Law and Order: SVU was my favorite television show. Beyond the sometimes-impractical plotlines, the romantic undertones, and the dramatic trials, I came to admire the strong female leads and the fact that they knew what to do, no matter the situation. In my mind it was almost like a guidebook, telling me how to handle myself in case of something bad, particularly sexual assault or rape.
Because of Detective Benson, I always knew what I would do if I was ever assaulted. I would bag my clothes and speed to the hospital, to be greeted by a counselor and a police officer (almost as considerate as Benson) and, eventually, prosecute my abuser.
Then, it happened to me. Twice.
I went to a frat party with my friend. I was drugged with GHB. I was raped. I woke up the next morning in a haze next to a guy I did not know. I kicked him out and showered off the evidence. I did nothing.
Two months later, I went to TNC, where my roommate had set me up with a guy. I was tipsy and we went back to his dorm. I said no. I was drunk and unsure of myself, but incredibly sure of the fact that I did not want to sleep with him. I pushed and kicked him away. I ran home crying and shoved the shirt he tried to rip off my body in the back of my closet, knowing that I could use it to take action against him.
But I woke up and pushed the night out of my mind. It was an anomaly. He was such a well-liked character on campus; it couldn’t have been his fault. I had too much to drink, I reasoned with myself. It must have been my fault.
It took me four months to come to terms with the fact that I had been raped and sexually assaulted on two different occasions within the span of just 60 days. When I finally understood and grasped what had happened, I was ready to take action. None of it was my fault.
I told my roommate what happened with that guy at TNC, finally ready to stand up for myself. Four hours later, I saw her sitting on his lap, stroking his neck.
Suddenly, my guilt flooded back, my confidence gone as quickly as it had come; it was my fault, of course it was. I threw away the shirt he had torn. I believed that if someone I lived with didn’t believe my own experience, no one would. It was clearly my fault, mine and mine alone.
As I shared my story, I discovered something horrifying: seven out of the eight women with whom I have shared my experience had a similar tale of assault, either on or off campus. Even though that roommate destroyed my confidence and made me feel as though I could not depend on anyone, I have discovered I am not alone.
I am one of many. It is not our fault, no matter what people’s actions may imply.
I was scared out of reporting my assault at CMC by a girl who clearly did not understand what it meant to be in my position. Months after these experiences, I am still too frightened and ashamed to report my story. Largely because of that roommate, I am afraid that the popularity of my assailant at CMC would discredit my story. From too many episodes of Law and Order: SVU, I am worried that the authorities, CMC or otherwise, would put my history on trial instead of my assailants’. But more than anything, I am humiliated by the power I have given them. I have allowed them, and the fear and doubt they instilled in me, to dictate the way I live my life. Since my second assault, it took me seven months to be with another male in any capacity, too scared of what might befall another dance-floor-make-out turned one-night-stand. (In my opinion, no person should be afraid of their sexuality, and no experience should ever dictate the bounds of sexual desire. But that is exactly what my rape and sexual assault have done.)
From my experience, I ask three things of the CMC community.
First, I beg each and every one of you to not be like my roommate. Do not ever doubt a survivor. Even if you don’t feel as though a survivor is your friend, if they told you, the fact that they have trusted you enough to tell you their experience should be enough for you. I beg you, please, never question a survivor in words or actions. Please, do not be the person who hurt me more than anything: do not be the doubter who still believes the legitimacy of the assailant.
Second, I beg you to fully support the newly formed CMC Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault and the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault’s “Not Alone” initiative. Both of these organizations support survivors of sexual assault and rape, allowing us to speak confidentially to a trained advocate who would not be required to report details of incidents to school officials and who would help us find the support we need.
Third, I beg CMC. A simple lecture during freshman orientation is not enough. Guidance must be given to every person in every grade about the effects of sexual assault. What is being done at the moment is clearly not working. I do not want to hear that I should not walk alone at night at my home—why does the responsibility lie with me instead of the school to make our home safer? I do not want to hear that I should not drink too much alcohol even though that is a mistake most college students make—I want to hear that consent should never be an afterthought; it should be a mandatory condition. A girl who is “too drunk” should not be an “opportunity.” It is not my fault. It is not even my friends’ fault for not noticing what happened at the party; they had no idea that this well-liked guy would ever hurt me. It is not their fault. CMC, please, tell each student to respect each other. Tell each student to believe each other. Tell each and every student that it is not their fault.