North Texas Daily

Sexual assault survivor recounts a cold January night

Sexual assault survivor recounts a cold January night

Sexual assault survivor recounts a cold January night
April 29
23:51 2015

Alana Holt / Contributing Writer

It happened in a seemingly safe environment. It happened when her friends left for a few minutes. It happened when he took her to the back. It happened and she didn’t know what to do.

It was on a Sunday in January 2014 when 22-year-old UNT student Sarah, who asked not to be identified, went to a men’s dance club in Uptown Dallas with four friends. They were having a good time, had a few drinks and some lighthearted fun. Then her friends walked outside and she walked up to the bar for a drink when a dancer who had caught her attention earlier approached her.

He grabbed her wrist. She mistook it as him trying to dance. He led her to a back room where private dances take place. She thought her friends bought her one as a joke. He pushed her into the room and closed the curtains. She knew something wasn’t right. Then it happened.

One in 71 men are sexually assaulted in their lifetime, according to the White House Council on Women and Girls in 2014, and one in five college women are sexually assaulted. Sarah was one.

“When I came out of the room I just—it’s a state of shock,” Sarah said.

Sarah said she walked back to the booth she’d been sitting at and her friends were back. Her friends had been drinking and saw her coming. They asked what happened.

All she could say was, “I just got raped.” They thought she was joking and continued on with the night.

“I knew that I should call the cops, but no one hands you a pamphlet when this happens and says, ‘This is step-by-step instructions of what you need to do,’” Sarah said. “I was still trying to convince myself that it hadn’t happened.”

Sixty percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, according to Rape Abuse and Incest National Network.

Three days later, her friends advised her to tell someone, she said.

“I didn’t know what to do,” Sarah said. “I didn’t know anything.”

She started off at UNT’s Health Center, but the doctors and counselors were overbooked and she was referred to Denton County Friends of the Family. Sarah said she went there immediately.

“What our agency strives to do is support that survivor in those intense moments of crisis and to have someone there to not only support, but be an advocate for that client,” DCFOF staff counselor Bissy Nitchovska said. “Our advocates … provide some guidance to resources after [the client] leaves the hospital, and that’s how we reach out to all those survivors who might have no idea we exist as an agency.”

Sarah had to go to a hospital in Dallas because the assault happened in Dallas. Her best friend drove her from DCFOF to Baylor Medical Center in Dallas where she was told a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner was on duty.

Survivors are asked to do a SANE exam within 72 hours of the incident, said UNT Police Department criminal investigator Cpl. John DeLong.

A SANE conducts a sexual assault exam to evaluate and treat any injuries present as a result of sexual assault, said DCFOF male mentor Daniel Ceske.

Hours later, Sarah said she was told there wasn’t a SANE on duty and went from Baylor to another hospital, then to Dallas Presbyterian where a SANE arrived after a few more hours of waiting.

“The nurse who showed up, I basically call her an angel,” Sarah said. “She was just so good to me.”

Sarah said the exam took about an hour of the nurse taking pictures, measuring bruises and taking samples for evidence. After the exam, Sarah was sent Crime Victims’ Compensation forms her friend helped fill out, recounting her story in detail, in addition to other information.

Crime Victims’ Compensation helps with reimbursing the survivor for hospital bills, Nitchovska said.

Sarah said she was reimbursed 100 percent.

A day or two later, Sarah went to a Dallas police station and was assigned a detective who she says described the following court process as “a marathon, not a race.”

“That one was hard for me to swallow because you immediately want justice, or you don’t really know what you want,” Sarah said. “You just want some clarity. You want to feel better.”

According to Friends of the Family, the “marathon” of the court process begins with the police report. Then the case is either sent to the district attorney, or isn’t. If it is sent to the DA, the case goes before the grand jury and the jury will either not have enough evidence to indict the offender, or they will. If the offender was indicted, the case will go to trial. If the offender pleads guilty, the case is closed.

During the process, Sarah received counseling from DCFOF and said it was the best thing she could have done.

Eleven months after the assault, the SANE exam results came back with no evidence. Sarah said she was positive the exam wouldn’t yield any kind of evidence because by the time the nurse had done the exam it had been almost 72 hours.

“I was completely disheartened when I got that phone call,” Sarah said. “But I knew it was going to be like that because I showered, put on different clothes. It’s highly advised for you to not shower.”

Sarah said a close friend had asked if there was anything else that could be evidence not long after the SANE exam in January. She remembered the shirt she wore the night it happened. She had to wear it to work the next morning and it had a stain on it. She was convinced there was nothing left on the shirt because she cleaned it off at work, but her friend took the shirt and turned it into the authority.

“That shirt is what got him arrested,” Sarah said.

The man made bail, but because he was arrested, the case goes to the grand jury, Sarah said.

Sarah said she recommends other survivors find a place or a counselor that makes them feel most safe and comfortable so they’re able to open up. She said she was able to find that place at church.

“This presence—it was overwhelming, not in a bad way, in the best way,” Sarah said. “It was all because I felt like I was in the right place.”

Sarah will continue to take classes at UNT as a business major in real estate. When she doesn’t have a conflicting class, she will continue going to church.

“Looking back on it, the reason I felt so strongly on reporting it was because, ultimately, I thought if I can save at least one girl from this happening to her, then that’s all I really care about,” Sarah said. “If I can give someone the right information, if I can just help one person answer even one of their questions or anything then I’ll feel a little better.”

Featured Image: Sarah, who’s name has been changed to protect her identity, clasps her hands together while talking about her experience on a cold January night in 2014. Photo by Alana Holt – Contributing Writer

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