Surviving sexual assault: Amy’s story

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Amy’s shift at a local restaurant was winding down, and a group of her co-workers invited her to go out for a few drinks downtown. Not a “partier,” Amy* decided on this night to be more social than usual. The group made plans to go to a bar and wait for some other friends to get off work, and Amy said she didn’t feel like just “sitting and drinking.”

Instead, she decided to go to the VFW Hall to play some pool with two male colleagues, one of whom was a friend who had made unwanted advances in the past. Amy said she’d made it clear she had a boyfriend and didn’t want any romantic involvement with him, and she didn’t think anything was out of the ordinary when he bought her a beer and a shot and they began playing pool.

But that was the last thing she remembered of that Friday night last spring.

“I woke up the next morning in his house and in his bed,” Amy said. “I wasn’t wearing any pants and only had a shirt on. I was very disoriented, and I started asking him questions.”

He told Amy she’d been throwing up and so he took her to his house. He said they had had sex twice, and she liked it.

“I felt horrible,” Amy said. “I couldn’t remember anything. I didn’t have my phone or my wallet, and he drove me back to my car. He said ‘that was a great time, and I know you liked it too.’”

Amy said she didn’t know what to do so she drove home, where she immediately got into the shower and just stayed there crying.

“I was aching with pain in my vaginal and anal areas,” Amy said. “I never had experienced that much pain inside of me.”

Amy was afraid to tell her boyfriend what had happened, but on Sunday, she decided to share the story with her roommates, who immediately told Amy they thought she’d been raped and possibly roofied.

On Monday, she told another good friend about what had happened, and she told Amy to go the hospital for an exam. She didn’t want to go to the emergency room so she called her OBGYN instead and asked if she could do the exam. The doctor said she couldn’t. So instead, forensic nurse Patty Oakland came to the doctor’s office and met with Amy to talk through the exam and explain the options.

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Amy eventually went to the ER with Oakland and an exam was conducted, but Amy didn’t immediately want to report the rape to police.

“I went to the hospital at 11 a.m. and was there until 6 p.m.,” Amy said. “There were bruises on my thighs and severe swelling in my vaginal and anal areas. I gave a statement as part of the exam but couldn’t remember anything.”

After the exam, Amy went home, made dinner and finally told her boyfriend.

It would take another four months for Amy to decide to report the rape to the Routt County Sheriff’s Office. During the time between the rape and the disclosure, Amy said she felt like she was “spinning in circles” by herself. She didn’t go to work for three months, and she bought a handgun for protection.

“I was severely depressed, and made several suicide attempts,” Amy said. “I eventually gave the gun back to my boyfriend.”

Amy found a counselor she connected with and began seeing her twice a week.

“We did EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy) and hypnosis,” Amy said. “It really helped me.”

Amy emphasized that the time she spent in counseling and the work she did there is a huge part of her healing process. She said sessions with a trusted counselor helped lower her anxiety and helped her deal more effectively with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Amy now has a new job that involves helping people, and she finds great comfort in that renewed focus.

“It feels good to give back,” Amy said. “It helps me feel thankful for my situation. Even though I was raped, I have a home, I have a car, I have a good boyfriend and I have a great mom. It’s so fulfilling to come to work and help people every day — it’s humbling.”

Late last summer, Amy sought a civil protection order against the man who raped her, and it was while in court that she decided it was time to press charges. When she was ready to report, Detective Tom Munden met her at 6 p.m. at the Sheriff’s Office, and Amy’s counselor drove from Craig to be with her during the interview.

“It was so much better than I expected,” Amy said. “He was so nice and focused on the facts.”

Amy’s case is set to go to trial this fall, and she is prepared for any outcome.

“It took some time to process, but I’m glad he’s not getting away with something,” Amy said. “No matter what, people will know he was arrested for rape, and if others come forward because of this, then it’s worth it. I didn’t want to look back 20 to 40 years from now and regret I hadn’t done anything.

Amy said opening up about what happened to her has been healing.

“I’ve worked through my story,” Amy said. “I definitely don’t love talking about it, but it doesn’t scare me like it used to. It’s still painful, but I work on mindfulness, enjoying the things I have and being grateful for what I have every day.

“There’s nothing I can do to change the fact this happened to me. I’m trusting God that everything will work out. He knew me before I was born and he’ll know me after I die and he knows what’s going to happen at trial, and that gives me peace.”

*Amy is not this survivor’s real name. She has chosen to remain anonymous to protect herself.

To reach Lisa Schlichtman, call 970-871-4221, email or follow her on Twitter @lschlichtman.

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