Help Us

Written By: Priscilla Felten

Image By: Anne Marie Grudem

Content warning:

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.

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“I know, deep down, you’ve always wanted me, even if you won’t admit it.”

These words will forever be engrained in my 15–year–old mind. With these words, I hold traumatic memories of being forced down against my will, naked, on the bed of my high school best friend, who uttered these words in my ear while violating me.

Growing up in Catholic school, I was too often reminded of how it's supposedly the woman’s responsibility to protect herself from perverts and offenders, namely by dressing more modestly and watching alcohol consumption. Yet, I have struggled to comprehend this concept, as my own experience has involved none of these “typical” triggers of assault that women are blamed for. Because of that, I didn’t know how to prevent it from happening again, and while it seemed like I was the cause of my own problems, there was nothing tangible I could improve and change to protect myself.

I spent the rest of my high school career dreading the possibility it could happen again—and it did, two weeks before my graduation. Yet again, it was a situation entirely out of my control, and I searched for answers, reasons to explain why I had been cursed with such terrible luck, and ways that I could improve my own safety.

No one had stopped to say to me that, maybe, it wasn’t just my responsibility to prevent assault from happening. As a result, I came to college, not with the hope that it wouldn’t happen to me again, but with the expectation that it would. In what world should any human being have to accept the fact that the likelihood of being sexually assaulted greatly outweighs the possibility of many happy and normal college experiences? Clearly this cannot be something left in the hands of the victims to change. It so desperately needs the help of the broader community, to eradicate the expectation that 1 in 4 women are going to leave Penn with some type of traumatic sexual experience. I am asking you, on behalf of all women, to please, help us.

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Campus Resources:

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), 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.

Penn Women's Center: 3643 Locust Walk (Office Hours 9:30 am – 5:30 pm Monday–Thursday, 9:30 am – 5 pm Friday), PWC provides confidential crisis and options counseling.