‘To this day, I can still hear myself pleading for him to stop’: What it’s like to be a sexual assault survivor on a college campus
11.2 percent of all graduate and undergraduate students experience rape or sexual assault.
Trigger warning: This post recounts a sexual assault.
Every 98 seconds in America someone in this country is assaulted. Whether it's a friend of yours, a family member, or a classmate you've seen in your lecture hall for the past few months ⏤ one in six women, and one in 33 men will experience an attempted or completed act of sexual violence.
My story is a common one. I'm a female college student who went on a date with a man who took advantage of me and raped me. According to RAINN, 11.2% of all graduate and undergraduate students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.
This is a story I have not told most of my friends and family about, but one night I asked myself how much longer I could keep it secret? This story is for all the victims at Temple University who are afraid to speak up or any victim who reads this and thinks they are alone.
You are not alone.
What happened that night
To this day, I can still hear myself pleading for him to stop. I can still remember holding my underwear up as he kept pulling them down. I can remember the “no’s” I said before and during the moment he penetrated me. I remember staring at the ceiling helplessly and feeling an unexplainable emptiness take over my body as he kept going. He didn’t even care that I was crying. He accomplished what he wanted to do with me and I was never was the same again.
My attacker raped me at 2am on a warm May night and I left early the next morning from the place we stayed together. At the time, I was in a state of shock. I physically could not move and when it was over, I remained silent. I hopped on the train to go home and looked at my distraught reflection in the train’s window.
In my reflection, I saw a girl I didn’t recognize and that’s what scared me the most.
What was supposed to be an enjoyable date turned into the most traumatizing night of my life. I felt embarrassed that I let this happen and blamed myself for spending time with a guy I just met. My friends comforted me and I prayed every night to forget the feeling of that night.
10 months later
A few days ago, I saw my rapist on campus. I couldn’t utter a word and once again, I felt powerless to the person who took my trust of people away. Still, I kept walking to class and pretended like I was okay. I’ve had nightmares of the day that I would see him and in every one of those night terrors, I would freeze up and wake up with tears streaming down my face.
I hate him. I hate him for making me feel like everyone around me wants to hurt me.
He made me scared to have someone in the same bed as me for months. I didn’t trust anyone. I thought I was able to put my rape behind me until a month ago, when my mother laid beside to comfort me when I was sick with a fever. All of a sudden flashbacks from when I was raped began replaying in my head.
My mother thought I was crying because of a fever, but I was crying because I wanted to tell her that every time she touches me, I see him on top of me and once again I’m pleading for him to stop pulling my underwear off.
I didn't tell her anything though. Till this day, I still feel ashamed to tell her about it. Like many people my age, we oftentimes lie to our parents about where we are going and on this day, I did exactly that.
As I write this, the emotions came back. I feel a sense of emptiness inside. To say this was the worst thing to happen to me would be an understatement. Being raped changed me in ways I couldn’t imagine.
I looked at myself in the mirror several times after the rape and asked myself, “If I take 10 more of these pills, will it all just go away?” Just a few more, I would tell myself, a few more pills will help this unbearable pain go away.
I would stare at my reflection alone. I just wanted to be freed from my own skin and escape all the thoughts in my head. The uncomfortable, recurring feeling was making me go insane and I wanted to smash myself against something and not wake up.
There wasn’t a single day that passed where I didn’t ask how much more I could take. But many of those times, my mother or someone in my family would need me and I pushed all those thoughts away to help them.
My rape and all I endured after it caused me to have suicidal thoughts. Despite having supportive friends and family, two jobs, and a future ahead of me—it wasn't enough to keep the thoughts at bay. Behind my smile, I continued to silently struggle. I didn’t want to live.
I needed something good to remind me the future ahead of me is bright. God protected me as I laid there helplessly the night I was raped, and I prayed to Him to let me walk out of that room safely because I didn’t know what other harm my rapist could do to me.
I didn’t think I could ever be happy again but in August, three months after my assault, I received the news from my current boss that I would begin freelancing for the FADER. This was the hope I needed in my life.
This opportunity was more than just a blessing, it was a purpose. Freelancing for the FADER helped me discover the career I want to pursue after college.
The healing process
Being raped and knowing there's a possibility of seeing my rapist on campus is undeniably difficult. So is moving on. I’ve attempted to date other guys but the wounds that I keep trying to cover up have not fully healed. I have tried to make myself busier, I've gone to more parties and distracted myself but the pain is still there.
I continue to rise up despite it all. I know each day is a battle. There are times when my suicidal thoughts return and each time, I contemplate doing it; however, I am still here today and I am a stronger person than I was before.
Each day I am alive is an accomplishment and I know I have purpose in this world.
There is a reason why I am still here and I won’t let him take away my life anymore. I want to believe that one day I will no longer feel the sudden urge to hurt myself when I think about my rapist. This is my life and he will not affect me any longer.
The stories shared by victims can empower others to come forward. The number of people who experienced what I experienced will never go away until every person is educated about consent. It won't be over until there comes a day when no one else ever has to say #MeToo.
If you have been sexually assaulted contact Campus Safety Services or call at 215-204-1234 (1-1234 from any campus phone) to report the incident. There are other resources such as WOAR that provide support, information, referral guidance, and the coordination of requested WOAR counseling services.