I walked into to the hospital; the hall way is filled with nurses and doctors. I ask and I’m directed. I open the curtain and she’s lying there rolled up in ball. Her husband is sitting there. I go straight to her… she looks up and smiles.
“Hi, I’m with the Women’s center.” She leaves me speechless when she says, “I know, I remember your face. I’ve talked to you before.”
This was third time in one day we were called out to that hospital.
My full time job at the women’s center is to work with media, help manage social media, awareness campaigns/education and whatever else comes to table. I also have a part time job as an on call Sexual Assault advocate that I do from time to time. The Sexual Assault Examiner’s Nurse will ask the victim is she/he wants an advocate come talk to them in the hospital.
This week I didn’t make every visit and I’m glad I didn’t because it would have been too much. This visit today took me by surprise because she recognized me from a previous visit 6 months ago. The minute she said that I remembered her eyes and I was crushed to see her there. Every case is different and you find ways you protect yourself. Mine is to never ask for details, that’s not why I’m there. I’m there to offer support, resources and from time to time a much needed hug. The connection I felt with her today was different. I was amazed that she remembered me. She didn’t know my name but it was almost as if her eyes lit up when she saw me. It’s so difficult to explain the sensation I felt. I wanted to take her with me. I wanted to build a shield around her to prevent this from ever happening to her again. I wanted to wipe her tears off and just hold her. As an advocate, I cannot do that. All I could do is sit there, don’t ask questions and tell her we are here.
I spoke to her husband briefly. He didn’t know what to do or what to say. He was confused and felt powerless but was open to hear what I had to say. All I could say was to be there for her. In these situations if we don’t know what to say its best we don’t say anything at all. Just reassure the person she/he is not alone and that whatever happened wasn’t their fault.
Sexual assault is a horrible crime. At times we feel powerless to not be able to do more or say more especially when there are so many limitations in our justice system. I wonder about all the women who had to sit through a rape kit hoping this will bring them justice and possibly even prevent someone else from going through what they went through. I think of all who were there alone. I also think of all the rape kits sitting in our local crime lab that have never been touched or tested.
Houston has 4,000 untested rape kits stored. The oldest rape kit dates back to 1986. In addition, there are also 11,000 other kits that have not bee processed.
Can you imagine having to go through a rape kit which is the most invasive test I’ve ever seen done and realizing nothing has been done to process that evidence?
You may wonder if there is anything being done about it, yes, Houston recently received a grant to tackle the problem. I can only hope good will come from it and change will happen.
As I sit here and type I wonder about her and the first assault. I wonder if one of those 4,000 untested rape kits is hers. I wonder if she’s getting the support she needs from her husband. I wonder if we could ever help ease her pain. I wonder if I will ever see her again. I can only hope its never in a hospital room.