Dear Lizz: Advice to myself on life after an assault

433,648 Americans are sexually assaulted or raped a year.

Lizzy Leung, Editor in Chief

Warning: This is a true story about sexual assault and discusses mature themes and contains some potentially triggering content. 


Dear Lizz,

You’re about to become a statistic. 433,648 Americans are sexually assaulted or raped each year. You’ve heard that statistic, felt for those people, but now you’re going to understand exactly what it means. 

So, it just happened. 

You’re hysterical. You’re not thinking straight. You call the people closest to you and they tell you to go to the cops. You’re not sure.

Go. I won’t lie, it’ll be the one of the hardest, uncomfortable, inconvenient, and invasive things you’ll have to go through. Once you go, you can’t pretend it didn’t happen, you can’t hide. However, if you don’t, the “what-ifs” will eat you alive. 

What if you did nothing and he does it again to someone else? What if he’ll try to find you again? What if you’ll regret not going right away, but then all the evidence is gone? What if, what if, what if…


Good, you went.

The cops show up, you go through all the normal formalities, then they finally ask you to sit down and tell them what happened. This will be like the fifth time you’ve told the story today, but this time you really need to go into detail. Absolutely everything. It’ll be painful. You’ll cry a lot. They’ll look at you with these apologetic, sad eyes. You’ll realize that they’ve heard stories like yours over and over again. They are so nice and comforting. You almost wish you could comfort them too. 

They won’t pressure you to do anything. In fact, they won’t do anything that you don’t want them to. You can choose to walk away. You can choose not to press charges. They walk you through what that process is: you go to the hospital, then that will get analyzed, you’ll make an official statement, the investigation will carry on, maybe it’ll go to the courts, maybe it won’t. You can back out any time you want to. 

Again, I won’t lie to you. The hospital will be one of the most traumatic things to happen to you. 

It’s six long hours. You once again have to tell them what happened, but you need to especially focus on the physical aspects of it. Where he touched you. What he did. Where the evidence might be. Where your injuries are. Then they’ll ask you to take off all of your clothes in the bathroom, so they can collect it. You’ll see yourself in the mirror for the first time since it happened. You’ll cry. Then, they’ll swab every part of you. First, it’ll be all the basic areas. They have been very nice and comforting, but you still feel like a cadaver being studied. Here comes the really awful part. They’ll ask you to sit back into the stirrups and they have to examine that part of you. You don’t have to, but you know that’s where all of the evidence is. They bring out the medieval torture device and they pry you open. It hurts so much, you scream. You’ll bleed for days. Then, for hours, they swab you and take pictures of you. You’ll see parts of yourself you never thought you would and parts of you that you never wanted to see. You’ll cry. 

But, then it’s over.

They have apple juice. They give you eleven antibiotics to make sure you didn’t catch anything and you’re on your way. They give you a huge packet of information to get emotional help and financial help, but you know that there is a hefty hospital bill waiting for you. 

A tip I wish I could have told you before you went home is to take a probiotic. You just took eleven antibiotics. It’ll make you puke, super nauseous, and you won’t be able to sleep. 

Lizz, I wish I could tell you that it gets easier after that. I can’t, I said I wouldn’t lie to you.

You tried to hide it from your parents. You went to the school and asked for help, but by law they have to tell your parents. 

You hate them for that. They just want to help. 

They also want to cover their liabilities. You understand even though you’re still very angry. 

You’ll watch the people you love get hurt because of what happened to you. 

You’ll wish you could take all of their pain away. 

You get angry because you wish they didn’t have any and because they can’t understand what pain you’re going through. 

A couple days pass. 

You’re so confused because your whole life has been uprooted, while the world around you carries on like nothing has happened. 

You make the arrangements you need to, so you have time to heal, but you feel extremely guilty about abandoning the responsibilities and routines you dedicated yourself to. 

Don’t feel guilty. The entire world will still be there when you come back. You don’t really owe anything to it. 

You get a call from the investigator they assigned to you. You schedule your interview. 

A couple of weeks pass. 

Some days you cry. Some days you don’t. Some days it’s all you think about. Some days you forget it happened. 

Certain things will remind you of it. You’ll get flashbacks. You’ll have nightmares. Randomly, you’ll find yourself trapped back in those memories. 

You’re strong. You’re a fighter. You do whatever you need to and you go wherever you need to. 

Don’t feel guilty. 

A couple of months pass. 

You went to your interview. You had to walk through it once again. You were told it’s your word against his and there might be not enough evidence to convict. The DA might not bring it to court. He asks you if you want to walk away. You don’t. 

You’re still struggling. You wish you weren’t.

You wish you could run away and start over. 

Lizz, now we’ve caught up to where you’re at now. 

You’re still angry because you know that this situation didn’t have to happen. Sexual assault and rape is completely unnecessary, there is no justification. None of it was your fault. There was nothing you could have done.

It’s not your fault. 

Going to the police and going to the hospital was so hard, but imagine if it was your children, your sister, your brother, your friends. 

You’d beg them to go.

You’re angry because 433,648 Americans will go through this every year and you have no idea how to stop it.

What you do know is that you’re strong.

Maybe if you share your story, it’ll let somebody know they aren’t alone. 

Maybe it’ll help people understand. 

Maybe it’ll have someone rethink their actions when somebody says no to them. 

It does get better. That’s not a lie. 

Life will go on and you learn to handle it a little more everyday.