their assault and it is completely fine to ask those questions as long as they are comfortable talking about it. Sometimes the best thing to do is to let them ramble on. Trust me, once I start talking with a trusted person I can’t stop because I have stuffed feelings inside for so long.

 
Here is the hard part – you will be an active listener and you will want to help fix the problem and support the victim in absolutely any way possible, but it won’t be that easy. While the victim has confided in you, there might not be much else at the time that you can do to help. You can’t ‘fix’ rape.

 

The best advice I can give you is to check in with your friend/family member and ask how they are doing. You might just get an unenthusiastic “I’m Fine”, but you are checking in and showing support. Take them out for a walk or to coffee. Maybe you won’t talk about the assault, maybe you will, but you are showing your support. Don’t be upset if they turn down your offers to go out. Dealing with rape is a very isolating experience. I turned down a lot of social engagements because I just couldn’t handle being out in public. I needed my own space to think. When I was ready to go out and do something I would contact my friends.

 
Know that there are going to be peaks & valleys in their emotions. Don’t take it personally. Recovering from this trauma has no play-book and one day is different from the other. Be kind.

 
The most important thing that you can do for a victim and survivor? LISTEN We just want to be heard.

 

For more tips on supporting survivors, please go to http://www.joyfulheartfoundation.org/6-steps-to-support-a-survivor

Truly,
J.Lynn

 

 

 

I’ve been dreading this post. Why? Because Day 2 was the most intense, scary, surreal day of my life so far. Today is the day that I struggle with the ‘traumaversary’ because I actually remember what happened three years ago. This is a long read.

Dark room. Hazy mind. No clothes. Quilt over me.

Where am I?

I have no clue what time it is when I wake up, but it is dark and I am in an apartment that isn’t my own. I struggle to stay awake, but fall back asleep. Wake up again and am still out of it, but can at least get up and walk around. Was I scared at this point? No. Very confused though. I seriously remember nothing.

Fortunately, I was the only person at this random furnished, yet not lived in apartment.

Where are my clothes? Found them.

Where is my purse & phone? Found them in another room.

Phone is dead and I have no charger. No clue what time it is and can’t call for help.

My purse seems intact & thank goodness I still have my Indiana driver’s license. Now to figure out where I am. I walk to the windows and I can hear traffic, which in the DC area means nothing because there is always traffic, but I at least figure I am near a major road.

Still dark out. Do I start walking in the dark? No, bad idea.

I decided that once the sun started to rise that I would leave. In the meantime I would try to remember as much as I could of the place. This proved difficult because my phone was dead so I couldn’t take photos and I was still really, really hazy and not remembering much. But, I remembered a mattress with no sheets and un ugly quilt. I also remembered some red or pink religious hanging in the living room. Not sure what it was, but I distinctly remembered it.

Sun is rising. Time to leave. Am I scared? No. I’m thirsty and want a phone charger.  I am confident that God will get me out of here.

I know I need to move. I’m told this was around 7am. There is video of me taking the elevator at that time. Where to go? I start walking with no idea where to go.

I need to find one of three things; the police, bus or metro stop, or somewhere that sells water & phone chargers. I kind of walked in circles for awhile because this apartment complex was set back from the main roads.

As I’m walking I’m wondering….where are the police? Do I go and knock on someone’s door randomly and ask for help? Who would believe me? Keep walking….

Somehow I find a bus stop. Not sure where it was going, but I didn’t care. Get me out of here. I get on the bus and feel like everyone is looking at me. They all know I was raped, or they think I’m a whore. That’s all that was going through my head. I curled up in my sweater and tried to figure out my next step.

