Sexual Assault: You’re not safe even when you think you are by R.M.

You wake up in your dorm room, not remembering how you got back into bed. You look down at your appearance and notice your dress hiked up to your hips, and see your underwear in the middle of your dorm, ripped. You try and get out of bed and feel soreness below your abdomen as well as on your hips. You stand up and notice the blood on your sheets, but you look at them with a puzzled expression; you got your period over a week ago. You don’t know what is going on and walk towards your dresser where you see your own reflection. Your hair is disheveled, your makeup resembles a raccoon, yet you still appear normal.

You’re not.

Your roommate knocks on your door and ask if you remember anything; you only remember bits and pieces. She tells you that He carried you back to your room again because you were just so out of it last night. You know what happened but you’re being in denial about it. You muster up the rest of your dignity and barely whisper, “I was raped.” Your roommate stares at you for what seems to be an eternity. Her only response is, “Yeah, right..then why did you let him take you to your room then…again?”

But that’s the thing. You don’t know.

The only thing you do know, though, is that if your roommate doesn’t even believe you,

then who will?

*

Kacey Pomeroy* was just within her first months of her freshman year at the University of Denver when she was sexually assaulted. “He was a close friend who lived close to me,” she stated, “but it happened on many occasions. And it just kept worsening in severity.” When the assaults occurred, both parties were intoxicated. However, that didn’t factor in as much when Pomeroy reported the acts due to the fact that the assailant provided the alcohol. A drug-facilitated assault consists of the use of drugs and/or alcohol to perform the assault. When these substances come into play with the assault, it creates a blurry line due to the reliability of the victim’s claims. According to Pomeroy, in her situation, her friend described her rape as a “gray area” only because of the substances used by the assailant. “My friend told me that he [my attacker] was cross-faded so he didn’t know what he was doing.” To Pomeroy, she thought that “for some reason, it did not seem to matter that this was something that had happened on multiple occasions, or that I was incapacitated to the point that my attacker literally had to support me so that I was able to walk.” This created a blurry line to see who was more believable. Although Pomeroy’s case went through, the involvement of mainly alcohol made the process more difficult because the assailant did not tell his side. Pomeroy was repeatedly questioned if she was “drunk enough”.

Pomeroy’s own attorney in her civil rights protection case consistently told Pomeroy that she did not believe her. “Open door, open invitation… I can see where he was coming from… To be honest, I don’t think he raped you.” Pomeroy said that she tried not to say anything; and despite the fact that she had friends that believed her, the lack of faith her attorney had in Pomeroy in denial of what happened which made it more difficult for her to accept it as an assault.

Title IX is a Federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. This includes sexual harassment or violence, as well as sexual assault, battery, and coercion in any educational program or activity that receives federal funding. Most schools, private institutions, and grades K-12 fall under Title IX. Reports can be made anonymously and have options explained, including receiving a no-contact order or going through the Title IX investigation process. At any time, survivors of the assaults can change their mind and decide to go through and investigation or have a no-contact order instated, etc.

According to Pomeroy, a no-contact order was produced which as Pomeroy described, relates to a restraining order but not as harsh. Those that are filed against it must stay a certain amount of feet away and is forbidden to contact the other party. It is, however, only effective on campus, and to her dismay, Pomeroy does not know what will happen when the order expires.

*

Guilt: a feeling of responsibility or repentance from a crime or a form of wrongdoing.

You would not like to spend your freshman year of college talking to law enforcement and hiding in your room instead of being a normal student. You will have no motivation for accusing someone that you had once called your friend and considered family. You know that people will said you are lying, and you know that rumors have already gone around, but you won’t feel like listening. Part of what is harmful about victim blaming is that survivors already feel guilty. You will feel beyond guilty, and you will probably cry more for your attacker than you will for yourself.

*

According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) 1 out of every 6 American women have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape. As far as the male gender, a stigma surrounds the rape culture among males. There is this common misconception that males cannot be raped by females, but that’s wrong. RAINN’s statistics state that males ages 18-24 are five times more likely than those that are non-students of the same age to be a victim of rape or sexual assault. Just because a male has an erection does not mean he wants to have sex. This is also a common misconception with females: just because a female has an orgasm does not mean she wanted it. There are misrepresentations on rape where pronouns are generally centered around “she/her” for the victim, and “he/him” for the attacker. Yes, there are more assaults involving male-female violence, but we underestimate the number of males that are assaulted.

We have a culture of toxic masculinity which makes it hard for men to admit their vulnerabilities. Men are supposed to want sex and if they don’t, then they are seen as less of a man. Changing this culture gives a chance for men to feel more comfortable admitting that they were assaulted. Victims blame themselves for the assault most of the time. Kacey Pomeroy blames herself, and she knows her friends that are survivors blame themselves.

“I tried to write down what happened. I wrote journal entries. I wrote a letter to my lawyer, to the friends who abandoned me, to my attacker’s roommate. Not all of these were negative letters. Half of them were apologies, but it took me a while to realize that I should not apologize, so I didn’t send any of these.” – Kacey Pomeroy

For those that have never experienced sexual assault, speak out. Your silence won’t keep it from happening to you. Not only that, but teaching children personal boundaries, respect, and what consent is will empower children and respect their own decision of saying, “No.” Consent needs to be taught in terms of sharing toys and pulling hair early in life. Children need to know that yes means yes, and that their bodies belong to them.

Other resources that can help, also, are End Rape on Campus, Know Your IX, and any other victim resources in your area.

*

The emotional effects that sexual assault causes vary within each victim. A cycle of guilt, anger, and sadness may take place. Dissociation will occur, and Your isolation will be Your own depression’s new best friend. Anxiety attacks may occur after what happened, and after a while, Your body will succumb to the numbness.  

But remember:

You are not alone. You may not control what others say or think, but You can decide not to allow their words to affect You.

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