I was given an "Award" for being raped.
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On the morning of June, 14th 2015 I was raped at Goodale Park in Columbus, Ohio. It’s one of the most popular parks in the city and one of the oldest parks in the U.S. The park is surrounded by the Arena District and also by Victorian Village which contains a cluster of homes.
I woke up right at the entrance of Goodale Park. Not knowing how I got there, covered in dirt from head to toe, with my pants and underwear down to my ankles, bra half way off, and in the worst pain of my life. It hurt to even move. I went into complete shock and ran to my friend’s house who I had remembered only lived a few blocks away with tears just streaming down my face.
I was taken to the hospital and put into a big cold room where I had to sit and wait for a detective and the police to come and scold me with questions. I’ll never forget how flat lined and unsympathetic the detective was. After the questioning I was asked to go into another room with two other women where I was stripped completely naked. I was probed multiple times, I was given shots to prevent pregnancy and any diseases, pills, a camera pointed at literally every inch of my body, legs spread and all. They kept all of my clothes including the only bra I had owned at that time and replaced them with a t-shirt, a sports bra and sweats. I walked back to my room with my head down, feeling empty inside. Still covered in dirt, leaving trails of mulch behind me.
After that I was given a giant packet of paper work that included helpful resources for victims, such as myself. And the detective said he would be in touch and gave me his business card. I then tracked dirt all in my friend’s car on the way home.. I was never asked if I wanted to take a shower at the hospital.
I ended up filling out some of that paper work (not really knowing what I was filling out). All while I was waiting to hear from the detective. Two months pass by and still nothing. He never answered my phone calls, nor responded to my voicemails. It took me reaching out to a local news channel to get help. They were able to get in contact with a public information officer who said “the investigation is open, we are looking into it.” During that two month period, I had lost my part-time job, my full-time job and then even the car that I was leasing. I fell apart. I was extremely depressed and it just felt as if the universe was against me.
Three months pass by and my detective finally gives me a call and says:
"I’m sorry to tell you but we found DNA on your underwear however his DNA is not in the system. So your case will stay inactive." It was literally a 2 minute phone call.
I still do not know who raped me...
But after the detective decided to finally call me, I had realized that I needed to pick myself back up from the dirt that I was left in, that day on June 14th. Because no one else was going to do it for me. I knew I had to get through my own storm to see the sun again.
2 years later...
On February 25th 2017 I get a packet in the mail from the Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine giving me an "Award" for $80.00.
My jaw dropped. My heart sank to the very pit of my stomach as it was racing with anger. I felt like I was just hit by a moving car.
In that packet the word “award” was used 17 different times. The word “award” is defined TO ME as - A prize or other mark of recognition given in honor of an achievement. All I could hear was “here’s an award for being raped two years ago.” We all have different reactions to certain words. And this is degrading. It is upsetting. It is hurtful. It is disturbing. It is triggering. It is all of the above. I refuse to accept an “$80.00 rape award.”
This packet does not allow victims to believe there's an opportunity for justice. It lacks compassion. It lacks support.
30% of sexual assault victims do not report the crime to local law enforcement. From the intense questioning with harsh language to the lack of communication, the criminal justice system enables rape culture. After reading the letter, I realized had I not received counseling to utilize coping skills, this would have been catastrophic. As such, I propose to remove the word “award” from any letter addressing sexual and physical assault. In doing so, this would increase the reporting percentage, build confidence in the criminal justice system, and help victims move on.
The Ohio Attorney General's Office said "it's how it's been written." According to Channel 10TV News in which my interview about this aired on 3/20/2017.
In a statement to 10TV, AGO Spokesman Dan Tierney says: "While we find it regrettable that the claimant interpreted the language as celebratory, it is the statutorily required language that we must use and cannot change. The Ohio General Assembly has the authority to change the terms used in statute."
Just for a word change....
We are now taking this fight to the Ohio State House.
Please share this story. We need as many signatures as we can get. The goal will keep rising.
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