Stop This World

Trying to gracefully go from victim to survivor to servant

Before my assault I always assumed that I knew how I would react if I was ever raped or a victim of a violent crime. Prosecute and let the sucker rot in prison. No holds barred.

 

Prosecuting someone who you don’t know seemed fairly easy to me at the beginning. I didn’t know the guy, had no connection to him, so I didn’t care if he rotted in jail. Little did I know that I would end up caring. A lot.

 

After 1.5 years and 3 detectives, the guy confessed. Detective 3 gave me time to consider my options. Drop the case or move forward with prosecuting. He went through all the reasons why it might be a good idea for me to drop the case and get on with my life. I now knew who the guy was and he confessed. Was that enough for me?

 

Detective 3 reminded me that there is absolutely no guarantee that the Commonwealth will take up the case. Actually, the odds were stacked against me greatly. Just because he is arrested doesn’t  mean it will go to trial.  He also warned me that there is a very real possibility that moving on with prosecuting and going to trial could do worse damage to me mentally than the actual assault. I heard this sentiment echoed by several friends who were in law enforcement.

 

Did I want to risk even more mental damage?
No, but I had come this far. I just didn’t know what to do.

 

I prayed a lot and cried a lot seeking answers. How can I possibly put someone in prison, potentially for the rest of their life, and not feel guilty about ruining his life and his family?
Had he ruined my life? Yes, but being a Christian I forgave him. I didn’t want to inflict harm on another person or his family. It just felt wrong. And this is why I get taken advantage of a lot. I care too much.

 

Again, I thought that the idea of arresting him would be easy. It truly was the hardest decision I have ever made.

 

On a rainy Sunday morning, April 10, 2016 to be exact, I found myself at National Community Church. It was jam packed that day. So packed that I had to sit in the very corner, back chair in the balcony. That was fine though because I just needed to be there and hear the word.

 

The church service went on as normal. Singing, readings, message, prayer. I didn’t know anybody around me at this service. (Thank goodness). When it came time for prayer, the pastor asked us to pray for those around us. Greet our neighbor and ask what you can pray for in their life.

 

**For those of you that know me well, you know that I was raised in a church where you don’t shake hands with each other. You keep to yourself and mind your own business. Nod your head or whisper hello.  No body contact.  So, shaking hands for me is one thing, but telling a stranger my problems and asking them to pray for me is another. My German Lutheran upbringing had me cringing. Hard.**

 

So, the woman next to me asked what I would like her to pray for in my life.

 

Oh boy, here we go…deep breath…

 

“I have to make a decision about sending a person to prison potentially for the rest of his life. I don’t want to ruin his life or his family’s life, but he did something really bad to me. I honestly don’t know what to do.”

 

And then I cried. I cried like all those times before in church and that wonderful woman hugged me and prayed over me. I had never experienced that before. A complete stranger praying over me just blew my mind. I was so thankful.

 

I never saw that woman again, but her understanding and praying helped me find some peace in making my decision.

Later on that evening I was reading the bible for some inspiration and came upon Joshua 1:9, which I have leaned on before.

Strong and Courageous

 

Alright, I’m going to go through with this and put it ALL in God’s hands. Thy will be done.

 

But just to make sure, I thought about it some more (of course). What hit me square in the face was thinking about all the other times in my life that I had let people run over me. I am typically the first one to say “sorry”, or “no problem” if something is wrong, even if is not my fault. I don’t want to make other people feel bad or awkward. I’ll take the brunt of it to keep everyone happy. It’s ‘just’ me, so no worries. Obviously, this is not good and it was time to stand up for myself. I tell friends and family all the time to stand up for themselves. Maybe I needed to follow my own advice.

 
Am I going to let a complete stranger who did an awful thing to me get away with it?

 
No. Absolutely not.

 

So, on an beautiful April day full of cherry blossoms in Washington, DC I got the call from Detective 3. It was such a beautiful day that I got off the Metro (subway) a stop early to take his call and decided to walk rest of the way.

 

I wasn’t expecting this to move quickly, so I figured he was just checking in on me as he typically did.

 

“Do you want me to arrest him?” he asked

 

“Excuse me, what?” I replied

 

“I’ve got all the paperwork filed and everything in order with warrants. If you want to book him on the charges you need to tell me. You can take more time to think, but we can do it whenever you want.”

 

I remember standing there outside the Metro station on this gorgeous day and feeling numb. I had thought long & hard about this. I told him that I had my answer.

 

“Book him,” I replied

 

“Are you sure? Need more time?”

 

“No, I’m sure. I’ve contemplated this for a long time and I’ve decided that we will take this as far as God lets us. I’m tired of being a victim.”

 

“Alright, let me get in touch with his lawyer and I will let you know when he gets booked.”

 

I let out a really, really long sigh.

 

“You alright?”

 

“I think so. I’m wrestling with the reality that I just made the decision to put a man in prison, potentially for the rest of his life. I did that. I potentially am ruining his life and his family’s. I am causing great pain.”

 

“Well, he raped you and has changed the trajectory of your life. He doesn’t get a free pass. What he did is wrong & illegal.”

 

“I know. I just never thought I would be in a situation like this. I know it is the right decision though.”

 

After we ended the call I couldn’t really think straight, or enjoy the beautiful day. I ended up at the nearest Starbucks and I’m sure I looked like a deer in headlights. Ordered my iced tea and called my sister to tell her the news.

 

She could sense that I was freaking out and made sure I was okay.

 

I just couldn’t get over the fact that after all this time, after all this sheer agony & pain that what I had wanted was actually happening. And it was all my decision. Not only is my family destroyed, so is his. I did that. Lots of guilt.

 

That day was a Thursday and Detective 3 gave him until Monday at noon to turn himself in to the courthouse. If he didn’t turn himself in, Detective 3 would come and break down doors to get him.

 

He turned himself in.

 

Then the real circus began.

 

 

6 Months

Hard to believe that it has been almost 6-months ago since I started my blog and started telling my story. I can honestly say that sharing my story has been the best decision I have ever made. There was a lot of risk involved and it was scary, but it has been a helpful story to share. I look at my self-confidence from even 6-months ago and I have come so far. I don’t often pat myself on the back, but I’m pretty darn proud of myself!

 

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I never thought much about this awareness until assault happened to me. Take a look around in your communities, there are probably a few quiet events happening for survivors. 2 years ago I was going to go to an event outside of Washington, DC for survivors. There they had people you could talk to for resources and counseling and they also had a time where you could publicly say that you are a sexual assault survivor. Very empowering moment.  I wanted to go and do this really bad, and even asked a friend to come with me, but I just couldn’t do it. I was still a victim and couldn’t bring myself to publicly say that I was a sexual assault survivor.

 

Resources

I’ve had several people inquire about some helpful resources for dealing with sexual assault & abuse as well as some inspirational materials. Below I will highlight some of my favorite websites. In a future post I will highlight books that have helped me. I’m not being paid to advertise any of these books or websites, but they have been really helpful to me.

 

Once I started therapy to work through my assault and the impending depression, anxiety & PTSD I decided to immerse myself in all the information I could about how to get better. It is strange because there is so much information out there, yet I felt none of it pertained to me because I was in sheer denial that the assault happened.

 

RAINN
www.rainn.org

RAINN is the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the country. They had a lot of resources that I read through and relied on. I really didn’t know how I should be feeling or what I should be doing and the RAINN website helped me greatly. The one thing that I did not utilize was their 24-hour hotline. You can call at any time and talk with a trained professional about where you are at in your journey. I was often tempted to call, especially late at night, but I never did. It was scary for me to talk with a complete stranger over the phone, and for a long time I didn’t want to actually verbalize what I was feeling.

Joyful Heart Foundation
www.joyfulheartfoundation.org

I found this website awhile after my assault and was inspired by their message. Their goal is to help survivors heal and reclaim a sense of joy in their lives.

 
Joyful Heart is an organization that was founded by the actress, Mariska Hargitay, from the popular show Law & Order: Special Victims’ Unit. I used to watch the show and was intrigued by the mystery of the cases, but now I can’t watch it anymore. Hits too close to home and I don’t need more reminders of my assault than I already have.

 
Mariska started this organization in 2004 and they have been gaining traction ever since. They are a huge champion for the rape kit backlog and are working on legislation in each state to help solve this problem. I was ‘lucky’ in that my kit was tested relatively quickly, but I am one of the few across the country. Joyful Heart is working to end the backlog.

