Content in this post will be triggering. Discussion and details of sexual assault/rape, murder/violence, threats, victim blaming/shaming, and trauma.
I started college in August 2011. I was eighteen, I had just gotten out of a fairly serious relationship of three years, I was rooming with my best friend since middle school at a small private liberal arts college in central Pennsylvania.
October 7th, 2011 I went to a fraternity party. The featured image is what I was wearing that night, actually. I had been going to parties on this fraternity’s floor for about a month or two, and knew it to be safe. I did not drink, and they nor their guests pressured me to do so. They did their best to look out for women on their floor, and after hearing about this incident I will be detailing, they stopped allowing this person to come to their parties and stopped associating with him even though he was a potential new member.
I was at the party with various other people from my building and floor. Everyone was a first-year student, although some a year or two older than me. We had established a small friend group already, which I was on the outskirts of. There was a slightly older guy in the group, who some affectionately called “dad” as he was established to be the protector of the group.
I knew him briefly, and was dancing with him throughout the night. He was a little taller than me, and much larger. He had been drinking heavily. The fraternity had a drink that night with Everclear and other liquors in it, and said he had had more than ten cups. He may have even had more, but I don’t know.
I can’t say how long we had been dancing, but at some point, he audibly said “You’re going to get me in trouble” and stopped dancing with me, and left the room. I was confused, and he seemed upset, so I followed him. To my knowledge, he had a girlfriend, and I figured that may be what he meant. I followed him into the stairwell to leave the building and asked him to stop and talk to me so we could solve whatever problem had just arisen.
We talked for hours, without exaggeration. I say this because it’s important. He had been drinking heavily, but stopped for hours while we talked. We talked about his life mostly. He told me incredibly scary things. He said he was in a gang, and had killed people. He told me he liked seeing the life leaving people’s eyes. He told me he thought about how he could kill people whenever he met them: “All it would take to snap someone’s neck is about forty pounds of pressure. So easy a child could do it”. He told me he often struggled with alcohol and drinking too much. His father had to perform CPR on him one time from drinking too much.
How true all of these things are is irrelevant. He said these to establish power over me. To instill fear in me.
I will also note that a fraternity brother came to check on us once or twice during this long conversation, which was very kind of them, to make sure I was okay and he was okay. We were, at the moment.
Around 5AM (I remember checking the time), he wanted to walk me back to my room. It was cold, but a very short walk across a parking lot put us at my room. He walked me to my door. It was locked. I did not have my key. My roommate’s boyfriend was visiting, and I didn’t want to disturb them. He offered his room, which I agreed to. We walked half-way back across that parking lot to his building, and went to the second or third floor to his room. He said he would sleep on the floor, but I said we could share the bed it would be no trouble.
His roommate was in the room.
He climbed into bed, and we talked a little more. He kissed me, which I was comfortable with. He then got on top of me. I was trapped at that point. He kissed down my neck, tried to pull my dress down to get at my breasts. “Stop” I said. “I don’t want to do that” I said. He laughed, and went back to kissing me. He still tasted and smelled like alcohol. He crawled down my body and pushed my dress up. “No” I said. “Don’t do that”. I tried to push him away. He came back up to my neck, and I allowed it because it would keep him away from my vagina. He groped my breasts. He then, rather suddenly, moved my dress and underwear and fingered me. It hurt, but there was no blood.
Here is a quote from closer to the time of the incident I put on my tumblr:
“So, while he was on top of me he used one of his hands to pin mine above my head for a little (I am tiny, he is far from it). and he grabbed my breasts, and kissed them, and I told him to stop, so he removed his hand from both my hands and my breast and made his way down to my thighs.
He started kissing them and touching them, moving my dress up. I told him to stop again, and he went for my panties. I pushed his head away, and so he came back up to my breasts and this time I just let him because it was better than him touching my vagina.
So he did what he wanted (all the time sitting on top of me still) with them. And he continuously grabbed my hips, because I always squirmed and moved when he did because my hips are super sensitive.
