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Fort Wayne's Very Own LGBT Ava Zinn | Official Web Site > News > Ava's Commentary > After the Vacation from Hell… Now What?

After the Vacation from Hell… Now What?

The very second that I reported the sexual assault while I was on vacation in Infinaapolis, I knew my fight was against my assailant and the crime. After speaking to all nearly all my friends, family and fans, my silence on the matter has broken since the day I returned from vacation and it’s one vacation I will never going to forget for a long time. The minute I came home from vacation started my fight for some law that better protects the LGBT communities in all 92 Indiana counties since the State of Indiana added discrimination protections to individuals based one’s sexual orientation and gender identity in 2003

What I didn’t realize that fateful Wednesday evening was that my assailant not only raped me physically, he also murdered my sense of personal security. What should have been a great vacation to Indianapolis turned into a nightmare that changed my life forever. I came back to Marion the following Friday morning without a choice of being the same person or living my life as I had known it for a transwoman being 27 years of age, ever again.

Prior to the vacation to Indianapolis, I described my self-concept, includes my job or that I am a hard-working (and my assailant did not take that away); that is what I do for a living, selling gifts and gift accessories plus media as the president and CEO of NoSirGifts as my primary occupation and manufature “gift accessories” as a production employee at Carey Services as my secondary occupation . After the vacation, you can say I probably went from “cool to tool.” To wake up one day, as a 27-year-old woman, and realize that you are no longer in control of your life in order to basically have the capability to perform normal everyday routines, is not only a different reality but frightening one. Instead, you are now someone who just reports to work, clock in, perform your tasks correctly, and clock out–all because it takes everything you have left following a horrible vacation, add to your body’s natural reaction to trauma plus processing all that is different in and around you . There was nothing that did not prepare me for the worst-case scenario since I was always prepared when the worst came. You never know when things will return to normal after being homeless (not finding a hotel room that meets your needs and/or standards), robbed/pickpocketed, and sexually assaulted; nevertheless, it will take months or years when you will be back to “normal”, but now realize that your concept of normal says “there comes a time when you know you have to make a change.”

Obvioulsy, I chose to report the crime to the local police (thanks to an all-time favorite show of all time I saw when I was a little boy in Van Buren called Rescue 911). Even though the assalant was also on vacation (and one of his friends or family, to my speculation, left a voicemail on my cell phone that was stolen and used during the sexual assault) and I knew I needed to get medical attention and preserve the assailant’s DNA while I was getting treated at the Methodist Hospital in Indinapolis. I then realized that Indianapolis was no longer the vacation spot that I knew when I was on a field trip in 1994/95 and in 2004. I tried to make the most of a very bad situation while I was in Indianapolis, but I couldn’t wait until my vacation was over… especially ever. Because I reported it and he was an acuaintence, people in Marion are beginning to find out and taking my side fast. Even months before I went on vactaion, I had a huge wake up call when I saw what every single person in your life is really made of; in their values, in their ability to face serious things, and in their moment of truth in choosing to be an honest person (when he or she “Keeps It Real” in my book) or a weak one (at that point a male is called a jackass and the female is called a jennie).

Dealing with the traumatic event, everything in my life became different, at least I kept my jobs in Marion, as well as other unrelated repercussions, and  experienced flashbacks of the traumatic event. As if I wasn’t already dealt with other major blows prior to the vactaion, I already what women were up against, in society and the judicial process. It’s good when I have damn good evidence because sexual assaults are among the top five hardest felonies to convict anyone of (thanks to two other shows I usually watch are “Cold Case” and  “CSI: Miami”). Other than being one of the strongest transwomen in Indiana (and probably in America), it stems back to how everyone’s culture views women (as well as those who were born men) and the stigma around sex in our society.  I now wish Marion is a much better place than Muncie and Indianapolics combined. Only things I like about Indianapolis and Muncie are the air pollution and transgender friendly better than Marion

For Transwomen Survivors of a Sexual Assault

Transgendered people like myself are the targets of the most vicious and blatant forms of  violence and nearly two weeks ago, I found myself in that sad statistic, in Indianapolis. Despite Indianapolis being a more transgender-friendly muncipalitiy, and yours truly from a city of nearly 35,000 over 60 miles northeast of Indianapolis, random street violence (such as being robbed) and sexually assaulted.

Like many other transgendered people, a majority of transwomen and less often transmen, are often sexually targeted specifically because of their transgendered status. The sexual perpetrator will stalk them, or attack them, infuriated by their cross-gender behavior. Wilchins (1998), in the video “Transgendered Revolution” says, “Trans people are never killed from 300 yards away with a high-powered rifle; they’re always killed up front and personal … People want to see us die … there is a level of almost unhinged deranged violence about gender hate crimes.”.

Our societal discomfort with transgenderism, has rendered transgendered victims of sexual assault, gay-bashing, and domestic violence without necessary services. Rape Crisis Centers and domestic violence shelters are unprepared to address the issues of transgendered people, but since it happened to yours truly, there ought to be something done now. Medical personnel respond with judgment and have been known to withhold care to people they perceive to be cross-dressing. The criminal justice and the legal systems often re-traumatize victims. The complexity of issues facing the transgendered person who is sexual assaulted can only be addressed by broad changes in the delivery system and extensive education regarding the needs of the LGBT community.

