Trigger warning for detailed descriptions of rape.
“Please don’t be mad. I was raped. I need you to come to the police station.”
Those were the words I woke up to.
I had fallen asleep in my sister’s room the night before. We were having something close to a sleepover-even-though-we-live-together kind of thing. I remember cuddling up on the mattress laughing with her as she shut off the light, and soon my mind unwound as sleep filled my ears, nose, and mouth.
I woke up at 6:40 am accidentally—during one of those weird moments of sleep limbo when you’re tired enough to sleep more, but conscious enough to open your eyes. So I opened my eyes, scanned the room, and saw my sister was no longer in the bed next to me. I checked the time on my phone. 6:40 am. Too early for her normal wake up time. Too early for her to go to work. I checked our apartment. She wasn’t home.
7:20 am. I get a phone call from my sister.
“Please don’t be mad. I was raped. I need you to come to the police station.”
“What? Who raped you? Where are you? Are you OK? Where did you go?”
I started yelling and crying enough to wake up my mom.
“What happened? Who is that? Where is she?”
“She was raped. I have to go to the police station.”
By now my brother woke as well,
“Raped? Again? Wow.”
I threw the phone, ran to my bed, and cried.
“I want to die. I want to die. Not this again. I hate this world. I want to die.”
My brother rubbed my back, and then nonchalantly left for work.
I gathered myself and my car keys and left for the police station.
8:00 am. I arrive at the police station and wait in their lobby, completely ignored by officers passing by. I ask the man at the front desk for my sister. “She’s being questioned.”
9:00 am. Waiting in the cold lobby provokes a stinging hunger in my belly. My mind reels with what could have happened to her. There’s burning anger in my chest, venomous and ready to fire, but there is no culprit in sight. In the distance—behind the closed doors of the lobby—I hear faint voices. I hear my sister’s voice. I have to speak to her.
A policeman approaches me, “Are you the sister? I need you to bring her some fresh clothes. We’re going to transport her to the hospital and give her the rape kit.”
“Is she okay? Can I see her?”
“We don’t want emotions to run high. That tends to happen when family shows up.”
10:00 am. I am back with the fresh clothes, waiting in the frozen lobby, as the man at the front desk ignores me.
An officer appears and takes the clothes. He tells me it’d be best for me to go home.
11:00 am. My mom leaves for the hospital. I am home alone. I turn on some music, bring out my paints and latest art piece, and go about my usual business. I’m doing well.
1:00 pm. My mom calls me.
“Get ready. I’m coming home to pick you up so we can go to the police station. She’s back from the hospital. They have her rapist in custody.”
I turn off my music, and head to the bathroom for a shower. I’m about to take my shirt off when I start shaking uncontrollably. I hug myself as I hyperventilate. My heart turns into hummingbird wings and warm tears are falling as fast as the water coming out of my shower head. There are eyes watching my body. There’s a predator here. I can’t get naked.
Someone will get me. Someone will get me.
I turn off the shower, put heavy clothes on (despite the heat outside) just in time for my mom to pick me up.
I saw her on an old couch in one of the police station’s questioning rooms. Her makeup was smeared and her long, dark hair was disheveled. Her eyes drooped sadly and her hands seemed translucent with her veins visible.
“Hi my baby,” she greeted me with a smile and opened her arms to hug me. Funny how no matter how old I get, or what the circumstances may be, my sister feels that it is her job to console me.
She looks away from me and buries her head in her hands. She can’t tell me what happened.
“It’ll upset you too much,” is her excuse. But I need to know. The nightmares my mind has created must be worse than what had actually happened.
“I went out last night after you went to sleep. I don’t know. I just couldn’t sleep, so I called up a friend of mine, and he picked me up to go to his house. We went to his basement because his parents were sleeping upstairs.”
“Where did you meet him?”
“The strip club.” Strike one. A rape victim cannot be a stripper, a prostitute, or a slutty woman.
“How long have you known him?”
“A month.” Strike two. A rapist cannot be someone you know. Rapists are the ones that break into your house and violate you.
“What were you doing?”
“Hanging out. Kissing and stuff, but after a while…I wanted to go home so I told him he should take me home and he got really angry.” Strike three. A rapist cannot be someone you were previously sexually active with.
“What did he do?”
“He pushed me down on the bed and put a pillow over my face. I was screaming for him to stop. I told him if he continued that it was rape. I was screaming and he was taking my clothes off … He asked me to do horrible things. He told me he had been molested when he was younger …”
She went into detail and with each word my heart would flinch as tears gathered in my eyes. I couldn’t endure the story. How did she endure the rape?
“His parents didn’t hear you?”
“The basement is sound proof. I tried to kick him off. I scratched him. I left marks. So he started hitting me and pulling my hair. I have bruises on me. But I kicked him really hard in his ribs. There was a huge bruise.”
“How did you get out?”
“When he finished, I got dressed and we left like nothing happened. I got into his car because I didn’t know where I was, and if I ran I didn’t know where I’d go or if he’d catch me and hurt me more. As he was driving, he was wheezing and holding his rib where I kicked him. I think I broke it. I hope I broke it. Then he stopped at a gas station. I ran inside, and I told the cashier that I needed the police to be called because I was just raped. I got to the police station and they questioned me, and then I called you. He texted me though. He told me I was a crazy bitch and to never talk to him again. ME? I’M CRAZY? HE’S THE FUCKING RAPIST HERE.”
