At One Year: The aftermath for Jess meant asking herself, “How do I get back on track, how do I get started again with my life?” She stated, “From that day on—well, my life is different now. Before that, I felt like nothing had ever happened to me that was terrible. My life was perfect—I had everything going for me and then this happened, it just was like, now I have this part of me that’s damaged: my sense of feeling safe all the time, and security, and freedom.”
The violence affected every part of her life: family life and friendships, academics, even her sense of herself. “Inside, I had always been a happy person...
"I never thought of anyone as being bad in any way, I always found the good in everyone. After this happened it just made me think differently of people … I have this Anger part of me now. It makes my heart hurt. Every part of me was happy; everything was going well for me. I feel like in a way, I’m different from everyone now, I’m jealous of my friends, I wish I could be like I was again…”
Jess realizes it’s hard for people she knows to talk about the rape, partly out of wanting to respect her privacy. She’s brought up the topic herself with some friends. “A couple of my friends said they didn’t bring it up because they said they didn’t know how I would respond. They really do care; once I say something they want to talk.” But at times she feels very separated from her friends. “I don’t think they realize it’s part of my everyday life. When they complain about something like it’s the worst thing in the world, it makes me think, ‘it’s not the worst thing in the world’…”
Jess’ grades at K-State stayed the same, but she found it was much harder to study and concentrate. Like many assault victims, she found herself daydreaming a lot. She thinks there was a good chance she would not have stayed here in Manhattan if she had not been so close to graduation.
While she considers the effect of the assault on her family to be the worst part of the ordeal, she realizes she herself has been profoundly affected on the deepest levels.
Jess quietly described a black part in her heart as “never-ending.
It’s a part of me that hurts.”
She asks pensively, “I wonder, is this going to be a part of my life every day? I think about it every day, it pops into my head every hour. Is this ever going to go away? Or will it be with me the rest of my life? I’ll just be watching a movie, and it pops into my head…I have this on my shoulders. I wish I could relax again… I go out and have fun, but I’m not like my friends. It’s in the back of my head. Except for my closest friends, I wonder if the rest all think that I don’t think about it any more, they don’t realize it’s part of my everyday life still.”
Jess uses cognitive techniques to try to live normally, and not get bogged down in fear. For example, she “checks” her apartment only once when she comes home, making sure no one is hiding anywhere, and refuses to check again, allowing her intelligence to override her sense of fear.
When Jess considers the rapist, she thinks “someone with major social problems, someone who’s isolated himself. I think of him as a smart person—he has gotten away with it.” Jess has no revenge fantasies, but hopes he faces justice.
Asked what she would say to him if she had the chance, Jess said, “I would tell him I want him to suffer as much as he made me suffer. I want him to realize what he did to my life, and everyone else’s life.”