Paying a price too high

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Emily Kenney
  • 49 Wing Public Affairs
*Editor's note: Names in this story have been changed to protect the identities of those involved.

As she fought, she screamed as loud as she could, but no one came. Through the tears and the screams, she managed to say, "Please, please stop. I'm not going to tell anyone, if you just get off of me. Please.'"

Finally, after what felt like forever, he stopped. He got up, stole her wedding ring, and faded back into the darkness.

Seven years later, Kim, an active duty service member, is still affected by what happened to her on that dreadful night in 2008.

After a long night of laughing and taking shots with friends, Kim was ready to call it a night.

'I'm just going to head home,' she thought. 'It's only a five minute walk.'

Their house was only a block from the bar; so what did she have to worry about?

As she stepped out onto the cobblestone streets, she felt the hot air stinging her cheeks. She walked for only a minute when she felt someone following her. It was the guy from the bar: The same guy who spent all night drinking and laughing with their group.

She immediately felt a sense of panic.

"All I could think was, 'I can't go home.' I don't want this guy to know where I live," said Kim.

Within a few seconds, she felt him grab her wrist and force her into a wooded area not far from her home.

He began sexually assaulting her.

Kim said she got up, with no shoes on, her clothes torn, and her skin scraped and dirty from the mud. She began running desperately to find someone, anyone to help her.

It was when she ran through the street that her husband pulled up and rushed her to the hospital.

That was only the beginning.

After multiple tests and medications, that night was finally over.

"I stayed in bed all day for at least a week," said Kim. "I only moved if I had to go meet with the local police or the doctors. I lost all feeling. I had no sense of security or safety. I felt like I lost all memories. I lost myself completely."

Each month for six months, Kim had to return to the doctors for HIV/AIDS testing.

"Every time I had to walk in that doctor's office, I felt like I was being violated again," Kim said. "And each time, I had to wait a week for the results. Those weeks felt like the longest weeks of my life. I felt like I was never going to get through that hell."

Kim had to face her attacker once more during the arraignment.

"Seeing him brought back everything," Kim said. "Besides the actual rape, that was the most traumatic thing I've had to go through, and having my husband there to see him too was awful. When I heard his plea, 'not guilty,' I almost lost it."

Kim said she sought help at the base Mental Health Clinic, but could not bear to keep reliving that horrific memory. She believed she could heal herself. She didn't need anyone's help.

"All I wanted at that point was to divorce my husband, drink, and be alone," Kim said. "He [her husband] never blamed me for what happened, but I couldn't help but feel like I was tainted, and that he would never look at me the same way."

A year later, Kim moved to Holloman Air Force Base.

Not long after being at Holloman, Kim deployed to eastern Africa. Being away from her family took a toll on her emotionally, and Kim said she often felt lonely and depressed. Shortly thereafter, she was contacted by a Sexual Assault Response Counselor.

"One day I got an email from the SARC saying that I might be taken from my deployed location to go face him and testify at the trial," Kim said. "I couldn't deal with it. I told her I didn't want to testify. I just didn't want to have to see him again. I just wanted it to be over."

A few weeks later, she got the news... he walked.

The man who raped her and stole everything from her was now a free man.

At that moment, Kim decided to overcome what happened to her. She was not going to let this consume her any longer. He was not going to control her anymore.

Once Kim returned from her deployment, she began talking to a Victim Advocate and a counselor regularly. Kim said being able to talk out what happened allowed her to heal and persevere.

"I looked at a lot of my self-hate and anger and I knew I was better than that," Kim said. "I knew I wasn't the only one who felt that way, so I decided I was going to make a difference in the lives of other victims."

After she went through counseling and training, Kim made her next healing move and became a VA.   

"I wanted to be a victim advocate, but I had to make sure I could listen and not relate everything to my case," Kim said. "I didn't use the resources that were available to me at first," said Kim. "Now I realize that they would have helped me. Instead of being so hard-headed, and shutting everything and everyone down, I could have helped my marriage, and gotten better a lot more quickly."

Seven years later, Kim has moved forward and is dedicated to helping other victims.

"I don't think I'm ever going to feel 100 percent normal again," Kim said. "There are still things I have to work at every day. My husband and I still struggle with talking about what happened. Seven years later, we are still trying to deal with the trauma from the first month of our marriage."

Kim said she now has two children and is going to school to become a sexual assault nurse examiner.

"The big thing I want people to know is it's up to you to make your own life better. I had to keep moving forward, even though it would have been a hell of a lot easier to give up. Whatever happens, never, ever give up."