 

 

National Sexual Violence Resource Center
www.nsvrc.org

I discovered this website more recently and really appreciate the work they are doing. Their mission is to provide leadership in preventing and responding to sexual violence through collaborating, sharing and creating resources, and promoting research.

 
Since I have an education background, I greatly appreciate all the research they are doing. More & relevant research is needed.

 

SurvJustice
www.survjustice.org

I discovered SurvJustice about a year ago. I wish that I had come across them sooner because they would have been a big help in my case.  They are based out of Washington, DC but are a national organization. SurvJustice is a national not-for-profit organization that increases the prospect of justice for all survivors of sexual violence through effective legal assistance, policy advocacy, and institutional training.

 
What makes me love this organization even more is it is a grass-roots non-profit started by Laura Dunn, who was sexually assaulted in college and decided to take matters into her own hands by becoming an advocate.

 
For those of you who see me on a regular basis you may notice a teal-colored bracelet on my right wrist. The bracelet supports SurvJustice and says ‘Be Brave’. I bought one to remind myself to keep on moving forward and not to be discouraged. I looked at that bracelet a lot in the courtroom the day of sentencing. I wear it almost every day to remind me of bravery in every situation.

 

 

These are some of the most helpful websites that I have and continue to rely on. There is no roadmap for success on being a victim and survivor, but these websites have helped me feel a sense of normalcy and a feeling that I’m not alone.

 
I hope that these websites can help you, or a loved one, in their time of need.

 
Do you have a website that has been helpful to you on your journey? Please let me know!

 
Truly,
J.Lynn

Since my last post, I have struggled a bit with what to write. I want to continue to tell my story and how I have survived, but I also want to move on as well. I still have parts of my story that need to be shared, but I don’t want to be defined by my assault. And quite honestly, I’m finally moving on and letting go. It’s hard to tell the story while moving forward.
I guess it is all a part of learning how to incorporate the assault into your life story. It is a defining moment, but not the end.
I’m working on some really exciting ideas for the future and I can’t wait to share them with you in the months to come!
But for now, I want to share with you a poignant day a year ago. A day where I knew God was calling me further into the furnace. That day was Palm Sunday.

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I started going to a new church in Washington, DC at the beginning of 2017. I had several friends who really liked this newly planted church called Waterfront Church, so I thought that I would give it a try. I immediately loved it! I even went out and bought a new bible to take to church with me. Growing up, we never took a bible along to church. They were typically provided, or verses were printed in the program. So, this was a big deal for me. The last time I had a new bible was the one I received as a gift from my grandparents on my Confirmation day.
Have you ever been in church and you swear that the minister is preaching directly to you? I had felt that way for about 3 months since starting at Waterfront Church. I didn’t know Pastor Zack before I started attending worship, but I swear he had an inside track to my mind. Every week I resonated with the message. Not just like, ‘oh that’s nice’, but the message was in my face basically screaming at me. The message was always right on cue with where I was on my journey, especially during those waiting times for the trial and sentencing.
Of course Palm Sunday is the start of Holy Week in the church. I attended that day prepared to hear the word and to pray for the upcoming week with potential sentencing.

 

Sentencing had been moved back to Good Friday of all days. It was originally set for February, but of course that didn’t happen. At first I was really upset that sentencing would be around the Easter holiday and on Good Friday of all days. But, then the more I thought about it, the more I liked that date for sentencing. It would indeed be a ‘Good Friday’ to get sentencing out of the way and start new again. What a great time to start the resurrection in my life.
A week before Good Friday, I received an e-mail from my attorney. I was hopeful that we would be able to sit down and go over my victim impact statement and get me ready for court and facing my rapist. Well, she had to tell me that they will probably have to extend the sentencing to another date because the judge is out of town.
Excuse me what?!

 

They set up the sentencing with the judge and she won’t even be here? Thanks for letting me know only a week before the date!  They had to know this awhile ago. This is so far beyond unbelievable. (Wow, my chest still tightens up when I think about this. Time for some deep breathing.)
“FINE!”, I grumbled to myself. “Getting overlooked AGAIN. When will this ever stop?”
I called my attorney back and said that I wasn’t happy, but go ahead with it. Nothing I could do to stop it. She was very apologetic because she never had good news for me. She also told me that sentencing might just happen on Good Friday, so be prepared just in case.
I’m so used to being let down at this point that it doesn’t even matter. Why am I always getting the shaft?
I just went and cried…again. So frustrating.
I ended up going for a walk on the Washington, DC Mall. I did that walk a lot since October, 2014. When I needed to calm down and needed a good cry I would walk past some Smithsonian museums and sit at a park bench looking at the Capitol. Then, I would continue my walk and go to the Newseum and check out the daily headlines from each state’s newspaper. Depending upon how upset I was, I would either then go to Starbucks to get something to drink and then walk part of the mall again, or I would walk to my therapist’s office if I couldn’t calm myself down.
That day I went the route of Starbucks. I sat outside and contemplated some more while looking at the wonder that is Washington, DC. I was so upset, but it was also the first time that the thought of ‘you don’t belong here’ ever popped in my mind. I quickly pushed that thought aside because of course I belong in Washington, DC! I’m just getting my mojo back and I want to stay here a long time. (Reflecting back, this really was the beginning of the end. I was not well mentally, spiritually or physically) This thought about moving back to Minnesota would creep into my head more and more, but I didn’t want to go home a failure.

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Back to Palm Sunday at Waterfront Church…
The question Pastor Zack asked that Palm Sunday was, “What should you do when God asks you to take a painful path?”
Dang.
He’s speaking to me again. I better hold on tight.
Now let’s be clear, God had me on an extremely painful path for the past 2.5 years leading up to that Palm Sunday. How could I possibly be asked to take on more pain? I couldn’t take any more.
When I heard Pastor Zack ask that question, I knew right then and there that God was asking me to extend my walk on the painful path and that it was going to get even more painful.
That feeling hurt…badly.
I’m not comparing myself to Jesus & Holy Week in any way, but think about what God asked Jesus to do on Palm Sunday. He knew this week was going to hurt…badly, but Jesus went on with it anyway. Jesus cries, laments & keeps moving forward, doing it all in faith.
I took diligent notes that week at Waterfront, as I did every week, but this time I had this deep, deep heavy feeling that I had never felt before. Sentencing was potentially on Good Friday and that was going to be rough, but then what? What is Jesus going to ask me to endure?
Pastor Zack hit it home that week that God is calling some of us to walk a tough path and that our struggle matters to God. But, we have to walk the path we have been called to.
I really thought that I was going to start hyperventilating at the end of the sermon. What was going to be happening in the days, weeks and months ahead?

 

I sobbed…oh boy did I sob. I thought I had cried in church before, but that was at a different church that was very large. This was a small, intimate church where I knew a few people. Only two people there knew of my story. One was Pastor Zack and the other was a good friend. So, I’m trying to control my sobs after the sermon as they are playing music & praying. All the while trying to stay out of site of my friends who don’t know my struggle. I seriously fell to my knees right there. I didn’t care what anybody else thought. I was being torn apart, but yet told to fight.
Church ended and I pulled myself together, puffy face, red eyes and all. I immediately found my friend who knew about my assault and he gave me a big hug. I cried some more and he made sure that my other friends didn’t see me leaving. I wasn’t ready to share my story yet, especially after that emotional service.

 

After church I turned to one of the verses from the sermon that day, Philippians 4:6-7.  It is a popular passage, but it really struck me differently that day and calmed me down.
Don’t be anxious about anything, but in every situation, through prayer, and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Basically, don’t sit in your selfish anxiety. I need to hear this daily.

 

I listened to that sermon again yesterday. I remembered almost all of it (yeah for note taking) and I didn’t cry. I took notes again and it reaffirmed this past year. It has been a tough year. A year that I never would have imagined last Palm Sunday. But, do you know what? There is peace. The peace that God promised.
It wasn’t until the very end of the sermon that Pastor Zack reinforces that some of us are being called to walk that tough path with God. God’s power is made perfect in weakness.

 

 

When I heard that last part again, I did choke up a little bit. It’s hard not to when you know what you were asked to do and then realizing that you survived.
I’ve made it to another Palm Sunday.
I’m at peace with that part of my life.
I’m still on the painful path, but I’m better equipped. Right now the painful path is leading me through struggles with finding a new job that I am passionate about. It is rough. For someone who was so defined by her career, not having a job is extremely difficult. Is he calling me to go out on my own in a big way? Potentially.

 

I look forward to the walk to see what He calls me to do.
Onward down the path.

