Wednesday, April 29, 2009
In honor of National Crime Victims' Rights Week, I would like to present a case of mine that tells the inside story of someone suffering from being the victim of crime. In Part One, I will present her story. In Part Two tomorrow, I will discuss the case and talk about the after effects of incest and rape. This is a real story, although details have been changed and identifying features altered to protect confidentiality.
Elizabeth was a young girl of three when her stepfather began molesting her. She doesn't remember much about those early years, but has vague memories of being scared at night and not wanting to be left alone with her stepfather. Her mother told her that she was frequently treated for urinary tract infections when she was little.
At the age of five, Elizabeth remembers her stepfather calling to her from the garage, "Come help me fix your brother's bike." She was both excited and uneasy. Excited that her stepfather was asking for her help and uneasy that she would be alone with him, away from the eyes of her mother. "Come on, we'll go for ice cream afterwards." It was the first time she remembers her stepfather putting his fingers inside of her and more. It wouldn't be the last.
The abuse happened until she was thirteen. It stopped when her mother and stepfather divorced and her mother and she moved out of town. She never told her mother or a teacher or her best friend. Her stepfather told her not to tell or he'd kill her mother. She believed him and kept her mouth shut.
Elizabeth got good grades in school, was in Girl Scouts, and sang in the church choir. No one ever asked her if there was anything wrong. No doctor ever questioned her urinary tract infections. Her mother never wondered why Elizabeth tried to avoid being alone in the house with her stepfather.
In high school, Elizabeth started getting in trouble. She started hanging out with the "cool" kids and would meet up with her friends to smoke pot before school started. Drinking and other drugs followed and her grades began to slip. Drinking and drugging were an everyday occurrence and sex with any boy who showed her some attention was not uncommon.
Elizabeth's mother couldn't understand why her daughter was acting so out of character. She had been a sweet child and always willing to do any chore that was asked of her. She never complained and seemed to get along with everybody. Although Elizabeth never seemed very popular or had friends over to the house, her mother thought it was just because she was shy and liked spending time with her mother. She considered them to be very close.
In college, things seemed to turn around. She was able to get a scholarship to a small college out of town. Elizabeth decided it was time to turn her life around and put the past behind her. She made great grades and some good friends. No more drugs or alcohol and no more promiscuity. She was determined to go to law school and make something of herself. She wasn't going to be a victim to what happened to her as a child.
In law school, Elizabeth was studying late one night in the law library. Constitutional law was her most difficult and most interesting class. She wanted to do well in the hopes of getting a prestigious clerkship.
"I wanted my mom to be proud of me again. I know I had let her down when I was in high school. I was a really bad kid and caused her lots of grief," she told me on her first visit to my office. "I was raped that night. I caused her grief again."
Elizabeth was referred to me three months after she was attacked and sexually assaulted by a man who accosted her as she walked across the semi-dark campus. She didn't recognize the man and was unable to recall any distinguishing features. She just remembered his voice telling her not to scream or he would kill her. She thinks he had a knife but was too frightened to check. When he finished he told Elizabeth not to move for an hour or he would come back for her. She lay there for what seemed like forever before she found the nerve to walk home. She did not report the assault to the police.
"I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time," she said. "It was stupid of me to be walking alone that night. I was just asking for trouble, at least he didn't try to kill me. It could have been a lot worse."
Elizabeth had taken a leave of absence from law school and moved back home to be with her mother. She had not told the school about the assault, only saying that she was ill and would need to take some time off.
In my office I saw a woman severely depressed. She wouldn't look me in the eye, sat on my couch wringing her hands, and couldn't stop crying. She had lost twenty-five pounds in the last three months and was close to being hospitalized for the effects of malnutrition. Elizabeth kept repeating over and over again, "It's all my fault, it's always been my fault."
Please share your thoughts and feelings about Elizabeth and how you might go about helping her. In Part II tomorrow, I'll post my thoughts and relate how Elizabeth is doing.Tweet