Let me address something as directly and succinctly as possible. No one would put themselves through what I have had to go through to get here if they were not actually raped. Remaining silent is easier in the short run. Reporting a rape is excruciating—and now more than ever I know why so many women remain silent. Within 72 hours of reporting, the rumors started flying, and I became the girl who cried rape against a so-called innocent man and was supposedly on a ruthless mission to ruin his life.
However, I am not the opinion of those who don’t know me. I didn’t sit in this room for 10 hours to get revenge; I didn’t sit here to lie about what happened. I wasn’t prescribed hundreds of pills for anxiety and depression unless they weren’t absolutely necessary to get me through the days following my rape. The reason I put myself through this brutal process was because I needed to do it for myself but even more so for the women I know who don’t have it in them to speak up for themselves. Though I would have rather chewed glass all day than listen to him try to justify his actions, I did what needed to be done.
I know almost nothing of the man who raped me. I am here because I must be. Yet, here you sit with two versions of a story. Simply put, one of us is lying. I am not. I know the truth, and so does the accused. I did not choose to lose my virginity in a fraternity bathroom. I did not choose to find myself bloodied and unaware of what was being done to me by a man I barely knew. No sober woman would. Not a single one.
The clothing I wore was not an invitation to my body.
Being drunk enough that I could barely walk was not an invitation to my body.
Being flirtatious was not an invitation to my body.
The only genuine invitation to my body is consent, which cannot be given while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and cannot be given without a verbalized “yes.” And if there is someone in this room who is still unclear of what rape means, let me define it for you.
If a person is incapable of consenting or resisting, because of the effects of alcohol or other drugs, it is rape.
According to the UF Student Conduct Code, engaging in a sexual act with a person who is unable to give consent due to being impaired by alcohol is sexual assault.
To the accused:
You did it once. You made your choice. I don’t trust that you won’t do it again. Though I know that you will never ever get me again, a year from now, another girl could be sitting exactly where I am right now telling the same story that I am because of you, or someone like you. Sex when consent cannot be given is rape. I could not and did not consent. That is the simple truth.
The accused made a choice and it was to rape an incapacitated young woman. Without consequence this will not be the only time. And without consequence, other men may believe they can behave as he did and lie their way out of it.
It all comes back in flashes, the sickening images that pop into my head every time I think about that night. But as revolting as the flashbacks are, I think the worst part of all of this was losing myself. The second I was raped, I transformed from the bright and eager girl I was to the lost and broken girl I am now.
However, that ends today. My rape in no way defines me. The decision of this hearing in no way defines me. This isn’t the end of me. This is just my new beginning. I am slowly picking up the pieces of myself, and I know that I will continue to heal. I may always have to carry the weight of those horrific flashbacks with me but they will not crush me ever again.
To say the last four months of my life have been challenging would be an understatement, but I have learned that it is okay to not be okay. I have learned to brave the storm. I have learned that you cannot live half-alive just because of an obstacle you stumble upon, no matter how large. I have learned that God never gives you more than you can handle, and finally, I have learned that I am not a victim; I am a survivor.
Lastly, I was born a Florida Gator. Both of my parents attended UF and they collectively have five degrees from this university. They met on a blind date and fell in love on this campus. UF was their home, and as much as I want it to continue to be mine, I can’t imagine being on this campus knowing that he is here too. There would be no way that I could feel safe or be able to concentrate on my studies knowing that a man capable of such a heinous act could be anywhere near me at any time. I have already started applying to other schools just in case I will not be able to stay here, but I so deeply want to be able carry on at UF, earn a top-notch education, graduate with a diploma from the Honors Program, and keep the Gator tradition alive in my family.
It took me nearly 4 months, but I finally recognized that he didn’t take away all of me, and I am here today with the hope that my life will once again be as promising as it was before February 9th.