I am still so very excited and proud to announce our official partnership with the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center (SAPEC) at my alma mater, The University of Kansas. They are doing amazing work in so many different ways, such as:
- Provide sexual assault and violence victims resources and help seeking and paying for therapy treatment and medical care
- Spread awareness and education on campus by various trainings, programs and workshops
I wanted to use this blog post not only to explain how amazing SAPEC is, but also to explain why I’m so passionate about this partnership. And the main reason is because of “me too.” I have experienced sexual assault in my life. If I can help even one person by sharing my story, then it’s worth it.
I was 17 and it was the summer going into my junior year of high school. I was also in the beginning stages of my very first “toxic” relationship. Since I had struggled with friends and being bullied so much throughout middle and high school, I found solace in him being my friend and ultimately my escape.
One evening we were at his apartment partying with friends and I decided to go to bed early. All of a sudden I had become exhausted without having drank very much. Was I drugged? I went into my boyfriend’s room and got into bed. My boyfriend came in a while later to check on me and let me know everyone was leaving to get some food. I was so tired and out of it, but acknowledged him and went back to bed. Some time later, he welcomed me by walking into the dark room and crawling on top of me. I woke up and accepted his sexual advances, despite how groggy I was. After several minutes (I’m not sure how long exactly), he said something to me, and it wasn’t my boyfriend’s voice. A moment of panic flooded me. The man on top of me wasn’t my boyfriend.
I shoved him off and started screaming. The anger poured out, then the tears and then the shame. I was violated. I was “dirty”. I was taken advantage of. I was raped. Once the lights flicked on I recognized it was my boyfriend’s acquaintance. He quickly left and shortly after, my boyfriend came home. I let him know what had happened; but, instead of opening his arms and grieving with me, he became very angry and accused me of “wanting” this to happen and doing it on “purpose” like I had intentionally cheated on him. [note: I later realized that his reaction was based in fear, threat, anger, lack of trust and insecurity]. As you can imagine, the shame inside me grew exponentially, as did my feeling of being alone and misunderstood.
I know this story is all too common and painfully familiar to far too many.
I wish I had known to go immediately to the hospital so I could get DNA “proof” of the assault. However, I had not ever received such education and instead, did what shame told me to do … go home and hide. I didn’t tell my parents until days later when it was too late to get DNA evidence and therefore, justice. Their reaction was heartbreaking and they shared my feelings of being helpless and powerless. My parents tried to take it to court, especially after learning that this wasn’t his first sexual assault accusation, but of course, you can’t do that without hard evidence. Even if you have the evidence, it is still extremely difficult to prove it was rape.
This was another traumatic event on my path of re-traumatization (which is very common with trauma, especially multiple life traumas) up until I was 23. I have since sought out EMDR therapy to heal this trauma, reprocess and desensitize it and shake off the negative beliefs and shame surrounding it. You can read more about EMDR therapy treatment in my previous blog post. It has taken me a long time to not only heal, but become ready to heal. I didn’t realize how much pain I was still holding onto (years after the trauma) until I went to therapy.
The thing that bothered me for so long, and still haunts me today is the fact that he may still be assaulting other women. That he was never held accountable for his crimes and he is still getting away with it. AND how many others are like me and never received justice or the support and compassion they deserve? How many have not yet healed from sexual assault? These thoughts have kept me up at night. It’s why I felt compelled to do more and thus, partnered with SAPEC.
Our donation of $25,000 will be used over the next two years to provide:
- Therapeutic treatment to individuals who have been victims of sexual assault and violence.
- To promote social change and eliminate sexual violence through prevention education, inclusive programming as well as campus wide collaboration.
Continued awareness and education is crucial in order to influence change. Sexual violence has fallen by more than half since 1933, so progress is happening. This is due to amazing work by organizations like SAPEC, increased media attention, and movements like Me Too.
Statistics: according to RAINN
- Men, women and children are all affected by sexual violence
- 1 in 33 American men has experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime
- 1 in 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime
- From 2009-2013, Child Protective Services agencies substantiated, or found strong evidence to indicate that, 63,000 children a year were victims of sexual abuse
- Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted
- Only 6 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison
If you find yourself a victim of sexual violence, PLEASE remember you are not alone in your experience or your shame. According to Dr. Brene Brown, shame needs three ingredients to grow exponentially: silence, secrecy and judgement. Consider sharing your experience (when you are ready) with a trustworthy individual who will not judge, criticize, or minimize your experience. It takes courage and bravery to be vulnerable and start your healing process - the “right” time is different for everyone and that’s okay.
If you find yourself questioning whether it “counts” as sexual violence, or if you somehow contributed to the situation, I’m going to encourage you to slow down, practice self compassion for what you’ve been through, and read the following definition. SAPEC defines it best below.