Trigger Warning: This post contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to some survivors.
An internship during the summer between my sophomore and junior year of college changed my life in a way I never could have imagined. Though the internship was a commission-based, direct sales position and not at all what I had anticipated, I really enjoyed interacting with my young, fun co-workers. I really gravitated towards one of my co-workers. He was a 26 year-old married, father of two. He trained me, which included being on the road together. We had a blast, watching funny videos at lunch and singing country music in the car. I would talk about school, my career goals, and my boyfriend, who I was living with at the time; he would talk about his sons and how much he missed college. We were friends.
After six weeks, I had to move back home for family reasons. I was a chicken; I decided I would quit on a day that I knew the bosses were at a conference. He was in charge that day. I told him in the morning what was going on and I could not hold back my tears. I was vulnerable. He asked me to close up my accounts and offered to talk after work. After everyone returned to the office and left to start their weekends, we talked. He comforted me; he told me everything would be okay. Then, as I was sat bawling in our boss’s office, he kissed me. I was shocked. He was married. I stood up to leave because I could not wrap my head around what he had done. He proceeded to push me up against the desk and rape me. I was crying. He pretended that I was enjoying it.
I pushed this experience to the back of my mind for four months, until I attended an event on campus to write an article for my school’s newspaper. During it, the speaker explained how “no means no” and I had a revelation. I had been raped. On that Thursday, I revealed my secret to a friend and I immediately felt this weight lift off my shoulders. I was happy that someone knew. The follow day I went to see my adviser because I knew my friend had told him what happened. His wife was on campus and my advisor asked if I would like to talk with her. We talked about what had happened and my next steps. If it had not been for these individuals I would not be where I am today, a graduate student pursuing a career in student affairs. They gave me tremendous support and brought me to the counselor on campus. I will never be able to express to this couple how grateful I am that they helped me through one of the most challenging experiences of my life.
At the time of my revelation I had already been hired as a RA for the spring semester. I did not have a clue that it would be the best situation that I could have been in. The support that I received from the student affairs professionals that I worked with was immeasurable. During the dean of campus life’s favorite activity, “step inside the circle,” I revealed to the entire residence life staff that I had been raped. Another weight was lifted and I met another survivor on staff. I will never be able to fully express my gratitude for that staff and the professionals who supported me. I am expressing my gratitude the only way I know how, by pursuing a career in this field.
I am currently a graduate assistant and I chose to make my supervisor aware of what happened. I cannot help but cringe at the words “rape” and “victim.” Sexual assault, Title IX, and active bystander trainings definitely can trigger me, but because my supervisor is aware, she supports me when I need it. I have struggled with the fact that I am starting a career where I will more than likely have to deal with sexual assault. Obviously I wish that there were never sexual assaults, but that is unfortunately unrealistic in today’s society. Sexual violence is rampant on college campuses. Unfortunately, I will be a student affairs professional who is able to relate to students who suffer from these horrific experiences. And I will be able to support them as I was supported as an undergrad and continue to be supported as a grad student. I am forever grateful for the support that I have received.
Although I wish that no one would have to experience it, I am also grateful that I will be able to provide support and show survivors that it does get better. It may feel that your life is over and that you will never be able to look past the assault, but I promise that you will be able to. If you are a survivor of sexual assault, I urge you to take care of yourself, especially when dealing with sensitive situations involving your students. Find a confidant that you can openly discuss how you are feeling about your own experiences. Discover simple ways to calm yourself down when you are triggered. There are always people and ways to support yourself, even while you are supporting others. I have seen too many student affairs professionals forget to take care of themselves. We cannot help students if we are not helping ourselves first. We preach self-care day in and day out, so come on, let’s practice what we preach.
This anonymous post is part of #SAsurvives, a series of pieces written by some of our colleagues who are survivors of campus sexual violence. Our contributors to this series are extremely diverse – we will hear from people of color, from men, from women, and from folks who identify as part of the LGBTQ community. Each is telling their story, in their way, and I am sincerely thankful for their courage and willingness to share with us. I hope you follow along with us this month by using the hashtag #sasurvives. For more information, check out the intro post written by Martha Compton.
If you are a survivor of sexual violence, know there are many resources available to help. For current #sagrads, your campus counseling center is a great resource. For #sapros, you may have access to an Employee Assistance Program as part of your benefits package – check with your Human Resources department if you’re not sure. Additionally, the National Sexual Assault Hotline is available to 24/7 at 1-800-656-4673. Lastly, anyone can search online for their nearest crisis center at http://centers.rainn.org/. Please take care of yourself and know you’re not alone.
If you would like to contribute to this series, we do have slots available, and we will post contributions anonymously. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.