I called the number to HOPE Works VT trying to get some help. I was raped which left me with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I made a call to the hotline one evening because I needed someone to talk to. I was having flashbacks, needed help; I needed support, just someone to talk.
The person at the other line was really kind. I told her how I was feeling and how I was doing.
Several days later the legal advocate called me to explain my options. She listened to me greatly as I expressed my concerns for choosing to go forward and answered all questions that I had.
My rape case did make the news and it did not surprise me when residents in Burlington brought up my rape case. Many in the community or elsewhere that might have heard about the rape started commenting on HOPE Works’ Facebook page. Were they aware of my case? Are they helping me? Are women safe walking alone in Burlington? HOPE Works quietly deleted those comments without answering most. Their lack of response only cause backlash. It was concluded by the staff at HOPE Works that my rape “is an interesting topic” but let not take away from talking about other rapes.
I have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I suffer from anxiety. I have nightmares every single time that I sleep. I am always on guard. Even though logically I know that my rapist is not in the same town or even the same state as me it does not stop me from still feeling unsafe that he could be around the block when the corner or makes me turn around ever so often to make sure that I am safe. Most days I am afraid to even leave my house. Rape has turned me from always having a smile on my face to constantly having tears rolling down my eyes. When I read that my rape was nothing more than an interesting topic it felt like a knife went right through my heart.
I spoke to the Executive Director of Hope Works; Cathleen Wilson that I think was trying to understand why saying that my rape was nothing more than an interesting topic might be hurtful to me. We agreed that I need to speak to Erin McDonnell the Advocacy Services Coordinator who was the one that made the comment to tell me why she said what she said and if she felt it was inappropriate to say an apology (I am not going to force an apology out of anybody. It has to come from the heart). She agreed that she would talk to Erin and we left it at that.
Weeks passed by without a follow up. I have to remind myself everyday that my rape was horrible, it was not my fault and of course it is more than an interesting topic. Even when I went to my counselor I felt guilt of talking about my rape wondering if my counselor really cared. I thought of hurting myself (I am not going to), the comment continued into my head. If a group of frat guys that are not trained to help survivors would have said that comment I would have been able to shrug it off and ignore it. However, since a rape counselor said it in public forum it made the pain all so much deeper. If a rape crisis organization can’t be there for me then who is?
This morning I swallow my pride, made myself publicly know as “the rape victim” and posted on Facebook that I have not heard from Erin McDonnell and that I was still hurt by the comment. Their response? Block me from Facebook and delete my comment.
How could they have handled it better? Even though I understand that what I tell them is confidential what is not confidential is the information that reporters were able to gather and made public. As long as they only talked about what was in the papers they could have re-assured the concern citizens that them and their daughters were safe while also showing that my rape case is more than just an interesting topic but should not be spoken about.
Rape is a serious offense. It is more than just an interesting topic but not allowed to be spoken about. For far too long rape survivors has been silenced to keep quiet. Rape has become a taboo topic. This is causing survivors to be re-traumatized when they finally get the courage to speak up and speak out.
We need to encourage survivors of rape to share their stories and not block them from posting on a Facebook page (or ban them from speaking about rape where they feel most comfortable) when they do come forward with saying that they have been raped, that they need help and the victim-blaming comment that was said does indeed hurt. If my comment needed to be removed that is understandable. What is not understandable is why I was blocked from the page instead of being sent a message saying something like “sorry that we had to remove your post. This is the link to the survivor stories section of the website. If you want to share your story perhaps this would be a more productive manner.” I am the rape victim. I am wrong for reporting the rape and coming forward to say that I am the woman that they felt that my rape was not important enough to be spoken about.
My rape is more than just an interesting topic that should be dismissed. It was a vicious crime done to me. I hope that H.OPE Works can see how it did affect me and understand that trying to silence a survivor is not the way to bring empowerment to the survivor community.