On Oct. 6, I was waiting to have a rape kit performed when shocking headlines flashed across the multiple flat-screen televisions in the hospital waiting room: “SENATE CONFIRMS BRETT KAVANAUGH AS SUPREME COURT JUSTICE, 50-48.”
I had already been waiting for hours when I was transferred from my local hospital to one that could administer the Sexual Assault Nurse Evaluation, or SANE. I was tired, cold and wanted to go home. In that moment, I realized just how little our current government cared about me and other sexual assault survivors. The decision to move forward with Kavanaugh’s confirmation essentially told me how little my traumatic experience mattered to those who are in charge of our country.
When I was raped that Thursday night, I was with someone I thought was a friend. He and I watched a movie after studying like usual, and I trusted him enough to be in my dorm room with me while my roommate was at the library. He was in a committed, long-term relationship, and we were good friends. So nothing prepared me for when he pinned me to the bed and took my power away from me.
After hours upon hours of paperwork and waiting, I was finally called up to the medical table. The stress and pain from the past few days felt heavy on my shoulders as I shuffled along to keep up with the nurse.
As she asked for a retelling of the events as I remembered them, I rattled off the most graphic details with little more than a cynical smile. I was, to say the least, unused to exposing something so personal to a complete stranger.
A rape kit, or a Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE) kit, is a thorough forensic analysis to gather evidence and samples after a rape. It can take anywhere from two to five hours and is incredibly invasive. I opted for a Jane Doe report ― a full forensic exam without an immediate criminal investigation charge. The anonymous method of reporting was designed for people who wouldn’t have reported otherwise, or those who weren’t sure if they wanted to press charges just yet.
My SANE nurse asked me routine questions like “Were there drugs or alcohol involved?” and “Did he penetrate you?” I couldn’t really process what had happened to me. I felt clinical, cold and removed from the situation. As she asked for a retelling of the events as I remembered them, I rattled off the most graphic details with little more than a cynical smile. I was, to say the least, not used to exposing something so personal to a complete stranger.
Throughout the physical part of the process, my SANE nurse was incredibly supportive but firm, using her fingers and cotton swabs as she poked and prodded and stretched. She let me know which procedures she was going to do next, which was very reassuring. After drawing eight tubes of dark, thick blood, she withdrew the needle with expert hands and placed some medical tape over the small wound.
She moved to my spread legs, looking at the bruises scattered over my sore skin. She was methodical and meticulous as she spread a blue dye over my labia to check for micro wounds left behind. My eyes smarted as the dye stung, indicating irritation, and the cotton swabs suddenly felt like tiny needles scraping at my skin.
She warned me before she slowly began to insert the speculum, clicking open the lubed-up medical device as she took pictures with a DSLR camera and took various cotton swab samples from the innermost parts of an area I used to consider personal.
I winced in pain and bit back a small cry as the memories from a few hours earlier came flooding back to me. She paused for a moment, monitoring my reaction as I adjusted to the foreign object. I understood in that moment why many people don’t report or get a full forensic exam ― it’s incredibly taxing, both physically and mentally.
She cautiously clicked open the speculum even further. My muscles tensed from the intrusion, and I tried to keep still as she worked. After a few minutes, she withdrew the device and threw it in the trash, and I lay back on the table with relief. The worst of it was over.
She talked to me about music as she cleaned up and taped all the cotton swabs in separate baggies to be kept as evidence. The entire experience was surreal. All I could think of was that the initial procedure was done, but that the trauma from the entire event wasn’t over in the slightest.
The trauma of my experience was exacerbated by the knowledge that someone who had been accused of sexual assault was walking away scot-free.
He would perhaps feel bad about what he did, but he would be going to sleep in his dorm, waking up, going to classes, going to eat, then going back to his dorm and doing homework. Routine, mechanical and normal. For me, the next few months are to be filled with HIV prevention treatment, with side effects like nausea, diarrhea and vomiting ― and follow-ups with more blood tests and speculums.
As for how I’ll cope ― I’m still trying to figure it out. It’s a battle of rationality versus trying not to flinch when someone I don’t know taps me on the shoulder. My dorm room was supposed to be a safe haven but even that was taken away, and I see him every day in classes.
The trauma will follow me for a lifetime, and no amount of therapy will ever be able to make me forget the helplessness and terror I felt in that moment.
And yet, someone like Kavanaugh can deny all allegations against him and simply not face any consequences. The trauma of my experience was exacerbated by the knowledge that someone who had been accused of sexual assault was walking away scot-free.
The fact that Christine Blasey Ford had the bravery and the courage to come out and speak in front of dozens of strangers ― and the world ― about her story should have been unanimously applauded. The fact that it wasn’t says a lot about the characters of all those who dismissed or degraded her testimony.
On Oct. 6, I watched as a room full of people voted to confirm someone accused of sexual assault onto the most prestigious court in the United States, as if my and other survivors’ struggles and trauma didn’t matter.
I sat in that mildly uncomfortable chair, watching ugly triumphant faces as the scrolling text of the verdict infinitely played. No matter what they said to excuse it, their actions spoke far louder. And I was listening.