Myth Vs. Reality

I want to take a look at some mistaken beliefs about transwoman sexual assault and uncover the realities behind the myths…

Myth: Transwomen can be sexually assaulted.
Reality: Transwomen are sexually assaulted. Any transwoman can be sexually assaulted regardless of size, strength, appearance or sexual orientation.

Myth: Only transmen are sexually assaulted.
Reality: Transmen and transwomen are equally likely to be sexually assaulted just as heterosexual, gay and bisexual men and women. Being sexually assaulted has nothing to do with your current or future sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Your sexuality has no more to do with being raped than being robbed.

What Is “Sexual Assault?”

In legal terms, sexual assault is any sexual contact that is against a person’s will or without consent. This includes situations where force, violence, or weapons are used as well as situations where the victim is too intoxicated or scared to give consent. Sexual assault happens to men as well as women. In fact, by most estimations, 5% to 10% of sexual assaults committed in the United States involve male victims. Some experts say that as many as 1 in 10 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. These numbers may sound startling because the problem of sexual assault against men isn’t talked about very much.

Sexual assault against men happens in lots of different ways. Some men are assaulted by a stranger, or a group of strangers, while others may be assaulted by someone they know. Men are sometimes sexually assaulted by women but most often they are sexually assaulted by other men. Some attackers use weapons, physical force, or the threat of force to gain the upper hand. Others may use blackmail or a position of authority to threaten someone into submission. Still others use alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both, to prevent victims from fighting back. No matter how it occurs, it is a violation of a man’s body and his free will and it can have lasting emotional consequences.

The purpose of this brochure is to provide information about sexual assault and recovery for the male survivor.

What To Do If You’ve Just Been Sexually Assaulted

 

What I Did After the Sexual Assault in Indianapolis (indicated in parantheses)

  1. Get to a safe place.
  2. Call someone who can help you: a friend, the police (911), or community agencies (went back to the Greyhound Station Security).
  3. Don’t shower, drink, eat or change your clothes (Luckily I didi not shower or eat anything after the sexual assault). These activities can destroy physical evidence that could be useful if you decide to prosecute.
  4. Get medical attention. (I went to the Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis) Not once did I ever felt embarrassed about the injuries, but most importantly I did receive the necessary medical assistance. Hospital staffs are accustomed to dealing with injuries to the penis or anus and they are trained to do so as professionally as they would treat a broken arm or a heart attack. I didn’t seem to be seriously hurt, I may have had hidden, internal injuries that can become get worse with time (at least physically).Emotionally, words simply are not enough to describe the pain I felt down in Indianapolis.
  5. Write down everything that you remember happening, with as much detail as possible. This can help you to cope with the situation but may also be helpful in any legal action you might decide to take.

 

Am I Supposed to Feel This Way?

Since I may have been born a man and now live as a woman, sexual assault is a traumatic expereinces I’ve ever dealt with. Normally, trauma of sexual assault involves losing control of your own body and possibly fearing death or injury–worst case scenario, the trauma I did expereince was the fact that I was overpowered and could not kick the attacker in his testicles nor could I use my whistle since it was stolen. There are certain ways that human beings react to trauma that are the same for men and women. “Rape trauma syndrome” is a term that mental health professionals use to describe the common reactions that occur for both men and women after sexual assault. “Rape trauma syndrome” is not an illness or abnormal reaction — it is a normal reaction to an abnormal, traumatic event. Jenna (McCoy), I hope you are reading this post. I have already spoke to Christy, my potential new love, about this.

Below is a checklist of common reactions to sexual assault. Though each person and situation is unique, this checklist will help you to know the range of reactions that are normal to expect. Of course, there are also ways that men are affected differently than women by sexual assault. Following the list of universal reactions to sexual assault, we’ll delve into some of the reactions to sexual assault that are more unique to men.

Checklist of Universal Reactions to Sexual Assault

Bold indicates ongoing. Italics indicate what I felt initially after the sexual assault in Indy. Bold Italics indicate what I have tried to avoid for 15 years.

  1. Emotional Shock: I feel numb. How can I be so calm? Why can’t I cry?
  2. Disbelief and/or Denial: Did it really happen? Why me? Maybe I just imagined it. It wasn’t really rape.
  3. Embarrassment: What will people think? I can’t tell my family or friends.
  4. Shame: I feel completely filthy, like there’s something wrong with me. I can’t get clean.
  5. Guilt: I feel as if it’s my fault, or I should’ve been able to stop it. If only I had…
  6. Depression: How am I gonna get through the semester? I’m so tired! I feel so hopeless. Maybe I’d be better off dead
  7. Powerlessness: Will I ever feel in control again?
  8. Disorientation: I don’t even know what day it is, or what class I’m supposed to be in. I keep forgetting things.
  9. Flashbacks: I’m still re-living the assault! I keep seeing that face and feeling like it’s happening all over again.
  10. Fear: I’m scared of everything. What if I have herpes or AIDS? I can’t sleep because I’ll have nightmares. I’m afraid to go out. I’m afraid to be alone.
  11. Anxiety: I’m having panic attacks. I can’t breathe! I can’t stop shaking. I feel overwhelmed.
  12. Anger: I feel like killing the person who attacked me!
  13. Physical Stress: My stomach (or head or back) aches all the time. I feel jittery and don’t feel like eating.

