Sometimes help comes from the most unexpected places.
In Athens, a couple of days after all this happened in 2005, I was lying in my hostel bunk bed, doing something I didn't do often back then. I was praying. I didn't know for what, really. I just felt desperately isolated, alone and terrified. I was asking the universe... and for some reason, the goddess Hera (I learned later that she is "the protector of women") for help.
I fell asleep after that, and when I awoke a few hours later, it was to a petite American girl who had come into the room. Someone had told her what had happened, and she'd come to talk, because a few years ago, she had been drugged and raped.
As we were talking, other girls in the room overheard, and offered food, and their support. And suddenly I was no longer alone, and my pain was shared by other women, and what had happened to me was no longer just mine. It was the most healing thing I could have asked for. I always refer to her as the American angel.
Last week, I got a call from Paul Cherry, who wrote the article in The Gazette. Someone from an organization called The Greek Helksinki Monitor wanted to get in touch with me, and as The Gazette didn't use my name, they went through him. I spoke to the woman today, and her husband. The Greek Helsinki Monitor is a human rights advocacy group in Greece. They gave me more information about the Greek legal system in the last half hour than I've gotten from anyone else combined. They told me why, if I do attend the trial, I should have a lawyer: because in Greece, the prosecutor is not there to convict the defendant. They said the victim in a case like this should have a lawyer to argue with the defending lawyer. If I go to this trial without a lawyer, I will be, as they put it, "torn apart".
They told me that giving a video testimony is not possible, as I'm not a minor and have to be cross-examined. They also told me that as the trial has been canceled, it will not be rescheduled anytime in the near future. As in, not before the first half of 2009. If I'm lucky.
"I'm getting married in 2009," I told him, lamely, because I'm starting to feel like getting married is a pansy excuse to beg out of one's own rape trial.
But then, the man told me that since he released information on my case, he's been contacted by two national Greek papers, both of whom want to speak to me. That this could be a case that sets a precedent, not only in the way they deal with the defendant, but in how rape is dealt with in Greece, period. In how victims are compensated, and even how they are treated by the police and medical system.
So. I will be speaking to these Greek journalists. I am giving the Greek Helsinki Monitor the authority to do as much as they can with my case, which seems to be a lot. They also said that with enough pressure, and a lawyer, could convince the prosecution office to hold the trial early enough in the year for me to be able to attend.
"If these issues are exposed in the proper way," the woman told me, "it may trigger actions, reactions and changes that would not otherwise happen.
They will know they are being watched."
After I thanked them for the millionth time, the woman told me to call or e-mail with any questions I had. And she said, "Natalie, you are not alone."
I know, especially after the e-mails that continue to come in, that I am not alone. But for the first time, I really feel like I might be able to do something for other victims - something more than a few years in prison for one individual. And that gives me a lot of hope.