Category Archives: Sexual Assault

Anniversaries – Honoring Strength and Courage

Holidays were a crap shoot in my family and the memories of the bad ones make up a number of abuse anniversaries for me which seems to be true for many, many sexual abuse survivors.

The holidays of my early childhood were wonderful. I loved everything about Thanksgiving and Christmas. Both holidays were filled with relatives, games, reminiscing, and the best dinners ever.

Over time though, aunts, uncles, and cousins visited less often and we went to see them less too. Nobody wanted to be around my abusive mother anymore. She had survived abuse herself but never sought help and as an adult had gradually slipped into alternating roles as narcissistic victim and perpetrator of physical and emotional abuse.

As older siblings left the house, my mother’s abuse of my remaining brother and myself became more violent, and it was compounded by the abuse we inflicted on each other as we directed our inner pain and anger outward.

The happiness of any holiday at that point in my life revolved around my mother and the wild card of whether or not she would become emotionally and physically abusive. The excitement and happiness were still there, but the question was, would it last the day? Sometimes it did and that was wonderful, but many times it didn’t.

On one of those bad holidays, my brother was subjected to especially violent abuse. It was Christmas 1988, and it certainly was an awful one. My brother had been having serious behavioral problems and was strange and less himself that fall. He had attempted to sexually assault me but I fought him off and I didn’t say a word out of fear of my mother and what she would do to him, and what he would do to me in return.

On the day after Christmas that year, my life changed forever when my brother sexually terrorized and abused me while he was in the midst of an acute psychotic episode. My mother’s abuse had broken his mind and through that breaking I was set on my own path of self destruction, fragmenting of self, and mental illness.

I used to mark December 26th with tears and anger, or drugs and other self destruction. Then, I started marking it by releasing those feelings in a symbolic way. Now, I notice the day and remember what happened to me and the things that followed, but I also remember the inner strength I developed in order to survive that childhood and come out the other side to a place where I am on a path of healing, surrounded by people who love me and help me on my way.

I have been fortunate to be able to work through a lot of my abuse and make a certain amount of peace with it. Through that work, my holidays have become about new traditions that reflect my true self both past and present, and of honoring the precious, strong and lovable person I have always been. Whether my holidays are good or bad, that truth about myself will always be there.

A Statistic – A Number – A Story

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.

By Meg Chuhran

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.

I Wasn’t Prepared…

Every September colleges and universities around the country promote “Campus Safety Month” as they welcome in new and returning students. To demonstrate our commitment to this critical issue, the WINGS blog is going to focus on stories of crimes on campus, campus response, and the journey of healing from those crimes. Our first blogger of the month, Pamela, shares her story of domestic violence and rape at the hands of her college boyfriend. We hope it encourages you to speak up and take action if you recognize warning signs or the cycle of abuse.

By Pamela Roberts

I wasn’t prepared…in fact, I was the perfect victim.

He was confident, intelligent, and new exactly how to make me feel special. I was insecure and looked up to my sorority sisters who lived life to the fullest, always at the side of a handsome young man. He quickly swept me off my feet with beautiful letters, flowers, and romance. In retrospect each of his actions were carefully calculated.

Through photos I know that we were dating in late winter of my sophomore year of college. I lived off campus and he lived and attended school in a nearby city. He would sometimes spend the night on my couch.

The warning signs appeared quickly, probably immediately, but I did not recognize them. I remember feeling sick to my stomach often, like when he got into a fist fight and wore an eye patch to one of my formals. He was very jealous and irritable if he felt I spent too much time with others. My life rapidly became intertwined with his and to be honest, I mostly loved his attention in the beginning. I grew up lacking the consistent adoration and attention of a loving daddy. The developing pattern felt familiar to me. One minute I was his everything and the next I was worthless, begging him for forgiveness. For what? I couldn’t have told you.

From the beginning I would not sleep with him. I suppressed a lifetime of sexual abuse and wanted to save myself for my future husband. Initially he was encouraging and proud of my purity but within weeks he was pressuring me nonstop for sex. “It’s not fair!” “I love you! Don’t you love me?”

THE NIGHT stands out clearer than most. We argued for hours about whether or not I loved him and would marry him some day. I remember clearly saying in exacerbation, “I think I might love you but I don’t know if I will marry you!” I left him on the couch and went to sleep in my room. Hours later I awoke to him raping me, breathing in my face, hurting me. I pushed him off and asked if we just had sex. I screamed “I said no! I am ruined!” He shouted “But you love me! If you love me and I love you, we will get married. It is ok!” I sobbed hysterically and ran straight to the shower to make it go away.

I was sure no one would want me now. The good Christian girl died, violently murdered really. He raped me nearly every day for months while I clutched a teddy bear, a gift from one of the honeymoon phases. He terrorized me, accused me of cheating, made me wear trashy clothing, and constantly put me down. I stopped attending classes and got failing grades but nobody noticed. I was isolated, scared, and defeated.

I moved into his frat room during summer break and that was where I was rescued. My unlikely band of heroes may surprise you. A few concerned young fraternity brothers of my abuser approached me when he was away, told me I was a victim of abuse, moved me out, and took me water skiing. I will never forget their compassion and bravery.

Would you do the right thing?

PerpsW 3 (3)

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