After being raped in her dorm by a friend, a young woman reaches out to sexual assault survivors.
his past fall I was a part of the It’s On Us campaign while at my university, which included having my picture taken for a poster that was hung around campus. Yet the story behind this picture means so much more.
I was raped just weeks before this picture was taken. I was raped by someone I had known for years, who I considered a friend, and who I trusted. I will spare you the details, but from what I remember, I don’t want to remember.
Since last fall, I have been dealing with the emotional and physical repercussions that come from a traumatizing experience like rape. It affected my studies, my job, my social interactions, and my romantic relationships.
It was not the first time I had told him no, but this time he went further than ever before. He came to my dorm room in the middle of the night and took what he had been after for years — control over me. I reported the rape to both the Women’s Center and On-Campus Safety, and he was banned from campus. I was still terrified.
A few months after it happened, I worked up the courage to tell my parents. They sprang into action, collecting advocates and counselors, police friends and lawyers. I ended up filing for a Sexual Abuse Protection Order (SAPO), which would prohibit the rapist from coming near my family and me.
I thought I was done. I was wrong.
The rapist hired an attorney to fight my plea for safety, stating that he wanted the legal right to “contact, threaten or attempt to contact” me. My battle wasn’t over. Through family friends and lots of phone calls, I was assigned two of the best lawyers possible. These two strong women fought tooth and claw for me, but that didn’t stop the tears at night, the shakes when I heard his name, or the feeling in my stomach every time I had to sleep on the mattress where he raped me.
With my team of advocates, lawyers, counselors, teachers, professors, and friends, I was able to hold my head above water and scream. I was able to legally fight back at a system that told me that being asleep, drinking, or wearing/not wearing certain fabrics meant I was “asking for it.”
I went to court, and though my lip was shaking and silent tears rolled down my cheeks, I sat up tall and watched as my SAPO order was approved for a few more months. I watched as the rapist and his family were held accountable. I watched as my mother and father, my brother and neighbor, my high school friends and my college friends, sat with me and fought the rapist with their silent stares of justice. The rapist has a permanent record now, so if he rapes again he will be charged with a felony.
I’m still fighting. I still have flashbacks. I’m still learning to trust again. But just like the It’s On Us campaign poster, full of staple holes, rips from accidental backpack sweeps, and torn corners, I’m still strong.
I look at the poster now and I see so much pain in my face, but I also see a strength I didn’t know I had back then. This poster, the very same poster that hung in the halls of my university at the beginning of my war, now hangs as a battle flag in my bedroom. A safe bedroom.
It is on us to create an environment where people are safe from sexual assault, where victims of this crime are heard, and believed. We do this by talking about it, and I want to talk about. I need to talk about it. Everyone deserves to be safe, and everyone who breaks that safety deserves to be held accountable for their actions.
If this has happened to you and you are looking for someone to talk to, or someone to provide legal advocacy, please do not be afraid to reach out.* Thanks in large part to the network of people who believed in me and supported me, I now see my strength as clearly as my pain.
Society pins the word “victim” to our chests, but I’m giving you a new word: warrior.
You are loved. You are valued. You are supported.
*Not Alone provides information for students, schools, and anyone interested in finding resources on how to respond to and prevent sexual assault.
Learn more about Young STIR.