(Names of people and colleges were changed for privacy purposes)
Spring break in college is supposed to be a time where you pack up your things, get ready for a trip, spend time with friends and family, and have a week of no worries; or so I have been told. I was supposed to go on a trip with my family, we had it all planned out, Savannah, GA, one of my favorite places. Plans took an unexpected turn. An ominous, daunting ambiance overcame my family when I spent my first night of break in the E.R. getting a rape test. I didn’t want to accept what happened to me, I just couldn’t bare it. Did I drink too much? Did I give him the wrong impression? Was this my fault? March 2nd into the early hours of March 3rd was the night my life was completely turned upside down and there marked the beginning of the whirlwind of emotions, betrayal, lies, depression, sleepless nights, and flashbacks. This is when my fight began. Or so I thought. Was I even strong enough to stand back up and fight?
The night began just like any other night out with my friends, carefree and happy. Loud music, mixed drinks, clothes spread out everywhere trying to find the perfect outfit, helping each other with our make-up to achieve the perfect winged eye liner, dancing, and laughs. Unlike other nights of going out, the ending to this one was much different.
We arrived at H College and went to one of their fraternity houses. Before joining the party my friends and I started a group message and a pact to make sure everyone would look out for each other. And with that, not a worry in mind we were on our way to have a great time. By this time I could tell that I had a lot of alcohol in my system, but I proceeded to drink more. A friend of mine that was a pledge at the time approached me shortly after arriving and said he needed help with a “pledge task” and needed me to gather some of my friends to help him achieve the task of writing “RUSH —– —” across girl’s chest and taking their picture. In the moment I said I would do it, but the little voice inside my head; that sounded much like my mother’s was saying “Kenly what are you thinking?”. I proceeded to let the permanent red ink run onto my chest, blocking out the voice in my head. He told us that no one would see these pictures, and that they wouldn’t be sent around. Later that night they were sent in his fraternity group message. I shouldn’t have trusted those words that held so much deceit.
I was dancing, talking to friends, meeting new people and just overall having fun. Towards the end of the night I was dancing to a song that —– —fraternity frequently plays when I noticed a guy sitting on the beer pong table that placed his legs around me pulling me in closer to him. His name, Sam. We proceeded to have small talk. He even complimented me on my eyebrows. It kills me to write this but he genuinely seemed like a nice guy. Saying this leaves me with an unpleasant pit in my stomach of how easy it is to be lured in. We exchanged snapchats, and soon after he kissed me. At the time I was dating a guy that goes to O University who was also in —– —. Immediately following the kiss I think of him and how Sam must have gotten the wrong idea. This is where the self blame sets in. Did I give him the wrong idea? Should I have pushed him off right away? How should I have done more?
Around this time the brothers in the house are telling pledges to leave, even though Sam was not a pledge a few of us walked outside to the porch area. This is where Sam and I proceeded to talk and he became more flirtatious. In my head I’m trying to think of a way to be non-confrontational to inform him that I have a boyfriend. Will he make another move? Does he think this is what I want? Am I at fault? I then tell him that the guy I’m dating is also a —– — and goes to O University, and his response to my statement is “well he’s not here.” That statement resonates in my head and leaves me unsettled. I brush it off thinking I might be overthinking his response but at least he knows I have a boyfriend at this point. Throughout our conversation he continues to kiss me. Did he not care that I have a boyfriend? Should I push him off? How do I get out of this situation? I remember elbowing my suitemate Bethany who was sitting beside me, in a subtle way of asking for help to get me out of the situation because I just felt stuck. Completely frozen. While this was occurring he is telling me about how he is going into the military, lives in the honors house, and all this bullshit bragging about his accomplishments. Little did I know that I would be just another accomplishment to add to his list.
A group of us stood up and got ready to leave, I stated that I had a DD that I needed to find her. I even pointed to her car that was parked in eyesight from the house. I texted in the group message, asking where everyone was, and that I was ready to leave. Disregarding my concern about finding my friends Sam pointed to his truck that was diagonal to the fraternity house saying that he could drive me home, back to my dorm at L University. My next message in the group message was “help”, “some guy is trying to take me home.” I knew he had been drinking and didn’t want to get into the truck, even though he said he would take me back to my dorm. I look over at my friend and whisper “help”, either he didn’t hear me or didn’t care to help, not wanting to be a “cock-block.” All I know is help is not what I received. My friends were asking where I was and our DD was nowhere to be found. The unsettling pit in my stomach grew as we walked toward his truck. On the drive “home” he doesn’t turn right towards L University, instead he turned left. Left meant I wasn’t going home. The car ride was a blur, I just wanted to be with my friends, and things just didn’t feel right. Next thing I know we are parked beside the honors house. Why are we here? I need to get home, my home.
