When I first stepped onto my college campus I knew it was the place for me. I knew that living here would change my life, and I was so right. In the fall of my freshman year, I was raped by a fellow student. I became the statistic that every college student hears: “1 in 5 women will be raped within their first semester of college.”
I was 18, I was still a baby in the eyes of most people. I had just learned my way around campus, I was just getting used to classes. I hadn’t had a whole lot of time to make a strong group of friends (not that I was telling many people anyway). My world completely crumbled.
I avoided certain areas of campus where I knew my perpetrator would be.
I refused to eat in dining halls, in fact I refused to eat at all. I wouldn’t talk about my assault because the words “I was raped” tasted like dirt coming out of my mouth. I started taking obscure routes to class so I wouldn’t see my perp, and sometimes I wouldn’t go to class at all. My grades dropped. I stopped caring and all of a sudden the bubbly, outgoing girl who walked onto campus that first day vanished.
The thought of dropping out was always on my mind.
Why stay on a campus that is in itself a memory of the night that ruined my entire life? So, why did I stay? I stayed because I am bigger than my assault. I am more powerful than my perp. If I had left campus that would have given more power to my rapist. There is no bigger f*** you then to be okay. I had to take my power and my voice back, so I pushed through my freshman year.
It wasn’t easy or pretty but I made it.
I sought out professional help for what I was feeling that is now diagnosed as PTSD and depression. I found counseling to help me cope. Things started to get easier, but my rape doesn’t just go away. There are days when I feel on top of the world and there are days when everything hits me like a brick wall. Had I not stayed on campus though, I’m not sure I would be as strong as I am now. I made friends who helped push me to get out of bed and go to class. I learned that it was okay to be scared and what I was feeling was real. I mean, heck, I still love my school. I just had to learn to love this place a little differently. I’m still getting an education.
Now, I’m excelling.
I stayed on my campus after I was raped, but I am only one story. For some people leaving is the right option. But my place was here. I was compelled to stay. Maybe this is just me getting my voice back but maybe, just maybe there’s another reason. A reason I was called to stay. Maybe I’m supposed to help someone else, maybe I’m supposed to be a voice. Whatever the reason, I’m happy with my decision and can’t wait to finish my journey on my college campus.