Trigger Warning: This post contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to some survivors.
“I’ll tell them how I survive it. I’ll tell them that on bad mornings, it feels impossible to take pleasure in things because I’m afraid it could be taken away. That’s when I make a list in my head of every act of goodness I’ve seen someone do. It’s like a game. Repetitive.Even a little tedious after more than twenty years.
But there are much worse games to play.”
-Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay
I was 20 years old when I was assaulted. I went to my ex-boyfriend’s apartment to pick up my textbooks that I’d left there accidentally. Long story short, he ended up assaulting me.
The next morning, I told two of my female friends what happened. They encouraged me to report what happened to the Student Life office. One offered to go with me to the Campus Women’s Center. I didn’t, because I didn’t think what happened to me was “rape” and I thought it was my fault—I had been in his room with him.
My friends asked me what I felt. I felt numb. I thought that feeling would go away and I would get angry, yet I didn’t for at least three years. I didn’t tell anyone else for around 2 ½ years—in my life I’d learned a ‘put up and shut up’ mentality. I finally began thinking and talking about what happened during a graduate school class. I realized that if I didn’t start talking, my students would have no one to turn to.
This has become my Waterloo. I have collaborated on training sessions to prepare our staff in the event that a student reports an assault. But what I really feel changed something was when a student that I knew was assaulted—their story was eerily similar to mine. Being able to talk through next steps, such as counseling and the loss of friends over what happened, was helpful to the student.
The hardest part for me has been the healing. For a long time, even though I entered a long term relationship that I am still in, I believed that I didn’t deserve love. Since my assault, I’ve dealt with debilitating anxiety and OCD—something always feels wrong to me. I struggle with suicidal thoughts at times. Yet by all outward metrics, I am successful– Nobody really knows how much of a psychological weight this is to me. It becomes a struggle for me, because I don’t know how much to ever tell about myself and why.
All that I do know is that my experiences and training give me the fortitude to address the subject— I can advocate for my students and stand up to other staff members when I have to. This is what counts in the end.
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.