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March 31, 2021

America’s Message to Rape Survivors

Katelynne Cox


What America is telling rape survivors is that society does not believe a human has the right to make their own decisions if they’ve had alcohol. And predators are watching.

Tonight, while honoring Sexual Assault Awareness month, I had very special plans to share with my Silence Is Not Compliance subscribers what it feels like to be exactly seven years from my rape: meaning my body has renewed all of it cells and I will have a body that my perpetrator never touched. However, I am trigger and overwhelmed with fear given the Minnesota headlines: they read exactly how mine would have if the press had been brave enough to even address sexual assault in 2014. The similarities between my case, and that in the headlines now is astounding.

Seven years ago the assistant district attorney in Columbia, MO offered my rapist a plea bargain to avoid the time and effort of a trial. My rapist happily accepted: serving just fifteen of the eighteen days he was sentenced. I was left sobbing on the cold marble floor outside my office in the Longworth House Office Building… devastated, having made the mistake of tying my own healing and worth to my rapists’ sentencing. This was my reward for being patient and cooperating with police.

I told myself, “if I hadn’t of had alcohol, I could have punched harder”, “… they would have believed me”, “… he wouldn’t have targeted me”, and “if I didn’t have alcohol, my rape would matter to someone.”

I was celebrating with the Mizzou Debate Team at an 18 and up club just after coming home from our first national championship. My rapist waited until I was asleep to attack. I cried out for God and begged him to stop. I said NO! I can still smell his sweaty, odorous body and feel him crushing my ribs in my nightmares.  He flopped on top of me, forcing himself inside me. I passed out from him physically crushing me.

There was no confusion about his conduct. He said to me “I deserved to have you after buying you and the team drinks all night.”

I held on to that blame, guilt and shame for a very long time. It’s interesting to me that we blame victims of rape for being drunk, but not those who have their house robbed? If we follow the same implied theory: if you have been drinking voluntarily at all, anyone should be able to come in and take things from you whether that be something as invaluable as your TV or as valuable as your body.

Letting go of the shame and guilt I felt seemed impossible until I got PTSD therapy and began healing in the ways I needed to. I started Silence Is Not Compliance to provide free resources to other survivors of sexual violence. I created a space I wish had been there for me. And in seven years, that need has only increased. I council survivors to flip the script and put yourself first before your attacker, you stop letting them win. I encourage all survivors to really consider “what will make me heal”, rather than “how can I make him or her pay.”

It’s difficult to heal when legislation and rulings like that in Minnesota continue to happen: despite the “Me Too” movement, and public investigations into high profile rape cases. Survivors are being pushed further into depression, continue to be silenced, and are devalued more each day.