September is National Campus Safety Awareness Month – a month dedicated to raising awareness around issues of safety on campus, including sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking. The reported statistics for these crimes are numbers we know far too well: 25% of women**experience sexual assault during college & 84% of them know their attackers; 75% of male students/ 55 % of female students involved in date rape had been drunk or using drugs.
Sometimes I feel like a statistic – a number recorded. Another cliché – another story we’ve all heard before.
I was 19 – a sophomore in college. I went to a party. I drank. I knew everyone there; I felt safe. I didn’t watch my drink. I blacked out – came to in a dorm room I didn’t know. Saw a classmate on top of me. Was paralyzed. Couldn’t move. Couldn’t talk. Couldn’t scream.
I tried to piece it all together the next day. Calls to friends, “when did you see me last” and “I think I had sex with him.” Then “date rape drugs” and “what do I do.” Moving into “it was my fault anyway;” “I was drunk;” and “maybe he thought I wanted it.”
Just another statistic. Another number for people to use as they warned young women about “reducing their risk.” A story told in murmurs, people swearing it would never happen to them, that they knew no one who could do such things.
But in all of this, there were statistics and stories nobody told me about. Before I was raped, I never knew the number of friends who were willing to stand by me, who would let me sleep on their couches, who would run me baths and read me to sleep. I never knew the number of acquaintances I had who were willing to walk me to class, who’d shield me when he passed, who would speak back to those calling me a liar.
I never knew the number of women who would tell me, as the story spread, of what he had done to them. That there would be students and faculty who would thank me for reporting it to the college and going through its judicial process. That classes of women would carry forth work to change the judicial policy.
Sometimes I feel like a statistic – part of that 84% who knew their attacker. Sometimes I feel like a number – I’m the 1 out of the 4 college women who experienced sexual assault during college. I feel like another cautionary tale, another woman who was drinking before she was assaulted.
But I’ve found pride in other numbers, in other stories, in other statistics. I am part of a sisterhood that has known violence and fought back for generations. I am a link in the chain of advocates who supports all survivors of interpersonal violence. I am a number counted in votes, in marches, on petitions.
I am a statistic – a percentage of those who told people and sought help.
I am a number – joining with others as we move from victim to survivor.
I am a story – written in my own voice, copied down by my own hand.
**Both the author and WINGS would like to acknowledge that people of all genders experience interpersonal violence, both on and off campus. The intention of this post is to relate the story of the author and not to speak for all victims or advocates.