Fortunately, the bus ended up at a metro station. I stopped and got some water and something to eat and decided that I needed to get back into the city to get my car & get to my doctor. Shit. I really was raped. Breathe…

Rode the Metro into the city and walked to my doctor’s office. I walk up to the front desk and it occurs to me I don’t know what to say. I have to actually say this out loud! I can’t. I’m at a loss for words. Fortunately, the very kind person at the front desk gave me a pad of paper to write down what I was there for. 4 simple letters. Rape. She looks at me and quickly finds a doctor to consult with. Well, they can’t do anything for me because they aren’t set up for it, so I need to go to an ER.  I’m still new enough in town that I have no clue which hospital to go to.

Decide to go find my car. Where in the world is that church again? Found the church and found my car. Time to get home and rest and think about what to do next.

I remember on my drive home that I’m supposed to have a meeting at work right about then. So, I call in saying that I’m not able to make it today.
Work, “Are you okay?”
Me, “Yep, I’m fine.”
Work, “Are you sure?”

I start crying and telling them that I think that I was raped last night and I’m heading home.

Work, “PULL OVER NOW, I’m coming to get you”
Me, “No, I just want to get home. I’m almost home.”
Work, “I’m coming to get you.”

I make it back to my apartment and realize that I have no keys. Crap. Where are my keys? That guy must have them. What to do? I go to the front desk person at my apartment and tell them that I lost my keys and my spare set are in my apartment. Can you please let me in? Got let in and grabbed my spare set of keys and went to get picked up by my friend.

Believe it or not, it took going to two hospitals before I could be seen. The first hospital didn’t have a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). They were very kind though and referred me to another hospital. Ended up at the next hospital and again wrote down what had happened. I swear they looked at me like I was an alien. Told me to go sit down and someone would be with me. Right. It took about three times asking and a new front desk person to finally take me seriously after over an hour and I got swept back to meet with a social worker.

I recounted what happened to the social worker. I had a rough idea of the address and knew the apartment number. They pulled up some maps and asked me if I could identify where I was. After awhile I figured it out, but guess what? The apartment complex is on the edge of the city/county line. Which police department to call? Kind of a big deal. Took a chance and called the county, and fortunately that was the right call.

From there I got sent back to see the SANE nurse. I honestly had no clue what was going on. You see these types of things on SVU or other TV shows, but I’m clueless. Get there and I find out that SANE nurses are angels on earth. So kind and nurturing. I was literally processed from head to toe. They get my basic info, take lots of blood and ask if I want to potentially press charges.

“Ummm….I think so? I don’t know who it was.”

They tell me I can always change my mind and it was at that clarifying moment that I realized, “I was raped! Oh my God!!! Yes, I’m pressing charges. Let’s get on with it.”

I will spare you the details of the exam because they are way too personal, but there are photos of parts of me that I never imagined. A couple hours of exams, treated for 7 STD’s, and having to give them all my clothes and I was at my wits end. I got to wear a drop-dead gorgeous jogging suit home. The nurse gave me this box with all sorts of toiletry items, the jogging suit, a journal, and other helpful information. Again, this hits me that this happened to me. I’m a victim. I can’t wrap my head around that.

In between parts of the exam I met with detectives. I can honestly tell you that the first officer I met with didn’t believe anything I said.

“Did you consent to having sex with this man?”
“I don’t think so…NO I wouldn’t consent to that.”
I knew from then on that I wouldn’t be believed.

The actual detective showed up along with my appointed advocate that would be with me through this whole crazy journey. Lots of questions. Going through every little detail that happened.

“Do you remember what he looks like?”
“Not really. Shorter than me and tan skin. Southeast Asian or Middle-Eastern maybe.”
“What else do you remember?”

I gave a description of the apartment and of the ugly carpet in the hallways of the complex. Guess what? Within an hour I was looking at a photo of that ugly carpet and confirming that that is where I was. They knew this apartment complex well as they are called there quite often. It’s nicknamed Taliban Towers because that is where some of the 9/11 terrorists were suspected of living.

Great. Just great. This is a really bad dream.

