Emily’s Story: My Campus Nightmare

Emily’s Story: My Campus Nightmare

The night was March 12th, 2017. I was 18 years old and in the home stretch of my high school career. I was studying a couple classes at the University of M. I had become close to the Teaching Assistant in one of my Chemistry labs. He was extremely helpful and accommodating, especially when I had to be out of town for swimming. On this particular evening I had emailed him asking for study tips on the upcoming exam. He replied to me telling me the room we usually used for review was full and texted me the address of his apartment near campus where he was holding a “study group”. I showed up and nobody else had arrived yet. I sat down on the couch and we began small talk while we waited for everyone else to come. He offered me a glass of wine which I slowly sipped on. As we chatted, I noticed him getting closer and closer. He moved in for a kiss and I pulled away. I remember asking him what he was doing. I was a student, his student, I couldn’t wrap my mind around what was going on. I stood up, apologized, and said I wasn’t interested in anything like that with him. He then pulled me in with the grip that I can still feel on my arms every day. It was at that moment that I realized that there was nobody else coming that night. I realized that this wasn’t a game or a movie. This was my life and the course of it was about to be dramatically changed forever.
My mind was racing but my body still knew what to do. I fought him as hard as I could, kicking and screaming and pleading for him to let me go for as long as I could but my efforts were overcome by his strength. He kept reminding me that the less I fought him the quicker this would be. He pushed me on the bathroom floor and raped me. The image that is burned into my brain more than any others from that night is the bathroom tiles that my face was pressed into. The blue tile I stared into while my dignity, my strength, my dreams, my life was taken away from me.

After he was finished he made me promise to not speak of the event. He reminded me many times that nobody would believe me and it would just be a mess for everyone involved. I was finally able to leave.

I drove to my house completely lifeless. I didn’t cry, I didn’t call anyone I just drove to my house and got into my bed. I laid there staring at my ceiling. I didn’t know what to think or feel or do. I knew I was in pain and I wanted help. I drove down to one of the University of M hospitals. I walked inside not knowing at all what to say. I told them that I had been hit. They told me to take a seat and I spoke with a social worker. She assured me that it would be okay and that I was safe but in order for me to get help I had to tell them what had happened. So I began to give out details, little by little, until she stopped me and said that she understood. She gave me a gown to change into. As I went into the bathroom I saw my red and swollen and black and blue eyes, I saw the blood in my underwear and the bruises on my legs. I couldn’t recognize myself at all. I then went through an extremely invasive examination and questioning from so many strange faces. Everything went by so fast. They asked if they could call anyone for me. I said no and I said I just wanted to go home and not answer anymore questions. I walked out to my car, stared into my steering wheel, and started to cry. I stayed in that parking spot sobbing for the next 20 minutes. In that moment I had no idea what was waiting for me in the moths to come.

The next few months of my life were a nightmare. This rape changed every single relationship in my life. It changed the way I loved and trusted. The things I loved and held so dear to me became meaningless. I re-evaluated every choice I had made for my future. I dropped out of school. I stayed inside and was glued to my pepper spray. I was so paranoid that he was going to show up for me again, I became nocturnal. I couldn’t bear to sleep at night so I would stay up, go to swimming practice in the morning, sleep all day, and go to swimming practice in the evening. I became so numb that sometimes in the middle of the night I would get on a treadmill and run and run and run until it hurt, just to feel something. I became so angry at everyone in my life. I lashed out at my family and friends who cared about me. I had the most vivid flashbacks with physical effects. I would wake up from nightmares with scratches all over my body from my bad dreams. I would pray every night that I would not wake up the next morning. It hurt to breathe, it hurt to exist. I couldn’t sleep without getting high or drunk first. I reached out to the University of M Administration, University Police Department, and the City Police Department for support. My rape was bad, but the way I was treated after the fact was arguably worse. After I dropped out of school I spent countless hours re-telling my story, and hashing up the events of the rape. I spent days and days hearing about how it was nothing more than a “he said, she said case”. I was asked “why I was out drinking with an older man”. I was asked countless times about what I was wearing. I did not have one single advocate at The University of M. I remember the first time a detective from County Police sat me down and told me that he believed me. To hear those strange words that I so badly craved made me realize what an uphill battle I was fighting with the rest of the university. To this day I am still waiting for them to assist me in finding justice within this situation.

The torment between the rapist and I didn’t stop there either. After I reported him and he found out about that report, my phone was flooded with texts and emails. Threats and harassing words. My attacker had also been apart of a fraternity at the University. His former fraternity brothers made it their goal to make my life a living hell. Through texts, calls, showing up at places that were once considered safe to me, and eventually physically assaulting me in public as well. Most of these men are still on campus. My life was upturned and they still walk to classes and drive around campus going about there daily activities.

I would love to say that everyone involved got what they deserved but that wasn’t the case. To this day, over a year later I am still searching for support and justice from the police and from the University. I still get letters or calls every couple of weeks that are threatening reminders of the past. More nights than not I still wake up in terror that it is happening to me again. I still cannot trust or love fully.

But, I have help. And I am so thankful for the small support group that has carried me through this time. People who I never would’ve imagined have stepped up and into my life to help me. To remind me of my worth. To listen to me cry on the phone, to hold me through the night, to teach me how to turn pain into strength, to talk in circles with me, to advocate for me and to love me. People who have tirelessly fought for me. Because of them, the sun still rises every single morning and I am finding my footing again. I have found a safe and happy place. I have people who fill me with life. I have seen beautiful sunrises and sunsets. I have laughed until my stomach hurts. I have ran and danced and sung at the top of my lungs. I have found things that I love to study. I have tried new foods and traveled to new places. I have meet empowering people and formed meaningful relationships. I have decades of my life left to write a beautiful story. Rebuilding your life can hold such wonder and beauty. I know the pain of the deepest valley, but that is making the joy at the top of the mountains all the more sweeter.

This is my story. The damage is done but it is no longer about me. It is about the next girl to come. My heart beats for justice. It beats for the justice of this case to come. We, as a society and as individuals, must to do better in the way that we react to rape. There is no other way this will get better. When we do not believe and support survivors we are enabling rapists. Campus rape is real. I have sat back far to long in this case and I am now going to go forward and put everything I am into this case even if it only helps one girl in the years to come, it is worth it. The seriousness of rape has to be enforced. We cannot create a culture where the consequences of sexual assault are severe enough that people feel enough fear to exercise good judgement. I want him to be a lifetime sex registrant. That doesn’t expire or go away after a certain number of years, just like the way that what he did to me doesn’t expire. It stays with me and has forever changed the way I carry myself and the way I live the rest of my life. For the rest of my life I will own my story and tell it. I will continue to speak the truth about the matter and find others who will do so. There are so many brave, loving, strong, and fearless survivors who I have come to know and in their honor I will also keep moving forward. To those of you reading this or hearing my story who firsthand know my pain, I am with you. I am with you and I support you. One way or another we will make this nation’s campus’s a safe place.

Author

WYR

WYR

When You're Ready.org is a community for survivors of sexual violence to share their stories.

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