To Women Everywhere: It’s Not Your Fault

Today’s blog isn’t going to be about pageants, fashion, sorority shenanigans or job interviews; today is much more serious. A brief warning that this is going to be an intense entry with detailed personal trauma, extreme opinions and shocking statistics. It’s not meant to be insightful, funny, or witty. It’s just something I feel needs to be shared.

September 2007. I was a naive 19 year old college freshman about a week into my first year at IU with way too much trust in the people around me. I lived on a co-ed floor, with one hallway for men and one for women. I had friends on the guy’s side so my gal pals and I frequently visited them. One warm Friday night, I was invited to go to a Playboy themed party on Greek Row with some of my dormmates. I hadn’t been to many fraternity parties before, so I was both excited and cautious to go. I had a couple drinks, danced with my friends and had a great time. At about 1:30 I decided I was ready to go home. I told my roommate and a couple of my other close friends that I was going to head out and when 1 of the guys from our floor offered to walk me home because he was ready to leave too, they thought it was a good idea. I agreed, feeling safer not walking home alone. We talked on the way back about our majors and how we liked our classes so far and where we were from, the usual freshman chit-chat. When we got back to the dorm, I thanked him for walking me home and headed to my room. He was still walking behind me, which I didn’t think anything of because the guy’s bathroom was near the door separating the guys’ & girls’ side of the floor. When he followed me through that door, I started to get an uneasy feeling. I turned around to ask him what he was doing and he asked if we could hang out sometime during that week. I told him my class schedule and told him to just let me know. He turned around and I thought he was heading back to his room.

I was wrong.

I unlocked my door and as I was entering he forced his way in behind me. I told him to get out, that I just wanted to go to bed and he said that “I owed him for leaving the party early to walk me home”. I told him “You said you were leaving anyway….please just get out of my room.” and he shoved me on the bed and locked the door. I tried to push him off of me but he was too big. My first thought was “Oh my God, this isn’t happening….not now, not to me.” It got to the point where I stopped fighting—I just wept. This wasn’t how my college career was supposed to start off. The pain was excruciating. I had only been with one man before this and it had been almost a year prior. It felt like he was tearing me apart from the inside out. When he was finished, he got up and said “Do not tell anyone about this. I’ll be around every corner and you’ll pay for running your mouth. I promise you that.” When the door shut, I curled up in a ball and cried harder than I ever had in my life. I took 3 showers and washed my bedding more times than that. I just wanted to forget this horrible moment.

The following Monday, my best friend from the floor asked me what was wrong when I had missed the class we had together. I broke down and told her everything. Somehow word got back to him that she had found out and he said that I threw myself at him and I had asked him to come back to my room with me. I heard the whispers and felt the stares as I returned from my classes later that week. Less than a month into college  I had already been labeled, and I was terrified to walk alone anywhere for fear he’d be there. I went to counseling, spoke on some panels, and tried to move on with my life as best I could.

I, like 60% of women attacked, did not report my rape to the police. I was scared, ashamed, and somehow felt that in some way it was still my fault. Maybe if I hadn’t gone out to the party, maybe if I had walked home alone, maybe if I had just stayed until one of my friends left then none of this would have happened. I struggled with what-if’s for several months after the assault and battle depression for the next year.

Every 2 minutes, someone in the US is sexually assaulted. Approximately 2/3 of rapes were committed by someone known to the victim. 73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger. 38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance. 80% of all victims are under the age of 30, with girls ages 16-19 being 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. In Indiana it was legal to rape your wife until twenty years ago. Only twenty years! And yet, somehow….it’s not the attacker’s fault…..

Yeah….so what about the offenders?

Shocking statistic, isn’t it? In today’s society, women who are attacked feel far too often that it’s their fault. They drank too much, the flirted and gave the wrong idea, they were dressed too provocatively, etc. I saw this picture on Facebook a couple weeks ago and it’s shockingly accurate

I’m choosing to speak up and not be another unreported college statistic. I’m choosing to take a stand and let others know that regardless of what you said, what you wore, or what you had to drink, that rape is NEVER ok. It all goes back to “no means no”. If a man (or woman) forces themselves on you and you say no but they continue, THAT is non-consensual sexual contact and THEY are the ones in the wrong.

I suffered in silence for far too long. It’s time to stand up, fight back, and speak up. I refuse to be a victim any longer—I am a survivor.