After all of this it was time to figure out next steps. I’m sitting in my drop-dead gorgeous jogging suit and ready to go home. Another social worker asked if I had eaten anything today and I realized that I had not. He informed me that all those vaccinations for STD’s would make me sick and got me a large bag of saltine crackers & 7-Up. That man is an angel as well. I ate those crackers like I hadn’t had food in a week.

The detective informs me that I can’t go home.
“What? Why? I want to take a shower & sleep in my own bed.”

He informed me that since we have no clue who this guy is and if he knows where I live that I need to find a safe house for at least the night, if not longer. I was at a loss again. A safe house? Me? I’m in danger? This is an even worse dream.

I was seriously surrounded by angels that day because my friend from work who stayed with me all day at the hospital called some other friends and figured out my safe house for the evening.

We did actually go back to my apartment so I could grab some clothes, toiletries, etc. The detective & advocate walked me into my apartment. The detective proceeded to do a sweep of my place looking for anybody or anything. Scary. Grabbed my things and we were on our way to my safe house.

I was in shock that whole day. I didn’t cry until I realized I had to call somebody to be a safe house. I kept on thinking to myself, “the nurses & detective aren’t going to believe you because you are so calm.” But, that is how I am. Cool, calm, collected (most of the time).

I’ve talked about being surrounded by angels on earth all day; from my friend who took me to the hospital, to the nurses, detectives, social workers, more friends providing support but I know that heavenly angels were watching over me as well. How do I know that? The guy showed back up at the apartment where my rape happened a half hour after I left. What would have happened if I hadn’t fled? I don’t care to know.

RAINN has been a wonderful resource for me through all of this.  I didn’t utilize their resources until later on because I couldn’t wrap my head around what happened.  Here is a link to learn about rape kits and what goes on.  Please know that there is a severe rape kit backlog in many states.  I’m lucky because my kit got tested quickly.  https://www.rainn.org/articles/rape-kit

 

What a perfect day, October 19th, 2014 was turning out to be. Such a glorious fall day. My perfect weather, really. A crisp, sunny fall day in the Nation’s capital. A day where my friends & I had a great, lively walk through the colorful leaves. So full of life that I was almost skipping! Can life get much better than this? Living in a vibrant city, working my dream job & being with amazing friends. I was really on top of the world.

That morning I drove into the city and met up with friends for an uplifting church service where youth talked about their path of faith. We ended the beautiful church service with How Great Thou Art.  So much joy!

Next, it was time to go out for brunch with even more friends. If you know anything about DC, it is that brunch is practically a religion there. So, a group of about 10 of us met up to celebrate a friend being in town while enjoying brunch & sipping on margarita’s. After awhile we decided that it was time to leave and enjoy a beautiful walk to the neighborhood bar. Several of my friends are regulars at this bar, so we knew we would be taken care of. Arrived at the bar after that glorious walk and we decided to get a round of drinks, followed by another one that I paid for. I tried paying with a card, but it was cash only, so had to go and get cash. Came back, got the drinks & passed them out to my friends. A lifting of the glasses, “Cheers!”.

That ‘cheers’ is the last thing I remember from that day. I guess there were a couple more drinks & there was a group photo taken and I’m smiling brightly. Once we all decided to leave, my friends asked if I was okay and I guess I said that I was fine to go home. Besides, I said, “I have lots of work to do yet tonight.” Spoken like a true workaholic. I’m blacked out & I’m still thinking about work.

The last text message I sent was asking a friend what was the name of the church we went too since I parked near there.  The best I can piece together from varying accounts is that I ended up not knowing where I was at and somewhat stumbling around when a man approached me asking if I needed help. I must have said yes, because I faintly remember being in a car with my head leaning against the window. Next, I remember walking on a sidewalk with a man shorter than me and scuffing my shoes. Finally, I remember having my apartment keys out and trying to open a door. We were both laughing.  Guess what? It wasn’t my door or apartment. Not even close.

 

The song I keep on going back to since Day 1:

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