The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, as you know, is usually a quiet one at the office. The whole three days back at work had been blissfully quiet as I eased myself back into my normal routine. That Wednesday morning, I was going about my business when I checked my Hotmail. With all the back and forth emails with the Embassy and my State Department contact, I kept it open and minimized on my screen, afraid to miss the slightest communication. Imagine my surprise when I opened an email from my State Department contact who apologetically explained that he had forgotten to forward me three papers I needed to sign, approve and get back to him – and to the Rome Police – by Friday morning. With the time zone difference and the holiday looming, that pretty much left me with half a day to get things done.
Panic. It crept up and then slammed into me. I started to sweat and felt woozy (this is a normal post-trauma response, I later learned). I was surprised and dismayed by my reaction. And I called my co-worker Ellie in to help me because I thought I was going to pass out in my office. All the documents that were sent to me were in Italian, official-looking, and I was overwhelmed. Little did I know then, but this would be the first of many such emails.
The email set off a scramble whereby I tried to figure out how to get the papers translated in time so that I wasn’t signing my life away or missing an important deadline. Fortunately, with the help of my coworkers, I was able to find an employee in the company who spoke Italian and could give me loose translations of the documents. The first was asking for my permission to have my clothes worn during the assault submitted for forensic testing. The second was to inform me that Marco, the defendant, was being investigated for attempted sexual assault, and the third (pictured above) was a notice stating that I was claiming I was a victim of attempted rape (tentata violenza sessuale) and requesting an investigation. I needed to sign the documents – anywhere on the page (that is how the Italians do it) – and pdf them and email them back.
The panic I felt and rush I made to comply with the request by the Italians emphasized to me the need for me to hire an attorney sooner than planned. I had been told previously at the Embassy that I’d need to hire an attorney in order to get any information about the prosecutor’s progress with the case as the prosecutor in Italy does not owe the victim any such information. I didn’t want to ever feel so helpless and clueless again. And I didn’t want to make a costly mistake. Later that day, I spoke with a coworker whose father had military and diplomatic experience, and asked for guidance. On Thanksgiving Day, I took out the list of Italian attorneys the US Embassy in Rome had given me – the Embassy cannot make recommendations and can only provide a list – and began doing research best I could. Each decision will get its own future post. But let’s just say I felt the experience marked for me the true start of a challenging and exhaustive journey for me.
NOTE: That Thanksgiving Day was a bittersweet one for me and my family. I was grateful to have lived through my ordeal but scared – truly scared – about what I was getting myself into.