 

Blessings to You During Holy Week,

J.Lynn

 

If you are ever in the Washington, DC area make sure to stop by Waterfront Church!  It is an amazing place doing amazing things in the community!  http://www.waterfrontchurchdc.com

 

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Nobody tells you that when you are turned into ashes that there is not a timetable for returning as the Phoenix. Honestly, I thought that I would be further along in my recovery by now. I’m not quite sure what it is that I thought would be happening, but a year ago I was thinking that my life in 2018 would resemble what it was before my assault, which I really enjoyed.
Obviously, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The first photo below is of me heading back to work after my leave of absence a year ago. I was excited to get back to work and be with my work family. I felt that I had made great progress on my PTSD and anxiety. I thought I was ready to ‘get back in the game’. Now when I look at this photo I can see how absolutely exhausted I still was. My soul was depleted. My smile was there, but my eyes were empty.
Sigh…

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Now, compare the above photo to the ones below which were taken last week:

 

I honestly can’t believe the difference! That my friends, is a genuine laugh & smile. I have missed that feeling of joy & confidence for over three years. Y’all this is amazing! (sorry for the southern thing, I was in Dallas last week)

 

What brought about this eruption of joy and confidence? Well, it was a long time coming,  honestly. I’ve been patiently trying to follow God’s plan for my life and you know what? I haven’t been a fan! But, I’m still trying to follow as best I can because I know his plan is better than my own.   Previously, I was a hard-charging person that had to be busy with work to be satisfied and fulfilled. Now, for the past year God has basically told me to rest…a lot. I heard a lot as a kid when I got revved up, “cool your jets.”. I’ve been cooling my jets and my patience has been tried.
Every couple weeks I think, “maybe this will be the breakthrough and I can get on with life”.  Every week goes by and no breakthrough. That was until I re-learned last week that goals take patient and diligent small steps to achieve. My breakthrough is happening in real time. It’s just not happening on my schedule, but God’s schedule. Every day is a little bit better.

 

I have been “getting on with my life”, just not in the traditional way I thought. My soul has been getting filled in ways I never imagined. That empty soul from a year ago is starting to shine again. I’ve been able to take family members to doctor appointments, drive my niece to dance practice, and have coffee with long-lost friends. Those things fill my soul. I am blessed to be able to do all these things and more, now that I am back on the farm. I have phenomenal people in my life and they fill me up with their love.

 

 

Last week, I had the honor of being selected to become a Ziglar Legacy Certified trainer and speaker. I had been thinking about doing this for about nine months and finally bit the bullet. I had had enough of the, “I’ll start living my goals tomorrow” chatter in my brain. I craved personal development and motivation to keep me going on my path of going from victim to survivor to servant.

 

 

At the time I applied for the Ziglar Legacy Certification I didn’t have any real job prospects, so I thought that this would be a good way to potentially jumpstart a training and speaking business. Currently, I’m interviewing for a couple positions that would be wonderful fits for my passions in life, but I know that the time I invested in myself at Ziglar will come in handy no matter what happens in the future.

 

 

I met seventeen other individuals who are passionate about making a difference in other people’s lives. We each have our own stories to share and they are all powerful. I am proud of myself in that I shared my story of sexual assault and survival on our ‘graduation day’. Throughout the week, I really battled with my self-image and self-esteem. We actually went through the trainings that we were coached to present and I had a hard time. Why? I realized that I don’t have any specific goals. How am I going to teach goal setting if I don’t have any goals? I told the group that I felt like a blank canvas ready to be painted on and I didn’t know where to start. So, I’m adopting the Ziglar philosophy of goal setting and striving for a balance in my life between the physical, family, mental, financial, spiritual, career and personal aspects of my life. I have a lot of work to do, but I am excited to get started.
I want to get back to having more focused energy rather than “going with the flow” so much. I used to focus on dreams and goals when I was in college (twenty years ago), but I had abandoned this important habit until last week. I forgot, in the midst of being an adult, that I am an achiever. I enjoy setting goals and I love reaching those goals. Before my training last week, my very lax goals were around how much money I made and where I lived. So, I have started fresh with my goals and am excited to get going.
Can I share with you one of my goals?
I want to publish a book about my experiences over the past few years. This blog has helped me so much, that I would like to have a more formal book that can help people overcome their personal obstacles. I’m hoping to start working on my book this spring, so wish me luck!

 

 

I’m going to bask in this glow of new found happiness for as long as I can. I can’t wait to see where I am in a year and compare that photo with the others!

 

 

For those of you not familiar with Zig Ziglar-

 

 

This song was released at about the time that I decided to move forward with my case in 2016.  It has become my mantra.  Not my will, but His will.

 

 

Two years ago I was facilitating a meeting back in Minnesota over the weekend. It was at a beautiful Northwoods resort that was nice and cozy complete with roaring fire places.  I had the opportunity to meet with women in agriculture and talk with them about their value on their farms and communities. Trying to instill confidence in them that they truly do matter on their farms. Doing that facilitation was good therapy for me because it reminded me that I was of value too. I didn’t feel of value for a very long time. Being raped took that from me. That facilitation was a little glimmer of light.

 

Leading up to this weekend I knew that detective 3 was going to be trying to talk with the guy who assaulted me. He had been trying for a few weeks with no luck, so I wasn’t holding my breath. Detective 3 had to do some creative thinking to get the guy to meet with him, but he succeeded. I’m telling you, God had a hand in getting my case to detective 3. He cared and he wanted answers as much as I did.

 

After the facilitation with the women it was time for dinner and then for a fun group activity. I was having great conversations with the women and noticed that my phone was ringing. I saw that it was detective 3 and excused myself.

 

While walking out of the conference room I felt a combination of nausea, anxiety, grief & hope. My chest was so tight as I answered the phone, pacing in the lobby.

 
For the sake of ease and not messing up all the dialogue below, D=Detective 3 and J=Me

 

D -“Who’s your favorite detective?”
J – “Hmmm…Matlock I think.”
D – “Is Matlock even a detective? I thought he was a lawyer.”
J – “Okay, then Horatio Cane on CSI Miami. I like him.”
D – “You are messed up if you like him.”
J – “Are you my favorite detective?”
D – “I think I might be now. I got the guy to confess.”
J – “WHAT?!”
D – “Yep, I brought him in to talk with me at the station. We talked about something unrelated and then I pushed a photo of you across the table and asked if he knew you.”
J – “No way… what did he say?”
D – “His face fell immediately when he saw your photo. He knew exactly who you were. I asked him if he knew you and he said yes. After a little more pushing I was able to get him to talk. After about four tries at telling the truth, I think we got somewhere close to the truth.”

 

 

At this point, I’m speechless. I’m also trying not to start crying in the lobby of the resort as the women I was working with were passing by. Put on a smiling face and paced some more.

 

D – “He of course says that everything was consensual and that he thought you were having fun.”
J – “FUN???”, I screamed.
D – “I know. I know. He confirmed what you remember. He said that you were stumbling around on the sidewalk outside of his Persian rug store. He offered to help you and take you home. Do you remember any of that?”
J – “Nope”
D – “Well, he said that he tried taking you back to your place but the address that you gave him didn’t exist, so he decided to take you to his vacant condo. He didn’t know what to do with you.”

 
At that moment, my shame kicked into high gear. If I hadn’t been drunk, none of this would have happened. I’m such an idiot, I thought to myself. This is all my fault. He was trying to help me.

 
Detective 3 cut through my thoughts and said, “he knew you were very intoxicated but that you gave no signs of not wanting to do anything sexually.”

 
At this point I’m crying. No more keeping it in. I’m standing outside in below zero weather without a coat so people don’t see me.

 
J – “How can I consent when I’m blacked out?” I asked
D – “You can’t. He knew you were extremely intoxicated. He also said that you passed out on the bed and that you were basically dead.”
I’m speechless at this point.
D – “I told him that this has really messed you up and ruined your life. I asked him if he wanted to apologize to you and that maybe that would be enough for you to not press charges.”

 
Okay

 
D – “I have an apology letter from him that is basically a confession. Do you want me to read it to you?”
J – “No”
D – “He said that he would take a polygraph test and do blood tests, but told him that he didn’t have to do that. And, he never asked for a lawyer. So, I think we got what we need.”
J – “Is he sorry for the assault or sorry that he got caught?”
D – “Probably more of the getting caught.”

 
At this point I’m bursting with excitement because confessed, but I’m also extremely sad to be realizing that everything is true. This really happened.