We get out and he walks me in the house. We go into his room, and I sit on the edge of the bed, still frantically texting my friends to come get me, and sending my location. I put my phone volume on loud and it is blowing up with texts. Sam turns off the lights, and pushes me up to the top of his bed. I put my phone beside my head. He then says “let’s silence that” and slides my phone out of reach. At this point he is straddling me, and two people walked into the room, and he turns around and said “get the fuck out”. One of the guys then states “you know that’s supposed to happen after your clothes are off” and walked out. Sam then looked at me with an eerie smile and said “you know he’s right” then proceeded to rip my clothes off.
I was laying there just stuck, not knowing what to do. Feeling as if I was a puppet and that he was holding all the strings controlling my every move. I was stuck and in disbelief. He then placed a hand around my neck, choking me, and proceeded to have sex with me. I remember turning my head to the side because I was struggling to breathe. Is this just a nightmare? Am I even alive right now? How did things escalate so quickly? He came, and then said “how about I fuck you round two, I don’t have a refractory period.” What does that even mean? What is happening? He then proceeds to have sex with me, and I put my hand on his stomach to push him off, and tell him to stop but I couldn’t get anything out. My voice was much like my body. Stuck. I felt as if I was paralyzed, not having the strength to move or speak. I finally was able to get out “stop it hurts” and he replies with “oh you can’t handle me?” This whole time his hand has been around my neck choking me. He proceeded to have sex with me, and I said it hurt again. He told me that he needed to finish again and that I needed to give him head and then I could leave. I proceeded to do so because I didn’t want him to get aggressive and I just wanted to do anything to get the hell out of there. Right after he came I hear aggressive knocking on Sam’s door, and my roommate’s voice yelling for me to get out. I felt a sense of relief hearing her voice, I grab all my clothes, put them on as fast as I could, not even buttoning my body suit and found my phone behind the bed. He looks at me, turns on the light and says “let’s see if you have any bruises” while looking at my neck. Did that just happen? Should I have pushed and screamed? Why was I frozen?
I leave the room and get into the car with all of my friends. I texted my roommate and said “I feel as if I just got raped” then started hysterically bawling. Seeing the word rape, and hearing it in my head just made it that much more real. My friends were just holding me in the back of the car the whole ride home. I never thought this would happen to me. I thought rapists were just old creepy guys that lured girls in. We get back to my room and the tears had no end.. My roommate Rose and friend Emma were comforting me as I sat on my bed bawling, in complete disbelief. How am I going to tell my mom? Should I tell her? My suitemate Annie came in and asked if I wanted to go to the hospital to get a rape test. In my mind I couldn’t comprehend that I was raped, I didn’t want to accept it, I just couldn’t. I couldn’t. It got to the point where I cried so much I wore myself out and ended up falling asleep. I was hoping this was all just a bad nightmare. It wasn’t.
The next morning I had to go to my 11 am class for a test. The only thing that was running through my head was the replay of the previous night and his voice. Sam’s voice. It was as clear as if he was standing next to me, haunting me. It was the last day of classes before spring break. I didn’t go to my other two classes that day because I just couldn’t get myself out of my bed. I decided to take a shower to feel better and that’s when I noticed the bruises on my arms, stomach and chest. That is when it really sank in. That this was real. The unimaginable happened to me. Rape.
My mom was coming to pick me up that day for break. I slept the whole hour and a half home because I didn’t want her to notice I was acting different and ask what was wrong. That night we went out to dinner with my family, two friends and my boyfriend. Before dinner I took my two best friends into my room and told them what happened. My mom noticed at dinner I was pretty quiet and asked me why I was on my phone so much, I snapped and said I was texting someone at school about something. I texted my two friends at the table and told them that I needed to talk more when we got home. We went upstairs and I just broke down. I couldn’t help but blame myself. I told my Mom to come upstairs and that I needed to talk to her. When I told her she just broke down and fell on her knees beside my bed. I can picture that moment as if it was yesterday. Hopelessness. Despair. Anger. Shock. I saw how much this completely destroyed her, and the hurt in her eyes. I was shattered.