And at one point he latched onto them and I kept telling him to stop and tried to like kick him off. And he said something alone the lines of that being a special spot, and that he would try to find more.
So he kept touching me and exploring or whatever, and then he stuck a finger inside me and I just wasn’t expecting that at all, and I told him to stop, and that I wasn’t ready for that to happen yet, but he didn’t listen.”
He also said that he could tell I was “enjoying it” at least once, despite me actively protesting. I couldn’t tell you how long this went on for, but eventually he stopped, and we went to bed.
I woke up around 9AM. It was Family Weekend, and my mom and sisters were coming to visit. I told him that, and even invited him to see the theater show that evening with us (my roommate was the lead!) and I went back to my room. I can’t remember if my roommate was there, or if she asked any questions. I changed, but didn’t shower. I don’t remember what I did to pass the time, but my sister and mom arrived. He arrived shortly after, and met them. We went to the afternoon show of the play together. My family went home.
Within a few days, I went three of my closest friends there (not my roommate) who were also in my French class. We were doing homework together, and I told them about what happened. “You can’t tell him” they said “Who knows how he’ll react”. They knew he was dangerous, but protected him anyway. One of these girls dropped out, one graduated early, and the other got involved in student government. Two of these girls were involved in another, later, incident against the same person, but continued to support him.
Within a week, I went to the counseling office. I met with a counselor. I told him what happened, but didn’t give any names. He was impressed at my understanding and handling of the situation. I did not go back after that one session until I needed medication to deal with everything. I am so thankful I went.
I, personally, don’t remember much more from then on. I knew we hung out a one or two more times, and talked on Facebook or through texting, but eventually stopped. I told more people, and lost many people I thought were my friend.
My junior year, two years later, in the summer of 2013 I started to get anonymous messages to my Tumblr blog as I started to get more vocal about what happened to me there. “You deserve getting raped repeatedly” one said. One called me a filthy rape victim, a liar, said I slept around, and one said something about directly confronting them, as if they knew me.
So, I called security at my school to say that I thought it was him, or his current girlfriend (who I had contacted to warn, and she was very nasty and victim-blaming in response). That started the Title IX process at school. When a school hears about sexual discrimination (which includes sexual violence), they are obligated to investigate. They started to investigate the threats, and the original assault from 2011.
Title IX is one sentence, so the law can be interpreted in many ways. Under President Obama, this was done in a way that greatly helped survivors, but schools still royally messed it up at any given opportunity. You can learn more about Title IX here in another post I made. I will walk you through my process/experience.
He and I were both brought into the Dean of Student’s office (separately!) for investigative questions. The Dean of Students was heading the investigation as a Title IX investigator (this is a conflict of interest, and Title IX does not prohibit it but does discourage it). The Director of Safety and Security was also present/involved. They took down details of the incident.
Title IX allows for students to have advisors. This is a friend, staff or faculty member, or even a lawyer that is not supposed to speak for you, but help you emotionally through the process and guide you through Title IX as well. My advisor was a sociology professor who typically helped victims in cases like this, and someone I had gotten close to as she was in a play with me the year previous. His advisor was a philosophy professor.
Title IX prohibits retaliation. This means the school may not punish you for reporting, and people may not badmouth you or harass you for doing so either. His advisor, repeatedly, badmouthed me in his office using my name (my advisor’s office was down the hall and she heard him often) and in the hearings. His advisor is not supposed to speak for him during the hearings, but did anyway, and victim blamed me. He called me a liar, and said I slept around. The Dean did not stop this, which also violates Title IX.
Title IX requires accommodations be given. This can be financial (paying for therapy, if needed, paying for relocation, etc.) or other things. He was moved from my building, and a “no contact” order was put in place. This meant he could not contact me, nor could his friends or girlfriend contact me about what was going on. I could also not contact him/his girlfriend. We were not to be in the same classes either. You are also able to request not being in the same room as the respondent (perpetrator), or have a curtain put up so you can’t see them during the actual hearing.
