To the editor: Eight years ago, I was violently raped by a stranger. I was rushed to the hospital where I soon learned that the man who assaulted me was a known serial rapist, which I assumed meant he would quickly go to jail. I was wrong. In fact, according to a 2018 analysis by the Washington Post, less than 1% of rapes and attempted rapes result in a conviction.
In the months following my attack, I ran the gamut of emotions. At first, I hid my bruises and made excuses to avoid friends and family. But soon, I was unwavering in my resolve to stand up to my rapist. To protect other women.
But the Los Angeles County district attorney's office told me I was the first victim of this man who wanted to testify. It would proceed with charges only if there were at least two of us. I was stunned. I needed to understand why more women weren’t coming forward.
So I joined support groups for survivors and spoke to countless lawyers and counselors. What I learned is that women think coming forward won't make a difference. We're told that testifying could feel "worse than the rape itself."
Frankly, I couldn't believe I was hearing this. In the post-#MeToo world, isn't our goal to stop letting predators get away?
For eight years I waited before he was finally arrested and a trial date was set. The morning I testified, I was trembling from head to toe. I was terrified that I would leave the courtroom in tears and regret from being told repeatedly how scary it would be.
But that’s not what happened at all. I was questioned for two hours and I could have stayed on the stand for even longer because it felt so good to finally be heard — so much so that when the attorney for the defense said "no further questions," I was disappointed.
It may shock people to hear this, but I am glad this happened to me. Because predators need to be stopped. I want to use my personal experience to embolden survivors to testify. I am proof that you can leave that courtroom feeling empowered.
We all banded together under the #MeToo banner; now let us stand up to our rapists and say #NoMore.
Shira Scott Astrof, Los Angeles
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.