A Year Later [trigger warning]

It’s been a year since my assault.

It’s been a year since he came to my room.  It was after AcadeMix.  Every time I see one of those fucking shirts I’m brought back to that fucking night one year ago.

I was a freshman.  I had slept with my fair share of people freshman year – more than my fair share.  The blackout board didn’t stand a chance.  That’s part of what kept me silent, both during the assault and after.

My hall just asked me why I didn’t black it out.  They still don’t know. I guess that’s when I stopped being close with my customs group.

I’ve been remembering a lot lately.  I remember that the condom broke.  I said something – I don’t remember what I said.  I heard it break.  He didn’t stop; he kept going.

I prayed.  I don’t remember for what.  Forgiveness for having put myself in that situation, begging God to make it end quickly, to make me forget.

I had internalized so much victim blaming.  I used to think girls cried rape after drunk sex because they couldn’t deal with their regrets; they couldn’t own their sexuality.

But I used to be able to own my sexuality, love my sexuality, be proud of my sexuality, until that night one year ago.

I get it now.

He didn’t notice my crying when he came back.

I don’t know if what happened to me was legally rape.  But I do know that I am not the same person I was a year ago, before this happened.  I know that I have flashbacks and anxiety.  When I hear presidential candidates saying that rape victims (cause they’re not saying “survivors”) shouldn’t be able to get abortions, I think about what would have happened if I had gotten pregnant.

I don’t know exactly what happened that night but I know that I wanted to kill myself after.

I’ve spent this past year blaming myself for what happened, afraid to go out, to drink.  Afraid it will happen again.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to stop blaming myself.  In this past year I’ve changed so much and I’ve gotten stronger.  I don’t think my assault is something I’ll ever “get over” and I don’t know if I’ll ever feel comfortable or happy at Haverford again. I’ve been trying to think of a satisfactory way to end this post but the truth is, I don’t have a satisfactory ending.  Rape, assault, nonconsensual sex, shitty communication between partners, people taking silence as consent (even though we don’t confuse moments of silence and consensus in our nonsexual situations…), doesn’t really have a happy ending.  And it all happens at Haverford.

The two things that haunt me… [trigger warning]

Having seen all your Consent is Sexy posts recently made me realize how far away from certain issues life takes us as we move into different phases. Personally, the issue of consent hasn’t been one I have had to be concerned with for over a decade.

I hadn’t given your postings much conscious attention, but clearly my unconscious has been brewing it over because one very terrifying experience I had while at Haverford has been in my thoughts quite a bit lately.

When I was a sophomore, a guy who was a senior and who had been friends with my UCA from the previous year told me he needed to talk to me about her (the UCA) privately. The whole situation seemed odd so thankfully I told my roommate to stop by his suite in an hour to make sure I wasn’t trapped in some uncomfortable conversation. In actuality, he had every intention of convincing me to have sex with him to “ease the pain” of her rejecting him. He was unpredictable, violent (not towards me but he actually ripped the door off his closet in anger as I continued to fend him off), and I was sure I would be raped. Thankfully, my roommate stopped by early and that distracted him just enough for me to run out of his room.

The part that haunts me to this day wasn’t his behavior, or even the thought of his having been successful. The two things that haunt me are how I questioned my own behavior and how the Dean at the time questioned my behavior when I reported the event to him. I could not let myself off the hook. I had gone into his room alone, I hadn’t thrown punches at him and tried to claw my way out of the room – so somewhere deep down, I felt that I hadn’t done enough to say no. The Dean asked me questions that mirrored all my own doubts, which only served to deepen my self-doubt.

Looking back from over two decades later, I want to hug my younger self and tell her that one should not have to scratch out eyes or endure an hour of terror in order to prove she does not want to have sex with someone. Saying no should be enough.

I do think the issue of interpreting consent can be trickier when dealing with people who are in a relationship, who have a mutual attraction. There is a certain cat-mouse element that can come into play as couples move into a more sexual relationship…but there does need to be a line that can easily be drawn, and that is respected by the community, that signifies the withdrawl of consent clearly and completely at that moment. It gives the “aggressor” a clear signal, it gives the “aggressee” a simple, effective tool, and it gives the community a common set of guidelines for what is and what is not ok.

Anyway, not sure if any of this helps or not, but I thought I would share and commend you for your valuable efforts. It most definitely does happen “here” and at least in the past, has not been dealt with in a very satisfying manner. Hopefully, this has changed a bit and will only continue to get better.

Rape and Sexual Assault Next Door (Trigger Warning)

I am a rape survivor. I am a Bryn Mawr student, and I know this is not my school’s program or my school’s dialogue, but it is my school’s problem. If my voice doesn’t belong here, I understand, but I thought it might be worth a try. Bryn Mawr has no public place or campus-wide movement for these voices in the way that your mission has allowed for Haverford, and I’m not sure with our current college environment or administration that we can. This is for a lot of complicated reasons that make me very upset with the place I’ve been forced to call home, reasons that might be familiar to you, probably because they’re familiar to anyone who has grown up in our rape culture.

