Bit of a downer headline, I know. But I received a call a few weeks back – on my birthday, actually – that dredged up some bad feelings. One of the producers of the Investigation Discovery series I was featured in had called to ask for an update on my life. She wanted to know how I have moved on, if I am dating again, etc. She said they’d be re-airing my show Friday, 5/31 at 8:30 p.m. ET. And my stomach dropped.
I’ve written about it here previously, but for those of you who are new to my site, let me summarize: While I feel the episode accurately – sometimes, dead-on – depicted my assault, it also inserted one glaring falsehood that had the power to change so much of my experience as a victim. The producers, to add drama and foreshadowing to the story arc, embellished the part where Marco bought flowers for me from a street vendor. They made the flower vendor into a large, malevolent man – and the argument – they made it scary and more pivotal than it ever was in real life. Of course, it then begged the question of the viewer at home who was first seeing my story, “Why the hell would the woman have continued on her date?” And naturally, that led people to then say, “Well, she obviously was stupid and it’s her own damn fault” or some horrible iteration of that.
Think about it. There I sat, during the episode, watching people tweet at me or about me and my ‘stupidity’ and how I deserved all of it. No one ever tweeted about Marco, the man who left scars on my body – the scars I run my fingers over every morning when I shower. In that moment, and the hours afterwards, I was furious. I fired off a retort to one of the bigger offenders. I felt … vicious. And I felt raw. And days later, all of it turned into a very deep hurt no matter the dozens of emails I received from viewers supporting me or sharing their stories with me.
You see, until that moment in time, I had gone largely unscathed. There was really nothing in my tale that had elicited victim blaming on a grand scale other than the errant, “Well, I would have never gone on a date with someone I just met…” from the Monday morning quarterback types. And I had lived in that space, accepted those few shitty comments, and gone on with my life. In essence, I had been spared that part of being a sexual assault victim that everyone talks about: Blame. But I was spared no more. I had sat for the show to share my story, let women see that it is possible to fight back and to heal. And it cut me to ribbons.
As I will be on call this weekend as a crisis counselor, part of me understands that experiencing blame makes me better for the victims I will work with. I see that. But part of me marvels at the irony of watching a show that puts me before the public so they can get their pound of flesh at my expense while I wait by my phone to help someone who’s been victimized and will likely find herself blamed. It’s art imitating life in the strangest of ways.
My answers to that producer? I told her I was recently promoted at work – proof that I was able to keep my life together. I told her that I am dating again – or trying to – to show victims that there is hope good men exist and they should not be fearful of all men or first dates. And I told her that I got my certification as a counselor – I want victims to know I am more than lip service and I am dedicated to them. We’ll see what they choose to include and what they leave out. But one thing is certain: Tomorrow night will be Round Two of the public’s takedown. The good thing is I know it’s coming, so I can brace myself. I just wonder if it will sting any less.