A few days ago, my friend published an article I’m sure you have all read by now. Entitled “There’s a Brock Turner in all o(UR) Lives,” CC detailed her case against the University of Richmond’s gross mishandling of her sexual assault case. In this article, she mentioned she had another friend that came forward who also did not receive justice.
That girl was me.
I’m not going to tell you the graphic details of my rape. I’m not going to tell you every instance that led to this man stealing my passport, stealing my money, hitting me, dragging me across the floor and isolating me from my friends and family. You don’t need to know how he manipulated me by sending falsified college admission emails to my baby sister and threatening to kill my closest friend. You especially don’t need to know how he coerced me to do what he said by threatening to call the police to have me arrested for being “suicidal”: a threat he validated with my medical history of major depression.
I came forward in August 2015, against my violent stalker to the University of Richmond police and Title IX Directors. The police took my statement and I can still remember the world stopping when I was told that the possible charges ranged from kidnapping, assault and battery, identity theft, sexual assault, dating violence, theft and both emotional and physical abuse.
Although I was originally hopeful, I realized in later meetings that the school had no real intention of helping me. The investigating Dean told me that my assailant had reported that I had PTSD, and because of this, I was “an unreliable witness” and my “memory couldn’t be trusted.”(A diagnosis that made it into the official findings letter.) My mind became a Rolodex of every poster, bystander training and prevention seminar the school hosted. The administration seemed so capable of being able to handle these cases that I never imagined that the worst pain I could experience would come from reporting my case.
Unlike CC, my case never made it to a hearing. I was told that my assailant’s admittance of guilt to one count of violence waved my right to an appeal. Him taking the easy way out left him on “probation,” a punishment that simply meant violations could be revisited and assessed for potential punishments. Since his sanction, the no contact order has been openly violated three times. I reported an episode of him following me for three hours to the appropriate conduct officer and they never called in my witness. The responsible Dean yelled at me for “not letting (him) do (his) job” when my witness walked into the Richmond College Dean’s office requesting an appointment to give her testimony. Later that semester, I came home to find the police waiting outside my dorm room because they received a call that my assailant had been walking the halls and reading the door name tags. Fortunately, the girl who called the police removed my door tag before he saw it. Nothing came from this either. My stalker also began attending a club that I was a member of my freshman year. Upon reporting this violation, I was told that the conduct officer would make sure he never went again. Unsurprisingly, he made repeat appearances and I became further isolated as he slowly tried to infiltrate my social circles.
In the wake of my concerns, both Title IX administrators wanted to meet with me and discuss how I could best move forward. I told them I was terrified and couldn’t walk around campus without breaking down in fear. I would call the area coordinator sobbing from the library bathroom floor, frantically trying to get help. I would shake and cry because I genuinely believed he would kill me. They told me that he was going to stay and if I couldn’t deal with it, I could look into transferring.
I was overwhelmed and shocked at the result. What did I do wrong? Was an entire year of my life questioned because I have a treatable mental illness? I took all the steps I needed to, provided witnesses and supporting documentation, and reported to all available authorities. But, in the end, his right to anonymity and happiness overwhelmed my right to a safe education.
They made my story into an attempt to ruin this student’s life. But this isn’t about him, and it was never really about me. This isn’t about the nights that I cried, wished I were dead or prayed I wouldn’t see him in the morning; it’s not about how I still wake up crying and shaking as I’m forced to live my freshman year over and over again. I came forward to inspire change in a process that is systematically designed to fail survivors.
I learned a long time ago that a rapist’s privacy is more important than my life. It makes it hard for survivors to come forward; talking about our experiences forces us to stand public trial for the crimes committed against us by men we aren’t legally allowed to name. Telling your story is painting a target sign on your own back in the hopes that your sacrifice might save another victim, even though you know you will be defamed and degraded every step of the way.
My case isn’t an isolated incident. If something doesn’t change, girls like CC and I will keep coming forward: more survivors will stand up to the institution that has silenced us for too long. I just started my junior year at the University of Richmond, and I cannot survive at this school for the next two years if something doesn’t change.