Let’s talk: Sharing my experience to spark conversation

We need to talk: According to www.rainn.org, women aged 18-24 are at an elevated risk of experiencing sexual violence & 13% of all students experience rape or sexual assault while at college.

(Trigger warning: Sensitive content)
We want to believe the world is a perfect place, where nobody can do harm and we all are safe. It’s the world we imagine for future generations and the world we want for ourselves. It’s hard to accept the truth that the world isn’t perfect but there are resources out there to help because we shouldn’t have to be scared of the world.
Although April has come to an end, it doesn’t mean we should stop raising awareness for sexual violence. Dealing with topics like sexual assault can be difficult, but there is support for you whether it is counseling on campus, your family, or giving a friend a call. Nobody should have to go through trauma alone and I want to share my experience with people, so they know that there’s always a choice and you do have the power to earn your life back.
I’m about to go into my sophomore year, and it feels like time has passed by so quickly since I first started college. I had never gone to a brick-and-mortar style school, I went to an online school my entire life, so the college experience came as such a shock to me. I was excited yet partially naive to the dangers, no matter how much my parents taught me. That’s ok for me to admit, that I was naive to the world, yet what happened to me wasn’t my fault and it never is the victim’s fault. I was sexually assaulted once and raped once within my first year, by two different people. I became so consumed in shame and pain that I will never be the same person I was before I was hurt.
I was taken advantage of in my weakest moment, having just been isolated from my family in a whole different town. As a survivor, I’m here to fight so that at the very least no one has to feel alone. I want a light to be shined on how many voices have been silenced, how many people have been harmed and what the process is really like so victims don’t have to be nervous about reaching out.
My process started with reaching out to Molly Herman, the campus advocate for Washburn. She gave me a safe space to talk about what happened and I had the comfort of knowing that she knew my struggle. I got to learn about the options without having any pressure to act on them, which at first was hard to make any choices. Because one of my incidents happened off-campus, it didn’t fall within the title nine policies. However, I still spoke to Pam Foster who was the title nine coordinator at the time.
It’s a long process, but every step of the way they explain everything to you, so you aren’t left in the dark. One issue I saw with the title nine processes is that it could turn to the route of being mediated between the two parties, and for almost everyone, it would be very traumatic to sit in front of the person that has harmed them. Something important to note is that this went into effect starting in 2020, meaning the process was going to be different if a case occurred before 2020, according to Pam Foster.
One of the most empowering steps for me was when I went to Anthony Escalante, the Police Captain and Deputy Chief of Police at Washburn University. It’s hard to share such a traumatic story but what I learned is that you can make a non-criminal report and they won’t take any action without you saying it’s ok. As I said, you always have a choice.
“The first thing to address is that it is absolutely the victim’s choice on how they want to handle the investigation,” said Escalante.
Once you take that step to speak up, you will be supported and treated with respect. You will be believed and while the process is hard to go through, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it.

Edited by: Crystal Hendrix, Katrina Johnson and Madison Dean