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Aug 20 2015
by Hailey Rial

How My Rapist Walked Free

By Hailey Rial - Aug 20 2015

"That's where lines get blurry- you said that up until the rape, everything was consensual. A jury will hear 'It was consensual' if this goes to trial." The prosecutor explained to me as I sat between him and an advocate for the Victim's Rights Association. 

"But you're not listening to me," I replied, my voice never wavering. "It wasn't consensual. Plus, I was drunk. You can't legally consent when you're drunk."

On the night of December 28, 2014, I went to a party with one of my good friends. At around 3 AM, we decided that we shouldn't drive home as we had both been drinking. I decided to go upstairs with one of the guys that I knew to find a place to sleep. Throughout the night, he had been with another female so I did not think he would be flirtatious with me. I was wrong. After lying down on his bed and realizing that I was in a room full of boys with a mattress shoved up against the door, I texted my friend to come upstairs as I wasn't feeling safe. No response. I told the boy that I was with that I wanted to leave the room and he and I headed downstairs. In an empty mud room, he made advances towards me, all of which I had consented to... up until the point where my pants were off and so were his. 

I couldn't say no. I remember my brain telling me, "Do something. Yell. Shout. Punch him. Push him. Do anything." My body was unable to cooperate. My arms felt like jello.

Once he left the room, I waited a few minutes and then went to tell my friend what happened. We left immediately. In her statement to police, she testified that I immediately told her that I had been raped. 

I waited around three months to tell the police what had happened. I had been to therapy and my therapist uncovered this secret of mine and was liable to tell someone because I was a minor at the time of the offense.

After countless interviews and retelling of the events that happened that night I was told 3 things...

1) There wasn't enough evidence.

Because I waited so long to tell anyone about the date rape, there was no solid evidence. I was afraid that had I reported the crime, my friend and I would also be punished for participating in illegal drinking. 

2) It was "his word against mine".

Because there was no evidence, this became a game of he said- she said. I had photos and videos from that night on my phone to prove that we were there, and I had even told my rapist's friend the next day that this had happened to me- but those were just more of the "he said- she said" game and there was still no proof.

3) I was over the age of consent. 

Despite the fact that I testified that I was raped, I was over the age of consent of 16. But why does age of consent matter when I thoroughly explained the situation, had two people testify that I told them I was raped, and cooperated with the investigation fully? 

One fact of this entire investigation was completely ignored; I was drunk. At the age of 17, I wasn't the legal age to drink. I did willingly drink. However, at any age, you cannot legally consent to sex when you are drunk. Considering that it was 3 AM when this happened and I had been drinking since 11 PM, with at least 5 shots and a beer or two, at 110 pounds and standing 5' tall, I was more than drunk enough to be unable to consent to a sex act. As I attend college orientation and Welcome Week, I am told over and over this simple statement: Anyone who has been drinking or taking drugs can NOT legally consent to a sex act. Now that I am listening to a prosecutor tell me that this fact doesn't matter, I fear for college parties and get-togethers. If a man or woman is raped in college and they have been drinking or taking drugs, will that be ignored for them the way it has been ignored for me? 

Will the man who did this to me go on and do this to another female because there was no definitive proof that he raped me? 

This is a memoir to the SVU. You listen to tragic stories everyday of men, women and children being harmed and abused. You look into the sad eyes of those telling the truth and sometimes watch the hard statues of those who are let off because of a minor evidence deficiency or loophole in the system walk free while those with the sad eyes deal continue to deal with the trauma and pain of their situation. Your job is hard, draining and never easy.

I refuse to let the boy who hurt me walk free. My face will be embedded into his mind for the rest of his life. I will go to college. I will get my diploma. I will work at a job that I enjoy working at every day. I will marry a man who looks at me as a strong woman, with fire in her eyes and determination in her soul. I will bear the births of children who will know that "no means no" and who will walk with a head held high every day of their lives. I will not let my rapist take my life from me. I am stronger than the system who tells me that my rapist is free and who claims "innocent until proven guilty" but who put me on trial for being afraid. I will live. I will rise above this. 

Lead Image Credit: snapwiresnaps

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Hailey Rial - Indiana University Bloomington

Hailey Rial is a freshman at Indiana University in Bloomington and she is majoring in journalism. In high school, she was an avid writer for her school newspaper's opinion column. She likes reading, writing, music and laughing. You can follow her on Instagram @haileyababay!

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