 
J – “Now what?”
D – “Well, you continue on with your weekend and we’ll talk more when you get back to town. I wanted to let you know the good news so that you didn’t stew about it over the weekend. This is good news for you.”
J – “You are my absolute favorite detective ever!”
D – He laughed and said, “let’s get him booked and to trial before you say that. We’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
J – “I know, but you are my favorite regardless,” I replied.
D – “One last question, he has your apartment keys still. Do you want them back?”
J – “Hell no! Why does he still have them? That is creepy! What am I supposed to do with them now? My locks have been changed. F*ck him!”
D – “Got it. No to the keys.”

 

So, we hung up and I’m sure I looked like a deer in headlights. I went to gather my things from the conference room and told them I had a family emergency and had to go back to my cabin.

 
I called a friend right away and prayed that she would answer. I just couldn’t wrap my head around this yet. She answered the phone and I just started sobbing.

 
“He confessed! The @@@hole confessed to everything! He even wrote me an apology letter. Can you believe that? I knew I was right! I knew it!”

 
We both had a good cry and it was the first time in a year and a half that I felt a little pressure lifted. I wasn’t lying. I didn’t make this up. It wasn’t in my imagination.
I called my parents after that and had the same weeping discussion.
So many emotions; relief, shame, guilt, happiness, shame, guilt, shame, guilt…
Yeah, lots of shame and guilt even though there was a confession that I was indeed passed out.

 

So, that confession was the start of the next chapter. Do I press charges, or is the apology enough? Do I file a criminal case or a civil case or nothing at all?

 
I thought that making up my mind about moving forward would be pretty easy and straight forward. It was neither of these things. That’s a post for a later date. Let’s just say that this good news of the confession turned into my second worst nightmare of being involved in a trial. What wasn’t wrecked of me from the rape soon would be because of the stress of decisions and the trial.

 
Bottom line though, is that at the end of February, 2016 some progress was finally made. I had my first win in a long time. I finally felt some redemption.

-J. Lynn

I had the rare privilege to grow up on a dairy farm. Being raised on a dairy farm influenced every aspect of my life. It gave me the bedrock of hard work, dedication and determination. We worked together as a family to care for these animals that we loved. It was a luxury for me because it meant that not only were my parents close by, but my grandparents were always on the farm too. I loved working with the animals, especially the calves. I would help my mom and my grandma with calf chores when I was young. Honestly, I don’t know how helpful I was!

 

There was one time in the deep, dark part of winter when I was feeding calves with my Grandma. It was cold, snowy & windy and the calves had to be fed their bottles. Grandma was trying to hurry as quick as she could because it was so cold, and there I was probably 5 or 6 years old putzing along. I had a flashlight that I was in charge of using to help my Grandma find everything in the snow. Well, I wasn’t much help as I remember. I wanted to give each calf a ‘candle light dinner’ with the flashlight. How cool would that be? In my little mind this was the best idea ever!

 

Grandma was not impressed. But, the calves got fed that night and every other morning and night following. Dairy farming is a 24-hour a day/ 365 days a year job.

 

One of the other things I was trusted to help with was cleaning out the stalls in our cow barn. Cows make big messes & we had to keep things as clean as we could. So, that meant we had to muck out the individual cow stalls every day and put down new bedding. This was my least favorite job. Boy, I hated that. If I remember correctly, I probably ran off to find a random kitten half way through and left my Grandma to finish the stalls.

 

One thing I learned cleaning stalls was that you really do have to keep up with it daily. Cows produce a lot of ‘stuff’ and things can get deep really quickly if you don’t stay ahead of it. We had a pen where we would keep cows who were getting ready to give birth and that pen always looked nice & soft with fresh, clean straw. Imagine my surprise when I was older and my Dad told me that my job was to pitch out the maternity pen. I went to start pitching it out and realized very quickly that I was in for a long, awful time. We let the ‘stuff’ pile up too long. We kept on laying new straw on top and it sure looked nice, but we never cleaned up the previous mess. Just kept on adding to the pile. I wanted to quit.

 

Transition to around 35 years later and me being at the police station for one of my many visits with the detectives. Detective 1 called me in to look at some new evidence and I was telling him how I was in therapy and it was going well, but now I’m having to deal with other unresolved issues from the past.

 

He knew I grew up on a farm and he had a farm background himself and said, “Going to therapy is like cleaning out a barn. You start pitching the top stuff and then you realize you have a whole lot of smelly ‘stuff’ to deal with that may or may not be related to why you are in therapy. You end up knee-deep in your own ‘stuff’”.

 

Truer words have never been spoken.

 

(I bet you never thought you would read about mental health related to cleaning out cattle barns. Welcome to my world.)

 

After the detective mentioned that, my therapy sessions started making a lot more sense. This was about 6-months after the assault and I was getting in knee deep in all areas of my life.

 

I started therapy about three weeks after my assault. I didn’t know where to start, so I started looking for places that took my insurance. Made an appointment and prayed I got someone good. During my intake session with my therapist she asked all sorts of questions. The main one being, “is there an event that led you here?”

 

I took a deep breath and in a very matter of fact way told her about my rape. I remember I had no emotion when talking about it. This happened and I want to deal with it.

 

“How long do you think this will take?” I asked

 

“Well, everyone is different and some people recover from trauma quickly and others it takes longer,” she replied.

 

“How long then?” I asked

 

“It can be anywhere between a few months to several years or beyond,” She stated.

 

Right then and there I decided that I was going to be healed and moving on with my merry, little life in 3-4 months. I’m an overachiever, so I can do this quickly. I have a life to live.

 

Too bad therapy and dealing with your mental health isn’t like a check list. I mean, it can be if you just want to show up at therapy and put on a front to check the boxes. If you really, really want help and to deal with your demons you have to be honest. Honest with your therapist and honest with yourself. That is when you get knee-deep in the ‘stuff’.

 

I realized after a few sessions that I was going to be in therapy for a long time.

 

So, we started working through things related to my assault. After about 6-months, other things started popping up in my sessions that had to be dealt with. It just wasn’t things from the assault. I was turning 40 that year and watching other friends celebrate their birthdays, planning weddings and having kids was hard. What was I doing for my 40th birthday? Trying to find my rapist and reassure myself that I was of value.

 

I worked a long, hard time on finding by self-worth again. I felt damaged. Alone. What man would ever want to even think of dating me, much less marrying me since I was damaged goods? Maybe I shouldn’t have been so focused on my career and instead been focused on getting married and having a family. I’ve never been focused on my personal life and now it has caught up with me. My career brought me to DC and if I hadn’t been so ambitious then I would never be in this spot. I could be the best darn soccer-mom out there if I wanted and I missed the boat because of my career. Dammit. Game over.

 

We’re about waist deep now and we keep on cleaning things out. It got real deep. It wasn’t pretty. It was hard. I cried. A LOT.

 

I would never be the same as I once was. I was forever changed and I didn’t like it. I would have to carry this with me forever. My life was ruined.

 

Now, I know what your response to this might be, “You are fabulous! So many people love you!”

 

At this point in my trauma journey none of that mattered. I was spiraling down and nobody could really help me except myself. All I heard was that awful sound that the teacher in Charlie Brown cartoons makes. Inaudible noise.

 

That sucks, plain and simple.

 

There is no magic pill or app to download on your phone to cure this. This is all you and YOU have to do the work. You can’t cheat off of a friend’s test to get by. It is all you.

 

So, we continued cleaning out the barn. Over time we got really deep and did some good work cleaning out the ‘stuff’. It has taken years to get to the point that I am at now, but I am glad that I put the work into myself.

 

I now know that I am of value. That I have a life worth living. That this assault does not define me, but is a part of my story. That I am loved.

 

For those of you in the world struggling with trauma, PTSD, depression, and anxiety I hope that you can find the strength in yourself to put in the hard work. You are worth it.

 

Where am I at now with cleaning out the barn? Well, I have a big barn and we’ve taken lots of loads out of there. The barn looks pretty darn good, but it’s not done yet. It’s hard keeping up with all the ‘stuff’. So, right now I’m just going to enjoy the progress that I’ve made and get back to cleaning out rest of the barn in due time. I know that I’m worth it.

 

Prayers to you as you get cleaning,

J.Lynn

The whole USA Gymnastics assault case just keeps on growing. Today, a father of three girls that were abused lunged across the courtroom to try to get to the monster, Larry Nassar. He was subdued by the police and put in holding for a few hours. He apologized and won’t be charged. I can’t imagine the pain and anguish he has because he couldn’t protect his daughters.

