****TRIGGER WARNING****this disclosure is about sexual assault
Here it is, my disclosure. I’m writing it out in order to decide what I need to say out loud for healing. Maybe writing it down will give me some insight on what I really DO need to say out loud in front of my group so that I can heal and move forward.
During my freshman year of college, I had a lot of fun. Some would say too much fun, except that I still got good grades and cared about being there to learn. My party nights were spent with many friends, mostly somewhere in the dorm or at a few specific houses around campus. I loved to dance and dance I did.
One specific house had a lot of parties with a lot of dancing, so that quickly became my favorite spot. I danced with anyone who was interested in dancing and I had more fun doing that than drinking since I didn’t like beer and most of the parties in college revolved around beer.
I was a great dancer. I laugh as I say that because saying things I am good at makes me uncomfortable, but it is totally true. I always had a lot of attention on the dance floor because I loved it and was good at it and I knew how to have fun dancing. I always felt free to dance.
I had a roommate. I struggle to even say that because the thought of her makes me furious. She was a friend since junior high and we went to a lot of the parties together. One night she asked if I wanted to go over to the house to hang out with another girl and some of the guys. Of course I said yes, I loved to dance!
When we got there, it was just some of the guys who lived there, a few who didn’t, and the three of us. I thought that was disappointing, but I still stayed to hang out because I generally considered these people my friends. We were upstairs in the house and some of the guys were drinking and some smoking pot. There was some music on as well. We sat and talked while they passed around beer and pot. I took a few sips of beer, but was generally grossed out by it being passed around and as I said, I don’t like beer. I took a few turns smoking pot because I did have some history of smoking pot and enjoying that. But it tasted funny. Since there was music on I moved to the side of the room and mostly danced a little by myself while listening to people talk.
Eventually, my roommate and the other girl said we should go, so we started to leave the room. As we did, one of the guys said I should stay and dance with him. I always liked him and he was frequently one of the guys I danced with, but I wasn’t going to stay if everyone else was leaving so I followed my roommate down the stairs. He came down after me and put his hands on my shoulders to slow me down and said again that I should stay because my friends left me anyway. When I reached the bottom of the stairs, I saw that he was exactly right about that, the kitchen was empty and my roommate was gone with the other girl.
The guy pushed me with his arms still on my shoulders toward the stairs and I started to protest, but he said just stay to dance awhile and then you can leave. He kept his hands on my shoulders as I climbed back up the stairs, protesting a bit but kind of happy to have his attention. Only we did not go to the room where everyone else was still gathered. He steered me to a room on the right which he said as we entered was his room. I remember my heart racing at this point. I turned around and tried to leave, using the excuse that I knew he had a girlfriend and I was not that kind of girl.
He said “your dancing says you are.”
I’ve never forgotten that phrase and I’ve never danced as freely again.
He pushed me onto the bed and that is when I remember completely freezing inside. I wanted to yell and couldn’t make sound. He was pulling off my clothes, and began touching me and taking his clothes off as well, holding me down, and it was as if it was happening to someone else. After awhile he yelled for a friend of his to come into the room, asked if I wanted to pick a person, and I couldn’t speak while he laughed and talked to some of the other guys in the house who had all gathered around the door of the room and were looking at me as he continued the assault. Another guy got onto the bed and he pushed me down onto his friend and he was still on top of me and I could see people at the door.
Watching. They stood there and did nothing to stop it. They watched it happen.
When it was over he told me to get dressed and asked if he was going to get a disease or if I was going to end up pregnant. I said nothing, just gathered my clothes and got the hell out of that house. It was dark out and as soon as I was out of that house I just started walking back to my dorm. Horrified as I passed a few people here and there. When I reached my dorm, some people I knew were coming out and I wish I would have just collapsed in the horror I was feeling so they would help me. I walked past them and continued past security to the elevators.
When I reached my dorm floor I went straight to the bathroom and just broke down in a stall, thinking I was going to throw up. It is there that my roommate and the other girl found me, and took me back to our room. They didn’t know what to do and I remember talking to my best friend on the phone. I remember calling my boyfriend.
I remember the next several hours of additional hell. My roommate took me to the hospital and I remember very little of how I got to her car or the drive to the hospital.
