making a police report about my sexual assault
content warning: SEXUAL ASSAULT/RAPE
It was a warm summer night and I was sitting on my porch wearing a black wrap dress that hit right above my ankles. They always ask what a girl was wearing when she got raped, but they never console her for the outfit that’s forever ruined, tainted, permanently unwearable.
I felt beautiful that night, at home in my ample bosom and glimmering paleness. When I think about it, that was my first mistake. How dare I have the nerve to feel pretty, to feel good about myself?
A trio of kiddos rolled by my house. A little girl with only half her teeth in her mouth grinned at me in front of a sign that read cherries, $5 .
Can I buy one cherry for a quarter?
You can just have some, I laughed, smiling at this child and the pair of little boys beside her. I filled their hands with plastic baggies of fruit and sent them on their way. It was wholesome. It was like I was part of a community.
So I sat quietly on my porch with a bowl of cherries, picking out leaves and fruit the worms had already snacked on. My house is more than a century old, and its cherry tree must be nearly that. Each summer, she is abundant, her limbs hanging heavy with fruit.
While I was at work that day, one of the tree’s branches had snapped from its weight, falling dejected on the ground. I guess that was a sign.
When he walked by the first time, I glanced up. I watched him walk to the convenience store a block away from my house. He strolled back by a few minutes later, a case of Coors Light balanced on his shoulder. He was a man who looked like he belonged in my small town, clean cut and conservative, about 30. I did not feel afraid, but I was a little confused when he stopped at my gate.
Hey, are you selling cherries? Can I buy some?
I agreed, but he didn’t have any cash on him. I told him that he could just have the cherries. That he didn’t need to give me anything. That he could just walk away with the sweetness, free of charge.
I wish a pint of cherries had been the price I paid for making this man’s acquaintance. But he insisted. He really wanted to pay me. He walked back to the store to get money, but cash back wasn’t an option. When he asked what he could buy me from the store as payment, I begged him to just take the cherries. I insisted.
I really don’t need anything from the store.
But finally, I agreed to let him buy me a bag of ice. A cold drink after work sounded nice, and it was the easiest way to escape the interaction. He returned quickly. We chatted a bit. He was friendly, he’d grown up in the house next door, ran wild through my yard twenty years ago. Soon, the man asked me a question.
So, what do you want ice for?
For drinks, I laughed, as if it was obvious.
What kind of drinks?
So, maybe we should just sit down and drink together for awhile, he suggested, opening a beer.
I am still learning to listen to my moments of hesitation. But that night, I ignored my apprehension. We went inside together, stood on opposite sides of my kitchen, drinking and chatting about the too-little town we’d both been raised in.
It seemed like I was connecting to the people existing around me. It seemed like I had made a new friend. It seemed like we were having a good time. I poured gin and blueberry kombucha over melting ice as the man in my kitchen wondered how we’d never met before.
If only we had never met at all.
Conversation flowed and we meandered into my living room. I curled into the corner of my couch as he sat wide legged on the ottoman.
Do you smoke pot? Of course you do, he chuckled, looking at me. He teased me about my leg hair as he picked up a book about feminism and looked around the little library where he’d found himself sitting.
I lit a bowl as he told me about the sad parts, the bad parts, the worst parts of his life. From across the couch, I tried to channel him healing and peace. I tried to take his pain and put it back into the earth. I wanted to give him the space to be alive, but he didn’t believe I deserved space at all.
The tone shifted with haste as the man’s phone buzzed. He told me had exchanged numbers with a cute blonde bartender at the local watering hole. She was getting off soon, wanted to come over to his house to hook up. His enthusiasm for the situation had since dissipated.
Clearly, I thought, he sees me as a friend if he is telling me this. The girl started calling him, sending him messages, telling him she’d arrived at his house. My front door was open. I told him to leave when he said he had to go. But he wanted to stay, and he was the kind of man willing to take anything he wanted, prepared to get his way.
I still don’t really know why, but I agreed to go home with him to get rid of this girl. I listened to him tell her on the phone that I was his sister. I got in my car and drove us to his house. I went inside and talked to the bartender across the kitchen island, who seemed to think I was bringing my blasted brother home.
When she left, my conversation with the man rekindled. We talked about growing up, about our town. We stood in the kitchen listening to the music that played on the radio when we were kids.
For the first time all night, he stepped towards me and offered his hand. I thought there was no harm in a dance. The music played and I remembered how my lover had gently taught me to step with him in my living room, to follow his feet across the floor, his hand firm and sure on my back. This seemed fun, but it lacked that intensity, the man’s hand placed casually in mine as we whirled in the Saturday night.
I was enjoying myself until he said something that upset me. I couldn’t tell you what it was. I went outside to get some air, said hello to the skittish, mangy cat who had made a home of the man’s backyard. Suddenly, I fell on the ground. I was dizzy. I couldn’t get up.
He came out of the house and offered his hand.
Come on, sweetheart, he coaxed. You need to go lay down.
When he led me to his couch and covered me up, I felt secure. He left me alone to sleep, didn’t try to touch me or place my body near his. The sofa was soft and I sunk into the corner, slipped away as darkness consumed me.
A few hours later, I came to, jarred by a foreign object in my mouth. When I realized it was the man’s pulsing flesh pressed against my tongue, I started to panic.
It wasn’t even like this.
I felt terrified as everything went black.
There’s a gap in my memory, a gaping trench. Not a blur, but a blotting out that obscures all facts, all truth. I will never read the words underneath.
Disoriented, I woke up the next morning. I wasn’t on the couch where I had fallen asleep. No, I was lying in the man’s bed, still and dead and confused on the edge of the mattress. My wrap dress lay untied, the fabric framing my naked hips. He snored, twitched a little.
The panic returned. I knotted my dress around my body, found my phone, slipped on my sandals, and drove straight to work in the same clothes I wore yesterday.
What had even happened to me?
I will never know what did or didn’t happen that night. I can only be certain that I was dead asleep and a penis was shoved into my mouth. But by my lunch break, I had decided to go to Safeway. I spent $70 on Plan B because Planned Parenthood isn’t open on Sunday.
I felt angry. I was violated and I was the one who had to pay the price for my violator’s actions. I was the one who had to stand in front of the kind pharmacist as my credit card got declined and he gently told me to make sure to pair food with emergency contraception. I was the recipient of all the punishment, all the pain.
I sat in the parking lot, wondering what happened to me the night before and feeling grateful I couldn’t remember at all.
I didn’t want to tell the police. Their model is not one I support or believe in. Their approach to sexual assault is not trauma informed. Their organizational ethics and standards are deeply questionable.
But I was convinced to report anyway. I don’t yet know whether it was the right thing. I have no idea at all.
I wanted to tell my story to a female officer, but my county only had three. The man on the phone was audibly irritated at my unwillingness to speak to him, but eventually he agreed that a woman would call me back.
When she interviewed me a few days later, it was over the phone. I sat like a pretzel in the center of a huge bed. My friend and her girlfriend held the space for me to recount the night’s events to the officer.
I told her the truth. She asked me questions. I felt like I was the suspect in a crime I was reporting. I felt like I was living the whole night over again. But this time, none of it seemed fun.
Throughout the conversation, the officer provided irksome reminders that it was unreasonable for me to insist on speaking to a non-male officer.
Not all men are bad, she assured me over the phone as I finished telling her about the assault.
And next time, make sure you get a rape kit.
At the end of the call, she paused.
His charges will be Rape I and Sodomy I. But as a woman, she said, I just want to tell you not to get your hopes up.
But I was just hoping she believed me.