 

 

I’ve been close to both of my parents my whole life. Sure, there were always times during my teenage angst years where I didn’t get along with my Mom (sorry about that), but overall we are a close knit family. When I told my parents about my assault I was sick to my stomach. I told them over the phone between Thanksgiving & Christmas in 2014. I wanted to tell them when I was home for Thanksgiving, but just couldn’t do it. I was still in shock because it had only been a month since the assault. But, I knew I needed to tell them. I’m an open book with my family, so I knew that I couldn’t hold it from them for long. I would explode. Fortunately, my sister and brother-in-law were there in person to help tell my parents and try to comfort them.

 

How do you prepare parents for the news that your daughter was assaulted? You don’t. You just go with honesty and grace.

 

I have talked to my parents, mainly my Mom, about the assault several times. I never went into specifics because I just couldn’t do it. Too ashamed and embarrassed. The one thing that I could talk to both of them about was the investigation and pending court case. That was something we could rally around. What was the investigator saying, did the DNA tests come back, do they know who it is?

 

My Mom came with me to my pre-trial court date in the autumn of 2016 and got to watch her daughter on the stand telling in detail what she remembers about the assault and being verbally bullied on cross-examination. No mother should have to go through that. She heard me say things that I have never said before and she found out more information about the assault. The pre-trial got fairly graphic because, well, it was a rape case. I was over being embarrassed by this point and I just wanted to attack the defense attorney. I stayed calm (for the most part) because my Mom was there in the front row.

 

I’m stubborn like my Mom and glared at that defense attorney like I had lasers shooting out of my eyes. We were basically in a staring match. Guess who looked away first? It wasn’t me. I stood my ground with him while the guy who assaulted me sat there hunched over looking at the floor. My attorney told me later on that they had never seen this defense attorney back down before like he did with me. That made me feel good. The fire was coming back.

 

After I got done on the stand I went into a holding room and did my mindfulness breathing.   This quote popped up on my phone right away,

 

“Grace means that all of your mistakes now serve a purpose instead of serving shame” 

 

Beautiful and perfect words.  No more shame.

 

Mom asked if she could get me anything and I told her that I would love a bottle of iced tea or water. Easy enough. She was gone quite a while and I was wondering if something happened to her. She ended up having to search multiple floors to find a vending machine with any drinks in them. Most people would have given up on finding a vending machine, but not my Mom. It was one thing she could do for her daughter.

 

My Mom also came out several times when things got rough. The day I found out that the second detective wanted to close the case and basically didn’t believe me, I was beyond distraught. Who came out the next day? My Mom. I don’t care how old you get, sometimes you just need your Mom around for comfort. She made some of my favorite foods and we just hung out. I didn’t have to pretend that I was okay. I could sleep as much as I wanted and not have to feel bad about it.

 

I’m a Daddy’s girl. Most people who know me realize this fairly quickly. We talk about farming, sports, politics and craft beer. One of my favorite things to do is read the Sunday paper and drink coffee with my Dad. He’s always referring articles to me. For the five years when I wasn’t living in Minnesota he would send random newspaper clippings to me. Sometimes an inspirational quote, sometimes a friend made the news in the agriculture world. One time he sent the book ‘Oh The Places You Will Go’. I always looked forward to those random clippings and books.

 

We are a family that doesn’t talk about emotions much at all. If you are happy, great. If you are sad, you’ll get over it. This too shall pass. Well, the damage done to me from the aftermath of the assault was not passing quietly or quickly. I relied on my Mom to tell my Dad most things about the case. I just couldn’t look my Dad in the eyes and talk about being raped. No way, no how. Let’s just not talk about it and think of good things.

 

So, I was happy and somewhat surprised when my Dad and I were driving back to the farm one night and he said to me, “You know I am your biggest cheerleader, right? I will do absolutely anything that you need me to do. I will come out for sentencing if you want me to.”

 
I told him that I know he is my biggest cheerleader and that he didn’t have to come out for sentencing. He felt guilty about not being in DC for the pre-trial’s and hearings, but I told him not to feel guilty. I honestly didn’t want him there, or at least not in the court room. My Mom in the courtroom is one thing, My Dad a complete other.

 

My Dad is a very mild-mannered man. I’ve seen him mad a total of once in my life.

Once.

So, when he told me in no uncertain terms, “I can’t be in the courtroom because I would end up in jail. I would attack that man and go down swinging. We already have one court case, probably don’t need another.”
I remember laughing a little and saying that is probably a good idea. Let’s get one case under our belts.

 

So, when I saw the Dad lunging at Larry Nassar today I wasn’t surprised. I actually smiled to myself. Good for him, I thought. I think that is what almost all Dad’s would do. Protect their child and go after the predator.

 
I’m not advocating for violence at all, but you go after someone’s daughter, no matter the age, and papa bear is going to come out. I’m in my 40’s and happy that my papa bear & mama bear still have my back. They will always be my parents and I will always be their daughter. We stick together in good times and bad times. We’ve had a lot of bad times the past three years and we have somehow come through pretty well. We have been through hell and back but we are still standing.

 

Tonight, while watching the news my Dad saw the video of the man attacking Larry Nassar for the first time.

I said to my Dad, “See, you could have made the news.”
He shook his head and didn’t say a word.

 

-J.Lynn

 

#stopthisworld #depression #anxiety #sexualassault

The USA Gymnastics scandal has really rocked my mind. The fact that a doctor, none-the-less the team doctor, molested hundreds of young girls and young women is beyond reason. What is even more beyond reason is the fact that the adults who were to be looking out for their best interest knew about the situation and did nothing about. Enablers, everyone of them. Disgusting. The women who came forward and gave an impact statement are courageous and I hope that they feel the same feeling of freedom that I felt after giving my statement.

 
I look back to a mere 7 months ago when I found myself on the stand giving my victim impact statement. I had waited a long time to give that statement and it was one of the most freeing days of my life. I let giving that statement and finding out the sentence for the attacker ruin my life for over 7 months. I thought that once we reached a plea deal that my stress and anxiety would go away, but it did not. Having that looming cloud of facing my attacker again scared me more than I thought it would. I so badly wanted closure, but I couldn’t get it.

 
I wasn’t planning on sharing my impact statement on this blog for awhile yet, but I think it warrants being shared because of everything in the news. Hopefully it gives you some perspective.

 

I didn’t have to write a victim impact statement, but is was encouraged by the detective, advocate, attorney and doctor. It is cathartic. I also didn’t have to read it in court or even be in court for the day of sentencing. My attorney could read it for me if I liked. I decided to write the statement and would determine later if I would read it myself or not. There were only a few days during my darkest times where I didn’t want to read the statement myself. Fortunately, I mustered up the courage and bravery from deep in my soul and read the statement while speaking my truth.

 
To give you a quick run-down of happenings once we were rolling in the justice system. Bear in mind, the assault happened October, 2014.

 
-February, 2016 – Confession given to detective
-April, 2016 – Booked and charged
-June, 2016 – Pre-Trial 1 (delayed)
-October, 2016 – Pre-Trial 2 (faced the attacker & lawyer and testified)
-December, 2016 – Criminal Case Hearing, plea deal agreed upon
-February, 2017 – Sentencing (delayed)
-April, 2017 – Sentencing (delayed)
-June 2017 – Sentencing & reading of impact statement

 

As you can see, this was not a quick process nor was it easy. Excruciatingly slow. Every time my lawyer called I just assumed that the case or sentencing was being delayed again.
The Commonwealth charged the attacker with rape, sodomy and criminal sexual battery. If found guilty of rape and sodomy, he could go away for the rest of his life. Fortunately, we were able to reach a plea deal where he plead guilty to 2 charges of criminal sexual battery. My lawyer wanted to press for more, but I was happy. I just wanted it done.

 

So, on June 29, 2017 I faced the demon(s) I had nightmares about. Two very dear friends were with me the whole time that day. They are saints. I had my sister or parents out other times for pre-trial, the hearing and sentencing times and I told them not to spend the money to come out this time. Our family spent thousands of dollars of airfare coming out for hearings and sentencing that never happened. I told them that I would be home for good in 48 hours after the sentencing, so stay home.

