UMass students share their experiences with sexual assault and harassment
‘I never told anyone what happened because I was afraid that people would call me a whore and that I was asking for it’
With all the sexual assault allegations coming out against Harvey Weinstein, Mark Halperin, and now, Kevin Spacey, many men and women have been sharing their own experience with sexual violence on social media.
Alyssa Milano’s famous #MeToo tweet led the important trend, which showed the magnitude of the issue.
Three UMass students felt comfortable enough to share their stories with me and all of you. These brave students must deal with the memory of what happened to them every single day. If you share a similar story, hopefully this will show you that you are not alone. Us too:
Alicia Pillion, Junior
Alicia Pillion, Junior
“I was living in Austin, TX at the time, and was working full time for a major hotel chain. One Saturday night my best friend (who also worked there) and I decided to go out to the bars with a coworker of ours who was a supervisor in a different department. I will call him Sam. It started out great, and we were having a lot of fun. I had more to drink than I had intended so I couldn't drive home. My best friend lived 40 minutes away, and Sam had booked a hotel nearby so he told me I could crash there and he would sleep on the couch. I was having difficulty walking and thought it was a nice offer and so I accepted. He was a coworker and my best friend and I both trusted him, so she left and I went with him.
At the hotel I had laid down on the couch, fully clothed. A few minutes later Sam was all of a sudden on the bed with me, getting closer and closer. Soon he was on top of me and kissing me. I was too drunk and didn't have enough strength to push him off me. I remember I kept saying no over and over again. I had a boyfriend at the time as well as just wasn't interested.
The last thing I remembered before I blacked out was him saying: "it isn't rape if you consent".
I woke up the next morning naked, with him sleeping next to me. I got dressed and left without saying anything. After it happened I never told anyone. I felt scared, ashamed, disgusted, and cried in my car for an hour before I could drive home. I never told anyone what happened. I was afraid that people would call me a whore, and that I was asking for it.
About a month ago I was Facetiming with that same best friend and she was telling me about a coworker of ours who she had kissed while she was married to another man (she was currently in the process of getting a divorce when he kissed her). I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. She felt ashamed of it, and finally told me it was Sam. At that moment I finally told someone what happened to me, and was sick to my stomach I hadn't told someone sooner. Not only had Sam (who was married with kids) assaulted me but he tried to with my best friend. I felt regret for it speaking out earlier, but still have not told anyone else.”
Natasha DaSilva, Freshman
“I was assaulted at the age of 9 and my family still doesn't know. I was one of the kids in elementary school that would walk to and from school because my parents worked and couldn't pick me up plus I lived super close. After that day, I stole one of my dad's pocket knives and hid it in my bra-just in case and I still carry it with me.
As far as teenage/adulthood: harassment is everywhere. I have walked on the street and gotten hollered and yelled at by twenty something year olds, approached with whistles and ass grabs.
The time that sticks out the most was actually my junior year of high school, I was going to the post office and a man was walking out as I was walking in. He stopped and grabbed my arm. Asked me if I had a husband and I tried to get away from him but he got closer and I told him my age and for him to let me go or I would hurt him.
"That's okay, baby. Age is just a number" he said.
He grabbed my butt with a force as he got closer and closer. I kicked him in the groin and punched him in the stomach and ran to the car and drove off as fast as I could.
I cried. I shook. I had an utter meltdown. I felt gross.
At first you blame yourself: I should have screamed or not worn what I did. But then you come to terms with it and remember that IT IS NEVER YOUR FAULT. so many women go through this everyday- and it's horrendous. I think everyone, even men, should learn about ways to protect themselves. Sexual assault and harassment has no type: black, white, gay, straight, fat, skinny, male, female- it CAN happen to you. I hate sounding so forward about it. But we have spent too long just grazing over it. Assault is real-it is here- and it is a problem that has to be solved.”
“It happened summer after 5th grade at summer camp. It was the end of the camp session and there was a dance. My friends and I had dressed up and put on our cheap lip gloss from Claire’s, and we were dancing and having fun, when I noticed one of the counselors in training was staring at us. He was sixteen and my eleven-year-old self’s idea of a dream boat.
I don’t remember exactly why I ended up alone, maybe my friends went to get snacks from the refreshment table, but there I was, alone. I looked over at the cute CIT and made eye contact with him again. He smiled and walked over with some of his CIT buddies. He leaned in close so I could hear him over the music and asked me, “Can I have it?” and my innocent hopeless-romantic mind thought he meant, “Can I have this dance?” I smiled and nodded, speechless he liked me.
I didn’t notice the other CIT’s laughing and leering. He asked me what my name was and I told him. He told me it was a pretty name.
Then he put his hand up my skirt. Right there, in the middle of the crowded dance floor.
Shocked, I turned around and walked to the bathroom. I couldn’t hear over the music, but I assume they were laughing at me. A female councilor found me having a panic attack in the bathroom. I don’t remember the details of the rest, but I remember sitting on my bed at home with my mom’s arm around me while my dad spoke angrily on the phone with the head of the camp.
The CIT was fired and I didn’t go back to that camp next summer. But I had to live with that memory before I even understood it.
When my first boyfriend tried to touch me like that I had another panic attack. He didn’t understand why, got scared, and broke up with me. It took me a long time after that to be comfortable with my body and accept my sexuality.
I was lucky. Lucky to have been found by the female councilor in the bathroom, lucky to have had the camp and my parents on my side, lucky to have been able to mostly move on. But it still sits in the back of mind, popping up every once in awhile to catch in my throat or wipe a good mood away. It’s a part of who I am, no matter how much I want to get rid of it. Me too.”