This summer, the media fervently reported on the progression of Taylor Swift’s countersuit against a DJ who grabbed her ass during a meet-and-greet several years back. While media outlets reacted to her sassy testimony with equal parts glee and disapproval, most telegraphed the requisite approbation at her eventual victory in court. I was following along, too—not from the perspective of a writer, but as a survivor of sexual assault.
When I was sexually assaulted in June of 2016, I had friends tell me: “Get a restraining order!” “Report him to the police!” But I thought, Hell no. Fear being common in reporting situations like this, my reasoning was, “It’s not worth it; it wasn’t a big enough deal.” Half the people in my own life didn’t believe me; why would a stranger? Especially a police officer—are you kidding me? No way.
It took me one full year to report the instance. I spent a year in therapy (actually, I’m still in therapy). I ended multiple relationships due to this singular event. When I did eventually decide to file a report, I approached the Sheriff's department without knowing what to expect—and, honestly, my expectations were low. In great detail, I told the officer every bit of information I had. I used zero professional terms in expressing how the situation had played out a year ago, which means it was the officer who decided to file my case as a rape. Rape may be the scariest thing to accept. For a full year, I was using the word “assault” because I felt undeserving of the title rape. Rape is serious.
After my report, I was given an investigator for my case appointed to me by Special Victims Unit. Things got very surreal very quickly—I would have to take phone calls in the middle of work, re-explain my rape, then try to continue my day as if everything was fine. (It’s bizarre when your friends ask who you were just talking to on the phone and you have to lie because you don’t want every human to know that you are in contact with SVU on a regular basis.)
Eventually, my investigator told me he was about to put a warrant out for my rapist’s arrest, as he was avoiding phone calls from SVU. These things gave me hope: Surely this boy knows he fucked up big-time, and he can’t even take it. Finally, he called my investigator back and gave a half-assed report of his understanding of the situation of June 2016. My investigator presented my case to the court to see if they felt as though it was worth a trial. I waited for about a week and a half, an anxiety-induced trainwreck, to hear how the court would respond to my case.
I was watching a movie with a friend when I got the phone call that my case was dropped. My heart sank into my feet. I wanted to take back everything—to undo reporting him. I wanted to go back and erase all the extra trauma I endured by undergoing this process. But the worst part was the timing: the exact same day my case got dropped, Taylor Swift won her countersuit. I was raped and no one cared, but America’s sweetheart got objectified and the world went crazy. It was a huge stab to the ego. Even my personhood felt threatened.
I understand that the situation was very different than mine: Taylor Swift was being sued for getting a pervert fired, and she filed a countersuit under the pretenses that he touched her without her consent. It was a “who the fuck do you think you are, trying to sue me” situation. I respect that. I believe, universally, that every unsolicited advancement should be faced with consequences. But my thoughts that entire day revolved around comparison. Did Taylor Swift have to break the news of having been sexually assaulted to every single person who wanted to become intimate with her? Probably not. Did Taylor Swift have to go to therapy and get diagnosed with PTSD after that DJ grabbed her ass? Probably not. Did it take every ounce of courage to come forward about this situation? Maybe. Did the authorities file her case as a rape? No. Was she sitting in the most uncomfortable, cold, dismal, office as a person in uniform told her that she was legally raped? No. But did she get the results she wanted? Yes.
I was bitter. And if I am honest, with this situation being so fresh and new, I still feel the sting of bitterness now and again. I still do not know why fate allowed things to play out in this manner. I am glad she got her justice: every human who has been taken advantage of, belittled, or abused sexually deserves freedom and justice. But why couldn’t I have also gotten my justice?
Over time, however, I have come to understand that—although I haven’t gotten my state-defined “justice”—this does not mean my story is irrelevant. And I have come to understand the importance of Taylor Swift's legal victory: it is almost refreshing now for me to look at her case and be able to say, “You know what, yeah, an unsolicited ass grab is worth legal attention and incrimination.” If we keep letting the little things slide, the big things will be much harder to address. If we don’t draw the line somewhere, where will it stop? And, yes, my case ended up on the wrong side of the line. But as a proud survivor and advocate, I am thankful for a future where any unsolicited touch can be faced with consequence.
Abusers will always get what is coming to them, in some way or another. The truth will always reveal itself. To everyone who has not gotten their justice, please know you are still valid—no matter what parts of your story have been overlooked and neglected, and regardless of what side of the justice system your story has fallen on. Let us rejoice that a future is on its way in which the world will tolerate less and less bullshit.