Editor’s note: This op-ed author’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
I thought my freshman year of college was supposed to be the most exciting year. I was in a new city, meeting amazing friends and taking classes I wanted to take. I couldn’t have been more wrong, however: about halfway through first semester, I was raped in my dorm.
My roommate immediately came to my aid and also called my best friend. I’ll never forget how hard they hugged me that night. But the last thing I wanted to do was pity myself. Therefore, I got up and told myself if I’m going to lose my virginity, I want to choose with whom and when I do it.
Toward the end of the semester and the following semester of spring 2017, I decided to hook up with anyone that I wanted. Granted, no one has the right to judge what a person does after going through an event like that. Let me repeat that — no one.
I carried on with my life that spring semester. I had guys wanting to go on dates with me, but I rejected them all because I just want to have sex and go on my way. I did all this in hopes that I could forget the rape.
The semester ended and I was extremely thrilled to start my new summer job. We had been training during the semester for it, and I just knew it was going to be great. Everyone that has been raped knows the last thing you want to do is consistently bring it up in your life, because it crushes you and makes you feel helpless. Well, for my job, we had a retreat and played one of those games where you crossed the line if, for example, an assault had happened to you, if you were of a certain religion, etc. I was not able to cross the line for assault and returned to my cabin bed to cry, where I mistakenly told someone about the rape and without my permission they reported it to the police and Title IX. I was completely weak for about a month after that, but I loved my summer job.
Within my job, I met the most terrific guy. It is important to mention that he was close to the person I had confided in and told about the rape. I had promised myself at the beginning of 2017 that I would never, ever date a guy in college unless he proved his value. I believed that he did, but there was always, but there was always something in the back of my mind telling me, “How am I going to tell him about the incident?” After a month, we had already said “I love you” and I was extremely happy. With him, I had forgotten all about my past, yet I still wanted to tell him about my rape. I told him about a month and a half into our relationship. He didn’t tell me until about our two-month anniversary that he already knew about it before I told him, because the person I originally told had told him. He said he puzzled it together, but who are we kidding? I’m not writing this to complain about my relationship or blame my suffering on anyone else. We dated for almost five months before we broke up.
I didn’t get to choose that incident. I know what it feels like to tell your closest friends and have them come up to you and say, “Why didn’t you report it?” or, “Don’t you want to prevent it from happening to other people?” The answer to the second question is yes, but I also didn’t ask for it. Even simple questions can trigger horrible emotions about your life; I even started having nightmares recently with my ex-boyfriend and would wake up crying. The rape would happen again and again and again, and I was helpless. UTD was extremely helpful, and although I did lose a sense of trust, the university aided in pushing me to refocus on myself rather than pity what had happened. UTD does an outstanding job at ensuring that every student had heard about sexual assault at least once. Hearing this assured me that although it had happened at UTD, the UTD community was 100 percent there for my healing.
Rape is a difficult life challenge to overcome; it has a serious amount of negative effects and can damage not only college adrenaline and excitement, but the feeling of safety of your life in general. The most difficult challenge is to not let it define you or affect your intimate relationships. But I do encourage you to reach out to UTD if this has happened to you. A counselor or friend is always a good idea. The beautiful thing about UTD is that every faculty or staff member wants to ensure that you have the best college experience.
If you are a friend of someone that went through it, just be there for them. One of the reasons I was able to somewhat recover was because I had amazing friends that never allowed me to forget my worth. No matter how many times I brought it up in conversation, they would talk about it again with me. We don’t tell our families, so you’re all we got.
If you are someone that is in a relationship with someone that went through it, don’t mess it up. Yes, talk about it with them, but only when they bring it up. Understand that we’ve been through enough, and you may just be the one to fix it all, or you may be the one to crush us again. If you can’t be the first one, then don’t bother.
Being raped is never something you ask for, yet it can have so much of an impact on your life. The things you think were sent your way to heal you may not be the case. And that is OK. Sometimes we meet someone or get something that will change things completely for us, but that may not always be the case.