FORT MYERS, Fla. – A woman, who said she was raped two years ago, by someone she knew speaks out for the first time.
A rape survivor’s story
To protect the victim’s identity for the purpose of this story we are calling her Amy.
“I was attacked in my own home, by someone I knew, by someone I trusted, while my three kids were sleeping inside,” Amy said. “The scars that rape leaves are very deep. It could be emotional, physical, it’s a very difficult time and it will never go away.”
Amy said each day she tries to move forward but the memories are always with her.
“I struggle a lot with the fact that um, I didn’t fight hard enough. I didn’t kick, I didn’t punch, I didn’t scream loud and the reason for that is because I couldn’t bear the fact that any of my kids would wake up, open the door and see what’s happening. All I was able to do is beg for him to stop and keep telling him please the kids are sleeping in the house, please leave, please leave me alone,” she tearfully explained. “The shock you’re going through in this moment trying to protect your kids because you don’t know what’s going to happen, you don’t what he’s going to do. Everybody reacts differently, I wish I fought harder.”
Speaking out now
Amy chose to speak with Call for Action investigator Lindsey Sablan because she said people need to know the harsh truth about how rape is handled after the crime. Amy reported the crime three days after she said it happened because she was afraid and embarrassed.
“My initial thought was I can’t report this. You know, you go through the blame. You blame yourself. It’s a horrible thing, people will know, how will they look at you? Will they call you a liar? Will they call you a slut?” But Amy said then she talked to a friend who said, “if that happens to your daughter, would you sweep it under the rug and pretend nothing happened the way you’re doing it right now for yourself? And that was the moment when I said no, of course not.”
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), 68-percent of rapes are not reported. When Amy did report what happened to police she said it was not what she expected.
“It’s male dominated institution and it’s a very grey area. I feel there needs to be a different, very specific approach when you, when you talk to rape victims. It’s a very personal, very emotional and stressful time for that victim and they need to understand that,” she explained.
Dr. Laura Streyffeler, who has never met Amy but has worked with rape victims, said Amy is not alone.
“I’ve heard stories like that and the intimidation factor feeling like they’re either being bothered. More often than bothered, I hear that they’re being judged and not believed…I’ve heard sometimes they feel, in a different way, as victimized by the process as by the perpetrator,” Dr. Streyffeler said. “The idea that they’re feeling victimized by them puts a layer that they just don’t expect and a further feeling of hopelessness and helplessness because it’s the people that are supposed to be protecting them that they feel violated by.”
“Do you feel like you got the support you needed from law enforcement?” asked reporter Lindsey Sablan.
“I think there needs to be profound changes in our law enforcement and [the] judicial system, profound changes from top to bottom,” Amy responded. “When you’re going through such a trauma and you have a detective that’s trying to persuade you not to press charges or trying to explain to you that the odds for this to go to a trial are so small and you’re going to go through so much for nothing, it doubts you. You start feeling well maybe you’re right because you’re scared already.”
Although Amy waited three days to report the attack, she said she knew who her attacker was and had the jeans that she said her attacker ripped off her that night. The Lee County Sheriff’s Office would not comment on Amy’s case but in her report the investigating deputy wrote, “the victim was not sexually battered.”
“Who decides that there’s not enough evidence? That’s a question,” said Amy.
Dr. Streyffeler said Amy’s questions are common.
“I’ve been the clinician, victim advocate working with hundreds of women and men who have been violated by different people and have been brave enough to speak up. Somewhere in the legal process, either at a law enforcement or a court level, they either drop the charges or couldn’t press the charges, and to say you were so brave. It’s not saying they don’t believe you. It’s saying there isn’t enough evidence to convict the person.”
Changes need to be made
Dr. Streyffeler said while there may not be enough evidence in some cases, there does need to be training when it comes to responding to cases like Amy’s.
“I think there needs to be education, I think there needs to be compassion, and most importantly I think there needs to be accountability because I’ve worked with victims for years and years talking about pretty re-victimizing behaviors and nothings been done about it,” she said.
WINK News emailed the Lee County Sheriff’s Office twice about this story and asked if there was training for deputies who handled calls like Amy’s. They did not respond in time for this story.
What victims should know
Amy said if there was one thing she wanted other rape victims to know is you should get a rape kit examination immediately and you do not have to press charges. At the time, Amy did not know that and she said no one told her that she could have an exam and not report it to law enforcement. In order to do that, a victim needs to tell the person administering the exam, they do not want to report the crime at that moment.
Each county handles rape kit examinations differently but they are either done at the hospital or at the rape trauma center that serves that county.
If you have been a victim of a sexual assault, call 9-1-1. The rape trauma centers for the counties in our area are listed below.
ACT (Abuse, Counseling and Treatment)-serves Lee, Hendry and Glades counties
24 Hour Crisis Hotline: 1-888-956-7273
Project Help-serves Collier county
24 Hour Crisis Hotline: 239-262-7227
C.A.R.E. (Center for Abuse and Rape Emergencies)-serves Charlotte county
24 Hour Crisis Hotline: 941-627-6000
SPARCC (Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center)-serves DeSoto and Sarasota counties
24 Hour Crisis Hotline: 941-365-1976