This Is Not the Story I Wanted to Write
This is not the story I was planning to write.
But sometimes the stories we don’t intend to tell are the ones that most need to be shared.
It begins with a typical night out: drinking and dancing at a club. Except the drink a guy handed me was spiked. I have no recollection of the rape but it happened. He knows it, and I know it and now so do you.
The following evening, after invasive tests and the collection of evidence at the hospital, I went to the police station to report the incident. The police woman berated me for having drunk an unsecured drink. She listened to my story and wrote it down in her words. This was my first, of many, misunderstood statements.
Anna, the friend who was with me that evening, claimed in her statement that I looked “fine” and was “acting normal” when I left the club with him. What she neglected to include in her account was that she was drunk when I had left the club. The police felt that our statements clashed, but Anna was reluctant to change hers or to give another. So I went down to the station with the hopes of bettering my first statement, only to be met with yet another illiterate police officer who wrote “shower” instead of “bath” and refused to change it.
During the weeks that followed, I tried to gather as much evidence as I could to build a case. Anna had photographed us at the club – but I was later told that the images would not hold up as an identifier of the rapist. There was also video footage which had been kept at the club. Only the police were allowed to collect it. But they never did.
Despite this, I remained hopeful, especially when the police said there was enough evidence to make an arrest. I knew where the perpetrator lived. He had used my cellular to call Uber so his address was on my phone. Right from the start, I urged the police to follow up with the Uber driver. Two months after the incident, they phoned me and asked if I could get in touch with the driver. Surely the police would have a direct number? Furthermore, so much time had passed it was unlikely he would even remember that night.
SC has been dabbling in creative writing since she was an awkward 16-year-old waxing lyrical about love. After years of teaching creative writing skills to teenagers, she decided to hone in on her own and completed an honours degree. She hopes to write a memoir in the not-too-distant future.
Then came the evening of the arrest. I was to drive, with an ex-police officer, and identify the suspect so they could arrest him. It felt like one of the police investigation shows I so enjoy watching, except on this episode I was the “victim”. We sat in the car and waited… and waited for the rape investigation unit to arrive. I tried to breathe into my fear… the fear of seeing the perpetrator, the fear of him seeing me.
Four police vehicles and eight officers descended on his residence. When the gate opened, my lungs closed and my right leg started shaking uncontrollably. I dug my hand into the passenger seat until it cramped. The investigating officer assigned to my case came over. He wanted me to get out of the car and face the suspect for an accurate identification. Impossible.
Then I saw him standing on the porch, with his distinctive blonde mop of hair, wearing green track pants. Before he got into the unmarked police vehicle in front of us, he casually lit a cigarette.
It was surreal. I was only a few feet away from the perpetrator and a few more feet away from where he had raped me.
The next day, I gave another statement, detailing his appearance. The investigating officer said, “You’re making this very difficult for us. You were supposed to get out of the car last night.”
At the advice of my therapist, I wrote my story from beginning to tenuous end. Was it detailed enough? I wondered. Accurate? Would I be able to defend it in court?
The perpetrator was kept in a holding cell overnight, and after he was released I met with the magistrate who advised that the “first report” needed to be taken. This report had to be given by a friend at work, Tumi, who was the first person to whom I had relayed the events. I urged her to return the call and go to the police station. I even offered to go with her. She did neither.
Anna was asked to see the magistrate too so that she could corroborate all versions of the story. She later told me she was waiting for the police to call her back. And they never did.
All of this needed to happen before the magistrate could decide whether to proceed with the case. A few weeks later, I got the call from the magistrate to say that the case had been dropped. There was not enough evidence. It felt like a double betrayal: the police and the legal system, and the two friends I had trusted the most.
This is not the story I wanted to write, but it is MY story. Mine.
The process of seeking justice, though harrowing, was also strangely healing. And while my case never got to court, I fought with all of my might. In the midst of deep-seated fear, I found my resilience. And of that, I am proud.
Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.
During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.
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Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler
At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.
Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough
A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler
In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.