by Kaitlyn E. Welch

Contributor

There are more than a few people on campus who are intimately familiar with the stigmas, shame, guilt, and public embarrassment that comes with being a victim of sexual assault. Whether the case is brought before a school or state court — or kept silent, as most cases are — living with that mark on your reputation and, for lack of a better word, your soul is never easy. As someone who has survived and has come out the other side of sexual assault, I am here to say that even if justice is found or even if reports are filed, the pain and sheer humiliations never ends.

Let’s start with thinking about those men and women who have bravely reported their assault. Not only does this process feel like trekking up Mount Everest, but the act of having to admit it to someone or even yourself is a treacherous one. Close your eyes and imagine making or being forced to take this trek up that mountain; the highest point on our own planet. Think about how the levels of oxygen decrease making it harder to breathe, forcing you to work to drag air into your lungs. Or think about the absolutely overwhelming cold that consumes you — and your boots — that threatens to make you an ice sculpture to time. I am not being dramatic about the comparisons. Surviving sexual assault feels much like this. Even after it’s over… Especially after it’s over.

People who have survived sexual assault often suffer through Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), extreme paranoia, depression, social anxiety, and can even begin to self-harm or attempt suicide. Not only are 50-90% of victims of sexual assault going to develop PTSD (Kilpatrick), but they are also 13 times more likely to attempt suicide than those who have not experienced sexual assault (Population Information Program). With all of this battling for control inside one’s brain, the last thing we expect is backlash and criticism from others outside of the situation. My personal favorite are the ones who ask questions — often NOT to your face — what your “deal is” or “Oh my God, why is {insert name here} being such a flake and annoying”?

Recently, I have acquired a Service Animal with a diagnosis from several doctors saying that I had developed severe PTSD coupled with anxiety and depressive disorders due to my assault. Still, some people do not seem to understand that I do not just “have a dog on campus because I am being melodramatic”—which hilariously comes from people who have no idea that I was practically held hostage and raped more than once. Simon, my precious cocker spaniel and poodle mix, while cute (trust me, I know he’s cute), is not public property and is not for everyone to come up and grab him from me or off the floor. I love when people love on Simon, but think of him like a child. You wouldn’t just grab another person’s child just because you thought it was adorable, right? That is exceptionally weird and socially unacceptable. (Also, please do NOT try to rub his head or face while it’s resting on my chest. You are so close to my boob. Stop it. It’s uncomfortable.)

Despite the ridicule and embarrassment I go through daily from those who do not know my situation or those who believe me to be “immature” or “over-dramatic”, there are those who have it eons worse than I. There are survivors who are scared and forced to stay quiet by their friends, community, or even the assailant him/herself. To top that off, the judicial systems on both college campuses and within state departments does not protect these people enough and it often overlooks those that need severe punishment. I am a firm believer that these scum, garbage individuals — as soon as they perform a crime as heinous as assuming another’s body as their own — lose all basic rights. They no longer can be considered human. Only the lowest, most disgusting people would stoop to such a low and dehumanizing act as sexual assault.

We need to stop protecting rapists on campuses, in communities, or even within the state because they “have a future”, are a “star football player”, or because they “have so much to live for.” We need to stop and think about those left in the aftermath: the women and men who have to walk through the rest of their lives with a scarlet “A” on their chest.

We also need to stop hiding. Yes, I am speaking to you; those who are survivors, of sexual assault. Do not allow your assailant to grip their dingy, filthy claws any further into your heart, body, and mind more than they already have. I know you are hurt. I know you are sad. I know you are angry. I know you don’t know what you are.

I am here to tell you that while it may not be all right at this moment, it will be eventually. Whether you believe in karma, God, or some other higher power — I believe that these attackers will get what is coming to them. You will have justice. It may not be tonight, it may not be tomorrow or even the day after that, but it will come. Hope and love may seem like impossible emotions to feel, but there is nothing better for you now than to fill yourself with as much light as possible. Become so bright that it hurts when those who have harmed you look in your direction; blind them with your beauty and your courage and your light.

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