In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens.
I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.
A while ago? Anaxantis asked. Yes, he raped me a while ago. Exactly nine months and two days ago. What's that? Nine months or nine minutes. It's the same. And it is in the past, you say? Then why is it still happening, every day, every time I close my eyes? Every time I hear someone behind me, and I don't know who it is? How is it that I get an almost irresistible urge to kill anyone who happens to touch me unexpectedly? Tell me, Hemarchidas, how do I forgive, let alone forget, something that is still happening, that keeps happening over and over? How? How do I do that?
Here, from her ashes you lay. A broken girl so lost in despondency that you know that even if she does find her way out of this labyrinth in hell, that she will never see, feel, taste, or touch life the same again.
Imagine the message that sent to my sister and me. A cousin violates us, confesses, and walks away with barely a slap on the wrist. I learned at a young age that if I was ever going to see justice for the wrongs done to me, I had to find it myself.
I felt like I needed to comfort both the little girl inside me and my mother, assuring them that neither of them could have prevented the rape. I didn't want my mother to blame herself and I didn't want to blame the little girl inside of me for not speaking up at the age of six.
I now think that was distanced me from Tricia and from the Rape Crisis Center was their use of generalities. I did not want to be one of a group or compared with others. It somehow blindsided my sense that I was going to survive. Tricia prepared me for failure by saying that it would be okay if I failed. She did this by showing me that the odds out there were against me. But what she told me, I didn't want to hear. In the face of dismal statistics regarding arrest, prosecution, and even full recovery for the victim, I saw no choice but to ignore the statistics. I needed what gave me hope, like being assigned a female assistant district attorney, not the news that the number of rape prosecutions in Syracuse for that calendar year had been nil.
Stephanie had been raped, beaten and left for dead on the Atlantic City Boardwalk several times. You'd think she would have hit rock bottom after those experiences. But no. None of that made her quit. It just made her want to use even more drugs, to forget her miserable life. As long as she could get high, she didn't care if she was being raped in a dark alley. At this point in her life, a lethal overdose probably would have felt like her salvation.