But I will NEVER forget how I felt while I was there. I remember seeing police on the way in and being led to a room. I remember the staff was less than compassionate and I just remember the heaviness of the guilt setting in along with complete disgust for myself. They told me to get completely undressed. Are you kidding me? Oh and make sure you undress carefully on top of this mat so your clothes can be sent to the police. The last thing I wanted to be was naked. I was given an exam by a doctor. The process of the exam was just awful. Collecting evidence, looking at every inch of my body, touching me. The doctor that came in the room to do the exam was a man. A man! I felt horrified, disgusting, dirty, very much like I wanted to die right then. But it wasn’t even close to over.
After the hospital I was taken to the police station. I asked for my cigarettes and nobody bothered to tell me I probably shouldn’t start chain-smoking because I had given blood during the exam. So I felt sick, but just kept smoking. I had to tell them everything I could remember over and over again and give a description of the guys and the house.
My parents and my sister came to get me from hours away and they took me home.
I was able to see some friends after a day or so, but it was difficult to speak. I had to decide if I was returning to school. It was difficult to see friends because I felt so disgusting and so empty. I felt like the me I knew and loved was completely gone and I was filled with shame for what had happened to me.
I returned to the campus to continue school, but it was awful. I couldn’t go anywhere without eyes on me. The school newspaper and the local tv news had printed my full statement, minus my name, but it had gotten around who I was and it was complete madness. I had one teacher who really supported me and several friends who stood by me in support. My roommate was not one of them. She was dating someone from that house where it happened. She was absolutely horrible to me over the next few months and the betrayal was just devastating to me.
I would not be pushed out of that school. I was not the person who did anything wrong. Logically, I knew that. At least on the outside I would present that belief. Inside I was a mess. I had to go to the district attorney and tell everything all over again to prepare for hearings. I never felt safe. I had to explain myself over and over again.
My roommate supported the guys. I’m not kidding when I say she actually asked me if I thought that one of the guys was really great as a sex partner. She brought people from that house back to our room sometimes. I stayed other places and did the best I could to get through the semester. I also prepared late entry paperwork for another school in another state so I could leave.
The preliminary hearing was a complete circus. Preparing for it, reading my statements over and over was awful. I had a boyfriend doing the best he could and a completely supportive family, but nobody can be prepared for something as horrible as rape. Nobody knows what to do or say. And I was slowly drowning in pain, guilt, and shame.
People had to be turned away from the courthouse due to so many people coming to the hearing. News and many supporters of the two criminals. Two people sexually assaulted me while others watched. Nobody who stood there and watched was charged. I testified for many hours. I had to explain myself. ME. They were never questioned. They just got to sit there staring at me and writing notes to their attorneys. During those hours the court hearing had to be stopped many times for people to be warned about their inappropriate behavior. People made sexual gestures at me during the hearing and were warned to stop, but never thrown out for the behavior.
It felt like I was a victim of rape all over again. I can’t honestly say I could ever suggest to anyone that they report a rape at the risk of having to go through something as awful as the court process.
One night I took part in a rally called Take Back the Night with a girl I met who stood by my side all the way through. Thank goodness she was there with me as we marched because we marched right into a building where the two guys who assaulted me stood watching. I froze, but she kept me moving and kept me safe, putting herself between them and me. I would do anything to be able to remember her name and be able to thank her for that compassion and unwavering support. She didn’t even know me and she believed and supported me. Unlike my roommate who I had known for many years. The betrayal of that friendship destroyed my ability to trust myself and others.
When the semester was done, I left the school and I never returned. I moved to a different state and attended another university and the case settled out of court that fall with each guy getting a plea bargain to misdemeanor sexual assault. A slap on the wrist. I heard that one guy left the school and one guy stayed.
They raped me, and I was the one put on trial and made to leave the school. I was the one who faced a lifetime of guilt, shame, relationship issues, suicidal thoughts, and loss. I hadn’t done anything wrong, and my logical side understood that, but it sure felt like I did. I couldn’t trust myself, I questioned my own judgment over and over again. Had I given consent by dancing? Had my clothes been too tight? Had I not said no enough or tried to leave enough times? Was I to blame for what happened?
Rape changed my life forever. But I will no longer let it define me. I will not let them win. I didn’t heal after it happened because I tried to ignore it and just go on with life, even though the me I was before it happened was gone. It has buried me in shame for a lot of years and enough is enough. These issues came up again for me in 2012 and I will work hard for whatever amount of time it takes for me to be free of the feelings of guilt, judgment, and shame. I will never forget and I can’t make it go away, but I will rediscover those parts of me that they tried to destroy with their crimes.
I will learn how to trust myself and others again. I will regain full control of my feelings.
I will overcome.
If you are a victim, or you know a victim, get help. Find resources to support yourself or that person. BELIEVE THEM and support them every single step of the way.