We really don’t talk about rape in our own bubble, partly because being a single-gendered institution (at least in name) we deal with rape and sexual assault on different terms than would a co-ed institution. This process typically involves silencing actual dialogues about actual situations and replacing them with archaic notions of prevention and fear-mongering. Rape has become wrapped up in the same dialogue as abortion and feminism. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the campus groups associated with these issues tie them together in similar forms of activism. Everything surrounding rape on our campus has to do with preventative measures, at least in terms of how our administration chooses to deal with them. We receive a rape whistle our first week on campus – the rape whistle is the common butt of a lot of shared jokes. If you’ve been to Bryn Mawr at night, you’ve noticed that in comparison to Haverford or Swarthmore, our campus is lit up like a nuclear Christmas tree. We continually hear about how we are sitting ducks, living in institutionalized innocence and ripe for the corruption of the outside world, defenseless to its violence. “Lock your doors, carry pepper spray, don’t talk to strangers, don’t let men into the dorms, don’t drink anything you didn’t pour yourself, actually don’t drink at all, don’t consume drugs that alter your perception, don’t wear low-cut outfits when you’re visiting the tri-co, don’t go to parties in groups less than 5, follow the buddy system at all times, CONSTANT VIGILANCE.” Because we are women (some of us). Because we are defenseless (if you haven’t given us the tools to be and think otherwise, sure). Because we are trained to exist in fear, and be steeped in that fear, and face these situations with extreme fear.

My own experience was on my campus. I was raped in the fall of my freshman year, right in my dorm room. I met him at a party. I was sober (and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to say that I was sober, because my sobriety has been in question, because the fact of whether or not I was sober was something that was needed to legitimize what was done to me). He followed me back to my room and I pretended to write my number on a post-it note. He locked the door and hit me in the back of the head and raped me. He entered me with a plastic bottle before entering me himself. He hit me in such a way that my left kidney is still damaged. He told me repeatedly that I was a slut, and he wasn’t going to hurt me if I told him that I liked it.

I can’t say that I remember the exact order of the steps I took with campus officials. I did go to my dean the next week. I did see a counselor. The term used was “sexual assault.” It was reported on the school record as “sexual assault,” which probably looks a lot better than an incident of rape on the school record. And that fear that had been festering? It worked. I was terrified of what had happened, I was terrified of what the tiny campus would think of me, a brand new freshman, as a result of the incident, I was terrified of the shell my body had transformed into, and I was terrified of the memories that were already playing on repeat in my confused mind. Here’s how the fear worked: I pretended it was nothing. I tried my best to play it off. I lied about what had happened to get out of an exam with the college’s health center. I lied to the people around me so that the lessened version of the event that they imagined would become my reality. Sadly, it hasn’t. I lived with flashback nightmares for two years that reminded me in perfect detail exactly what happened every single night until I went through memory-replacement therapy. I told people that he forced oral, and then left. “Ugh, men are pigs” was the typical response I’d get, and I’d shrug and pick at the sleeve of the same t-shirt I’d been wearing for a few days. I threw out all my underwear. My customs person went and cleaned my room for me.  I buried myself in other people and other things, picked up a few bad habits, and thought that I could go on with my life if I ignored what had happened to me. The college certainly wasn’t going to help, so why bother? My dean said I was only the second student she’d had who had gone through that kind of experience. Therefore, she said, she didn’t have much definitive advice. At the time, I didn’t really care. I didn’t really care about anything, so I didn’t think twice about the fact that I was being turned away from support and told to keep quiet. I was advised not to speak to anyone about what had happened, as it would distress my peers. Okay, I said, and I went back to my room.

I didn’t get to move out of that room. I slept in the same bed where I was raped for the next  seven months. My roommate got to move out for reasons I have never entirely understood. Another person on the hall told me the strain of my erratic behavior had been getting to her, and she needed to get away for her health. I don’t know exactly what the truth of her getting to leave was, but I still wonder what kind of an administration knows a student was raped in her bed, and then leaves her in it. I fell asleep every night staring at the same spot on the ceiling that my eyes had focused in and out of during the rape. And every day I walk to class under that window, I walk the same route I walked when I was trying to get him to stop following me, I see the same places I associate with that night, I see the same students. The Bryn Mawr bubble is a way we joke about our surroundings, but it terrifies me. My triggers are inescapable. Every single day is a goddamned struggle and I’m in my final year at college. I passed the three year anniversary by sleeping for twenty six hours. I wish I could say that I had the strength to stand up for other students on this campus who have experienced the same things that I have, and while I’ve made efforts in the past, I’ve had to pass them on to other people who were stabler than me. Every time I think I’m okay, I’m not, and it’s taking me a long time to convince myself that this is okay, and not something I should hate myself for, or tell myself is shameful and disgusting. I’m in awe of the survivors I see who are able to organize and plan and be activists who seek justice for what has happened to them. I wish I were at that point. I wish I had been at that point three years ago so that the man who raped me could face some kind of justice for what he did.

