Continuing on with the “advice” (ish) section since I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m not a lawyer, officer, or doctor… So, not really advice, but the only real pieces of wisdom or knowledge I have that I think might maybe be worth passing on…
I feel like I had two different ideas (“just get out alive” and “you can’t be responsible for anything he does in the future, if you couldn’t get him published for what he did to you”), and they kind of amalgamated into this one idea/one post, because I sort of think they go hand in hand…
I did some advice posts on what I’ve learned throughout this ordeal, and if I knew what I knew now, what are potentially better ways to have some hope of justice afterward e.g. (trying to preserve evidence better, not giving him the benefit of the doubt (reporting him first instead of talking to him without any law enforcement present to be like, “did you hear me? Was I clear?”, etc).
Hopefully, I’ll never get into this type of situation again. (And I have learned a lot of tools in therapy that make me think I’m at least less likely to be in a situation like this with someone I know again. I think I can better recognize warning signs and might be able to remove myself from the situation early enough if anything like this happens again. (Maybe! I also know these situations sneak up on you sometimes really fast. So, i also don’t think I’m immune.)
But the one thing I think is really important to make very clear in any of these advice posts is that the number one goal is to get out of there alive.
That’s something we went over in group therapy a lot. A lot of the other survivors I met go around and around in their heads, thinking they could’ve or should’ve done more – they should’ve fought harder or screamed louder… But the running thread is that everyone was scared. And we didn’t 100% know what to do.
And the thing the group therapists told us over and over again was that the main objective was to get out alive. And we did that.
It still sucks that it happened. It still sucks to have PTSD. But as much of an uphill battle sit is to heal from that… an alive person maybe can heal. And a dead person can’t.
I’m not saying don’t fight. Sure, fight! Scream. Do whatever you want to do. It’s all up to you and your judgement of what’s best in the moment. But the most important thing is that you leave alive.
There are some of us who worry if we didn’t do the “right” thing and if we didn’t get “justice,” that our perpetrator might harm someone else in the future. For me, that has been one of my biggest fears. It hasn’t all just been about “justice” for the justice sake of it… It’s also, for me, been about knowing that he assaulted at least one other girl before me… knowing it’s a pattern… knowing it’s a reasonable thought to think it very sadly might happen to someone else… and being incapable to stop it.
I worry about having another women’s struggle on my conscience. It is exceptionally hard to think if I had done things “right,” maybe he’d be a registered sex offender. Maybe she could be warned. Maybe he’d never meet her if he was in jail. And on and on.
But alas, I didn’t go to the authorities soon enough. I didn’t work to preserve any evidence. (I showered immediately.) I wasn’t thinking about the long term effects of anything. I was just thinking about how to get through every next moment.
And I feel a sense of guilt in that – believing he might hurt someone else.
And it’s been one of the hardest things to let go. But I think at some point, I just have to say, “I did everything I could when I could.” I did go to the police. I went to a lawyer. I told the guy himself what he did was wrong and he should never do it to another woman. I cannot be responsible for the lives of women he might hurt.
That hurts to type because I do feel a little responsible – like somehow in knowing the truth about him, I should be able to stop it. But I can’t. And I just have to hope that he doesn’t hurt anyone else and that if he does, they can get help like I did.
I haven’t been able to fully let the burden go about women he might hurt. But my advice I’m trying to give to myself is that I am not responsible for them. I can’t be. I did what I can. I can help the world in other ways. But I can’t be responsible for his future actions…
Which leads me back to my original point.
Your job is to get out of there alive – to save yourself – whatever that means. That might mean being quiet and still. That might mean fighting back. But in that moment, your responsibility is fully to yourself. And while it might suck to feel like you weren’t a victim in the “right way” – that people may questions your actions because they “would’ve done it differently!” or somehow known exactly what to do (as they may think or say to you), remember that you were still a victim and there is no “right way” to be that. Someone did something terribly wrong to you. And you deal with that the best way you can.
Your one and simple pure job if this terrible thing happens to you is merely to get. out. alive.
And if you did that, well, then you still have a life to live. There is always hope while there is a life to live. And you did that. You got out alive. You did your job. You did it. You did it!