The Opinion section serves to open up conversations that are uncomfortable, and to provide a platform to give students a voice. As Sexual Assault Awareness Month approaches in April, we hope that this special feature will shed light on the fact that campus sexual assault is a highly prevalent issue, even at our beloved campus.
We hope to give a voice to victims and survivors, and to help make an issue that is often portrayed with abstract statistics — one in five — into something tangible and real, by sharing the actual experiences of our peers on campus. We hope to show that there is no singular, template “rape story.” Our stories are as diverse as we are, and they all deserve respect. And most of all, we’d like to reflect on the fact that the impact of violence goes beyond the incident itself.
The following submissions represent a broad spectrum of experiences, collected from both undergraduate and graduate members of the Vanderbilt community. We see tales of guilt, of support, of trauma and recovery, of gaining the courage to speak out. In just our own campus, we have helped uncover ten very different stories that serve to touch upon the innumerable ways in which personal violence affects our lives and the world around us…(read more)
NOTE: The following stories contain sensitive material.
SUPPORT FROM OTHER SURVIVORS GIVES ME COURAGE AND COMFORT
By Kelsey Clinton
“Whenever I tell someone I was sexually assaulted, it’s like I’ve dimmed some internal switch controlling their body. Everything about them descends. The color drops from their face, their eyebrows knot downward in concern, their voice lowers a few decibels, and they get visibly smaller in front of me as they shrink with discomfort…(read more)
VICTIM BLAMING HAS BROKEN ME
“After it happened to me, I immediately noticed how often our society blames the victim. And every time I hear someone blame the victim, I feel my body break a little more…(read more)
SEXUAL ASSAULT DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN RAPE
By Sara Starr
“I was sexually assaulted. But it wasn’t rape. Or attempted rape.” I find myself qualifying what happened, for fear that people have been so conditioned to see rape as the only form of sexual assault that I must prepare them to hear a different story…(read more)
FACING THE STIGMA AND SELF-SHAMING
“As a junior, freshman year feels like it happened long ago — freedom from home, parties every week and always meeting new, interesting people. As an extrovert and a girl who loves a good time, I was thrilled. I went out and I made it my goal to be best friends with as many people on campus as possible…(read more)
THIS IS HOW SOCIETY TREATS RAPE VICTIMS
“My personal hell has become never-ending. Seven months ago, someone I knew and trusted raped me in my apartment. The shock of the trauma caused such severe mental and physical impairment that I walked into the Psychological and Counseling Center (PCC) three days later and got help…(read more)
I’M NOT THE PROBLEM
By Sydney Silberman
“I’m not comfortable using the word ‘rape’ when it applies to me in general. This is something I won’t ever forget, but this is also something I have no control over. It happened. That’s it…(read more)
THE SEXUAL ASSAULT CONVERSATION MUST INCLUDE ALL EXPERIENCES
“In every documentary I watched, awareness training I took part in and PR campaign I witnessed, not once did I see my story represented. With all of the conversation about campus sexual assault, there was not one mention of students who were assaulted before they got to college…(read more)
HIS POPULARITY WAS NOT MY CONSENT
By Sal Miranda
“I always found it odd that, when discussing how men don’t have the right to a woman’s body, I never assumed that a man would try to claim the right to mine. As a man, most people don’t believe you can be sexually assaulted. As a gay man, most people would say you got lucky. I don’t know about other people, but the fact that I can only remember bits of that night doesn’t seem very lucky…(read more)
A VICTIM’S GUILT
“It took me less than five minutes to move from acceptance to guilt to anger to guilt again. You make me feel guilty. I took away your Vanderbilt degree for doing that to me. I think…(read more)
MY STOLEN CHILDHOOD
“When I pass by a group of young schoolchildren, I always smile at their carefree exuberance. They’re just learning to read, just learning to write, but already veterans at having fun. That’s their job. Children skip and jump and chase each other around, wearing their emotions on their sleeve, with nary a shred of self-consciousness…(read more)
- LISTEN: Anna Butrico’s two-part “This Vanderbilt Life” podcast dives into:
- Learn more about the 2015 campus climate survey results here.
- Here is a quick guide to the resources available on campus: