Trigger Warning: This article includes testimony of sexual assault, violence and trauma.
It’s senior week and I’m a senior and this should be the best week of my life. But it’s not. I’ve spent most of the week, so far, inside, in the library, on the Quiet Green. I can’t go to Binder. I can’t get Disoriented. I can’t battle in Unit Wars.
I might see him.
He’s also a senior. He was in my unit when we were both first years. He plays on an intramural team with some of my best friends. He’s a Safewalker.
I worked hard to forget what happened when we were both sophomores. For years, I buried it deep within me. And after I remembered, just this February, I got a no contact order so that even if I do see him, he can’t come talk to me. He can’t email me or call me or text me.
But he’s still on this campus. And every single day when I walk down Thayer, I’m terrified that he’s going to be walking up Thayer and we’re going to be on the same side of the street and we’ll have to pass each other. When I walk into the SciLi, I’m terrified that he’s going to be sitting at a table. When I dash into the Blue Room for a muffin, I’m terrified that he’s going to be in line for a sandwich.
I’ve only seen him once since February. I wasn’t planning on going to Spring Weekend, but I’ve wanted to see Andrew Bird and Lauryn Hill since I was in middle school, so at the very last minute, I bought a ticket for Saturday’s concert.
He was there in the crowd, laughing and talking with his friends — his friends who used to be my friends. I tried to ignore it, the fear rising from my stomach into my throat, the fact that every single muscle in my body was tense, that my brain was screaming at me to leave, to get out, to run away. I moved further into the crowd, away from him, but I knew he was there. I knew he was there and then the fact that I couldn’t see him was even more terrifying because I couldn’t be sure he wouldn’t come pushing through the crowd and I’d look up and he would be there in front of me and there wouldn’t be anywhere for me to go.
I thought I was going to throw up or faint or both. I knelt down and put my head between my knees. A stranger tapped me on the shoulder: “Do you need EMS?” I hadn’t had anything to drink. I haven’t been able to drink since I remembered what happened, because of the nightmares. I shook my head and stood up and left the concert and walked home alone. I couldn’t stop shaking. That walk home was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
I don’t know what’s going to happen at Commencement. I don’t know what’s going to happen at Baccalaureate or Campus Dance. I don’t know what’s going to happen if my parents see him — because they know who he is. I’m grateful, at least, that we’re not in the same concentration.
I’m part of Imagine Rape 0, as much as anyone can be a part of Imagine Rape 0, and over the past few weeks I’ve had people ask me if IR0 is going to do anything over senior week or on Commencement — because “wouldn’t it be better if we just enjoyed our senior week in peace? We’ve worked so hard to get here; you really shouldn’t spoil it.”
This makes me want to scream. For me, there is nothing special about this week. This is a week like any other. Like any other week in which I don’t feel safe on this campus. Like any other week in which I have to plan my every move. Indeed, this week is worse than most — because this week, seniors are expected to do nothing but drink and party and laugh and gloat. Like any other week, I can’t do any of those things.
To everyone who has tried to convince me that I should relax, that I should have a drink, that I should go out with my class: Fuck you. Fuck you. If you can’t see what happens on this campus every single day of the year, you are blind. You. Are. Blind. Hang as many lanterns, manicure as many lawns, pitch as many white tents as you want, but nothing can hide the revolting truth of what happened to me — me and hundreds of other students like me.
One thing only could help make it better. All of you, whole and broken, survivors and allies, seniors and juniors and sophomores and first years: Don’t use this week as an excuse to forget. Don’t allow yourself to be wooed by the pomp and circumstance — seductive as it may be. Parts of this campus are rotting from the inside out. A few new flowerbeds can never mask that smell.
This week is not sacred. Enjoy it, but don’t forget that fact. This week is not sacred.