Yesterday, my Facebook page was flooded with #MeToo stories. "If everyone who has been sexually assaulted/harassed/raped wrote "Me too" as their status, maybe they would start to see the scope of the problem." It is amazing how powerful this movement has been and I only hope that it continues to help others understand the epidemic of assault/harassment/rape. I saw men and women post their stories. I have seen men and women come clean about being at fault for assaulting others. It is so validating as a survivor to see and hear people.
My freshman year in college I was invited to a fraternity date party. I got dressed and my date came to pick me up at my dorm room. We went to his dorm, had a couple of drinks with some of his friends, and then headed to the party at the bar. After a fun night out, we were going to head to the after-party at the Kappa Sig house.
My date and I stopped back at his dorm in between. One thing led to another and we started making out. I was totally okay with that and kind of into it. But then, things started to move too quickly for me. I was not an experienced girl going into college and I was a little uncomfortable and tried to slow things down. It worked for a little while, until it didn’t. I tried to stop it, but couldn’t. It still feels weird to say I was “raped” because I cannot believe that it happened to me. I was scared, I was vulnerable, and I wanted to pretend it didn’t happen.
When he finally got off of me, he handed me a drink and said, “Okay, let’s go to the house and meet up with everyone else.” I tried to come up with an excuse about not wanting to go, but I couldn’t form the words. I don’t think I said anything to him. I felt like someone had ripped my voice out of my throat. So I put my clothes back on, wiped the tears from my eyes, drank my drink and we walked to the after-party. I found one of my sister’s friends there and told him what happened. He couldn’t believe it.
A few days later we went to the police. Unfortunately, nothing really came of it. The school sent around a letter (sans names) letting the students know what had happened and to be careful.
I remember sitting in the hallway of my dorm crying on the phone with my therapist. I didn’t really know what was going on. I didn’t really think I was raped because I was participating in the make out session to begin with. She assured me that anytime someone says, “No,” or, “Stop,” and the other person does not listen, that is rape. The minute it was not consensual, it was rape.
The rest of the year was kind of a blur for me. Towards the end of the summer, I told my parents I was not going back, and I wanted to find a place where I could really pursue theater. It wasn’t until recently, about 12 years after the fact, that I shared with my parents what actually happened. I was ashamed to tell them. I was scared that it was my fault—that because I wanted to make out with him, that somehow I gave him permission to rape me. I was frightened that they would be mad at me for putting myself in that situation.
My experience at John Carroll confirmed for me how unimportant my voice was, how insignificant anything I had to say. I still cannot believe that my date got away with what he did. I cannot believe that some of my friends didn’t believe what I was saying. So, while my struggle with being heard and speaking my truth really started in high school, I think it was freshman year in college that the feeling of insignificance really set in. The fact that the college and the authorities did not do anything about what had happened made me feel extremely worthless. At times it felt as if I was screaming at the top of my lungs and people were just walking past me and laughing.
What infuriates me even more is that this continues to happen every day and nothing is being done to stop it. Every time I hear a story on the news about a rape or an assault on a college campus, or anywhere, my stomach turns, I get nauseous, my throat closes a little bit, and my heart breaks. This is something that needs to be stopped. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women are raped at some point in their lifetime. On college campuses, that number is the same—one in five women—and that is not accounting for all the cases that go unreported. Rape is the most unreported crimes; 63% of all sexual assaults are not reported to the police. How are we still letting this happen? Schools and authorities need to start taking action. A letter circulated to students warning them that something happened on campus isn’t enough. Letting these abusers walk free after something like this is just mind-boggling to me and yet it continues to occur.
I felt so insignificant after my rape. I felt like my voice, story, and being didn't matter. I hope my story helps you feel like you do matter. I hope you know you are heard, you are valuable, you matter and it is NOT YOUR FAULT. There is so shame in being a survivor - there is only power.