COLORBEARER OF ATHENS, GEORGIA LOCALLY OWNED SINCE 1987
August 21, 2019

Put Yourself First

Hey, Bonita…

Bonita,

I'm currently in the dilemma of my life. Around this time last year, I got out of a serious relationship just before school started. It's no doubt for the best—he dumped me after he got me drunk and raped me at his place. This is where I need your advice. I said something to campus investigators, but it was my word against his. They said my drinking was proof of my consent. However, months later, his former roommate messaged me and sent screenshots of some Facebook messages where my ex-boyfriend admitted that he did it on purpose. 

Everybody is telling me to go to the police, but here's the catch-22: The ex's old roommate is a notorious liar who's been known to make shit up just to start drama. As badly as I want to turn this over to authorities, I’m also scared that I was given Photoshopped receipts or something to make me look crazy and my ex-boyfriend look innocent. Can I be thrown in jail for reporting bad evidence about a crime that really happened if I thought the evidence was real? What would you do in my shoes?

Confused in Clarke

Confused,

First, from one survivor to another, I am so sorry that you’ve had this experience. It took me over a decade after my first assault to seek out the therapy and mental health care that has me on a path to healing, and I want to encourage you to do the same. I’m sorry that you’re dealing with gaslighting from both your rapist and the police you spoke with, but take heart. It doesn’t sound hopeless to me.

Cops say incredibly stupid shit to assault survivors who come to them for help, and it can be just as traumatizing to be belittled and not believed after the fact. Whichever cop you spoke to needs some training, because being intoxicated is not and has never been a form of consent, and I can’t imagine why they thought that was an appropriate comment to make. Victim-blaming statements like that discourage survivors from pursuing justice. We already know the system isn’t friendly to us or really even “on our side,” but that’s no reason to create impediments or naysay people who come to you for justice. 

And no, Confused, you can’t be thrown in jail if evidence you provide in good faith turns out to be worthless. It’s a gamble, but you’re not empty-handed here. Since you asked, if I were you, I’d bring those screenshots and the roommate’s name to the cops so they could start an investigation and hopefully subpoena the raw data from Facebook. It’s worth a shot.

In the meantime, put yourself first. You’ve only got one body and one mind, and keeping them sharp and healthy after such trauma will be good for you. Treat yourself kindly, and have friends who will do the same. The UGA Women’s Health Center has very robust resources for people in your position, from counseling services to an assault hotline (706-542-SAFE). Their services are free and confidential. Don’t humor people who will pick your story apart or play “devil’s advocate” over what happened, and don’t hesitate to kick anyone out of your life who isn’t prepared to support you throughout all of this. Personally, I wish I’d known that the first time. Do what you need to do to be healthy and survive this.

And guys: No means no, and the absence of a “no” IS NOT CONSENT, no matter a woman’s relationship to you—stranger, girlfriend or wife. Am I really still telling y’all this in 2019?

Need advice? Email advice@flagpole.com, use the anonymous form at flagpole.com/getadvice, or find Bonita on Twitter: @flagpolebonita.

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