Caught in the gray zone

When Emily Smith reported she was raped, a prosecutor believed her, but believing her was not enough to prove it in court



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Emily Smith, 22, remembers the night she woke up in her bed to a man on top of her. In the months after, she withdrew from classes at Indiana University Bloomington, slept in her roommates’ bed and searched for control of the life she remembered before everything changed.“It’s not stranger danger," she said. "It’s your neighbor, it’s your friend. It’s the cute guy you met at the party who you’re really hitting it off with. It went further than you were comfortable with. You feel taken advantage of. You feel like you didn’t have a say in the matter." Matthew Bloom Buy Photos

Experience the full story here.

Hours are missing from her memory of that Saturday night.

It was Sept. 28, 2013, and Emily Smith was starting her first semester as an IU senior. She can still recall the beginning of that evening, when she put on her favorite blue chiffon shirt before heading out to the bars with her roommate. She can still hear the loud music pulsing from the dance floor at Kilroy’s Dunnkirk. She remembers sharing drinks with her roommate and other friends.

Then it all went black.

When she came to several hours later, a man was moving on top of her, having sex with her in her own bed. She froze. Somewhere in the darkness, she could hear her phone vibrating. She wanted to answer it, but her hands were so numb she could not move them. Then she lost consciousness again.

***

When Emily, 22, woke the next morning, the man was still in her bed. She recognized his face from seeing him on a couple other nights at Dunnkirk, but she had only fleeting conversations with him and knew nothing about him. Even though she couldn’t remember what happened between them during the missing hours at the bar, one thing was clear to her that morning: she had been violated. Yet the man acted like nothing was wrong.

One year later, Emily has decided to share her story in the Indiana Daily Student. By allowing readers to know her name and see her face, she said she hopes to show others that what happened to her could happen to anyone.

When the IDS contacted the man for his version of that night, he declined to speak on the record and asked not to be identified other than by his first name, Phil. Now 24, he lives outside Bloomington and has never been an IU student. Phil said he had no idea that Emily was as impaired that night as she describes. He said the sex was consensual.

The night after the incident, Emily reported a sexual assault to the Bloomington Police Department. For months, she worked with police to piece together what had happened and to provide any evidence showing that she had been unable to give consent.

When talking about rape, most people long for the clarity of a stranger jumping out of the bushes with a knife. But the majority of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, in situations that aren’t so black and white. This makes it much more confusing for the victim and much harder to prove in court.

“It’s not stranger danger,” Emily said. “It’s your neighbor. It’s your friend. It’s the cute guy you met at the party who you’re really hitting it off with.”

Her case, like so many others, unfolded in a gray zone — a tangle of missing memories, mixed signals and unclear intentions.

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