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How I Found Healing as a Survivor of a Campus Sexual Assault

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How I Found Healing as a Survivor of a Campus Sexual Assault

I experienced a traumatic sexual assault as a college sophomore, and have since learned my healing process is MY own.

Guest Blog by Kimberly Carter

Trigger Warning: (rape, sexual assault, abuse, violent language, self harm, pregnancy) 

I used to be carefree. I used to think everyone was trustworthy. I used to think that I was safe. I was a sophomore in college when I was raped by three men. I was never someone who thought twice about a person’s intentions with me until this happened.

My sophomore year I had a “friend” who I had hung out with in group settings and texted a few times. He was involved in a Greek organization and told me he wanted my help making cupcakes for an upcoming campus event. I had been to his house before so I didn’t think it would be any different by myself, but I was wrong.

When we went inside, I immediately felt that something was wrong. I was told we would be alone, but there were two other men sitting in the living room. I felt uneasy, but then realized I recognized one of his friends from around campus, and, although I didn’t recognize the other, I figured I just hadn’t seen him around before. I sat on one of the couches next to one of his friends while he got me a drink which, not that it matters, was just juice.

It couldn’t have been more than a few minutes before one of them pulled out a blunt and asked if I wanted to smoke, but I declined. A few minutes later, his friend on the other couch said,

“So, Kim, you tryna fuck?”

I felt my body tense up, but I tried to laugh it off and said, “I don’t think my girlfriend would appreciate that.” I didn’t have a girlfriend, but I thought that if I told them I had a girlfriend it would make them back off, but, again, I was wrong. The man sitting next to me called to my “friend” in the kitchen and said,

“Yo why’d you bring this dyke bitch in here?”

If nothing before had, that told me I needed to leave. I told my friend I was ready and he assured me that his friend was joking and I needed to relax. But I felt too uneasy. I asked him again to take me home and when he refused, I said it was fine and my big sister could pick me up. He became hostile and told me I needed to “chill the fuck out” before I got up and headed to the door. I was trying not to run, but I panicked when I heard the music get significantly louder. I felt someone grab me, my dress strap broke, and I knew that there was nothing I could do.

I tried to fight. I swear I tried. I kicked, I screamed, I tried to grab and scratch what I could, but I realized it was three against one, and after being slapped and squeezed and slammed as many times as I was, I’m ashamed to say I gave up. I felt one of them lift up my dress and I didn’t know what to do, so I closed my eyes and started counting. I thought if I counted, I could block it out until it was over, but it didn’t work.

I felt someone biting my breast and another one take off my underwear. I thought I was going to make it through ok until one of them tried to make me perform oral sex. I couldn’t do it. I fought it as long as I could until one of them lit a Black & Mild and told me he would burn me if I didn’t do it. I still couldn’t do it and I felt one of the greatest pains I’ve ever felt on my stomach as one of them burned me until I would open my mouth. I closed my eyes and continued to count. I felt everything. I felt when I was bitten, I felt my jaw lock up, I felt my arms become more and more sore as they were held down, I felt myself rip as they forced themselves inside of me one after the other. And then I felt nothing. I became numb and just kept counting. 1,649. That’s how many seconds it lasted.

I was still numb after. They all got off of me, I grabbed my things and the man I came there with told me that I wasn’t allowed to call anyone and he was going to take me back to campus. He drove me to the West End, stopped, and told me to get out. Before I left, he told me not to say anything and said,

“It was easy to get you and I see who you hang with. Don’t be dumb.”

I walked back on campus. I passed public safety and at least a dozen students silently thinking “God no one stopped the girl with messy hair, a ripped dress, and blood staining her thighs.”

I just wanted sleep. I made it back to my room and I sat on my bed for several minutes before everything sunk in. Then I called a friend, who then called my freshman year RA and they took one look at me and they knew what happened. They tried to convince me to go to the hospital but I refused.

