WOVEN is an Entropy series and dedicated safe space for essays by persons who engage with #MeToo, sexual assault and harassment, and #DomesticViolence, as well as their intersections with mental illness, substance addiction, and legal failures and remedies. We believe you. If selected for the series, we want to provide the editorial and human support such that our conversation continues long after the stories and names have changed. You can view submission guidelines for WOVEN here.
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“Lexie, that’s rape.”
“Yeah, I know.” It dawned on me, what had happened to me was rape. I knew something was off about that night, but I didn’t know if the experience fell into the category of sexual assault. I had never said no. I never said yes. I wasn’t prepared for what could happen. I imagined being raped was clear black and white, not just a man knocking on my door. Sexual assault has not only impacted me but thousands of other college-age students.
I thought he was a sweet man, and I had just recently moved, so I was lonely. I had kissed him goodbye and then next thing I knew I opened the door with him telling me, “I couldn’t leave you after a kiss like that.” I didn’t say no but I didn’t say yes because I figured what was the worst thing that could happen.
It was eight o’clock at night. The only light in the room was my harsh yellow desk lamp. We were watching Family Guy lying on my scratchy sheets under my owl blanket. I wanted to snuggle, but he kept getting bored and shuffling. He started kissing me. I didn’t intend for us to get intimate for I had just met him a few days ago. We became naked.
I froze because I felt pain. He had breached me. I pushed his chest off me.
“I don’t wanna do this.”
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah.” I didn’t face him, I stared at the blue light emitting from my laptop. I was trying to process what happened. I was uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be a prude. My self-image was more important to me than being aware of what was occurring.
“I wanna know you are okay. What’s running through your mind?”
“It’s fine,” I tell myself it’s my fault for not letting him know I didn’t want to have sex. We sat in silence for a little. We go back to making out. I feel him rubbing against me. I push him away to get him to stop because I didn’t want to continue.
“I’m not going to hurt you, I just want to feel you,” he says frustrated at my resistance.
I lay there limp. I didn’t want any of this.
I make an excuse to go to the bathroom. I look in the mirror and rub my eyes aggressively to get the image of his icy eyes glaring at me out of my mind. I came back.
“I should leave or else I’m going to do something I regret. Are you sure you’re okay?” He knew the mood had turned sour. But he had already done the damage.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” I brushed the incident off as my fault for not being aware of his intent from his words and actions.
My situation is not unique compared to other college-aged students. After surveying over 6000 college students “57% of the rapes occurred on a date, and 84% of the women raped knew their assailants” (Ottens and Hoteling 4). Students that had a casual relationship with their assailant may fear disparaging information about them would be distributed within the college community. This prevents the victim from discussing the assault and pursuing legal consequences for the assailant. How the student is perceived after the experience by their peers affects how they are able to process through the trauma. The fear of going through the emotional turmoil that can occur when discussing the sexual assault facilitates rape culture by making the victim fear being scrutinized rather than uplifted to report the crime when discussing the matter. Due to the lack of awareness about what to do when a sexual assault is experienced, other victims may follow the path of silence to avoid additional stress after facing trauma.
With college being promoted as a place to experience new things, it is not uncommon for students to drink at parties. Alcohol is a factor in sexual assault occurrences for it can be used as a date rape drug. After studying “129 male athletes, 16% of respondents indicated…they had sexual intercourse with a woman against their wishes by giving her more alcohol” (Ottens and Hotelling 34). The results display that if the victim had not consented to sexual intercourse, there is still a chance the assault may happen due to using alcohol as a means of coercion. Despite the victim expressing the situation as assault, their peers may focus more on that the victim was drinking and should have been more careful. People who believe that the victim is responsible for the sexual assault due to being intoxicated create a negative community for the survivor which can impact the survivor’s mindset and lower their self-esteem. The man who assaulted me was a co-worker and I avoided him every day because I did not want the blue eyes to remind me of what happened between us. I had spoken to a supervisor about my situation and was told to “keep it quiet,” causing me to believe that the rape was my fault and I should have never confided in my supervisor. I did not have a support system at work causing me to be wary of what information about my personal life would be discussed.
The University of Arizona administration attempted to gauge how common sexual assault and sexual misconduct on campus where students were solicited for a response about their experiences at the University of Arizona. Due to the method of surveying being non-mandatory for students, the administration was unable to get an accurate account of sexual misconduct occurrences. The University of Arizona in 2015 found that “UA’s overall incidence of sexual assault and misconduct include: 13% of all UA students since first enrolling” with an “ 8% response rate” (UA). The low rate compared to other colleges, the statistics can be interpreted as the university is taking the appropriate actions to reduce the amount of sexual misconduct occurring. Due to the limited response rate, the number of incidents can be much higher and sexual misconduct may not be perceived as a serious issue by the administration of the university. The lack of response indicates that is little attention focused on creating a community that supports sexual survivors. College students may disregard the survey that turns up in their inbox due to the constant flow of emails requiring their input and will not read the email’s purpose before deleting the email. The students see survey emails as a nuisance to their limited free time and disregard the value of surveys impacting their education. The university must change how the survey is perceived and make the students understand that the survey can help the administration determine what resources need to be put in place for the student body given accurate information.
By creating a community that gives access to resources for survivors of sexual assault and creating a positive uplifting community, we will allow the victim to heal and process through the shock without the additional stress of retribution. Placing responsibility on the victims of sexual assault results in negative attitudes makes the survivor fear being victimized. By focusing more on informing people of consent and the effect of sexual assault within a community, we alleviate the stress on the survivor. The community can draw more attention to the perpetrator and create a discussion on why perpetrators escape the responsibility of the assault. Communication and empathy are key to dissolving the stigma around sexual assault for victims who need a support system after enduring trauma and do not need to question themselves on their own actions.
- Association of American Universities Campus Climate On Sexual Assault & Sexual Misconduct. University of Arizona. 2015.
- Ottens, Allen J., and Kathy. Hotelling. Sexual Violence on Campus Policies, Programs, and Perspectives. Springer, 2001.
Lexie Solsky is an Asian American adopted from China from an orphanage at two and a half. She has served in the Navy and is pursuing Mechanical Engineering at the University of Arizona. She hopes to bring light to gender-based issues to a male-dominated career path and intends to contribute to the sustainability of the earth once graduated.