Title IX requires faculty and staff be trained specifically on this topic. They were not, and asked many victim blaming questions about if I had been drinking, and other related things. They knew very little about victimology and why I would have invited him to see the play with me, or texted him a few times afterword. They were also very caught up about what Tumblr was and how someone could be anonymous. This went on for months. The investigation took a long time, and the hearing was a few days.
He was found not responsible on both counts (aggravated sexual misconduct, and threats).
I appealed the decision, with the help of my advisor, who knew the grave Title IX violations that occurred during the hearing. The hearings are voice recorded, and all documents are put into a packet. This is brought to the Provost (or whoever handles appeals, it was the Provost at my school) for review. The process allows the Provost to overturn the decision, but they messed up so badly that Provost requested the entire process be started over and redone. They brought in a lawyer to review policies. They retrained all board members who presided over hearings. This took a long time.
So, I had to do it all over again. More interviews. This time, he brought his girlfriend in because of the messages I sent to her. They were calling my character into question as well as the fact that I had been dancing with him and kissing him. In a court of law, Rape Shield Laws prevent this kind of questioning. Not only that but consent to one thing does not mean consent to all things…
Regardless, this actually helped me. If they went through with it, I was allowed to call his character into question. He had three other victims on campus that I knew of, as well as records on file with security of several other incidents. One domestic violence, where the police were called, and another with threats of violence with the same exact story he had told me (about the gang and killing people) that nine other students were privy to. (Those two girls I originally told were involved)!
We did not know how they would proceed, so I made sure to let any potential witnesses know they may be called in. His other victims refused to testify against him, which I understood and did not push. However: one admitted to me that he admitted to her that he had raped me. (Fun fact! She was the victim in the record case that the police were called for, and she is now married to him).
The day of the hearing arrived. My roommate and counselor gave interviews during for me to show that I was clearly showing signs of PTSD, and my counselor talked victimology and common victim behaviors to prevent some of the issues that happened last round. His advisor did not speak for him. His girlfriend at the time came in to give her interview for the hearing, and both he and she said something about my character that allowed us to bring in all of the other evidence.
Without my knowledge, another domestic violence report on him came in the day before. Security had been called on him and his present girlfriend because he was screaming at her and throwing things. This with the other two cases on record helped us to establish his pattern of abusive and violent behavior.
The board, having been retrained and not containing the same people as before, were much better. They asked meaningful questions, and seemed to understand very well what was being presented.
They found him responsible, but only gave him a “Deferred Suspension”. This meant if he broke school policy again, he would be suspended. One week later, he fought someone and was removed from campus. The same girl who refused to testify, but is now married to him, started a petition to bring him back to campus.
Although it was well within my rights to advertise that he was found responsible for aggravated sexual misconduct, and that was why he was suspended, I kept my mouth shut. So many people were posting and talking about how “such a good person/student leader” was wronged. I lost more friends.
The following year, my graduation year, I started to educate people on campus about rape and sexual assault, and Title IX. I started a meeting with students in a group and we did small group therapy sessions, as well as discussed what we wanted to see happen. I, solely by myself, organized and orchestrated a Take Back the Night which was one of the largest events on campus that year and I won Outstanding Student Leader from it. (Fun fact! One of the girls I originally told right after it happened that got involved in student government was also up for this award).
Because of my case, a new position under the Dean of Students was created to educate faculty, staff, and students about Title IX and sexual violence. New policies were created or rewritten. I interned under them. Together, we created an educational programming fellowship position that I ran for two years after graduation. The new President of the college was incredibly blown away by my dedication and knowledge. He was supportive of all of my efforts. I helped write a grant proposal for 300K for my school to use towards educational programming. I lost this job due to funding cuts in May 2017. In October of 2017, I found out we got the grant.
I do not know how the school is managing now, or who is doing the work that should be done. I know there are a few really dedicated souls there in the faculty and staff, who I hope are more involved now that I left. However, I doubt it. This is why I started this project. I want my knowledge to be shared, and for schools to use it, or students to use it, and change the culture.
You can learn more about how to educate yourself and support survivors here in a previous post I made.
Please believe survivors. Please support us. Please fight for and with us.