By Tabitha Barr
Opinion Page Editor

Editor’s note – The following story was told on the condition of anonymity. At the request of the survivor, the names have been changed.

Sexual assault can happen to anyone. It can happen at any age. And it can happen more than once.

Carter’s story doesn’t have one instance of violation, but two different instances with two different assaulters.

The first time happened when Carter was 14 years old. She went to school with Ian and developed a crush on him. He ended up taking that to his advantage. One night, they were hanging out in his truck off the road, hidden from sight. They started making out, but it quickly turned into something much more intense. Ian maneuvered his way on top of Carter, pinned her down, and put his hand down her pants. She didn’t fight back, she just laid there because she didn’t know what to do.

It is common to freeze in these situations because it’s a shocking violation. After everything settled down, Ian ended up dumping her in a church parking lot.

“It was always weird after that, because he didn’t see it as I saw it,” Carter said.

She would see him almost everyday because they went to school together, and there was nothing that can be done to change that. It was uncomfortable to be around him.

The second time she was sexually assaulted is the one that came very close to ending her life. She was 17-years old and was best friends with Nic who she also worked with. They had known each other for about six months and were close. At that time, Carter was in a relationship and thought nothing of her co-worker in a similar way. She did know that he liked her, but she made it clear that nothing would become of it.

One night, Carter went over to Nic’s house to have a drink. The night went on and time had flown to early the next morning.

“I was s— faced,” she said. “I couldn’t move at all. I was so drunk.”

Suddenly, Nic started kissing her and he asked her if she wanted it.

“I told him no, but in that situation, I couldn’t fight back,” she said.

She was so intoxicated that she couldn’t do anything about it. Nic picked her up and took her to the bedroom.

“He threw me on the mattress and he pulled my romper completely off.”

Carter was left in her bra and underwear and completely unable to defend herself.

“He got on top of me and started raping me,” she said.

She couldn’t do anything to stop him. She could only lay there and “take it.”

After a little time had gone past, he got off of her and told her he wanted to switch positions. Carter saw this as her only opportunity to escape and ran for the bathroom, saying she didn’t feel good. She locked herself in the bathroom and immediately texted her then-boyfriend and another friend what happened. Nic came banging on the door, questioning if she was OK, but eventually went back to bed and was waiting for her to come back.

When she could tell he was no longer by the door, she grabbed as many of her possessions as possible and “ran down two flights of stairs, got in a car, and drove home drunk at 3 a.m.”

But the story doesn’t end there. When Carter went back to work and saw him there, that’s when things got more complicated. She pulled another co-worker to the side and told her what had happened. This led to Carter telling her manager about that night and how Nic raped her. The manager asked the questions of “did you promote this kind of behavior?” and “were you drunk?” The questions seemed to be pointing judgment instead of empathy.

Two days later, Carter overdosed on pills.

“They didn’t think I was going to pull through,” she said. “They had me on a ventilator, they had me so sedated I was pretty much in a medically induced coma.”

Her then-boyfriend was actually the one that saved her. He found her and called 911. If he hadn’t been there for her, she would not likely be here today.

She actually lost her job over this. That day, she tried hard to find someone to cover her shift but she finally just said, “f— it. I’m going to be dead in however many hours and I don’t care.”

In the hospital, her parents asked her then-boyfriend and her other friend if they knew why she would do something like this, and that’s when they told them that she had been raped.

She woke up two days later with “an IV in my neck and arms, a catheter in, and cops in my room with an advocate for the domestic violence sexual assault center.”

After Carter was released from the hospital, she was sent to a mental health facility in Topeka. She stayed there for a few days, but was then able to come home.

When she got home, her parents actually tricked her in riding with them to the courthouse.

“They dragged me into the police station,” and had her tell her story to officers.

During this time between that night, she had many people say to her that they didn’t believe her. That she shouldn’t ruin this boy’s life just to get attention. When speaking to the detective, she ended up telling her that she lied. She just didn’t want to look like she was cheating on her current boyfriend and that it was all consensual.

The next day or two, Carter got a call from that detective saying that the district attorney was wanting to press charges against her for a false claim. But she was given a deal that the charges would be dropped, if she was to tell her parents the truth. And so she did.

The whole situation was pushed to the side. Five months later, she ended up telling her parents the truth.

“I didn’t think they were going to believe me,” she said.

It was a big deal because she had been alone in this with no one who knew what really happened.

During the time after, her mental health suffered tremendously.

“I questioned my sanity,” she said. “I didn’t know if I believed myself anymore.”

Her mind was playing tricks on her, denying that it ever even happened. She had a hard time believing that it wasn’t her fault.

Part of the reason she had such a hard time was because there was no legal action against the assailant.

“People would tell me, ‘he doesn’t seem like that kind of guy,’” she said. “He denies that it ever even happened. It’s my word against his. And I know the statistics. I don’t want to be violated all over again just for him to get away with it.

“It’s an unfortunate thing that happened, but I have learned to forgive, not only him, but myself.”

These events have shaped Carter’s life into what it is now. They are gruesome and horrifying.

The statistics are scary. Out of 1000 cases of rape, only 994 perpetrators will walk free. But the conversation has started.

“You just have to hold on,” she said. “It is so hard and I get it. I’ve been at the very bottom. I think about it and I still want to die and I still hate the situation.”

But Carter is now living her life. She is pushing past the huge obstacles of the past and striving for a bright future.

“It is worth it in the end,” she said. “It is worth the struggling, it is worth the crying and wanting to die over. You just have to keep your head up and know that you never are alone.”

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