The next couple of days were hard. I didn’t eat, I wasn’t sleeping, and one day, I lost it. I completely destroyed my room and almost everything in it; I soaked my dress in a bowl of bleach, and was sitting in the shower with all of my clothes on. My older friends told me they were worried for me and that I needed to go to the hospital, so I did. When we got there, I was terrified. I didn’t want to be touched, and I didn’t want anyone to examine me. While I was waiting in the exam room with my friend, two male officers joined by two Morehouse officers entered the room and I immediately began to panic…. I didn’t want anyone to know. The female officer started pressuring me telling me that these men were going to do it to someone else and so it was my responsibility to get them off the street. I still struggle with that to this day.

I left the hospital without doing an exam and went back to campus. My “big sister” was going home for a few days, so I left campus with her. It was a relaxing few days, and I actually was beginning to feel things again, but when I came back everything was a mess.

The RA who had helped me refused to tell the resident directors what happened, insisting it wasn’t her story to tell, so they fired her. My RD was looking for me and I was bouncing from room to room trying to avoid it. I thought everyone would forget and I would be fine, but then my RD came into my classroom and announced she needed to take me to the Dean’s office. I felt like everyone knew and I was so ashamed. When I got to the dean’s office, one of the assistants handed me a form that had my name, student ID number, and a box labeled “sexual assault” already checked. She told me that I needed to write down what had happened while in the waiting area. I went into the dean’s office and told her I didn’t want to talk about it and she told me she would call my parents. I didn’t know then that she wasn’t allowed to do that, so I gave her enough to make her back off and ease up a little bit.

About a week later, I got a call from a Title IX coordinator who asked me questions regarding my assault over the phone. When I went into my first and last meeting with a different coordinator and told her some details of what happened, she stopped me to say,

“I’m on your side, but I want to caution you and I want you to think about what this could do to you before you accuse someone who is greek of raping you.”

I knew then that there was nothing that I could do and I gave up.

A few weeks passed and I was still wasn’t feeling well, but I figured it was just stress and the lack of eating. I went to a clinic to get tested and found out that, while I was free of STDs, I was pregnant. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t tell my parents and I felt disgusting not knowing which man was the father of my child. I struggled over the next week not knowing if I should keep it, get an abortion, or go with adoption. I was missing class every day, sleeping all the time, not eating right, if I was eating anything at all, and I wasn’t interacting with many people.

One night I woke up at around 3 a.m. and I just had this overwhelming feeling that I needed to keep the baby. I stressed over the next week about telling my parents and friends, how much class I had missed, worrying I would see my rapists, as well as my crumbling relationships with people who couldn’t understand what I was going through. I was in my dorm room one night when I started cramping, but I read online that some cramping is normal so I readjusted and tried to go back to sleep, but when I started bleeding, I knew what was happening. I had a miscarriage and I blamed myself for that as well. I was stressing too much and did nothing to relieve it, and was so concerned about myself that I didn’t think about the baby.

The rest of my sophomore year was incredibly hard. I was drinking almost every day, and after I had a surgery in February, I started mixing alcohol with my medication and started buying painkillers. I felt like I was never sober and every day was a struggle. At the end of the year, I felt too overwhelmed. I couldn’t focus on anything, I didn’t know how to finish the year, and I hadn’t truly addressed any feelings I was having. A person I had confided in expressed her fears of me harming myself and public safety was called. They checked my forearms to make sure I wasn’t cutting myself, not realizing the top half of my arms was where I was doing the damage. A counselor came to speak to me in the public safety office and, as part of my school’s horrible “protocol,” I was handcuffed, placed in the back of a police car and transported to the hospital for a mental evaluation.

I spent that following summer healing. I journaled every day, spoke to counselors and prepared to return to school healthier and ready to do better. I spoke about my story at events, found safe spaces like Survivor, an organization on campus for survivors of sexual assault, embraced new relationships with other survivors, and created great bonds with new mentors. It was almost therapeutic for me to submerge myself in issues surrounding sexual violence on campus because I felt like I was making a difference. I still journal almost every day and I have some of the most amazing friends and “Survivor Sisters” that I know will be there for me whenever I need them. They know they have the same support from me.

I’ve learned that this process is never-ending. I will always have to work on myself and my issues stemming from being attacked but the most important thing is that this is my process. I can’t work on someone else’s timeline, or heal exactly how they do, or compare my journey to theirs. I literally take every day one day at a time and pace myself with it all, because I don’t ever want to go back to the unhealthy place that I was in.

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