 

 

The day of sentencing I met up with my lawyer to go over a few things and to get any last minute updates. We were waiting outside the courtroom and I had no clue if the attacker had family showing up. We took our seats on the side of the court room and waited. It became quite clear that the attacker had a whole section of family there. Even though he plead guilty to lesser charges, he could still be put away for the rest of his life. Each charge of sexual battery has up to 40 years in sentencing. So, he could have been like Dr. Nassar with USA Gymnastics and never see the light of day again. I did not want that. (that’s a blog post for another time)

 
Before the sentencing started the defense attorney was trying to be all chummy with my attorney. It was fun actually watching her ignore him. He had a scrapbook from the family showing what a wonderful man the defendant is and how his family relies on him. Blah, blah, blah. I think the defendant had around a dozen people with him that we determined were his wife, sons, uncle, nephews and a couple lawyers. I barely looked at them the whole time. I left that to my dear friends who were along. I let them do the glaring. I stared at the floor or looked at my Grandma’s ring for confidence.
The judge wasted no time and I was called up to the stand immediately to give my impact statement.

 

Here we go.
I didn’t look at my attacker once. Not once. Or, at least I don’t remember looking at him. I was told he sat there like he had at the other hearings, hunched over and looking down. He knew he messed up.
Below are some excerpts from my impact statement. They are typically called a victim impact statement, but I look at it as my survivor impact statement.
You don’t know me. I don’t know you, but somehow we both ended up here in this courthouse because of bad decisions. It didn’t have to be this way. I would much rather be living my life without having the label of ‘sexual assault victim’ hanging around my neck. Instead, here we are. Two lives not going according to plan.

 
October 19, 2014 started out being a beautiful fall day going to an uplifting church service followed by brunch and drinks with friends and ended by walking into my own personal nightmare. A nightmare I still haven’t woken up from. October 19, 2014 is a date that forever changed my life. Thankfully, I still don’t remember much of what happened that evening. Of the few memories I do have, the trauma I have endured has made an indelible mark on my psyche. This trauma will be with me for a lifetime.

 
You stated in your initial interview that you thought we were having fun. I can assure you I was not having fun. You also stated that even though I was in a stranger’s place and you tried to have sex with me that at least I was ‘safe’. I was not safe. You tried having sex with me when you stated I was ‘dead’.  What were you going to do the next morning when you returned to the condo? Try to explain what a great time we had and give me a ride home? Try to have sex with me again? Thankfully, I fled on foot a half hour before you arrived.

 
Talking to you in an elevator does not give consent, even if I was smiling and laughing. If you knew anything about my personality you would know that I am friendly, bubbly and smiley to everybody, or at least I used to be. Unfortunately because of this interaction in the elevator, I had to fight tooth and nail for a year to get my case taken seriously. But no matter the circumstances, I did not consent to having sex with you.

 
The majority of the damage to me has been mentally and emotionally. My soul hurts. I have now been diagnosed with severe depression and PTSD. I had been handling my previous mild depression well for several years, but this has sent me into a tailspin. Since the assault it took me almost 18 months to be able to walk down a street without looking all around me to see if someone would hurt me. Since I didn’t know what you looked like until this past year, every dark-haired, tan skinned man I saw sent me into panic. Is it him? Does he recognize me? Am I safe?

 
I have gone through dozens of appointments with therapists to help me cope with my new found reality. Because of my PTSD I went through intense treatment called EMDR which makes you recall the experience and how you felt. Even though I remember very little about the assault itself, my emotions are very strong. Reliving those memories has helped me move on from the trauma, but also made me miss several months of my life. When I wasn’t sleeping from the exhaustion following these intense treatments, I was staring into a black hole willing my brain to heal.

 
I have become closed off from friends. I used to be a very social person and had plans every night of the week. Now, I have a hard time leaving the confines of my apartment by myself, especially at night. I never know when a taxi or Uber ride will send me into a panic attack. The only way I go out is with a group of people, or during daylight. I used to enjoy going for walks on local trails, but now I no longer do that because I fear running into other people. I am deeply distrustful of all male attention. If men outside of work talk to me when I’m by myself, I go into fight or flight mode. What are their intentions? Do they want to hurt me? Did I do something wrong? Because of this assault I have completely shut-off my social life. This is not okay. I used to be an extrovert and loved life. Now, I want to be left alone.

 
I miss my self-confidence. I had arrived at a point in my career that I had dreamed of, but now I am fearful that because of my depression that I won’t be able to do the job to the best of my abilities. Now, I question almost every decision I make. Being in an executive level position requires a great deal of decision making, which I am currently not able to do well. I will gladly go along with someone else’s decision because in my mind my opinion isn’t worth much. I have coasted through life like this for the past 2 years, especially the past year, and it is hard to even recognize who I once was. I feel like I can’t stand up for myself in the simplest of things. I am waiting to get my confidence back.

 
I miss taking care of myself. Most days, it is an accomplishment to get out of bed, shower and brush my teeth. Forget doing my hair or make-up. I don’t want anybody looking at me anyway because of my shame. I almost feel like I’m willing people not to talk to me on the Metro or on the street. Even after over two years the shame is still there.

 
You know what I miss most? I miss my natural smile and my joy for life. Every now and then my natural smile and the twinkle in my eye will return, but it doesn’t happen often anymore. The few friends and coworkers that I have confided in will typically express that they thought something was wrong, but couldn’t put their finger on it until I told them. My joy for life was gone. I am a positive person by nature thank goodness, but being sexually assaulted has almost taken it from me. I still believe that there is good in this life. I need to find my joy and self-esteem again. I long for that day where I feel whole again.

 
I am a career-driven woman and this assault has affected my livelihood. The assault happened after I was living in the DC area for only 11 months. Since then I have slowly watched my career go into a downward spiral until my therapist decided that it was best for me not to work for a period of time.  I could no longer concentrate, make decisions, be a manager, talk with male colleagues, and I have trouble remembering simple things like names and phone numbers. My staff has unfortunately gotten used to me not being able to find my words and they have gotten very good at completing my sentences for me and covering for me in meetings. In addition, I travel more than 50% of the time across the country. When I am traveling by myself, which is most of the time, the anxiety I feel makes it difficult to do my job. Am I being followed? Can I leave my hotel room? Do I talk to strangers in the lobby? I used to enjoy travel, but you have taken that away from me. I also do a great deal of public speaking. Every single time I take the stage I was putting on a complete act that all was well with my life. It wasn’t until my leave of absence that I realized how truly mentally & emotionally exhausted I am. Faking that nothing is wrong is draining.  I crave stability in my career again.

 
I take responsibility for drinking too much that day. However, celebrating a friend being in town should not lead to assault. Since I have no real recollection of meeting you, you say that you found me stumbling around drunk and you were trying to help me. If you wanted to help me you should have found the police station or hospital, not your empty condo. You abused your privilege as I trusted someone to help me get home safely. You took advantage of my helplessness. You took away the trust that I had in the human race. You had choices to make and you made the wrong ones.

 
One of the traumas that I have suffered and didn’t expect is the trauma of being overlooked. My case sat in the Fairfax County system for well over a year before there was any real movement and anyone took me seriously. The fact that I felt like nobody believed me was overly traumatic. Why would someone lie about something like this? The fact that I couldn’t get answers for months on end was deeply disturbing. Finally, my third detective took it upon himself to actually investigate the assault and talk to the defendant. This happened 16 months after the assault. Nobody had talked to him before that time. I felt like I was screaming into an abyss. Nobody was listening and I certainly didn’t feel believed. I was told countless times, ‘well, this looks really bad because of the elevator footage. Well, an elevator ride doesn’t mean consenting to sex. The fact that I had to fight so much to get heard disturbs me. How many other victims are out there that don’t get heard because of pre-conceived notions?

 
Besides turning my world upside down, you have negatively affected my friends & family. I come from a very tight family and the fact that your actions have made them suffer hurts almost more than the actual assault. The phone call that no daughter wants to make and that no parent wants to get is the phone call saying that your daughter has been sexually assaulted. Your actions shook our family to the core, but did not destroy us. We are strong and we will weather this storm.

 
Thankfully, I have a great support system with family and friends who have been with me from the beginning. They keep me grounded and remind me that I need to rest. They know when I need to go and try to be social, or when I just need to be left alone. Someone is always looking out for me. My work family has been with me since day one as well. A group of coworkers rallied around me from the very beginning providing me with a safe house and a place to grieve. My co-workers flexibility with my schedule of countless doctor and therapy appointments is greatly appreciated. The focus since October 20th , 2014 has been on taking care of myself and healing, even if it is at the organizations expense, which it has been.

 
The thing is, I did everything by the book that a rape victim is suggested to do to heal. I sought intense therapy, went to a support group, received acupuncture, attended mindfulness training, took up yoga, worked with the police and I’m still not in a good place. I can’t imagine what it is like for victims who have no support system to lean on. I’m fortunate that I have supportive friends and family and an employer who is empathetic of my situation. I now understand how being assaulted can forever ruin your life.

