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Jul 06

Learning to fight the silence: a story

For my first blog post with WYR, I wanted to tell a quick story about my college experience that I hope will encourage all of you to speak up when you can and to never allow yourself to be silenced.

 

Rewind to mid-April of this year. The setting was the lobby of a Resident Hall at the college I just recently graduated from. At this time, I held a position for the school in which I worked alongside the Ra’s, or Resident Assistants, and I was constantly with them and became very close with many of them. This night, I was on duty and casually chatting with the two Ra’s on duty and a couple that so happened to be hanging out with us. One of the Ra’s on duty I was not inherently close with but had never had a direct problem with until this night. Our conversation somehow re-routed to the topic of a fellow Ra in which the Ra who I was not close with, let’s call him “R” just to make this easier to follow, made a crude comment about her apparently doing certain sexual acts on others. This comment took us all by surprise as she did not seem like the type of person, and honestly, I assumed he was making up a story to feel closer to the group we had. He then continued to say that a couple of his friends pointed her out on campus and said, and I quote, “She’ll do anything if you get her drunk”.

I want to add that It is important to understand I am a very non-confrontational person and rarely speak up. However, my instant reaction was to cut him off with the statement “Okay, STOP. That is sexual assault. That is not funny or a joke. Are you joking or being serious?”, not giving anyone a chance to react. He responded with a bland “No, I’m being serious”. To this, I repeated myself. “Well, that isn’t funny or a joke. That is sexual assault”. His response stuck with me and really shook me: “That is not sexual assault”. I still remember it so vividly. This was not only an employee of the school who’s job was to fight sexual assault, he was a human being. I’ll never forget the amount of anger and anxiety this caused me; the way I felt his pure ignorance crash into me like the early morning waves. It took me a while to understand why this bothered me personally so much, and the reason is that it was a slap in the face to any survivor who didn’t suffer from the book definition of sexual assault. Too many people don’t understand the vast spectrum of assault, that is isn’t just violent rape. This reason was why it took me years to come to terms with my assault and why I still struggle to validate it today. It’s the reason others struggle. I’ll never forget the knots it left in my stomach.

From there, I acted swiftly and reported it to the Senior Resident Assistant where she reported it up the chain until it landed on the desk of the Resident Director. It came down to not only the termination of R’s job but also the threat of termination of the other two Ra’s present, which made me panic in a way I can’t explain. I remember crying in front of my friends and Public Safety. I remember questioning why I even spoke up. I remember feeling like I should have been silent instead of speaking up.

Guilt is such a sinking feeling that comes in many ugly forms. I remember feeling guilty about reporting the incident and getting R fired. I remember the guilt of my friends almost losing their jobs because I chose to speak up. I remember the guilt of causing the staff to scramble to cover duties. I remember feeling overwhelming guilt and shame for speaking up against this ignorance opposed to staying silent. Although speaking up and fighting back felt right, staying silent felt easier and safer.

It finally clicked that although R did not assault me, I went through the same guilt I felt after being assaulted. That the silence seemed safer and easier. However, now looking back on the incident, I’m so proud of myself for speaking up, because not only did I speak up at the moment but I also reported it which led to his termination, although termination was not my goal. If I had stayed silent, nothing would have come fo the situation most likely. He would not have been educated on his wrongful thinking and who knows what may have happened. Maybe, just maybe, I prevented an assault because now he better understands what it is. If not that, he now understands and can inform others. Because I refused to be silenced int hat moment, I made a change in the culture, even if it was small.

This was a landmark in my healing process because at that moment, I changed my way of thinking. I transitioned from silenced to a fighter. The point of this post is for everyone to understand you do not have to remain silent. This does not solely pertain to your own assault, as I am still in the process of speaking out about my own. This is broader, this is for the culture that lingers in our society, coating the way we think. I want you, the reader, to know that if you see something or hear something that isn’t okay, you have the power to rise and speak up even if you fear the response. You can do it because I was able to do it. I believe in you wholeheartedly, never doubt your strength. Always remember every victory counts. Never allow the world to take your voice or your heart. Stay strong and stay loud, my fighters.<3

 

-Katie-

 

 

About the author

Katie

I am a survivor of two accounts of sexual assault that I only recently discovered were assaults, and coming to terms with this has been the rockiest road I’ve walked. I have let my assaults conquer me and take me down like a house of cards, unfortunately I refuse to be blown over anymore.
I joined this team to use my voice and experiences to help others start their journey to recovery and happiness. Neither of my assaults were easy to identify and are ones we are not always educated on, so I understand from personal experience how hard it can be to start the process to recovery, especially when you don’t see the beginning of the path. I want to be that path marker, let me help you start!
Never allow yourself to be silenced, your voice will always be yours and cannot be taken away from you. I love all of you. <3

Permanent link to this article: http://whenyoureready.org/learning-to-fight-the-silence-a-story/