Getting Back On Track

It is important for you to know that your reactions are normal and temporary reactions to an abnormal event.

The fear and confusion will lessen with time, but the trauma may disrupt your life for awhile. You may experience any or all of the reactions listed below. Some reactions may be triggered by people, places or things connected to the assault, while other reactions may seem to come from “out of the blue.” Remember that no matter how much difficulty you’re having dealing with the assault, it does not mean you’re “going crazy” or becoming “mentally ill.”

Talking about the assault (and yes, I have been talking about this since then) will help you feel better, but may also be really hard to do. In fact, it’s common to want to avoid conversations and situations that may remind you of the assault. You may have a sense of wanting to “get on with life” and “let the past be the past.” This is a normal part of the recovery process and may last for weeks or months, or even years.

Eventually you will need to deal with your feelings in order to heal and regain a sense of control over your life. Talking with someone who can listen and understand — whether it’s a friend, family member, hotline counselor or therapist — is a key part of this process.

It’s important to understand that you may not be able to function at 100% capacity for a while following a major trauma like sexual assault. You may have problems concentrating or remembering things and may feel tired or edgy. You may also take longer to recover from everyday stresses, kinda like when you go back to work or school too early after having the flu. Don’t be too hard on yourself — you need time to recover emotionally and that may detract from your energy for awhile.

 

Ways To Take Care of Yourself

Bold indicates I have that covered. Italics indicate I have that partially covered

  1. Get support from friends and family— try to identify people you trust to validate your feelings. Spend time with people who know your strengths and positive qualities. Try not to isolate yourself.
  2. Talk about the assault and express feelings — you can choose when, where, and with whom. You can also decide how much or how little to talk about.
  3. Use stress reduction techniques — hard exercise like walking, jogging, biking, swimming, weight-lifting; relaxation techniques like yoga, massage, music, prayer and/or meditation.
    1. Maintain a balanced diet and sleep cycle and avoid overusing caffeine, sugar, nicotine, alcohol or other drugs.
  4. Take “time outs.” Give yourself permission to take quiet moments to reflect, relax and rejuvenate — especially during times you feel stressed or unsafe.
  5. Try reading. Reading can be a relaxing, healing activity. Try to find short periods of uninterrupted leisure reading time.
  6. Consider writing or journaling as a way of expressing thoughts and feelings.
  7. Release some of the hurt and anger in a healthy way: Write a letter about how you feel about what happened to you. Be as specific as you can. You also can draw pictures about the anger or hurt you feel as a way of releasing the emotional pain.
  8. Remember you are safe, even if you don’t feel it. The assault is over. It may take longer than you’d like, but you will feel better.
  9. Get into counseling. I am already reciveing counseling since my IWU dismissal and ongoing gender tranbsition. I also spoke to Hands of Hope in person.

How YOU–My Family, Friends, and Fans–Can Help

After a sexual assault, the victim needs to, Get medical attention, feel safe, be believed 100 percent, know it WAS NOT her fault, and take control of her life.

Things you–the family, friend, or fan–can do to help (and this applies to everyone reading this). This is what my 16 years as a student of Mississinewa Community Schools trained me for something like this:

  1. Listen, don’t judge. Try to simply understand, whether you’re a colleague (at NoSirGifts and Carey Services), went to school with yours truly, oetc. (This is why negative comments are removed.)
  2. Be there and give comfort. He may need to talk a lot or at odd hours at the beginning. Be there as much as you can and encourage him to talk to others.
  3. Be patient. Don’t try to rush the healing process or quickly “make it better.”
  4. Accept his choice of what to do about the sexual assault — don’t be overly protective. Ask him what he needs, help him list his options, then encourage him to make his own decisions. Even if you disagree. It is very important that he make his own decisions and have them respected.
  5. Put aside your feelings and get support for yourself. It may be too overwhelming for her to deal with your angry feelings on top of her own. If you have strong angry feelings or feelings of blame toward the survivor, talk to a friend and/or call a hotline (I usually can recommend someone).

 

Personal & Community Resources

  • Hands of Hope (9 am to 7:30 pm, M-W; 9 am to 6:30 pm R; and 9 am to 5 pm F)
    • Grant County (IN): 765-662-9971
  • Hands of Hope Crisis Hotline
    • 765-664-0701 (Grant County, Indiana residents)
    • 800-434-8973 (toll-free)
  • Answerline: 765-662-2222 or 211
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233
  • RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE (4673)

 

Internet Resources

Remember that website addresses change.

  • The National Center for Victims of Crime: www.ncvc.org
  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network): National sexual assault hotline: www.rainn.org

 

Sources: Sexual Assault in the Transgender Community, University of Texas Sexual Assault, Hands of Hope

 

 

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