The following text describes sexual assault and violence, and can be disturbing and/or triggering for some readers. Please find resources listed at the bottom of the article.
Why does your face look like that?
He asked me, annoyed.
Not understanding, or just not caring, that he was ripping me apart.
I wasn’t sure which.
Next thing I know, I’m running home. Whipping around corners and leaping across streets. Trying to outrun what just happened.
When I finally make it home, I am out of it. Still drunk, staggering, I knock a glass off of my nightstand as I fall into bed. It shatters. I cry myself to sleep, choking on my actions.
It’s such a cliché to blame yourself, but I did. Oh, I really did.
Friend of a friend, we struck up a conversation for the first time on Facebook a week before and randomly came upon the subject of virginity. I told him that I didn’t need some grand romantic night with candles and rose petals and the love of my life. I just wanted someone who mattered, someone not in the picture yet for me. He knew this. Yet, he still decided to take me behind the dugout of a baseball field and fuck me on the gravel ground.
The later blood–splattered gravel ground.
I took what happened and folded it, crumpled it, crammed it deep down inside of me where I hoped it would never, ever come back up. Whenever I remembered what he stole from me, what I could never have back, it was like being stabbed swiftly with a thin sword deep into my chest. Waiting for the train to school. In chemistry class. At the lunch table. In the middle of soccer practice. I never knew when it would claw its way back up. I would be happy, laughing with friends, and then out of nowhere the stabbing, cutting, reminding me that I couldn’t be happy.
I tried to convince myself that I never cared about the idea of virginity anyway, that it wasn’t real, that it didn’t matter. But it did matter. He had it.
It took me five years. Five years to realize that not only was what happened not okay, but it was not my fault. Sixteen–year–olds get drunk; they do stupid things. That doesn’t excuse a completely sober person pulling my stumbling body into a park and taking my clothes off.
I didn’t need to explicitly say no.
Sloppy, slurring, stumbling. That was enough. Wincing, bleeding, cringing. That was enough.
I can still barely talk about it. I still compare it to other encounters that I hear about and think, well, my experience isn’t as bad.
Now, with all of the news articles coming out around sexual assault allegations, it's encouraging to see women and men speaking up, and to finally see repercussions. At the same time, it's becoming harder and harder to sit around while people talk about these stories in the abstract, as if something similar hasn’t happened to me and probably many people around me.
It's time to call out sexual assault, but to also leave space for those who cannot yet talk about it. My hope is that in the future, survivors will not have to constantly relive these traumatic experiences in order for people to believe us and do something about it.
The HELP Line: 215-898-HELP:
A 24–hour–a–day phone number for members of the Penn community who seek help in navigating Penn's resources for health and wellness.
Counseling and Psychological Services: 215-898-7021 (active 24/7):
The counseling center for the University of Pennsylvania.
Student Health Service: 215-746-3535:
Student Health Service can provide medical evaluations and treatment to victims/survivors of sexual and relationship violence regardless of whether they make a report or seek additional resources. Both male and female providers can perform examinations, discuss testing and treatment of sexually transmissible infections, provide emergency contraception if necessary and arrange for referrals and follow up.
Reach–A–Peer Hotline - 215-573-2727 (every day from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.):
A peer hotline to provide peer support, information, and referrals to Penn students.
Penn Violence Prevention: 3539 Locust Walk (Office Hours: 9 am – 5 pm), (215) 746-2642, Jessica Mertz (Director of Student Sexual Violence Prevention, Education) firstname.lastname@example.org,
Read the Penn Violence Prevention resource guide.
Sexual Trauma Treatment Outreach and Prevention Team:
A multidisciplinary team at CAPS dedicated to supporting students who have experienced sexual trauma.
Public Safety Special Services:
Trained personnel offer crisis intervention, accompaniment to legal and medical proceedings, options counseling and advocacy, and linkages to other community resources.