 
I don’t hate you, Mr. ****. Actually, I forgive you. My Christian faith leads me to forgive you for your actions. I hope that you repent of your sins and know that what you did is wrong. I have spent countless days, weeks and months being more concerned for your well-being than my own, and I don’t even know you. I prayed for you and your family. I prayed that you would be honest and take responsibility for your actions. How could I put someone I didn’t even know in prison? But then I reminded myself that I’m not living in a dream and that you made the decision to assault me. Drinking too much is not a crime. Assault is a crime. You did this to me.

 
I am glad that you agreed to a plea deal. I believe that shows responsibility for your actions. I would ask the court take into consideration my forgiveness of Mr. **** when determining sentencing.

 
I would like to thank the INOVA Fairfax SANE nurses for their tender-loving care during this frightening time. I was in shock and didn’t really realize what was happening to me. I also want to thank Detective *** for believing in me and my case. He realized that enough work hadn’t been done to investigate my claims and took it upon himself to find the truth. To him I am eternally grateful. I am also eternally grateful to my advocate for being with me every step of the way and my attorney for her diligent work.

 
Do you know what else I’m looking forward to? Genuine happiness returning to my life. Not feeling numb anymore. Not feeling like a slave to my assault. I’m looking forward to taking my life back. I want to live with no shame.

 
My joy is only temporarily gone. I refuse to be defined by this assault and I will work my hardest to make sure these feelings are not permanent. I will rise from the ashes of this assault. It is something that I will always carry with me, but it will not define me. I am no longer a victim. I am working hard every day to become a better person and heal. I am now a survivor and nobody can take that from me.

 

 

There were a lot of tears. A lot. Hot, angry tears as I read my statement and some tears of joy as I declared myself a survivor.

 
I thought that I was done with my time on the stand, but the defense had other plans.

 

 

Since the attacker was facing life in prison they tried to poke holes in my impact statement, which I think is awful and should be illegal. I get done spilling my guts & you’re going to cross-examine me?

 

Cruel.

 
I got done reading my statement and tried to gather myself from crying. The defense attorney tried acting concerned,
“Mam, do you need a few minutes to gather yourself? We can take all the time you need.”

 
At this point, I knew that this lawyer was enemy #1. He had one job and one job only. To get a short sentence for the defendant. He went on the attack.

 
I told him that I was fine and let’s start. I wasn’t about to play into his fake sympathy.

 

 

This is where my inner strength came in. I am from a long line of stubborn German & Irish ancestors and that came shining through. I looked the lawyer dead in the eye each time I answered a question. I won’t go into all the questions, but he questioned my integrity, brought up the transcript from my original meeting with the detective and asked me questions that were ultimately thrown out by the judge. I kept my answers as short as I could. Yes, no, maybe. The times that I did say more I ended up getting asked more questions. The judge had to remind the defense lawyer several times that his client had already been prosecuted and agreed to a plea deal. Stop this line of questioning.

 

 

One of the questions that still sticks with me is he asked me about my job. At this point I had been away from work for two months and was moving back to MN with no job prospects. Very scary for me. He proceeded to say something to the effect of “You seem just fine now, I’m sure you will have no trouble finding a new job.” I felt like he was discrediting me and my pain. Your defendant caused my PTSD, depression & anxiety which caused me to not be able to function. Not being assaulted=still having my job.

 

That question still ticks me off.

 

After I got done with his extremely awful questions, I confidently strode away from the stand and back to my loving friends. I had said my piece. It is finished. Now it is in God’s hands. I let out a huge exhale.

 

The defense continued on arguing about evidence in the case and even brought in the creepiest OB/GYN on earth to testify that the SANE nurse did her job wrong and that I wasn’t injured. Then he went on about what a great guy the defendant is and how his family needs him. I guess during this time that the woman we think is the wife was looking at me, and my friends did what they do best. Protect me by glaring back at her with daggers in their eyes.

 

The judge asked the defendant if he had anything to say and it basically amounted to, “this whole thing was a bad idea and I’m sorry.” He didn’t apologize to me necessarily, but I will take what I can get. I think back to something my detective said about the defendant after the initial charges earlier in the year. He isn’t a monster, but he’s also not truthful. He’s slippery and broke the law. He’s sorry he got caught.

 

How did sentencing go?

 

He ended up with 6-months in prison (credit given for time served), 5 years probation and lifetime listed on the sex offenders registry. I was happy. My attorney and several friends and family were upset because they thought he should have spent more time behind bars, but I was at peace with it. Being on probation and the sex offender list were the big things for me. Since he had been in jail for over six months on the day of the sentencing, I’m pretty sure the defendant walked that day. Whatever. I’m done with you. Door closed. It was the first time I felt confident in 3 years.

 

After we were done in the courtroom, I excused myself to the restroom.  I went in there and looked myself in the mirror and realized I was looking at a survivor.  I smiled.  Then, I looked at the necklace I was wearing the day of my assault and that day at sentencing.  I liked the necklace, but every time I wore it all I thought of was waking up with only the necklace on.  I took the necklace off and threw that thing in the garbage.  Done.  Chapter closed.

 

That night, my dear friends joined together for a going away party at a favorite place of mine in DC. The majority of people there didn’t know anything about my assault, or what I had been through that day. That made celebrating all the more sweet. I was celebrating my time in DC with my friends and I was celebrating internally my success. It felt good to toast to a bright future ahead. Today, being back in Minnesota and speaking my truth has helped me heal. The future is bright indeed!

-J.Lynn

Before my assault I really didn’t think anything of the term, self care. If anything I rolled my eyes if I heard people talk about it. It sounded weird. Love yourself! It sounded all fluffy and fake to me.  Sure, I took care of myself. I got pedicures regularly and bought myself flowers to brighten up my home. I took good care of myself.

 

One day at my therapists office in D.C., she mentioned self care. I literally rolled my eyes at her and groaned.

 

“Why are you rolling your eyes?“ she asked.

“I just think it sounds weird to talk about self love/self care. If anything, I feel like I do too many things for myself. I spoil myself rotten! I should think about more people more often. I’m tired of thinking of myself”

 

And right there is one of the reasons I was at therapy. This beast called rape plays with every part of your life and I didn’t feel worthy of good things or being good to myself.

 

She calmly told me that self-care is more than the occasional pedicure. It is a mindset to work on so you can take care of yourself. To love yourself…(cringe). I grew up treating other people way better than I treated myself. I was always my worst enemy. I said some pretty nasty things to myself over the years, and it got worse after the assault. I couldn’t love myself, because quite honestly, I didn’t even like myself at that point.

 

The hardest job I had was being nice to myself. I can lavish gifts and praise on others, but on myself? Absolutely not. Do better. Be better.

 

What I came to realize is that self-care is eating nutritious food. So, not binge eating ice cream, cheese and pasta and drinking lots of wine? No. Really thinking about the food you put in your body. Is it good for you? Will it help you heal?  That is self care. (although a little cheese never hurt anybody!)

 

Self-care is moving your body. Go for a walk, meditate, take up yoga…just move. So, I don’t have to do cross-fit or something crazy like that? No. Do something you like. Not to lose weight, but to be healthy in your mind, body & spirit.

 

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I lived in a beautiful neighborhood in Virginia that is extremely historic. Walking the cobblestone streets became a habit and a way to get me out of my apartment. I would walk, get some coffee at my favorite shop and just be. Observe people. Look outside of yourself. As long as it wasn’t at night I was fine. Walking by myself at night really brought my anxiety out. Also, walking on trails where there were no other people caused me too much anxiety. What if I got kidnapped and nobody knew I was there? This is a very real fear after ending up in a strangers apartment. So, no trails for me. We’ll stick to cobblestone streets, history & coffee.

 

Read a book for pleasure. I love to read and typically have many books going at once, but I lost that zest for reading. If I did read anything it was self-help books and articles on how to survive rape.

 

 

Do something you love. Before I moved away from Minnesota, I baked quite a bit. It was my stress reliever and I could give away the goodies to make people happy. Since I was in DC I never baked. My kitchen was too small and honestly I wasn’t typically home long enough to warrant messing up my kitchen. Work travel does that to you.

 

 

At another therapy session I started talking about my Grandma on my Mom’s side and how I loved baking cookies with her and especially eating them. (Cookie Monster is my favorite character for a reason). I realized after talking about baking cookies with my Grandma that I really missed that and her. So, my therapist suggested that I bake some of Grandma’s chocolate chip cookies. Let me tell you, baking those cookies was one of the best things I’ve done to take care of myself. I felt like my old self! The assault and living in the chaos of DC really caused me to lose my true self.

