Editor’s note: The following is a verbatim testimony from a survivor of sexual assault. The survivor is a student at the University of Puget Sound and agreed to share their story to bring awareness to the existence of sexual assault and harassment on this campus.
I was raped last semester. It happened here in a fraternity on campus. I was friends with him. I trusted him. I had been drinking that night but when I went out with him I didn’t ever think that is how the night was going to end. He took me back to his room and I knew something was off but at the time I didn’t have any idea what was happening. He stuffed a towel under the door and I knew that something was wrong. Even if I could have resisted, it’s not like anyone would have heard me. For a long time, I couldn’t believe it happened. I kept thinking it was my fault, it was my fault. I should’ve said no, like what was I doing? But I started to realize I did tell him no. I just didn’t use the word no. I didn’t say anything. Because he never asked, he demanded. You can’t say no in a position like that; you just can’t. No doesn’t exist in that moment. You can think it in your head, scream it in your head but the words will never come out. In that moment, you have no power to say no. He has all of the power.
At first, I didn’t want to come forward but people kept telling me that there might be other people. I knew that the same person who had done this to me may or may not have also done it to another girl in the past. The more I came forward the more people around me came forward. I did it for all those girls. It wasn’t just justice for me, it was justice for all of those people who have dealt with this.
I went to the Tacoma Police Department first, but they told me they would not investigate my case.
I also went to Student Conduct and filed a formal complaint. That process was one of the hardest things I have ever gone through. I felt supported in a lot of ways by Student Conduct and the individuals in Student Conduct treated me with a lot of respect but the process was difficult. I was a part of every step of the conduct process but it was a slow and draining process. I reported the assault three and a half weeks before winter break and it didn’t get resolved until the third week of February. It got pushed back and it seemed like every day there was something new I had to do. When you’re going through the process, you can’t do anything else but be in the conduct process. It takes over your entire life. You have meetings every day. You have to read witness statements, character references, etc. I didn’t do my homework. I didn’t study for tests. During the conduct process, you can’t get away from it. You’re living it. Throughout the entirety of the confidential process, I felt like I couldn’t ever say anything to anyone and I was afraid of getting in trouble if I did. Could I tell my teachers what was going on? Could I tell my friends? My team? I felt gagged.
The hearing was the hardest part of it all. Having to see and hear him tell a twisted version of what happened that night was incredibly difficult. I used to say there are two sides of every story, but his side just wasn’t true. It was lies. I knew it wasn’t true and everyone in that room knew it wasn’t true.
Although the board found that they could not charge him with sexual assault because the policy was too narrow, they charged him with sexual harassment and the University issued him sanctions. It was very validating to hear the board say that what happened to me was wrong. For the first time, I felt believed. It was validating to know that the board believed me not because they had to but because they thought I was telling the truth.
In spite of all this, he still has the opportunity to transfer at any time. I challenge him to stay and face his sanctions. I hope that they will help him realize why all of this happened to him. I hope he can understand it’s not because I am a cry baby or wanted to make a scene; it was because he did something wrong and he needs to learn that.
The thing about sexual assault is that no one wants to talk about it, but so many are affected by it. If you have been through this, whether you reported it or not, you are strong because you went through this and you survived this. Speaking out helped me heal, but you are just as strong even if you never say anything about it.
We need to change our mindset about this issue. There is so much silence around this issue because people don’t want to hear it. But whether you like it or not, this happens on this campus and it happens here more than you think. It doesn’t happen in an obscure far-off way. Sexual assault isn’t always a man behind a bush. It can be your friend or your boyfriend, someone who you know, someone you trust. It doesn’t happen on a random street, it happens in our residence halls and our Greek houses. It happened to me. It happened here.