Thursday, June 26, 2014

One in Four

As a freshman at JMU, I learned a startling statistic:

One in four women will become the victim of rape or attempted rape by the time she graduates.

...little did I know I would actually become part of that statistic.

I've never really said this aloud. These thoughts have been relegated to the ink of my personal journal and the etchings of my soul, so to type it makes it even more real and terrifying.

But I remember that night like it was yesterday.

A guy I had known for years wanted to see me. I was so excited and told him to meet up with me. I danced with him, flirted with him, and told him he could stay the night at my apartment.

Once we got to my bedroom, everything changed. I remember immediately feeling like he shouldn't be there. His heavily alcohol-stained breath became nauseating and over-bearing. And he became...forceful. I started shaking - my legs were trembling, uncontrollably, but he was oblivious to it all.

Horrified, I was too scared to say anything. I lay motionless, willing it all to stop, imagining I was someplace else. Finally, it became too unbearable and I told him, "No."

He laughed. Literally, laughed in my face and taunted me, asking me if I was too good for what he wanted. I thought to myself, "Yes, I am too good for you", but I was too scared to tell him that. So instead, I let him continue until he finally passed out and I could move to the sanctuary of my living room, ten feet away from the person who had just stolen every ounce of my dignity and worth.

When I got there, I didn't call out for my roommates or dial 911. After all, I had invited him over. I had flirted with him all night. It was his word against mine.

I felt....ashamed. And like I brought all of it on myself. So I curled into a ball and pretended like it never happened - deciding it was best to erase it from my memory and will it never to resurface. The only problem was, I quickly found out, it would never fully escape me. Images of that night still haunt me, eight years later.

I tell this story not for sympathy. I'm telling this story for the other woman at JMU who encountered a brutal sexual assault that made me sick to my stomach. For this woman who had to drop out of school because she had to face her attackers everyday. Fortunately for me, my attacker went to another school. I still saw him, but it was few and far between.

I'm telling this story because I'm tired of being silent. Sexual assault is NOT okay. As a graduate student studying college student development and counseling, I'm making it my life-long goal to erase this statistic. No woman should ever become part of a statistic when it comes to sexual assault - or have her integrity, choice of wardrobe, or number of sexual partners questioned if she ever becomes a victim of rape or attempted rape.

The administration of college campuses needs to start empowering victims of these crimes and sending the message that the safety of their students - regardless of gender or race - is of utmost importance. There should be a zero tolerance policy for sexual assault, and I hope my alma mater, who I hold dear to my heart, adopts such a policy.

To my fellow victims: we can make a difference. Stay strong, and know that you are not alone.

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