Belief is a shared experience across all people in all walks of life: belief in a God, belief in yourself, belief in tomorrow being a better day. Belief is what provides us the hope to move forward in otherwise hopeless situations; the belief that we can make it through and come out on the other side.
Belief has a dark side, though. When I was raped by an ex-partner several years ago, I was not believed by our friends. We had a number of mutual friends and they told me — in not so many words — that I was making it up and lying for attention. What got me through that time was the few friends I had who did believe me. They were my foundation through every emotional twist and turn.
When the very foundation of what you’ve built yourself up around has been broken and stolen, the love and support you have in others becomes the only thing that feels solid anymore. You no longer feel like you can do anything, conquer anything, or be yourself; I felt like I was no one and meant nothing. I felt like my “friends” would rather have believed my ex-boyfriend was not a rapist than have to confront the reality that they were close to someone who could conceivably commit such a crime, let alone against someone he claimed to love.
When the question came to whether or not I would file a report, the society that taught me my values also taught me that I had “let it happen” and that I didn’t fight back hard enough — never mind being almost completely unconscious.
Outside of filing a police report, having evidence of a rape collected through a rape kit is often the only recourse victims have to seek justice. I ultimately decided not to go through with a rape kit because I did not believe that it would do any good with so many of my “friends” supporting the man who violated me. But those who decide to file a report and undergo a rape kit collection process have a belief that their case will see justice — and too often they were failed.
New Mexico has approximately 5,400 untested rape kits, some dating back to the 1980s. These cases represent victims who have never been able to secure the closure they need, not to mention the untested evidence that could have made our society safer had the perpetrators been found. This has to stop.
End the Backlog New Mexico is a fundraiser dedicated to making Southern New Mexican victims heard in the state Legislature in the upcoming session. On Friday, Aug. 19, there will be a benefit dinner and a concert at Picacho Peak Brewery in Las Cruces to raise funds to transport these victims to share their stories and concerns at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe. We will be speaking out for more funding to end the New Mexico rape kit backlog, as well as for more financial support for victim services, a critical component in the victim’s welfare.
We have a belief in our representatives doing the right thing for victims across the state and for the public safety of those around us. We believe that tomorrow will be a better day — and this fundraiser is just a singular, small way to move forward.
Jessi Lail is an NMSU graduate in psychology. She is personally interested in the rape kit backlog as a concerned citizen and advocate.