Jo's Story I knew this man for about a year. Let’s call him Ghostface. I met Ghostface at a restaurant while he was on his shift. That day I was actually on a date. My date was too busy watching a sports game on TV so Ghostface started chatting with me and offered me a free drink. I just smiled and chuckled. Upon leaving, Ghostface asked when he could take me out on a date. I smiled and said, “maybe one day.” I enjoyed the restaurant so although my date was horrible it became my go to place. Each time I would go, Ghostface was very talkative and flirty. I enjoyed his attention, so I was flirty and talkative back. At this time, I only saw and talked with Ghostface at his workplace. We hugged, talked, and shared a friendly kiss on the cheek. In a short time, things started to escalate. There were times I went to the restaurant with a date and Ghostface was infuriated. Other times I chatted with the bartender and Ghostface made a scene and clocked out early. I was, as anyone would be, very confused by his reaction because we were not dating. One day I got very upset and told him he had no right to get upset. A couple weeks later he apologized and said I was right and asked me out on an official date. At this time the guy who I had been dating and who I adored had just broken my heart. I said yes to Ghostface and we went out on a couple dates. I never went to his place nor was I ever alone with him. I never had alcohol on our dates. As I got to know him, I realized I was not romantically or sexually attracted to him. However, I felt that maybe with time I would be. Ghostface asked me constantly at what pace I wanted to go. I told him I wanted to take things very slow and didn’t want to be physically intimate yet. Ghostface said he respected that and that we would go at my pace because he didn’t want to lose me. At that time, I thought that was very sweet of him. We had this same conversation again 1 week before my assault happened. It was a chilly day and a friend I had just met a couple months back asked to hang out. We decided to go to my go to place. Ghostface was working that night and he was elated to see me. I recall having 2 shots while we waited for our food. I then had lots of food! I ordered a margarita and halfway through my second one my memory is blacked out. The next thing I remember was waking up in bed at home. My family stated they picked me up from the bar because I was intoxicated. My first reaction was shame. I was so ashamed that I got so drunk. I was also very confused. I have a high tolerance for alcohol, and I recalled only having a few drinks. I have never blacked out in my life, so this felt scary. When I was showering, I realized I had pain in my private area but I didn’t think much of it. I then got a call from Ghostface and he said he was worried about me. He told me “I took care of you all night at the restaurant.” I was naively appreciative of him and called him “my hero.” The rest of the day we exchanged texts and had a normal conversation. The following day my world fell apart. I had just started my shift and Ghostface messaged me saying “I want to make love to you.” I told him that won’t happen anytime soon. He then asked “don’t you remember?.” I was very confused. He called me and said “we had sex on Saturday.” I was hyperventilating and my heart was racing. I told him on the phone “you knew I was drunk. I would have never been okay with that.” I hung up and he messaged me saying “I told you it was wrong” and “well I was upset you were texting some guy you missed.” I felt disgusted and ashamed. The next day I went to the ER and shamefully told the nurse I was there for a rape kit. I was so scared. The nurse asked if I wanted an advocate from a survivors’ organization to come by. I quickly said “yes please.” My advocate supported me from day 1. My BFF and my sister supported me from day 1. Not everyone in my life was supportive. I shared what happened with two girlfriends and they blamed me and blocked my number. My close friend from work supported me initially and then blamed me. I went through months of trauma therapy and support groups. I went through months of terrible experiences with law enforcement. My initial detective suspended my case without notice while the other I felt rushed things to close my case. I kept fighting each day for my case and was determined to put Ghostface behind bars. When the words “we cannot press charges” came out of the state attorney’s mouth my world fell apart again. The justice system failed me. My story felt invalidated. All I can picture was Ghostface’s smirk like the one he had when I tried to file a protection order. Ghostface was a free man. I felt like my empowerment and strength was snatched away. However, my advocate’s support snapped me out of feeling that way. She said “I wish the woman I first met in the hospital could see the strong woman you are now.” Ghostface cannot and will never take my power, my resilience, my worth away. To all the survivors reading this please know although the justice system fails us, although our own friends don’t believe us, it was NOT our fault and we did NOT deserve it.