Editor’s note: Trigger warning — this article contains detailed accounts of sexual assault.
I’m in constant fear that the rape I’ve experienced on this campus will happen again to me or to many women I love. I refuse to hide. I refuse to let the men who do these things feel justified. I am here to speak. But mostly, I’m here to fight for my right to safety and my own goddamn body.
The first time I met my rapist, I was tagging along with a friend to my first real party as a freshman. Upon arriving at a beer-stained apartment, I could tell that as freshmen we were among the minority.
We entered the dimly lit loft and I quickly lost my only companion to a high school reunion, which was the reason we came in the first place. Standing to the side of the many hugs and “how are you’s,” I began to look around at the other party goers, trying to find a conversation of my own.
I was full of liquid courage and caught the eye of a cute blonde haired boy. Immediately, he walked over to introduce himself as John Doe, a good friend of the host.
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It didn’t take long before there was another beer at my lips, and his hand on my ass. We talked of mundane subjects, both knowing our words were a cover for the mutual physical attraction. The apartment slowly emptied out until only my friend and a few stragglers were left to observe our sudden infatuation with each other.
“Come home with me,” he breathed into my ear. I took a mental step back, trying to make sense of what he meant. Before I could get a logical thought to come through my beer slogged brain, he pulled us together, kissing me as if to make the decision himself.
The whole walk to his apartment felt like a bold act of rebellion, I was becoming more than just a meek freshman with every step I took. As we neared his front door, he began telling me about all of the reasons he was a great and trustworthy guy, making it clear he was a member of an organization on campus against sexual assault — an ironic red flag.
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As we entered the door to his apartment, he wasted no time. The cute guy I had met turned his attention to an aggressive sexual pursuit and I was simply the vehicle to his orgasm.
I told him I was on my period, not looking for sex. His attitude changed to indifference, and as he walked me back to my dorm because I was too drunk to find it alone, I felt like my youth and lack of experience were to blame for the awkwardness of our final minutes together.
Later that October, I remember my heart fluttering as I received a text message from him. He wanted to meet up and “just couldn’t stop thinking of me lately.”
I told him I was on my period, assuming that’d be a clear enough “no” for sex, but I also wondered if he was interested in me beyond my body. He said my period didn’t matter to him, all he wanted was to see me. I happily agreed, hoping I might actually mean something to him beyond my body.
When I got to his place, things escalated past conversation rapidly. I stopped him, reiterating the fact that I was on my period, to which he responded, “Yeah, I don’t care about that, I’ve fucked countless girls on their period.”
In that moment I realized I’d misinterpreted his texts for some form of affection. When in fact, I was still nothing more than a body to him.
I started getting up and he pulled me back, continuing where he’d left off. “No,” I said. “I don’t want to have sex right now.”
Rolling his eyes, he began alluding to the fact that I was a prude because older girls had sex even on their period. The message was clear: If I didn’t align to this standard, he could easily find someone else who would.
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I was appalled, laying there silently stunned. Where I saw retreat in my silence, he saw an invitation, and began taking claim of my body where he had no right. I questioned if my silence held a signal I didn’t understand, “Did I say yes?,” “Is this actually happening?”
Before I knew what to do he was holding me down, and I was too scared to stop him. Clearly, he was stronger as he locked me into submission.
That memory, of being held down against my will came flashing back late this summer when I was with my current boyfriend.
In the midst of an intimate encounter between us, I was hyperventilating as a result of the memory I had suppressed for so long, sending me into a panic attack.
At that point, there was nothing left to report to the police. Repressed memories like mine are inadmissible in a court of law, and because it had been repressed for so long, there was no DNA evidence left to support my claims.
Now, I’ve reported him only for the sake of being able to liberate myself under the weight of my story, reporting him not to press charges, but to write true, fighting words.
I’ve worked through losing my body via constant panic attacks and a deep, controlling fear of white men. There are days when I have seven panic attacks, and others with just one, but every minute I’m awake, the memory of what I lost comes jutting back where it isn’t wanted, leaving me to reap the consequences of my rapist’s actions.
As I passed him the other day in East Campus Mall, he ignored me, acting as if we never met. For him, our passing was brief and unimportant. But for me, I spiraled into an overwhelming fear that he could hurt me again, and I wouldn’t be strong enough to stop it.
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I am forced to think about him every day, see his face in my mind, and live through the trauma again and again as he walks by, indifferent. So in these words, I will fight back.
After releasing this article, I can heal, feeling great relief, and finding comfort in the idea that I may impact someone else.
But for John, these words are a conviction. They are an undeniable reality that he can no longer run from, mostly because I sent them to him in an email.
I hope that while I work to heal and grow stronger, maybe John will be inspired to do the same, finally taking responsibility for his actions and getting the help he so desperately needs.