Survivor Stories

Anonymous, Colorado



I am incarcerated in a state prison. I am choosing not to use my name. I’m due to see the parole board at the end of this year – so hopefully it will not be too much longer until this nightmare comes to an end. I feel that by sharing my story it will help not only me, but also someone else.

Last year I was raped twice. The first incident happened when I was in the county jail. The man was my cellmate. I suppose that I should back up just a little. I am 22 and I’m an openly gay man. It is not something that I choose to advertise. My family will ask me, “Why do you tell people that you are gay?” People can just tell — the way that I walk, the way that I talk. To be honest, being gay is not even in the top ten list of things that I define myself as.

In this environment, men just assume that I want to have sex with everything and anyone. That is so not true. Well, in the county jail, my cellmate kept pushing sex on me. He started joking around with me to break the ice and snapping me with a towel. Then things just started to escalate very quickly. Four days after he moved in, he raped me. When I came into my cell very late one back, he acted angry because he said that I woke him up. He jumped out of his bunk and started to masturbate on a stool with some lotion. He started yelling obscenities at me.

I later told myself that I should have yelled, should have fought back. In reality, all I did was “give in.” I was so afraid. In my mind I thought that this man was going to kill me. He kept on telling me that he would snap my neck like a twig. After 45 minutes a deputy was doing a walk and saw what was going on. My cellmate almost immediately started shouting that what he was doing to me was consensual.

Through all the events that followed I felt like I was the “bad guy.” People came and looked in my window for weeks afterwards. It made me feel like I had done something wrong. All I wanted to do was die. I felt like everything that I ever knew was wrong.

The man who did this to me took a piece of me away from me that night. No one in population could understand why I snitched in this environment; the worst thing that a person could do was to reach out to the guards for help. I ended up going to a work-release program — which is basically like a halfway house. I would go to work in the day and then turn myself back in to the jail at night. This is when the real effects of the rape started to take a toll on me. What I needed was to be around my friends and family to start my healing process. Instead, I was around a bunch of insensitive grown men who act like children. I started having these nightmares. Basically reliving what happened over and over again. I’d wake up screaming, covered in sweat, and people would start laughing at me like I was some joke. That’s how I felt — like someone was playing a sick joke on me.

I started getting high on crystal meth again, which is why I was in jail in the first place. I also found out some bad news and just could not cope anymore. So I left. I always thought that I was ‘normal’ before the rape; things were simpler. I was literally living in fear for months. Using the meth was my escape. I was too ashamed to go and get help. After the rape I felt as if my life did not matter. I felt as if I had no value. After a few months I came to terms with the fact that the only way to get my life back on track was to turn myself in, so that is just what I did.

You must think that I’m crazy, huh? I thought that by turning myself in, I could avoid a prison sentence. Well, I was wrong. I had just barely started to sort things out. I tried to go to a program and then boot camp, but just could not make it. I end up on a prison yard. I would ask myself, “How can this be?” I arrived on a Friday and by Sunday was already caught up with the wrong crowd. Coming in, new to the system, not knowing anyone, is and was such a scary feeling. All I wanted to do was to go and crawl in a hole and die. This could not be my life, but yes, it was. Every single thing that I thought that I knew was wrong. Magically now, I was an adult — forced to fend for myself.

Less than a month later I was gang raped, over a two-hour period. These men told me that someone had bought me, as if I was their object, and they told me that I had to give it up. I literally froze. I felt like I was in a blizzard. My whole body went cold. I felt like I was in a dream. It just did not feel real. I was like a deer in headlights, then it was just over and done with. They told me that they were going to kill me if I did not go and take a shower.

I now have less than a year left of my time. Hopefully I will be going home on parole. Each day I continue to grow and I continue to surprise myself. After what happened I felt that I had two choices: to lay down and die, or to keep on fighting. So I chose to fight, one day at a time. Sometimes it’s one minute at a time. I am trying my best to stay positive. I still have recurring nightmares, reliving what happened over and over again. The healing process is a lifelong journey. I found out that it is not something that can be fixed overnight. A storm came into my life, as terrifying as storms can be. I say thank you because I found that I used this storm to open my eyes. I have grown — spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Each and every day I grow a little more and surprise myself. I was changed by what happened to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.

— Anonymous, Colorado