My sister, my mom, and I all waited in that police questioning room. They were questioning the rapist somewhere in the building.
I sat and held her hand. We were both cold, and her sallow face told me that her heart and soul had frozen over as well.
“I don’t think they’ll believe me.” She whispered and meekly put her head down. Her fight was over. She was done recanting her horrific night to those who wouldn’t listen. But I was listening, and I had to bring her story out to those that would hear it and say, “That was rape.”
“Why wouldn’t they believe you?” I demanded. My voice piercing through the walls; I wanted them to hear me. I needed to challenge whoever would not listen. “They did the rape kit. There’s DNA evidence. You have bruises on your body, and he has bruises on his.”
“He admitted to having ‘sex’ with me.”
“So they have evidence. You’ll get your justice. They’ll listen. If they don’t listen then there’s something severely wrong with this justice system.”
There’s this stupid War on Drugs– where people can get locked up for life for just carrying dope; but someone who is volatile enough to completely violate another individual and utterly demolish that individual’s mental and physical health can go free? No. It can’t happen.
“They know I’m bipolar and they know I’m a stripper …”
An officer came in and asked my mother and me to step out so that they could question my sister.
My mom and I waited as we smoked cigarettes on the sunlit stairs outside the police station.
After about 45 minutes, a detective came outside to find us.
“Has your sister been taking her medication?”
“Has she had any breakdowns?”
“Have you read the police report from two years ago? From the first time your sister claimed someone had raped her?”
“What does that have to do with this? I haven’t read it. But that doesn’t matter. She was raped then and she’s been raped now.”
He gave a condescending smirk.
Two years ago, my family and I had been living at a different apartment and were struggling to make ends meet. My sister had been struggling to find a job that would efficiently contribute to my family’s income. She was also struggling with her bipolar disorder.
She had switched from various doctors since she had been diagnosed, and she was prescribed a plethora of pills with such severe side effects that she developed anemia and incurred liver damage. There were her highs and her lows. There were days when she and I could sit and talk for hours peacefully, and there were days when my mother had to call the ambulance to have her taken to the hospital for overdosing, cutting, or having severe fits of anger.
She had come in contact with a friend of a friend who could get her a job, or so he said. So he offered to pick her up late at night to ‘chat’ and see if she would be good for an ‘interview.’ That ‘interview’ turned into a rape. Once in his car, he threw her to the back seat, beat her, raped her, and drove her home. She never spoke a word of the rape to me until weeks later when I noticed she had been acting strange.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I was raped a couple weeks ago…”
Once she told me, her story began to unravel, and she eventually told my mother of her rape as well. She went to a police station and made a report.
A week later, there was a knock on our apartment door. I opened the door to see two police officers demanding to see my sister.
“She’s under arrest for falsifying a report.”
They dragged my sister out of our apartment kicking and screaming. The rape victim handcuffed.
The police claimed that she was delusional. They figured that she had been in and out of the mental hospital so much that she must have lied about this rape. Why would she get in a car with a man late at night to talk about a job? Why didn’t she leave the car? Why, when they questioned this ‘rapist,’ did he claim to know nothing of her other than that she was crazy.
Crazy. The one adjective that cannot precede the words RAPE VICTIM in the eyes of the justice system.
Eventually, her rapist didn’t press charges on her for this ‘falsified report’ (Thank goodness! What a kind soul!) A couple months later, my sister began stripping in order to save up enough money for us to rent a new apartment.
I stood aghast staring at this detective. No one would believe that my sister had been raped twice. She had no credibility.
Two years ago, police officers arrested my sister; the ultimate manifestation of rape culture. As if to say ‘What’s that? A pill bottle in your purse? A record of visitations to a loony bin? There’s no way a man raped you in the back of his car.’
Today the detective smirked; the ultimate manifestation of rape culture. As if to say, ‘What’s that? You falsified a report about rape two years ago because you’re insane? You’re also a stripper, and you’re sexually active? You’re not a rape victim. You just can’t keep your legs close and your temper in check. You were probably just angry at him and you wanted to get back at him, didn’t you? Didn’t you?’
My mom and I followed the smirking detective back to the questioning room. I was a bundle of anger. It was 4 pm by now, and my sister had not slept since the rape that morning. She curled up into a little ball on the couch. I rubbed her back, and consoled her. An hour passed and an officer came to confiscate her phone. Another hour passed and they woke her for more questioning.
She finally reentered the room with a glazed-over look.
“They don’t believe me. They think I’m lying. They said there’s not enough evidence. He told them that bruise on his ribs was from helping his friend with construction. They said his friends came to testify that I’m mentally unstable and that I offered to do threesomes with them. I’ve never seen his friends in my life. Why did they even do that rape kit if they’re not going to believe me? Isn’t that evidence? Aren’t my bruises evidence?”
I couldn’t answer her questions. I had my fists balled up as we left that police station. I trembled as tears cracked down my cheeks. My sister cooed me, “It’s okay, baby. I shouldn’t have opened my mouth. That’s all. It’s my fault.”
It took her rapist two hours to traumatize her, violate her, and demolish her into submission, and it took another 12 hours for the justice system to shame my sister into silence.
Written by Eftihia Peroulas
Follow her blog FemeAura.