Another young woman's life will never be the same. She will never fully recover.
On Monday, I received an email from one of our reporters who covers crime. He asked if we'd seen a police report about a rape - one that the authorities believed was both serious and legitimate. My stomach sunk immediately. It's taken me the better part of the week to figure out how to articulate my thoughts and feelings of that day. Initial anger, frustration, sadness and sickness are neither helpful, constructive or worthwhile toward advancing the conversations we have about rape, and rape victims. So here we are today.
From the police report we obtained Monday, the limited details were chilling:
A 24 year old woman was in her apartment.
He broke in.
He raped her and forced her to move around her apartment.
He got away.
She did not know who he was.
Let that sink in for a minute. A young woman whose adult life is just beginning was met by a strange man who had broken into her home after 3 a.m. Beyond that terror, she was forcibly raped and to make matters worse - he got away. He still has not been apprehended.
As I typed those details into our news system, I couldn't shake the sickness in my stomach. It radiated through every inch of my body. My skin tingled with an anxious, nervous energy. A feeling that isn't readily translated into words. Electric. A current pulsed through my veins and nerves and try as I might, I couldn't dissolve it into the background.
We don't know if she was sleeping when he broke in. We don't know how he got into her apartment. Those details don't really matter. What does matter is that a piece of that young woman is forever gone. She has been changed.
Having emerged from the other side of the judicial side of rape - my rapist will spend at least the next 82 years of his life in prison without the chance of parole, I empathize with this young woman whose journey is just beginning. Unlike her, I can only begin to imagine the horror she must be feeling not knowing where her assailant is. Not knowing if he will ever be caught.
The facts surrounding rape are alarming. Thanks in part to a groundswell of activists on college campuses and their counterparts radiating throughout communities across the nation, some of the statistics have become more readily known:
- 1 in 5 women women will be the victim of rape or sexual violence in her lifetime.
- 1 in 10 women will be raped, or the victim of attempted rape by an intimate partner. This includes incidents where alcohol and/or drugs are involved.
- In 8 out of 10 cases of rape, the victim knew his or her attacker.
- Rape is the most under-reported crime; 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to police.
- Every 109 seconds, another person experiences sexual assault.
- 6 out of 1,000 rapist never see prison time for their crimes.
While the man who allegedly attacked this young woman in Charlotte is still at large, I have to applaud her bravery in coming forward to police. Even though statistics show that the percentage of false reports of rape is very small, many people harbor doubts when victims emerge from the shadows and tell their stories. It makes it incredibly difficult to come forward, it fills that action with nervousness, self-doubt and fear.
There are a number of reasons rape is a crime that often goes unreported. I can only imagine that in cases where they knew their attackers, victims might feel a need to protect their assailants. It is not anyone's place to judge those feelings, or the thoughts and feelings of ANY victim, but rather it is our duty to hear them. To listen and empathize and support them.
Yes, it's happened again. It keeps happening. Each time it happens to another person, we should all feel that electricity coursing through our veins. Each instance of this violence should devastate us. Until it does, it will keep happening. The next victim could be your daughter, or sister, or friend. It could be you.