Trigger Warning: This article includes testimony of sexual assault, violence and trauma.
In light of the Justice for Lena & Survivors of Sexual Assault Everywhere campaign, fronted by the brave Lena Sclove, Bluestockings Magazine will run an inaugural Brown Sexual Assault Series. We will be publishing various forms of testimonies about sexual violence, trauma and rape culture at Brown University. The series is an ongoing project to amplify the voices of survivors on-campus, provide them with a platform to recount their experiences, and to end the silence that stymies action and change. Please note that these testimonies may be triggering.
If you would like to add your voice to the dialogue, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We guarantee anonymity.
As a senior graduating in just a few weeks, the time has come to reflect on my four years at Brown. Undoubtedly, each of my experiences has contributed to my growth and maturation—in some cases, with debilitating collateral damage. For me, even with all of the amazing, unique people, the eye-opening education, the perfect days when the sun shines over students throwing Frisbees and soaking up the warmth on the Main Green, Brown is far from the ideal home I had expected it to be when I first came.
I admire Lena for her courage and resilience, her determination to speak up about her sexual assault at Brown. There are many students that have gone through similar experiences whose voices are not heard for one reason or another, who cannot speak up as she does. My story is one of those that I prefer to keep in the past, and for the most part, to myself. I am uncomfortable sharing, not only because I do not want to be labeled as a victim, but also because I am convinced that maybe, maybe it was my fault. If I didn’t do this, or that, if I was more careful, things could have been different. But no matter how I internalize it, I would like to take this opportunity to add onto Lena’s story, in hopes of gathering more awareness for issues of sexual violence on university campuses, and most importantly, for all of the cases that go unreported.
The first occurrence, I hesitate to label as anything. He was a friend, and I couldn’t imagine that he would intentionally hurt me. Yes, I said I didn’t want to. I said no. Did he hear? I don’t know. All I know is that he forced it in, it hurt, and it bled a little. In the coming days and weeks, I started to feel uncomfortable; it started as an itch, and morphed into full-blown throbbing. I went to Health Services and found that he had ripped my vagina. My lymph nodes on either side of my groin ballooned and grew rock hard. For weeks, it hurt to wear pants, it hurt to walk, and it hurt to sit—a constant reminder of what had happened. But I kept up my appearance and my grades. I wasn’t going to let this ruin me. I put on my cheerful façade in public, only succumbing to dark thoughts when I was alone in my bed.
The second occurrence happened months later. I met him at a party and became friends with him, having casual sex with him now and then. I established from the beginning that he would have to wear condoms, as I wasn’t on birth control, and he promptly agreed. Things were going well until one night, he tried to put it in without one, and I stopped him. I reminded him that we had an agreement. His response was to hold me down, restrain my arms so I couldn’t do anything, and force himself in me. I found myself thinking, not again—I yelled at him to stop, and used all of the force in my legs to push him back, to no avail. I gave up, and simply waited. The next day, he acted like nothing was wrong. He merely sent me a text suggesting that I use birth control.
One of the most devastating aspects of sexual assault is in its aftermath; it takes over the mind and seeps into daily life. I retreated into my mind, spending more time than usual in bed. After the second occurrence, I was too vulnerable to keep up my social interactions and grades as I had been doing. I spent most of the next year depressed, often sinking into states where I cared about nothing at all. And as I couldn’t stop myself from sinking, I blamed myself for being weak and letting these occurrences affect me so much, and sunk into an even deeper hole. It was a vicious cycle. I couldn’t bring myself to tell my friends or family, and dealt with this largely by myself.
I have since risen above these experiences, and have a healthy relationship with a partner of three years, who has helped immensely with my recovery. I am able to enjoy and experiment with sex. I have been able to explore with open relationships; each of my sexual partners since then has given me the respect and communication that I deserve. I have become a stronger person, but for a steep price.
Lena’s story is only one of many. Numerous cases go unrecognized and unreported to the university. The resolution of one case is by no means the end of this. Brown’s administration must take productive steps to ensure the safety and well being of its students. Preventative measures are facilitative towards this end, but sexual assault will occur no matter how much we work towards preventing it. Brown must implement immediate, effective punishment towards perpetrators of sexual violence, so that when students muster the courage to speak up to the university in interest of their safety, they are guaranteed to obtain it.
Brown is a great institution, but it has room for improvement. The administration must now work towards making the campus a safer place, where nobody has to go through what Lena, myself, and countless others have gone through, where sexual assault is appropriately dealt with—where all students can justifiably call Brown an ideal home.
By Anonymous Contributor