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.
It’s strange which elements from a sexual assault stay with you: the way his eyes lingered on my body in the hallway on that sixth night of college, the thought in my head that he might just need to wash his hands if I opened the door to the men’s restroom, the way his lip piercing glistened in the fluorescent light after he told me that no one had to know.
I felt his eyes on my every time I passed him in the Ratty. I stopped going to Pembroke when I figured out that was where he lived. Without my realizing it, I began changing my behavior to avoid any contact with him whenever possible, if only to avoid the quicker breathing, fast heartbeat, and narrowed field of vision. Only when I experienced a full-on panic attack in February 2012 did I decide that something had to change.
I filed my complaint in April 2012, seven months after my assault. Since I filed it at the end of April, I was told that it would be all but impossible to schedule a hearing until the following fall. Two reschedulings later, the day finally came in November 2012, fifteen months after my assault and seven months after my complaint. What was supposed to be a relatively straightforward ninety minutes turned into three hours of questioning. I can only describe those three hours as the most difficult of my life and rife with frustration, hearing my attacker repeat his same inadequate response again and again. I just sat in my frat’s lounge for the following two hours, just so I could continue with life.
The process ended on December 19, 2012, when I heard that his appeal was denied. He was expelled. I was free. Free, except, of course, for accepting any jobs in the Bay Area. The last I heard, he was in Oakland.
There were some amazing people that helped me through the process, both working for and attending Brown. I’m going to immediately name two: my WPC and Bita Shooshani. But as Lena’s case and countless others show, the system does not work for everyone. How could the same system that eventually served me justice spit others out with such callousness?
There is one thing that I do know: until no one experiences sexual violence, until no one has to navigate a convoluted and painful process to achieve justice, and until the incredible bravery of people like Lena becomes a proud piece of Brown’s history in fighting sexual violence, there is still work to be done. I hope you join us.
I’m going to end by sharing an open letter to my attacker I wrote shortly after I was assaulted:
I don’t know what you were thinking when you thought I would want it. I don’t know why you thought my response of “no” was a “yes”. I don’t even know why you kept going as I turned away and as you tried to take something away from me I could never get back. And you did. You took it away from me.
But now, I’m taking it back. In your effort to use your power to oppress me, to humiliate me, to destroy me, you’ve created a monster. Do you know what this monster does? This monster loves. This monster has more power than you ever will, this monster is one that has compassion and caring and sensitivity and strength I never thought I could have.
I forgive you. It’s taken me a long time to be able to say those words, and I’ve thought and dreamed and prayed to get there. But I forgive you. You helped me see who I really am. I’m not broken. I’m not dirty. I have more love and strength and beauty than I ever thought myself capable. And all because you seemed to think you could take those things away from me. So I hope you see what you did was wrong, and I pray to God that no one else has to go through what I did, especially at your hands. But that’s not my battle right now. My battle is in my heart. And you can’t fill my life with hate, no matter how hard you try. So think about what you did, but know that you can’t take my heart away.
A Survivor, a Forgiver, a Lover
By Anonymous Queer Male Contributor, Class of 2015