This past year I was a Resident Advisor (RA) for student athletes. I was the only female on my floor of male student athletes and other residents. I loved it. My residents became my family and my best friends.
It was all good. Except when it wasn’t.
In September, and again in October, and again in November I was physically, verbally and sexually assaulted by some residents. By some of my own residents. And nothing was done about it until February even though I had spoken up to my supervisor in September.
The University decided that it was not worth anything more than removing these individuals from my space to an upgraded dorm.
No court. No charges. No solution. And they got rewarded.
In that moment, my university decided that standing for student athletes was more valuable than standing for the victim.
And I hate that word, victim. It is so disempowering. I would not be a victim in my own head if my university had advocated for me and chosen to care about me instead of their image in the media.
The first incident occurred in August. Yes, August. As in 2 weeks after I moved in.
I was forcibly held against an open window and threatened because I did not want to sleep with this resident’s friend. I was treated as if the “athlete” status of these individuals meant I should rip off my clothes and hop right into bed with them. I should ignore my own moral beliefs about fraternizing with those you supervise or holding my body as my own until joined in holy matrimony. Because they are athletes. And their attention is a blessing, right?
Two other RAs witnessed this incident. Bless their souls, they spoke on my behalf to my supervisor. But I refused to speak in that moment because I did not want to cause a scene. I was legitimately afraid of the backlash of stirring up drama around student athletes because my own family was telling me to shut up and look pretty.
I was verbally abused countless more times. And physically assaulted by that same resident three more times before November. I was punched, slammed against walls, grabbed and thrown. And every time after that first, I spoke up to my supervisor in trust that she would send it up the chain and my living situation would improve.
If you are wondering how this is any different than any other assault situation let me paint you a picture: a man a full foot taller than you and at least two times as strong is physically restraining, intimidating and threatening you in the space in which you not only work but also live.
There is no escape. This is it. You are cohabitating in a way with your attacker. AND, as their RA, you are expected to get to know them and help them. It was suffocating.
What I am really here to air out, though, is the part of this situation that has destroyed so much of me.
As I previously mentioned, I was first assaulted in relation to not wanting to sleep with a resident’s friend, also a resident of mine. Solid. What I did not know when that first situation occurred was that was not the worst yet to come for not sleeping with him.
He would go on to sexually assault me 6 times—3 while sober and 3 while drunk. And if anyone wants to know what I was wearing during any of those times, I only have a modest wardrobe. And yes, I am 21. And even if I wasn’t, being drunk like kids tend to do in college does not mean you can do what you want to me. Especially not when you have already heard me expressly explain that I would not sleep with you out of wedlock. Or, you know, the fact that I was drunk also is enough to know you shouldn’t be trying.
The first time I was sexually assaulted by this man I was very intoxicated. I did not go home with him or even go out with him. In fact, he came to my room after I had safely gotten home and gotten in bed and took me down to his room.
He literally removed me from my bed and carried me to his while I told him I just wanted to sleep in my own bed. (That is a “no” if you were wondering.)
I woke up in the morning and knew something was up. He told me he was sorry BUT he was pretty sure I wanted it. PRETTY SURE? That was September. I didn’t speak to him for a week but in my position that is more difficult than it seems. And we eventually got to know each other on a platonic level and I forgave him.
The second, third and fourth times, I was sober. Don’t ask me why I was still hanging out with him- I give too many chances. And at this point, we had been pretty much dating. I had manipulated my own brain so much that my decision to date him did not fall so far off my moral compass. I’ll take fault for blurring that line.
But that does not mean my body is your property.
The final two times were eerily similar to the first- I was drunk and woke up in his bed. My roommates and friends all attest that I was left safely in my room when they left me. Who knows how I got down there the next two times- I was much more intoxicated than the first (maybe I was drinking to forget?).
He didn’t speak to me for weeks after I yelled at him that last time. I have never screamed so much hate at a person as I did when I woke up in his apartment again in November. His roommate greeted me with a punch in the face and told me to “move on because I was there after 2 am and I knew the rule.” That’s right, these two felt so entitled to my body that the sheer fact that I was there after 2am meant I was “open for business.” Disgusting.
Each time, I only spoke to one person about what had happened. I told my supervisor through intense tears and a lot of anxiety. I developed the worst anxiety I’ve ever experienced. I was clinging onto the relationship with the rest of my residents because I needed some type of safety. I thought my supervisor was telling the appropriate people. She wasn’t.
And finally, it was February and I couldn’t sleep and my best friend had no idea what was wrong with me but she demanded I tell someone who could help. She had witnessed in the week leading up to my report 2 more physical assaults and intimidations by these two residents. Those two alone were enough for her to demand help. She didn’t know the floodgates she was opening. And I thank her for that.
So, I went to the police and told the first person I could about everything that had happened. And then 3 more officers and then a captain and then a detective.
I’ll give props to my University’s police department. They cared a lot and were ready to end the situation that night. Unfortunately, the rest of my University did not feel that way.
With lawyers in tow, the original solution of my University was to press charges. When their PR rep told them the media nightmare that would be for these precious student athletes, suddenly the solution was much less: Move them away from me, remove me from my position and encourage me to take a semester off so I could “help diffuse the situation” by “eliminating my presence and temptation.”
In that moment, it was my fault.
Luckily, I have lawyers that stand for me and not for a broken university athletic system. They fought to keep me in school and keep my position, but they could not win when attempting to more harshly punish my attackers.
And nothing ever got my peace of mind back. This situation destroyed my relationship with my other residents who had grown to be best friends. It put me in the position to either destroy the image of their teammates or tell them that whatever my attackers said was true and they should believe them. I chose to save their face. And I wish I hadn’t. I wish I had screamed at the top of my lungs what they did to me.
A few of my residents knew me well enough to know that I would not have just kicked some kids out because they drank and smoked too much (and never got punished). They stood by me and stood with me but it was never the same.
Because the minute that my University chose to side with their athletes, they chose to stop (did they ever start?) advocating for me.
This is not an unfamiliar narrative. This happens all too often on college campus’ everywhere. It is time to stop saving athlete’s face. If any other student punched, slammed against a wall or screamed at an RA like one resident did, they’d certainly be suspended. And if any other student sexually assaulted someone multiple times, they’d be removed from the University without question.
So why is it different just because they play a sport? Why are the faces of our university not held accountable? Why is my experience less valuable than theirs? Why was I the one encouraged to leave school and come back later?
I stand first and last for my University. I still do as I am returning to be an RA next year and I got a 3.8 GPA this semester (that’s a gift from God, honestly), and I will always stand first and last. I just wish they’d stand first and last for me and my friends that have been assaulted, too.
To my attackers- you won for a little bit. You kept me in bed for days and afraid to come home. You may have taken my trust in men, my faith in dating and my excitement to find a man to love me; however, you are not victorious this time.
I wish you the best and I hope you learn from this situation where there were no consequences. But I also know I’ll probably see your face on TV in a mug shot. And I will still cry for the men I know you can be. Welcome to the real world.
To my friends and fellow victims- do not stop sharing your story until someone listens. Even anonymously, like I chose here, someone is listening and reading and you are lighting a fire in them with your words to ignite change.
Keep yelling. Keep fighting. Keep causing a scene until someone cares.