I trusted him. He was my freshman hall mate, not necessarily my friend, but someone I had many conversations with and knew. He had a crush on me in the beginning of the year, but I made it clear I only wanted to be friends and he recognized it. So when he came into my room one night to pregame during Winter Carnival it wasn’t all that strange. Eventually my three girl friends, him and I headed to the social houses to find dancing. It was particularly icy and we were holding on to each other to avoid falling. We all got separated.
Him and I ended up at Tavern where some people were playing pong. He started saying, “Lets go back to Battell” implying a hookup. I kept saying, “no, I don’t want to go back to Battell”. After more standing around, he took my hand and led me into the laundry room in Tavern. I remember being confused, but not alarmed because I knew him. I thought, “why are we here?” All of a sudden we started kissing and clothes started coming off. I was completely surprised but he was significantly more sober than I was so I wasn’t processing things fully. “Lets go back to Battell and get a condom”, he said. I didn’t want to have sex with him so I kept saying, “no I don’t want to go back to Battell.” Still nothing was stopping. At some point my underwear came off. I wanted to leave and I didn’t want to have sex with him so I tried giving him oral. But it wasn’t enough and that’s not what he wanted. After a final round of “Lets go back to Battell and get a condom” and me saying “no”, he picked me up, pinned me against the washers and penetrated me. After less than a minute he pulled out and came on my stomach.
I was in shock, having sex for the first time in a laundry room with out a condom wasn’t even an option that I thought was possible. I got dressed and walked back to my room as fast as I could. He was following and asking, “What’s the matter?” like he had no clue what he did. I was livid, in shock and refused to answer him.
The next morning I woke up early to go to the health center to get Plan B. Despite living a few doors down, he didn’t say a word to me the rest of the year. Neither did I. I didn’t speak of or hint at the incident for nine months. I thought I was fine and getting over it. I even managed to start hooking up with someone like everyone else.
Finally nine months later I came clean to my therapist. She said that I should think about pressing changes through the judicial board. After some thought I decided to do it. I wanted to be able to set an example for others and the head of the judicial board told me that ‘people need to be help accountable for their actions’. I agreed.
The process started in J-term and it was anything, but easy. I was forced to relive every moment. Finally weeks later, after countless interviews, responses, tears, pain, emotions that I didn’t even know I had and a small judicial panel review, the verdict was in. Not Guilty.
Devastated. Sadness. Disbelief. I collapsed into a deeper sadness, which I didn’t even think was possible. It felt like treading in a black sea with rocks in my pockets. I stopped functioning as a normal person. I would see pictures of him on Facebook happy with his friends. From the interviews I knew he didn’t think he did anything wrong. In fact he was mad that I was pressing charges and claimed I was the instigator.
I stopped eating normally. I would go to the dining halls once in a week. I was so paranoid that I would see him or his friends that even getting a ‘to-go’ container was stressful. I would lie in bed for hours on end. My pillow became a permanent tearstain. I did the minimal to get by; I worked, slept, and ate just so I wouldn’t pass out during practices. The dull pain of hunger and eventually the sharp sting of metal kept me grounded. Sadness was the only thing I felt, but it was also the last thing I projected.
The important thing to remember is I’m just like any other Midd kid. I don’t wear all black and I’m not emo. In fact, I’m as normal as they come, maybe even more cheerful and outgoing than average. I’m the last person you would ever guess has been assaulted or majorly depressed as a result. I’m that girl who lives in your dorm. I’m your teammate. I’m in your discussion section. I’m your student. I’m your friend. The sad fact is I’m only one of many on campus who have experienced sexual assault.
It’s easy for me to demonize the guy who assaulted and violated me, but that is not my intention. In order to really address the issue of sexual assault we need to be honest about our community. Contrary to popular belief, rapists, predators, and people who sexually assault other people (intentionally or not) do not materialize on the weekends just to dissolve again. These people aren’t aliens or things of fiction; it’s us. Until we are able to come to terms with this fact and accept it we can’t make change on this campus. People who sexually assault others can be ‘nice guys,’ but this does not mean they should be excused from their actions.
Do I regret going through the judicial process? No, I don’t. It was not easy, but what is the alternative? Telling yourself everything fine and you’re over it? Letting your assaulter live without realizing his/her actions? Trying to submit a story that is just vague enough for no one to recognize? Being full of shame, fear and self-blame? However painful, the process made me face my assault. It is the only reason I can share my story in incredible detail without being afraid.
To others like me: I’m here for you and I understand. Don’t push it down. No matter if it was an unwanted grope, rape or anything in between. Your experience is significant and should not be disregarded. Talk to someone. Get involved. Do it on your terms and only when you are ready. There are people who know exactly what you are going through and can listen without judgment. I care and as long as I’m on this campus I will never stop advocating for survivors.
I’m still working through the events of last year and a half and live my life week by week. The pain is still there and I doubt it will ever go away completely, but I can confidently say I faced my demons. Starting the judicial process I didn’t know what I was getting into and I had no idea if I could do it, but I’m still standing and that’s all I can ask for. I know what it means to feel true sadness, to cry for what feels like months on end and to mourn the death of a former life when I enjoyed going out, a life that wasn’t hindered by fear and paranoia, a time when I could actually imagine myself trusting someone enough to become intimate at some point. I also know what it means to be truly passionate about a cause and feel empowered as a result. When sadness surrounds you, the things that make you happy shine bright like beacons of light. I can now say I am in touch with the full range of my emotions and for that I am eternally grateful. I only hope that others can find the silver lining like I did and be able to work through their experience in whatever way feels right. I love you and good luck.
“She took the leap and built her wings on the way down”