We called H College Police and reported my case. The officer said to go get a rape test and that he would meet us at the hospital. This is not how I imagined my spring break going at all. We got to the hospital at around 10:30 pm, where we stayed for hours. I didn’t think that my first night of spring break would be spent in that little room, being examined for a rape case. My rape case. Laying down getting examined, naked, vulnerable and humiliated. We finally left the hospital at 7am. I told my boyfriend that later that night I needed to see him. I told him everything that happened and in a way I felt as if he was blaming me. He wasn’t, I was the one blaming myself. He was angry, angry that this happens to people, and that it happened to his girlfriend, the girl he loved. I was bawling sitting beside him and he went to go rub my back to comfort me and it startled me so much and scared me that I jumped and yelled for him not to touch me. What has Sam done to me? He took my joy. I told him that I just couldn’t handle being with someone right now and that I hope he respected that.
My whole spring break was spent just lying in bed, feeling like I couldn’t even get up in the mornings. I didn’t feel like myself, I knew I was there but I just didn’t feel present in life. So many emotions in my head, yet I felt emotionless. I wanted to just end it all. I couldn’t sleep at night because the flashbacks were daunting and terrifying. I was very lucky to have my family’s support that week and going back to school after break was incredibly hard. The next few weeks were spent in endless meetings and investigations. I thought there was no end, I felt defeated.
Day after day I was reliving that night, and most nights I was unable to sleep. When it was silent I would hear his voice. I still hear it. I couldn’t listen to country music, because it was a trigger. It brought me back to dancing in the fraternity house and listening to country music in his truck when he drove me to his house. His actions destroyed me. I turned to alcohol and drugs for solace and to numb the reality of my life. Day in and day out I would look for any excuse to drink, to get high to get away from the thoughts, emotions and flashbacks. I hated not feeling like myself, but I hated what happened to me even more. I carried the blame with me. I hid my new found escape from everyone. I hid a lot from everyone. I hid from myself. I didn’t want to accept how much this was taking a toll on me and my well-being. I didn’t want to come to terms with the anger, betrayal, and disgust I felt inside.
We went through Title IX at H College since it happened on their campus, and they made it seem as if we really had a chance at taking this guy down but we didn’t. It turned out H College was never on my side and they only cared more about their reputation. The hardest thing I have ever had to do was sit through the hearings for my case, hearing that haunting voice of Sam and all the lies that spilled out of his mouth to just cover his own ass and reputation. I started to let the adulterated lies get to me and I started questioning myself, and the convictions I hold. In the hearing I was asked “Why didn’t you call your friends? Why didn’t you kick and scream? Why didn’t you tell him you would stay at the fraternity house until your friends came? How drunk were you?” etc.
We left the hearing and I felt confident that he was going to get the punishment that he deserved. That I was going to get the peace and closure that I deserved. That this was the end of my fight. On the way home I received the call saying he was found “not responsible”. There is never an end to this fight. Hanging up the phone I felt defeated as if they didn’t believe what actually happened to me. They said they didn’t have enough evidence to prove it wasn’t consensual. How do they not see that? How can he get away with this? In a way I felt that H College was trying to save Sam because he is highly ranked in ROTC and has a military career in his future, they wanted to keep him on campus for his “prestigious military reputation.” For their own good. I filed for an appeal, and a few weeks later they said they were going to uphold their decision that he was “not-responsible”.
Defeat lingered long after the court’s decision of “not-responsible”. Silenced. I slowly felt myself slipping back into a state of depression, wanting to just give up in life. However I began to get back into my faith, and started feeling a sense of hope. A mere glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel. My Mom began reading article after article about rape and sexual assault on college campus in hopes of being able to wrap her head around what happened to her little girl. She stumbled upon this article that recommended the documentary “The Hunting Ground” It documented the rape culture in college campuses and how victims are forced into silence.I thought that it may be a good idea for me to watch it. Within the first 10 minutes I felt a sense of relief knowing that I’m not alone in this. That I wasn’t the only case that turned out to be found “not-responsible”.
Today marks the day that my fight starts. I will not be silenced. I will not go on accepting the verdict. I’m ready to fight. I am ready for my voice to be heard.