Her Face Filled Her Hands — and Her Words Filled Me With Grief
The victim sat down in the middle of the college quad on October 5 at 11 PM.
Her face filled her hands and her words filled my soul with grief. She slowly opened up about the trauma of the rape she had experienced.
She gave few details but her anguish told the story. I listened and held her hand for as long as she needed.
At the time I was involved with school government. But I was also a friend and I believe that is why she felt safe enough to confide in me.
I knew I now had a responsibility to make sure she received the necessary aid and justice. About one in five young women are harmed by on-campus assault, yet only 5% are reported and I did not want my dear friend to be another statistic.
The victim, herself, was not yet ready to come forward, so the next day I sat down with the Dean of Students and explained the situation. The school initially pushed back, saying there was no solid evidence. I did not accept this and made it clear that we needed to pursue this case to make our school a safer place. The school went on to explain how lengthy the process could be, but that did not intimidate me. My friend’s emotional well-being was the first priority and I wanted to make sure the truth came out.
I received threats and lost friends, but others thanked me
As the case proceeded I attended every meeting and every hearing.
I received threats, insults, and even lost some friends. When I went to parties, especially at a frat house or sports team, the men looked at me in disgust.
Yet some men pulled me aside to say that they agreed with what I was doing.
Women began pulling me aside, too. Some knocked at my dorm room late at night or sent text messages. They had all been victims of sexual assault or harassment. And some had been victims of the assailant I was pursuing. I spent countless hours helping the women write personal statements, collecting evidence, and speaking on their behalf when they weren’t emotionally ready.
Even with all the evidence the process took most of the school year, and the school’s resistance was evident. The assailant was one of the colleges top lacrosse players, and lacrosse was our most competitive sport. The school proposed that he stay at school, but at a safe distance from the girls who had accused him. This wasn’t good enough. We insisted that his behavior demonstrated that he was a repeat offender and that our school was not a safe place with him there.
The arduous process revealed why women rarely step forward. Even though I was not a victim myself, the process took an emotional toll on me.
But finally, justice was served. The young man had to leave the school and the victims were left with a little more peace. But unfortunately, many of his victims had already left the school because of their trauma.
My passion for women’s rights took off
It became clear to me that my work could not end after this case. This is when my passion for women’s rights really took off.
I may never know why I was entrusted as aid to these victims and leader of this case but I am forever honored. This journey allowed me to see the dark reality of this issue and because of this experience I hope to serve many more victims.
We as women must stick together and help promote safety, peace and justice for all. Especially in a society that too often does not.