Nicole Hernandez is a freelance stylist, creative director and costume designer currently living in Wilmington, NC. Traveling to and from NYC following her dreams. She is also a writer for Galore magazine.
I can't even begin to express the disgust and anger I felt after I typed the word 'rape' into Google search and saw about 20,400,000 results pop up in a matter of (0.40) seconds. I began clicking on different articles and continuously I saw the words "allegedly", "supposedly", "accused" all associated with these monsters, these rapists. One story in particular that I didn't come across when searching... was my own story.
This is because I never saw justice. Hell I never even got to see a judge, even though my rapist had a 2-page-long criminal record, to include kidnapping and other assault charges. This month marks a year since I was raped. February 25th to be exact. This animal is still out there, still on the prowl and likely still hurting women, simply living his life. Disgusting. But guess what, guess who else is living their life. I am.
I want to tell other women that they TOO can live their life, no matter what. Rape is one of THE worst things that could ever happen to a person. Trust me, I know from experience. The evilness and the sneakiness of how I was raped is nauseating. My bedroom door was barricaded shut, piles of magazines were stacked up against my door. My bedside table was pushed against my door as well. This psychopath even slept next to me after raping me. He drugged me until I was unconscious and unresponsive. This monster was someone I had been around 4 to 5 times in my life, he is twice my age, and he is someone I have since fantasized about killing many, many times. He was a drug dealer, to put it frankly. I had second thoughts about including that little detail, but you must know how I knew this monster. The details are something I could go into at another time. Just know that this rape was done shamelessly in the corner of my bedroom. This monster knew he was in the wrong, he must have felt like a coward, as he should have. That sick fuck.
I no longer want to be silenced. I no longer want to keep this bottled up inside of me as if it didn't happen. I no longer want to pretend that the female police officer who transported me to the hospital the morning after I was raped completely crossed the line. I no longer want to pretend that she didn't use the words, "This kind of thing happens a lot, you know, but some girls are just dumb". Dumb?! Yes, she used these words with me. After making a complaint to my rape crisis counselor, she informed me that there had been about 3 other incidents where complaints were made regarding this officer and things she's said to other rape victims.
Yet this officer is still transporting rape victims to the hospital? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that just isn't right. My experience with the detective was no different either. The first time I met the detective I was in the hospital and still in complete shock with all that had happened. Our meeting was brief and lasted all of 10 minutes. It would seem that I would go days without hearing from the detective. Then when I finally heard back from him, the first words out of his mouth had to do with a murder trial he had been working on. In essence telling me that this murder trial was more important than my rape.
The police weren't helpful at all. They never once even questioned him. After weeks of no answers and no progress, my mother called the chief of police. When my mom asked why they hadn't questioned him yet, the officer used the words, "Ma'am, this is a man's life we are dealing with". What about my life though? It became very clear to me that this monster who did this to me was going to get away with it (and he did).
After 3 months passed by, I had one last phone call. It was the detective who told me that the female DA didn't want to take my trial to court because 'the court would eat me alive' and 'he is an acquaintance so you probably won't win'. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? I was on an airplane at the time, leaving LA after a week-long trip of work and travel. I had literally just sat down, so mind you, I received this information in a matter of seconds. I was in shock once again. The only words I could come up with were, "Wait. Does this mean it's over? That's it?" The detective asked if I wanted to meet with him and a counselor to talk about it. I responded with another panic attack/breakdown (I experienced a few over this 3-month waiting process and have since experienced more when I have least expected it. Unexpected triggers set me off sometimes). I fought through my tears and told him, "This is fucked up," and hung up the phone. I haven't talked to the detective since.
I couldn't believe this monster had gotten away with this. Just because he was 'an acquaintance'? It doesn't matter if he was my fucking boyfriend, it doesn't matter how many times I was around this monster (4 to 5 times in my life), you can't rape someone. Period. It also sickens me that the female DA didn't even give me a chance. After everything I had been through, I was ready to surrender myself on the stand, ready to sacrifice, for other women. And I never got to speak. They never saw him. They never talked to him. They never approached him. This sicko got away with rape.
One thing he didn't get away with, however, was ruining my life.
I wouldn't let my rape define me.
We are all different and cope with things differently, and I coped in an odd way. After I was raped, I kind of just pretended it didn't happen. Minus sleeping on my couch for weeks after my rape, getting a new bed comforter, suffering mental breakdowns and panic attacks, you could say things were pretty normal. I never sought counseling and I never went to the Rape Crisis Center (even though my parents begged me to). It's almost as if I didn't want to admit that this had happened to me. But it did. And that was that. I continued to work my ass off in styling and costume design and figuratively swept it under the rug. Not a very wise thing to do, instead I should have gone to counseling. Absolutely. But I didn't. Instead, I kept myself so incredibly busy that I didn't have the time to even think about what had happened to me. I put all of my focus, my heart and soul into my own personal projects, as well as assisting others with their projects and films.
Eventually, my "keep myself busy" mindset disappeared. Finally, I started doing things for ME and because they truly made me happy. No longer was I running and hiding from my rape; instead I was, in a way, overcoming my rape. Slowly. "Overcome" is not a word I wanted to hear this past year; I don't think you can ever TRULY overcome being raped, so please don't take that word the wrong way. I do believe, though, that you shouldn't let your rape define you and I will hold that statement close to my heart until the day I die.
In this busy time, I ended up working on two films that later were selected and screened at an international film festival. I was the costume designer for both. The day after this film festival ended, I received an email in response to an internship I had applied for in New York City. Being the go-getter that I am, I quit my job and school, packed up two large suitcases and headed to NYC the next week. While in NYC, I began assisting an incredible costume designer, stylist and creative director and ended up working on a film for John Carpenter (the horror film king himself). I also started writing and interning for Galore magazine and couldn't be happier. I will have my first shoot published through Galore sometime this month. I was also assistant wardrobe stylist on 5 editorials for an international magazine, Seven Tribes. All blessings that truly fed my soul.
All of these things wouldn't have happened, though, if I didn't believe in myself.
When you go through something as damaging as being raped, it's very easy to lose sight of what brings you happiness. Very easily, you lose sight of loving yourself. You lose your confidence, you lose your joy, you lose your sparkle. That is why I want to tell my story to girls and women around the United States (and hopefully the world). I want to change the world. I want to make an impact. I have suffered greatly as well as accomplished a lot in this past year. I want to be a voice for other women who too have suffered. I want to inspire women to continue to follow their dreams and live. No matter how they feel, I want them to know that it's going to be okay and to never lose sight of what they love, especially their dreams. Now is the time to speak up and now is the time to talk about it. I would really love to help other victims through my story. If you've been raped or sexually assaulted by someone you know (or don't know) please, please, please say something. Never lose sight of your dreams. Never forget that YOUR VOICE DOES MATTER! You can do whatever you want in this life, no matter what.