‘I was raped’: One Calvin student shares her experience and journey towards healing

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Earlier this year, I was raped. Although the guy is out of my life physically, my world has been turned upside down. I have put my whole life on pause; I have two on-campus jobs, neither of which I am currently working.

I have two majors, and I am desperately trying to keep my grades above the minimum requirement for both, as I play a game of catch-up and keep-up in my classes.

Vivid flashbacks of growing intensity and frequency have become a part of my everyday life, and a prescription to help me sleep is now part of my nightly routine.

The purpose of this article may be the same as others you’ve read: to bring awareness to rape and sexual assault. This article is different though. It is from my viewpoint and first-hand experience as a survivor.

I know I am lucky to be at a place like Calvin, where the Judicial Affairs office is doing all it is supposed to be doing, and where my supervisors and professors are understanding and willing to work with me. I wish I could say the same about the student body.

I have been blessed with a roommate who strives to understand, even when she cannot relate or may not understand the situation fully, and friends who have been sensitive to my situation, if not supportive.

But I know this is not always the case. In fact, I know of people who don’t believe me, people who blame me, and people who make me afraid to write this article, but that’s all the more reason to share my story.

As I have become more willing to talk about my experience with a broader circle of friends, I have discovered how under the table this topic is. Too many times I have shared my story and had a head shake in reply, not because of the gravity of the situation, but because they can relate.

In a 2010 survey conducted by the National Institute of Justice, one in five women reported they had been raped or had experienced an attempted rape at some point in their lifetime.

One in five. If that doesn’t make you sick, up to 68 percent of sexual assaults in the United States are not reported to the police, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Most women do not report sexual assault, but I did.

The truth is, I didn’t want to admit what had happened. I wanted to pretend that I was in control, like it was what I had wanted, like it was OK with me. But it wasn’t, and if I hadn’t had someone I trusted to go to, I would never have come forward.

This person I trusted helped me talk through what had happened and went with me to the Broene Counseling Center. With their support and the push of one of my supervisors, I decided to go to Judicial Affairs.

I came forward because I had a wide structure of support, but it is all too obvious to me that not everyone is lucky enough to have such a structure.

I want to do what I can to help those who have had the same experience that I had: an experience of rape or sexual assault. As I have come to terms with what happened to me, sharing my story seems not only one of the best ways for me to heal, but also for me to help others.

My hope is that victims will see that they are not alone and that others may realize that this issue exists. It is real and present, and a simple shift in attitude can do wonders in aiding the situation.

To the victims: it is not your fault. It is never your fault. If you have been silent, be silent no longer, because silence and suppression are not conducive to healing. Calvin has the resources for you to heal. Talk to someone you trust.

You may feel like there is no one to talk to, but you will be surprised. There are supervisors at Campus Safety, there are counselors at Broene, there is the Judicial Affairs Office, there are chaplains, there are RAs and RDs — and that is only on campus.

A couple weeks ago a girl from one of my classes asked about how Calvin has been handling my situation, and I told her the students were the most difficult part.

You have nothing to be afraid of with Calvin’s administration. Be entirely honest about the situation. They will not judge you; they are there to help you.

To the bystanders: be aware and be informed. Calvin has a Sexual Assault Prevention Team (SAPT) (you’ve probably seen their posters around).Their website has all sorts of resources to help you stay informed.

These resources will help you know what steps to take if you or a friend have been sexually assaulted. Their website also has a link to the Every Choice Matters training that is now mandatory for all incoming first-year students. Everyone should complete this training.

As a result of this article, maybe I can provide support, or that extra push for anyone who is struggling as a victim, or for anyone who knows a victim but may not know how to help.

If you are someone who doesn’t know anyone who has experienced rape or sexual assault, hopefully this article will make you realize that it is important to be informed and prepared to step in if necessary; the best thing you can do is to be informed.

As I continue to play a game of catch-up and keep-up with classes and continue working on being able to sleep through the night, my hope is that the issue of rape and sexual assault will receive the attention it needs, so that we can work together to prevent future incidents and help existing victims.

~Anonymous