College was supposed to be the best time of my life. I often found myself too lonely in high school and would pass the time by day-dreaming about what my life would be like when I finally got to college. When I did make it to the promised-land, my first semester filled me with hope that I’d finally gotten something right. I took courses in philosophy and ethics and read Socrates and felt like this was what I’d been waiting for all along. I stayed up until four in the morning during weeknights and drank coffee to get me through the days. I got drunk with friends and kissed boys who smelled like men and thought my heart was broken and wondered how I was allowed to be so miserable and so happy all at once. I made plans for my future, but stopped daydreaming because the ‘now’ was enough to occupy my mind.
But then my plan was interrupted. My vision for college was brought to a screeching halt when I was raped on a February night during my second semester. Immediately, the happy side of me was gone, and I was left with only miserable. I attempted to cover-up my growing depression with coordinated outfits, perfectly curled hair, and an ever-shrinking body. Nobody guessed that there was something wrong until it was too late—I had already fallen down the rabbit hole and was staring at the bottle that said “Drink Me” in hopes of becoming as invisibly small as Alice.
I was completely caught up in myself and my new-found addiction that involved watching the numbers on the scale go down each day. My boyfriend of the time (one of only two people who knew about the attack) often pushed the memory of the rape on me, but I wasn’t ready to handle it and I interpreted his overwhelming concern as anger which only made matters worse. I never reported my rapist, and in fact, I didn’t even know that I could until my best friend informed me of “various options for sexual assault survivors” during our junior year. But at this time, I didn’t want to deal with anything, all I wanted was to change my body so much so that my mind might be changed as well and I might finally find myself completely and utterly different from the girl who was held down in paralyzing panic that night in February. (My mission towards forgetting was only furthered by various college officials who discouraged me from reporting — one college counselor even told me not to tell my parents because it would be too much of a burden on them.)
On Thursday, April 18th, I came forward publicly with what had been my reality for four years. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted nothing more than to come out of college with a myriad of happy memories and a collection of life-long friendships. But that’s not what I got, and it makes me sick to my stomach knowing that reminiscing about my college experience will probably always bring me to tears.
Coming forward so publicly and saying “I was raped, and my school failed me in the aftermath” has been one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done (second only to pulling out of severe depression and recovering from anorexia). In the aftermath of coming out as a rape survivor to a room full of flashing cameras and questioning reporters, I have been shocked by the goodness of so many friends, acquaintances, and absolute strangers who have provided me with supportive and encouraging words that have undoubtedly gotten me through the past two weeks.
While it is painful to consider the memory of these four long years, it makes me hopeful for the future of both myself and of other women, as I am praying that things will only get better from here. And as difficult as it has been to be so vocal about an event that still fills me with extreme panic and overwhelming sadness, being a part of this national movement that I am convinced will create change for the collegiate women of the future brings me something that I can only imagine is very close to inner peace: peace that my experiences were not in vain, but that they have given me the tools necessary to one day be an advocate for survivors who, like myself, feel silenced by the larger forces of the rape-culture in which we exist.