By Samantha McCoy
I met my abuser and rapist when we were kids at church. He was the pastor’s son and was very kind when we were children. I moved away in high school and we ran into each other on our college campus five years later and over 100 miles away from our old hometown. Over the next six months, we began to hang out and catch up over the past five years. He had become a city police officer in our hometown and I was finishing my junior year of college. I was going through changes in my life and he seemed to be a good support for me at that time. He started coming over to my apartment frequently and over the next two months, he would buy me flowers and shower me with gifts. It felt secure and safe at the beginning.
But a few months in, his behaviors started changing. He started staying over at my house and refusing to leave, showing up everywhere that I was, coming over uninvited, looking through my phone, and demanding to know who I was hanging out with. Even though I did not notice it at the time, he started to control me.
I made excuses for these behaviors because I thought that he might have had a bad day or that he was showing that he cared, but I was very wrong. I remember nights crying to my mom on the phone because he wouldn’t leave my apartment and I just needed space. I remember him being on “patrol” and pacing my apartment complex parking lot. I remember doing homework at my apartment and him dropping by during his shift to make sure no one else was in my apartment with me. I remember him getting upset and angry when I didn’t answer the door fast enough and searching through the apartment as if I was hiding someone. I remember his empty alcohol bottles hidden throughout my apartment. I remember him looking through my phone constantly and screaming in my face if he did not like something I said. I remember him getting angry because I started exercising and he told me I was trying to impress other men.
I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t know who to ask for help.
When I would ask him questions or tell him that something was bothering me, things just escalated into a fight. I honestly became afraid, but turned it onto myself and blamed myself for not being good enough. It was a constant battle of trying to be better and him finding more that I was not doing right.
Unfortunately, I stayed with him. It came time for his birthday and he wanted me to go out with a large group of his officer friends to celebrate. He chose my outfit for the night that he thought would be “appropriate.” We were all drinking and during the course of the night, I ran into a few old male friends of mine and we exchanged hellos. This made him livid. He came up to me in the bar and started shoving me away from one of my friends. He stormed out of the bar and was screaming just because I said hi. My friend left because of the awkward situation.
I was left alone to go find him outside of the bar, where he was still yelling. He refused to talk to me as we walked to the last bar. I wasn’t talking anymore either because I knew he was mad. At the last bar we went to, a stranger was trying to flirt with me, which I knew was only going to make things worse. I ignored the stranger and was getting scared because I could see my boyfriend’s reaction. His eyes were pure anger and he and the other officers started cursing and threatening to beat the stranger up. I was terrified and it stayed eerily quiet. We continued to drink until the bars closed.
Unfortunately, due to the amount that I drank that night, I do not remember how I got home, what time I got home, or who took me home. I do remember small details of being dragged onto a mattress on the floor by my legs and him grabbing my face and screaming at me about talking to other guys.
When I woke up the next morning, I had bruises covering my entire body–hips, wrists, inner thighs–and by the pain I was feeling in other areas, I knew that something bad had happened. I called my mother immediately and took pictures of my bruises because they were so large. I later found naked photographs of myself that he had taken on his phone from that night, where I was clearly unconscious. I found out he had also shared the photos with his officer friends.
I went to the state police. I did not trust going to the local police station because he worked for them. I thought that they were going to immediately act due to the injuries I had. Unfortunately, I was very, very wrong. The police took me to the emergency room for a rape examination and to photograph my bruises. This process was invasive and unsettling after everything I had already been through.
They interviewed me over and over and over until I was literally going numb to everything around me. Their questions consisted of: “well if you were unconscious, then how do you know that you didn’t consent,” “he said the pictures were a birthday gift,” “you sure do text a lot of males in your phone,” “you know, if you are lying you will go straight to jail.” I was consistently cooperating and getting upset and repeating my story over and over, but they were not listening.
They then demanded that I call him to record a possible confession. I did not want to do this, but I was not given a choice. They wiretapped his phone and during that call, he admitted to knowing I was unconscious and that the assault lasted for over two hours. He told me that he was sorry and that he loved me.
I was crying hysterically because of what he had admitted. When I turned to the officers in the room with me for their reaction, they said, “Well, it’s still a he-said, she-said.” I immediately left the station with my mother and refused to cooperate any further. The state police would not listen and did not take me seriously.
A month after I stopped cooperating, the police said that they “lost the emergency room photos of my bruises” and “couldn’t retrieve the photos” that he had taken of me that night, despite his admission of taking the photographs and the state police describing the photographs to me during questioning. The prosecutors stated that they didn’t have a case due to lack of evidence. I was floored. Everything was gone, the taping of the phone conversation was gone, photographs from two different people were gone–and no one would listen to me.
He remained an active officer for 10 months until I was able to win a Title IX hearing at my university (he was still technically enrolled in the school), where he was found unanimously responsible for sexual assault. He was banned from campus, a no-contact order was put into place, and he was suspended from the university.
I filed a protective order and was granted it shortly after. After 10 months of living in fear of his anger and him finding me, he was finally forced to resign from his job. To this day, he has never faced any criminal consequences for the physical assault or the rape that night.
I went through the worst experience of my life and it took many, many things from me. It took my happiness for over a year. I lost my salaried job. I lost my apartment and became homeless. I wasn’t able to attend classes regularly. I didn’t want to leave my bed. I lost friends because I couldn’t share what happened to me without being embarrassed or ashamed. Everything reminded me of what happened and I feared running into him or his friends on and off duty. I made the decision to move across the country and start over.
Although I have managed to keep fighting and I have built a new life for myself, what happened has never and will never leave me. I still have occasional nightmares of him finding me or assaulting me and I still walk while glancing over my shoulder at every officer or male that comes within a few feet of me, even though I have moved states. I had to face the fact that I cannot change what happened to me, no matter how much I wish I could. It happened and it changed me. I have channeled my anger and energy into advocating for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and educating others about healthy relationships. It has been a long journey for me, but the one thing that was not taken from me was my voice. My voice is what has pushed me through and what has kept me alive.
I could very well have let that evil man take everything I had and I almost gave him all of my power. But I have found strength and healing through speaking out and helping others who have gone through this and who feel as though they aren’t being heard. I will not let him dictate my future or my success. I will never let him have control over me again and I will succeed regardless of what he tried to do. My goal is to help other survivors reach that point and reclaim their lives. I am so very thankful for my new life that I created.