 

cookies

 

To ease my PTSD I had acupuncture done for about a year. I never thought that having needles poked into my body would be a welcome endeavor, but it seemed to help calm my nerves. Although, it is a little unnerving seeing needles poking out of you!

 

I also took a mindfulness class. This actually helped me the most because it taught me breathing techniques and how to quiet my mind when I get overwhelmed.

 

I reluctantly took up yoga last winter. I just never thought much about it and didn’t understand the meditation. But, when the doctor recommends it you should try it. So, I took a beginner class and after 6 weeks I really enjoyed it. It was a place where I could go at my own pace and focus on my well-being. At the beginning of each class you set your ‘intention’. My intention for the first few months of the year was to ‘do the best you can.’ You don’t have to be the best, win an award, or be impressive. Just do the best you can and that is enough. My mind quieted greatly after I started to do yoga.  I had something to do where I wasn’t judged by others and could relax.

 

For three seasons I loved going to Washington National’s baseball games with some good friends. It was somewhat perplexing to me at first that I would like being in such a large place, with so many people and unexpected noises. What I learned is that the baseball games made me feel safe because I was with trusted friends. Our seats were familiar. The crack of the bat and the cheering was familiar.  The smell of peanuts, hot dogs and beer were familiar.  It was comfortable. It was actually kind of a sanctuary for me because I could have a lot of fun without being on guard.

 

 

I also learned that sleeping is self care. I am a champion sleeper. I have always said that if napping were an Olympic sport that I could contend for a gold medal. When my doctor and therapist told me that I needed to sleep more I couldn’t believe it! I can do that!

 

Here is the thing I didn’t realize though – the brain needs lots of sleep to heal. I would sleep in on the weekends and take naps when I could, but it wasn’t enough. My therapist said that I needed to sleep with no TV or radio playing. Just be quiet and rest. Your brain processes so much when you are sleeping that it doesn’t need the distraction of outside noise. So, I spent a great deal of time resting. I rested so much that I felt lazy, but my soul was exhausted. I’m finally starting to not need so much sleep and feel a little more normal.

 

Now that I’m at home the self care continues. My favorite thing to do this past summer was to get my morning cup of coffee and sit outside on the front porch, read the newspaper and enjoy the view on our farm. That is my happy place. I also love walking on our country road. It has been my favorite thing to do since I was a kid. It took me awhile to go for walks when I moved back. It has always been safe, but there is still that deep, dark fear of walking alone. Still working through that one.  And, I’m still sleeping like a champ.  I think it scares my parents sometimes because I’m sleeping like I did when I was a teenager.

 

So when you hear about self-care and being kind to yourself, take it seriously. Taking care of yourself is not only important for PTSD survivors, but for everyone. Self-care is not selfish. I’ve learned that I need to take care of myself in order to take care of others. Since I enjoy helping people, I need to be healthy, strong & happy.

 

I hope that you will give self care a try!

 

-J.Lynn

Lyrics from country music artist Chris Janson

Believe it or not, I was an advisor at a fraternity for three years. I was hesitant to do this, but am glad that I could work with these young men and help shape their futures even a little bit. Most of the time when I gave a report it was updating them on the latest happenings of the college, scholarship opportunities and internships available. Every now and then though we had to tread into some tough discussions like excessive drinking and sexual assault. Uncomfortable, but necessary discussions. Truth be told, I was not very good at these discussions. I remember what it was like being a college student and didn’t want to bring the fire and brimstone, but also didn’t want to give them a free pass.

 

In the winter, the fraternities and sororities on campus go to winter resorts for a weekend and have a formal event. I was always uneasy with these things because college students+booze+away from home = trouble. How is this any different than students being away from their parents when they are at college? Well, nothing really but this time it would be on my watch as an advisor.

 

One year when I was giving the cautionary don’t drink too much, respect women talk I thought I would really make them think.
“So, gentlemen! Is everyone excited for formal this weekend? Yes, I’m sure you are. I know you guys will have a great time.”
“Quick question – how many of you want to have children some day?”
Majority of the hands shot up
“Good, good…I’m sure you will make great parents. How many of you would love to have a beautiful daughter who is the apple of your eye? Your little girl who you will protect at all costs.
Same amount of hands shot up.
“That is great, guys. Really good. Here’s the deal gentlemen. Those young ladies you are taking to formal next weekend are somebody’s daughter. They have fathers back at home who would be extremely upset if you did anything to their daughter. They want to protect their daughter just like you want to protect your future daughter. So, when you look at your formal date and are thinking some stupid thoughts, I want to think of your future daughter. Got it? Good.”
There were a few groans, but mainly these young men were shocked with what I said. It made sense to them and they really had to think about responsibility and intentions. Mission accomplished.

 

I was once a young college student learning the ways of the world. I really didn’t drink much until I was 21. Seriously. I had my reasons, the first one being I didn’t want to be taken advantage of if I was drunk. Boy would that come back to haunt me later in life.
I went to parties and had lots of fun. I almost always felt safe at these parties. I knew that there were my friends, both female and male, looking out for me and I for them. We abided by the ‘leave no man behind’ mantra at parties. For a long time I was the sober one making sure all my friends in the sorority got back safely. After I turned 21 I started drinking and was always looked after by my friends. There is only one instance I can think of where a guy was being extremely inappropriate to me, and it wasn’t even at a party. My guy friends (who were also friends of his) took action immediately and kept him away from me for a very long time. I’m sure they had a little chat with him too about inappropriate behavior. Twenty years ago you didn’t hear about assault or harassment much. So, I trusted that my friends took care of the situation. Case closed.
I have been blessed with amazing male friends who are good, respectable men. I met most of these friends in college, in the midst of all the drinking. They were all raised well and never once tried to take advantage of me if I was in a compromising situation. If needed, I was taken care of, got home, and they checked on me the next day. These are real men. I respect and admire these men greatly. The world needs more men like this.

 

A new song on country radio stopped me in my tracks this past week. It is a song by Chris Janson called, ‘Drunk Girl’. I was expecting yet another song about some sloppy drunk girl making poor decisions, so imagine my surprise when the song was just the opposite. This song is sung from the perspective of a father telling men to respect his daughter.

Check it out:

 

 

Know what? It’s not just college students who are raped. Since coming forward with my story, I’ve listened to several stories of adults being raped by people who they thought were friends. These women trusted these so-called men and they were taken advantage of. Sometimes drinking was involved, sometimes not. Sometimes they were drugged and remember nothing like me. Regardless, these awful men took advantage of someone they knew and supposedly cared for. It literally is criminal.
And then there are those of us who are raped by complete and total strangers. Some of these people are true monsters and some take advantage of situations. My rapist took advantage of a situation where he thought he was ‘helping’ an obviously drunk woman, but in the end took advantage of the situation.

 
If this guy who saw me stumbling around truly wanted to help me he could have taken me to the police station. I actually mentioned this in my victim impact statement and the defense lawyer had the audacity to ask me if I really meant that.
“You would rather have a record of public intoxication? You don’t think that would have affected your career?”

At this point I’m thinking to myself, “are you serious? Do you know the absolute HELL I’ve been through? There is a special place in hell for you.”

I calmly answered the defense attorney, “I’d be more than willing to take a chance at a charge of public intoxication than the hell that I have been through as a rape victim the past three years.”
That shut him up.
I fully take responsibility for the fact that I drank too much the day of my rape. I was stupid and drank too much. Does that mean I should be raped? Absolutely not. Does that mean I should never go out socially with friends again? Absolutely not.

 

It took me a good year to realize that I was letting my rapist, who I didn’t even know, dictate my life. If I want to go out with friends, I shouldn’t be afraid of that.  My rapist had decisions to make that evening in 2014 and he made the wrong ones, even if he intended to originally help. He was not a man.
The absolute shame that I felt for the last three years about drinking too much and being raped has started to go away. I believed for a very long time that it was totally my fault for being raped. I drank too much and blacked out. All my fault. No way around it.
Thank goodness for my amazing therapists that helped me work through this in realizing that I can take responsibility for drinking too much, but I did not cause the rape to happen. Only one person in the equation can rape someone. Honestly, I still have some shame lingering and probably always will. It’s a tough thing to shake, but I can stand up to it now.

 

So, take a listen to the song by Chris Janson. I hope that it will spur conversations with your friends and family. This stuff needs to be talked about and not joked about. Take the drunk girl home, regardless of her age, and make sure she is safe. Be a man.

-J.Lynn

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