his school is too small. The number of people is enough to be stressful but not enough to get lost in a crowd. And it’s too few people to hide from those you absolutely do not want to see.
I was in a really bad relationship on campus in the past. I got out of it ok and only later realized the severity of what had happened. It took time for me to identify the feelings and lingering effects that I still deal with. There were so many gray areas, so the way I often define it is as sexual and emotional abuse.
It wasn’t a one time thing. The bad part lasted a couple of months. It was my first relationship and I trusted him. He was the one that knew things, so the problems and discomfort and bad feelings had to be my fault.
There are a number of things that I understand better now. Just because someone loves you does not mean that you have to have sex with them. Being depressed is a very valid reason to not want to have sex- you actually don’t owe a reason at all. Saying yes once (or not saying no) does not mean yes to everything. If you feel bad around the person you’re with, that’s not actually a problem with you. These are all things I knew in theory but was too full of self doubt and misplaced trust to see happening to me.
I would sit in my room and cry after the fact, which is not a normal reaction to a normal and acceptable thing. I’m sometimes haunted by the thought that I should’ve said no and pushed him off, acknowledging what I had been trying so hard to bury for those couple months. I remember the first and only time that I wasn’t able to hold in my tears until I was alone again. I remember finally telling myself that I would never let it happen again, never let myself be used like that, acknowledging what had happened and that it wasn’t ok. I guess that’s what would be classified as sexual assault. I sometimes have trouble classifying it like that and often choose the term abuse instead. Other things happen here, too.
And we’re both still here at Olin. Part of why my name is not on this piece is because I would feel guilty about the consequences he’d face. I know everyone else on campus who looks anything like him in my peripheral vision. I’ve gotten especially good at taking a quick second glance just to assure myself that it’s someone else. In the hallways and stairwells and especially the dining hall. I’m not afraid of all men, just the one. And on hard days, being reminded of it all again by just seeing that person can feel impossible.
There are sections of the dorms I avoid, not because anything or anyone is actually there but because it’s where things happened in the past and I don’t want to think about that again. I had trouble at the beginning of the year going to the dining hall on my own, worried that I would freeze up and have to just leave without getting food. I have to try and see who’s in my classes so I know if there are conflicts, and then hurriedly change my schedule at the last minute.
I’m incredibly lucky to have a strong support system and friends that will back me up with anything, no questions asked. But I can’t help but feel for those on campus who deal with the same struggle and go unseen and unprotected. There are no resources, no real support system outside of what you can create for yourself, it’s only on you to avoid and escape.
We know that this happens here. We’ve known for a long time that bad things happen here and get brushed under the rug. I can only imagine how many others on campus are also hurting, from similar situations or something else that makes being here that much more difficult. And we’re just too small for anonymous support. I can’t begin to describe what it would mean to me to have a group that also understood what this feels like. A reminder that I’m not alone, that there are people with me, that it wasn’t all my fault.
I don’t want to relive my trauma by taking it to StAR. I don’t want to be forced to tell people, because it’s hard to talk about it and they see me differently. I don’t want anyone to have power over me anymore. I just want to have control of what I can, and don’t trust StAR to truly give that to me.
So read this and share it and talk about it and put yourself in the positions of others. And if you relate to this, I am here for you and I am here with you. Things are really hard here, harder than they should be. In my mind, graduation coincides with finally being free of my abuser. I’m not entirely sure if he even knows what he did to me, but maybe he’s figuring it out now. And he’ll probably read this too, and so to him I say, respectfully, fuck you.
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