by Korinna Sergent
I came to consciousness in the backseat of his truck. I had not placed myself there, I was just there and the sun was rising. I heard Jessie say, “You know she was a virgin, right?” Kyle responded, “Oh, s***. Seriously? If she doesn’t remember anything, just don’t tell her”. As I lay there, motionless and awake, I had never felt emptier in my entire life. I crawled out of the backseat and felt a bulge in the front pocket of my favorite Abercrombie & Fitch jean skirt. Once inside, I reached into my front pocket and found my cotton underwear, big butterfly patch, adoring the back. At the age of 15, my entire life stood still as I held that butterfly in my hand. The tears shook my entire core and in that moment I knew my innocence had been stolen. A piece of me was gone and I wasn’t getting it back.
The letter from the unidentified victim, “Emily Doe” to the Stanford all-star athlete/rapist Brock Turner rang eerily through my spine. My past experience shot back into full scope and it was going viral. My attacker got one month in county jail. Brock was getting six months, maybe four with good behavior. Every single sentence, this woman so bravely read in front of her perpetrator, was similarly not only my story, it was others too. I immediately sent a text to one of my closest girlfriends, in that exact moment, she herself was also looking through her high school papers, to find her own written testimony. There was something about Brock’s “normal, happy-go-lucky face” that set me off. It was the “happy guy rapist” that I just couldn’t deal with again. Yet, out of nowhere, all of my emotions came flooding back.
My rape story is one of the unconscious victim. The story that lies outside of the “rape box” that society loves to hate. I don’t remember what happened to me. I remember sneaking out of Jessie’s house together. I remember talking about my new life in Tennessee with old friends and drinking vodka at a fire pit. I remember kissing Kyle on a trail. I remember falling unconscious out of my chair and nearly into the fire. I remember Zach asking what they should do with me. I remember Kyle carrying my limp body into the nearby work trailer. After all, Kyle was sober. I remember coming into conscious moments and trying to say, “No.” The words were barely there. My body wouldn’t move, I was in a complete paralysis state, unable to stay awake. Later, much like Doe, I would hear that I liked it.
When the case closed, a year later, Kyle was charged with criminal sexual conduct in the 4th degree (force or coercion), and he was sentenced to one month in jail. This is the same sentence that can be handed to someone over expired parking tickets. I was in my fourth month of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy, EMDR, while learning how to cope with my new diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD. Yet, all I could hear were echoes from that town of how I had ruined a charming young man’s football career. Kyle’s general likability and defensive football stats would be used as rhetoric. The sheer fact that I was unconscious was their best defense because, “How would you know?” These were my first realizations that at different parts of your female life, you will mean less than the male sitting across from you.
I became a shell of who I used to be. My self worth was gone. I too was once a “happy-go-lucky athlete.” Yet my volleyball or softball statistics were not a part of the conversation. I quit sports. My artwork became very dark. My night terrors and screams would shake me awake; so, I slept with a night-light. Social situations with males became paralyzing and binge drinking helped me forget why that was. I barely showed up to my sophomore year of high school. I finally decided to take control over what had ruined me. I began disassociating and being promiscuous. This proved to be a dangerous and empowering game that I played with myself for years to follow after the attack. It wasn’t until I had met CM that I even realized what intimacy was supposed to feel like, emotionally.
One day, during my freshman year of college, my sister called me to say that Kyle had died. At the age of 22, he had crashed a single-engine plane into a cornfield, somewhere over Georgia. It wasn’t until then that I had realized why my mother, many years before, had urged me to find in my heart enough peace within myself to verbally forgive him. Through releasing my anger towards him, I have found my soul gentle again. It would take years to feel whole. But, it was a start.
After reading Emily Doe’s testimony of what she has endured over the past year, I was glad to see her forgive Brock, too. The one in three females who are raped in their lifetime, including me and Doe, our stories are not identical to one another. Yet we are bound by our stories given a voice. I can only hope that Doe’s story, in particular, Brock’s lackluster punishment and the people who have formally defended his actions, have finally angered enough people to make a change; to finally serve as a guiding light to end rape culture.
Korinna Sergeant studied psychology and art at East Tennessee University. She works in the community as a professional artist and lives in Greensboro with her long-term boyfriend and their cat.
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