by Angela Lore
There’s a common saying people use when looking back at a difficult time in their life – “all’s well that ends well.” For me, I find that this expression rings true due to my courage, support from STAR, and my unwavering desire to find out the truth about what happened to me years ago.
It all began in the Fall of 2018 when our political and social atmosphere was ripe with allegations and stories of sexual assault and abuse. The “Me Too” movement had picked up and perpetrators of abuse and harassment were finally being held accountable for their behavior. Watching the news, I saw my most vulnerable secret being played out on TV through another woman’s story and it was painful to watch and hear details that felt too similar. I stood frozen as I knew the words of my most humiliating and degrading experience would turn my now grown-up world into a sea of darkness and confusion.
Though the assault had happened decades earlier, I made the decision to report to law enforcement. Now, as an adult, I felt more like my teenage self when telling the authorities that I couldn’t remember the exact date of my multiple-offender rape, the names of my perpetrators, or the exact location of the assault.
With much determination and a desire to take back my power, I started my own investigation and was able to locate four of those responsible and sent them my victim impact statement. One of the individuals responded right back to me and apologized and acknowledged what happened. I had spent years wondering what had happened to me that night, and suddenly, I found myself back at the scene of my crime. My thoughts were heavy as I envisioned myself at 17 years-old being victimized.
My detective, aware of my grief due to my inability to receive justice due to the rape statute in 1984, encouraged me to reach out to available resources such as STAR, where I was connected with an advocate who provided support and encouragement throughout my healing process.
Reflecting on the effects of the unresolved trauma I experienced in my life, a sense of resolve ensued. Therapy and self-care became imperative as I contemplated whether or not to disclose my assault to those closest to me, including my now-aging parents. I felt honored to be the keynote speaker at STAR’s Champions of Change Gala in November 2019, which recognizes and honors those that shatter the silence of sexual violence. As I spoke to the large crowd on that cold, windy night, I felt the icy grip of fear give way to a sense of empowerment and encouraged thoughts of advocacy and outreach. The veil of shame I had lived under for years was now gone and thoughts of breaking through the stigma that often encompasses sexual assault survivors filled me with determination to help other survivors.
After spending 10 months waiting to hear exactly what my detective would do with my stale, dusty case, I learned this past Fall that my case would finally be considered “cleared by exceptional means.” What this means is that in certain situations, there are things outside of law enforcement’s control that prevent the agency from arresting and formally charging the offender or perpetrators and the agency can close the case exceptionally. After more research, I realized just how validating that was, especially since I essentially solved my own crime. More meaningful, this validation became not just the type of justice I had wanted, but the justice I needed. Wanting to give back, I contemplated how I could make a difference in the lives of others.
Through more research, I learned that there was a nationwide shortage of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE). SANEs are specifically trained nurses who conduct a forensic medical exams for survivors of sexual assault at local hospitals. Already working as a registered nurse, or RN, I began weighing the pros and cons of moving into such a position, grappling with the possibility of subjecting myself to flashbacks and intrusive thoughts, which could negate any milestones in my own healing process. Stumbling across a statistic from RAINN.org where it was reported that an American becomes the victim of sexual violence every 98 seconds, I knew enrolling in the SANE training program was right for me. I believe that those who experience sexual violence deserve timely, compassionate care and my professional and personal experience will prove to be an asset when serving survivors.
My journey of healing has been long and filled with many moving parts. I often had to remind myself that healing is not linear. STAR was there to listen as I explained my need to know who was responsible and know exactly what had happened to me. As I struggled through uncovering the details and of seeing my perpetrator’s faces, they were there to help me manage my flashbacks. They helped me find my voice and reminded me that disclosing, even 35 years later, was important. Knowing just how committed STAR is to serving the needs of survivors and providing on-going education in our communities should give us all a sense of relief.
Learning self-care, positive affirmations, and how to manage my anxiety through STAR has been instrumental in my healing journey. STAR helped me move from victim to survivor to advocate. I believe that my life would have been better served had STAR been alongside me as a young victim. For their support and belief in me, I owe them a debt of gratitude for helping me, at 52 years of age, and beyond.
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