Alison's Story

"It's always going to be with me. Even when I'm 90 years old, it'll be there in the background a little bit. That doesn't mean I can't heal and move on forward."

It was an average night during an average week when Alison Foley woke to a perpetrator in her home. The hours that followed were traumatic: he raped her at gunpoint multiple times; robbed her of her possessions; forced her to withdraw money at an ATM; and threatened her repeatedly not to leave her house for help.

“I was paralyzed, in a dreamlike state of shock,” said Alison. “I felt like I left my body. I dissociated from reality.”

Survivor Alison portrait beside daylily flowers. She talks about recovering from sexual assault. Alison finally escaped from the apartment and drove to her parents, who contacted law enforcement immediately. She credits her positive experience with law enforcement to the training and awareness of the officers working with her. “The detective who worked on my case was trained specifically for sex crimes, which made a big difference throughout the questioning process,” said Alison.

When talking with law enforcement, it can be helpful to know what to expect and to understand their process. Victims may interact with law enforcement only when they report, or they might be asked to stay involved with the investigation over a length of time. When the questions seemed painful or overly inquisitive, the detective on Alison’s cases explained the role that the questions played in the investigation. “The detective asked me what I was wearing. I was in a state of shock and didn’t understand why he asked me that. But later I found out it was to identify my clothing [after it was collected for evidence].”

For the next year, Alison worked with a number of law enforcement officials and attorneys to help convict the perpetrator. The process wasn’t always easy: “I could have done better with self-care when it was all happening,” she says. “But I did get free counseling, and I think that helped.”


During this time, Alison was able to receive free counseling sessions through her local sexual assault service provider. Survivors of sexual violence can reach their nearest provider through the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE). These local providers offer a range of services that may include free individual or group counseling, hospital accompaniment, help applying to the state crime victims’ fund for reimbursement of costs, and support throughout the criminal justice process.

Alison believes one of the biggest challenges for survivors working within the criminal justice system is finding a healthy way to deal with delays. “At first they said my rape kit wouldn’t be tested for six months. Even when they tried to rush the process, I kept hearing it would be a few weeks. A few weeks more. Another two weeks.” She also experienced delays when it came to setting a trial date. The date was moved multiple times before the perpetrator eventually pled guilty. 

“From what I understand, my case was still relatively quick compared to cases that drag on for years—even though it was stressful and felt like forever. I kept reminding myself that this [stress] was temporary. It’s worth it if you can find ways to have emotional support and care for yourself along the way.” 

Alison believes it’s important to talk about the issues, challenges, and uncomfortable moments that survivors face during an investigation. She believes calling attention to these aspects of the criminal justice system may help more survivors feel prepared to report and call attention to weaknesses in the system. “The process was grueling. I felt beat down at times,” said Alison. "But it’s worth it to not give up. I feel like it helps victims get a better sense of closure when they can pull through it.” 

Today Alison spends her free time dancing and practicing yoga to stay on top of self-care. She also shares her story with the media and other survivors in the hopes of lifting the veil off of the criminal justice process. “It’s never going away. So I’m not going to stop. I’m going to keep doing this kind of work with RAINN, and hope that it makes a difference.”

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800.656.HOPE and, y en español:

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