Elizabeth’s Story: I Hope Everyone Can Heal From This

Elizabeth’s Story: I Hope Everyone Can Heal From This

I DID Report.Elizabeth

As a victim of a violent crime, similar to the incidents for which former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi now faces criminal charges, I did report to the police and was not able to get justice. I spent eight hours in the hospital getting evidence documented, there was an 18-month “investigation”, and no charges were ever laid. I was told that because I willingly went to my attacker’s apartment, it would be too hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Another issue that the Crown Prosecutor had with my case is that I did not leave his house after the first time he attacked me, despite the fact that he had hidden all of my belongings including my clothes. The physical evidence -fingerprint bruises around my neck, internal tearing, bite marks and scratches – was not enough evidence to prove that there was no consent. I have since learned through the Ghomeshi case that choking is its’ own crime, and comes with a maximum sentence of LIFE IN PRISON. There is no consent for choking. You can not give consent to being choked unconscious – it is always a crime. But somehow consent played a factor in the Crown Prosecutor’s decision not to press charges.

The Process.

I know people hear about how it may be difficult, or re-traumatizing to go to the police or live through the court process. Here I will spell out the part of the process that I am familiar with. If my friends and family were not encouraging me the whole way, I may have quit after each humiliating step.

I went to a police station to report the attack. The officer on duty took my statement, then told me that he – the first of many males I was left alone in a room with after the incident – was not qualified to take my statement. He gave me the phone number for the police dispatch line. I called it, and explained my story over the phone to a male dispatcher. He dispatched a constable to my house, where I gave another full statement. The officer drove me to the hospital, where I shared my story with a triage nurse and an intake nurse. I then spent 8 hours with the Sexual Assault Response Team nurse, where she performed a detailed physical exam, measured and photographed each scrape, bruise, and bite mark. My friend was not allowed in the room with me during the examination. After the exam, a detective came to my hospital room and took a brief statement. Two days later, I spent 3 hours in an interview room giving a statement to the detective and answering all of his questions. In the mean time I had to write out a statement and go to a different police station, with a different male detective, to identify photos of my attacker. About two weeks later my detective called me in again to review my statement, as it was obviously inconsistent with the perpetrator’s. This time I only had to sit with him for two hours, but with each question he asked I could feel my hopes of a trial slipping away.

The Devastation.

Then, radio silence for 17 months. I contacted the detective once every 2-3 months in the beginning, but it became clear to me that it was just a waiting game. I had no choice but to move on with my life. When the call came, I was devastated. I was told that this was a final decision, and that Canada has no process to overturn or appeal a Crown Prosecutor’s decision. I was told that this decision was to protect me from a court case that I may not win, but it felt like my chance at justice was taken away from me and there was nothing I could do about it.

Living With PTSD.

Panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, heart palpitations, hypervigilance, living in fear, you know, just regular PTSD stuff took over my life for a long time. I moved, I had to switch jobs, lost a good chunk of my friends, nearly had to move back in with my parents. Every single aspect of my life changed, and not for the better. I am not the person who walked into that apartment nearly 3 years ago, and I will never be the same. All of these consequences were for me and my family to deal with. And not one single consequence for the man who almost ended my life.

Dating? or Not Dating.

Sometimes I think it’s time to start dating again, and that lightning never strikes the same place twice. But I’m not quite ready to stake my life on that hope yet. Also, how do you explain to a boyfriend that I may flinch every time you touch me for years, or sometimes I still sleep with the light on? Almost 3 years later I still have a lot to figure out.

Change! Finally!

Still, although this has been an incredibly long and painful few months for myself and all survivors of sexual violence, I have seen so much progress. I can hear the tone in the media, and in real conversations, changing from an accusatory “why don’t victims go to the police?” to a real, legitimate cry for understanding: “How can we help you feel comfortable going to the police? How can we ensure that you get justice?”

These conversations – about power and consent and abuse and who is responsible for violent crime and what it’s truly like to fear for your life – are scary and important and we need to keep having them until everyone understands.
Please educate yourself and your loved ones. Remember you are not a judge or jury and our legal system will not crumble if you choose to believe the brave women who come forward with their stories. Remember that one in four North American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime according to sexassault.ca/statistics, so when you tell a rape joke, you are likely making a victim very uncomfortable. Remember that a domestic violence situation gets more dangerous after the victim tries to leave. Remember that domestic and sexual violence are not women’s issues, they are human issues and we need to work together to fix them.

Turning Point.

After everything I have been through, I can still pinpoint the absolute worst part of this whole ordeal. After giving my first statement, the detective was driving me home and he got another call. This call was very similar to the call he got for me. I lost it. I have never been so upset in my whole life, I cried uncontrollably for an hour before he could even get any words out of me. I still tear up every time I think of it. Knowing that what happened to me has happened to other people, and continues to happen, and there is nothing I can do about it, has got to be the most hopeless feeling in the world. Something needs to change, and I am taking action.

I am no longer going to be silent and afraid. I fought very hard for my life almost 3 years ago, and I am still suffering in a lot of ways. I thank my lucky stars that I survived, and if I can ask the universe for one more thing, it is that I can be the 1 in 4 statistic for my sisters.

I want to applaud the brave men and women who have come forward with their stories. They are painful and difficult but so important.

“I hope everyone can heal from this. ” – LIGHTS

 

Read more from Elizabeth in the National Post Article: ‘Why didn’t you go to police?’ Sex assault victims often stay silent because of low conviction rates, experts say”

Author

WYR

WYR

When You're Ready.org is a community for survivors of sexual violence to share their stories.

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