My Rape Reality - Part 2
ONE DAY AT A TIME: TWO YEARS AGO
As I lean over I see it is 5:48 a.m. All of the lights are on in my house. Sadly, this is nothing new. What was once my safest place feels like a cage. But, I protect myself by staying in this cage… my home. I feel like a burden having to ask a friend to stay the night yet again because I spend my days and nights nervous, afraid, and on edge. I hide in this cage I call a home because all of my attempts to protect myself from seeing my assailant on our campus have failed. I can’t sleep at night without the lights on. I can’t sleep without the anxiety and paranoia that comes with constantly replaying my rape in my mind, the flashbacks from that night, flashbacks from hearing him recount the events of the rape during the adjudication process by the university, and hearing his voice.
Those days and nights have worn me down. I am broken, lost, and confused. I pray and ask God why this happened to me. I blame myself for allowing this person to come into my space. I blame myself for waiting weeks to come forward after he raped me. However, I blame myself the most for thinking that if I reported my rape to the university, I would have their support. I could not have been more wrong.
THE BROKEN PROCESS
I withdrew from the school I believed in, because balancing my studies while going through the school’s “process” of reporting became too great a task. I share my experiences about this process because no one should be made to feel so weak and small.
Let’s discuss this “process.” Do you know exactly how to properly report a sexual assault on your campus? The policy recently changed on campus. Were you informed of the policy? The policy had been recently changed when I was sexually assaulted yet I was not informed. As frustrating as it was to finally locate it, it was more difficult to learn that the individuals entrusted to guide me through the process of formally reporting were equally confused and misinformed. Their lack of training and sensitivity were astounding.
I reported my rape to officials across the campus, seeking help. Rather than conduct an investigation, one administrator had a conversation with my assailant. In it, my assailant predictably refuted every one of my claims. Now armed with the details of my complaint, my assailant began to build his case against me. I now wonder how much trust I should have placed in their hands instead of immediately contacting the local sheriff’s department.
The university administrators failed me throughout this process not only by their lack of support, but their finding in favor of my assailant. Additionally the university withheld information. As I went to a court hearing for a protective order against my assailant, I learned that the university — without telling me — had already issued a no contact order against him. The irony is they issued a no contact order against him when they did not find him responsible for my rape.
I endured the school’s adjudication process while I enrolled in classes. Seeing my rapist on campus every day became too much. Trying to recover from the rape, fighting for my rights, begging to be treated with dignity and respect, and fighting to succeed in school while watching myself drown was painful and disorienting. My prayer for relief to the administration, although heard, fell upon deaf ears with no possible remedy.
The university siding with my rapist only added to my anxiety. Continuing to see him every day meant more years of triggering flashbacks from that night. I do not understand how the administration would think I would be able to recover, push forward academically, and successfully work towards my degree when nothing was being done to protect my interests and safety. Being re-victimized and punished for his actions was hard, particularly as it was so difficult for me to come forward in the first place.
BREAKING DOWN WALLS AND CLAIMS
Yes, he, my assailant had been invited to my home on other occasions prior to the rape. Yes, I felt as if he had invaded my home, not leaving after he raped me. Yes, I felt helpless and weak. Yes, I believed that he could have been capable of hurting me. Yes, he knew my body was tense and frozen as he was inside of me. Yes, I told him that I didn’t want to have sex. Yes, I tried to push him away. Yes, he continued to kiss me while saying “give yourself to me. You need to be more open with me.” Yes, I froze and felt weak as he pinned himself on top of me. Yes, he had been drinking. Yes, I was hurt mentally and scarred. He took something from me that may never come back.
No, I did not give him consent. No, we had never had consensual sex prior to the rape. No, we were not in a relationship. No, I had not been drinking. No, he did not hit me during the rape.
Those were all of my responses to questions asked by the various administrators, police officials, family and friends. The perception of rape is skewed. Simply without consent it is rape.
Which brings me to the following questions: What does rape mean to college administrators across our nation? Is it considered rape when:
• There is no implied or explicit consent?
• A person has lost all consciousness because they were drunk?
• A person has had prior sexual relations with their assailant, but refuses later engage in sexual contact with the person on a different occasion?
• When you say NO yet your assailant continues to pursue sexual advances anyway?
When an administration says the above experiences are not rape, they need to seriously overhaul their understanding of what constitutes consent. They are denying survivors’ human right to be free from sexual violence.
I cannot reason that the administration believed they handled my complaint in a prompt, effective, or equitable manner when I had to withdraw during my second year at school.
I BELIEVE YOU. WE BELIEVE YOU.
I originally did not want to come forward because I was afraid that it would be an upsetting and long process. I was afraid of how my assailant would react once I reported the incident. I was afraid of bringing negative attention to myself and even to him. I was afraid no one would support me, and sadly, I was right. I never wanted my life to change drastically, but unfortunately it has. Where I was two years ago, I am not today. I share my story because I know other survivors on this campus have struggled to understand why something so awful would happen to them on this campus. I share my story because it might help someone else report his or her offender and not feel alone. I share my story because like you I believed in my institution, but recognize they should not harbor rapists. I share my story because it breaks my heart that others can be harmed by this cycle.
If you are a survivor reading this, please know you are not the minority, but the silent majority banned together with others fighting to change the epidemic. I believe you. You are worthy and loved. No longer should we allow our assailants or college/university administrators to take the power from us.
You are not defined by your assault. You are defined by your strength and bravery.
I, a fellow survivor, stand and write in solidarity with all survivors, activists and those that feel they have no voice to come forward. [Insert name of university or college] is complicit in rape culture when rapists continue to sit in our classes, while survivors’ seats are left empty. [Insert name of university or college] failed me, but it has not silenced me.
I would like to thank the staff of End Rape on Campus (EROC) for believing me and assisting me with my case. I admire all of the women for their strength and perseverance.