I know other survivors on Bryn Mawr’s campus. One was assaulted by another Bryn Mawr student, a fact that this college’s administration clearly could not handle as they had no idea how to even label the incident, since same-sex sexual assault is just as baffling to them as their understanding of same-sex sexual relationships. Most of the other Bryn Mawr survivors, though, were raped by male Haverford students at Haverford. They have gone through Haverford’s policies, and they were just as lacking as Bryn Mawr’s, although it’s good to see that Haverford at least has some kind of policy in place. Bryn Mawr seems to still think that because we are all nice women here we can figure out some way to work it out. Bryn Mawr seems to think that because there are no men on campus, there’s no reason for us to have to deal with rape as a real actual situation, or its aftermath. I don’t have to see my rapist every day, because he was not a student, he was a completely random stranger, and I know how fortunate I am for not having to see the actual person again, much as I fear walking into him some day. I know other rape survivors who have had to see their rapist in person again, because that person continued to take classes in the tri-co, because that person was not expelled for their behavior, because that person did not face any reprimands for their actions. Rape is, in my experience, the absolute worst crime that can be committed by a human being to another human being. I wish sometimes that I had been killed, because living with what happened seems to be a much worse punishment. I don’t understand, and I’ll never understand, how our colleges let us down so much. I’m excited by what you guys are doing at Haverford, and I hope that Bryn Mawr picks up the example.

Original Parents’ Email

This is the full text of the letter referenced in Institutional Memory… redacted for confidentiality and as it appeared on the Go Boards. We still strongly recommend that you read the entire Go thread to better understand how the community responded, including the administration’s attempts to have the thread taken down and subsequent actions at plenary.

Comments are disabled on this post. Please direct all comments to Institutional Memory…

To Haverford parents:

In light of the recent publication of a CNN.com article and the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) investigative report on college’s responses to sexual assaults, we feel compelled to shed light on our family’s interactions with Haverford College concerning a similar situation. It is our hope that sharing this information will demonstrate the ways in which some college administrations handle claims of sexual assault as well as a victim’s rights in these types of situations. The links to the articles are at the end of this document.

Our daughter reported an incident to Psychological Services who labeled it a sexual assault. The Women’s Center affirmed this assessment and proceeded to counsel our daughter as to her options for action. As for next steps, she was advised according to Haverford’s policies that she could either: do nothing, report it to the police, resolve in mediation, or convene a Dean’s Panel. The Women’s Center advised that going to the police may not be a good idea because then it could come to a “he said, she said” situation. The latter was then opted for and was considered the best route by school advisors since the Haverford policy states that “cases of rape or sexual assault, as cases involving violence, will, according to our procedures, be handled by a Dean’s Panel.”

On the day of the Dean’s Panel, our daughter arrived with her [redacted] friend from her dorm while the accused arrived with [redacted], an attorney. The Dean’s Panel was abruptly postponed and the dean advised our daughter that mediation may be a better way to proceed. She trusted the dean and followed [redacted//the] advice. A mediation agreement was produced by the dean, signed by the victim and the accused, and the actual mediation was scheduled for almost two weeks later.

In mediation, the parties are expected to come to a “mutually agreeable” resolution. However during the mediation, the accused harassed and intimidated our daughter with threats of a lawsuit if she did not sign an agreement that he had created. In spite of this, she refused to sign as it stated untruths. All attempts to change the content by our daughter and the dean were not permitted by the accused and his family. He was allowed consultations with [redacted//some people] who have a background in law throughout the day. Finally, the deans left the victim and the accused alone to ‘work things out’. During this time, the intimidation continued and she broke, signing the Resolution Agreement under duress. It is important to note that the Office for Civil Rights “has frequently advised schools, however, that it is not appropriate for a student who is complaining of harassment to be required to work out a problem directly with the individual alleged to be harassing him or her.”

Subsequently, the deans involved stated that they were very uncomfortable validating the accused’s agreement and that his behavior during the mediation process was in violation of the Honor Code. Ultimately, our daughter retracted her signature, as she could not attest to the statements of untruth in the document.

Although by this time the allotted time for a ‘regular’ mediation to be completed had expired, the college allowed the process to continue via phone meetings. After several conversations and continued threats of a lawsuit, our daughter was ultimately sued by the accused for [redacted//mad bank]. Without proper legal counsel, she agreed to sign the resolution agreement drafted by the accused in exchange for dismissal of the lawsuit. At no time did the college stop the mediation and advise our family to obtain an attorney to protect ourselves. Discussing the situation with outside parties was against the Mediation Agreement.

In the months that passed, our daughter discussed with Haverford officials the ways in which the college could potentially improve the hostile environment that was created by the initial incident and the events that occurred during the mediation process. However, they did not resolve the situation as all proposed remedies were deemed by Haverford to be ‘not in her best interests’. They were not willing to take the accused up on Honor Code violations for his behavior during the mediation even though it is in clear breach of the Honor Code for one student to sue another in a mediation that is stated to be entered with ‘good faith in accordance with the precepts of the Haverford College Honor Code’. In total, six Deans, the Women’s Center, Psychological Services, the President, and the Board of Directors were involved with our daughter’s situation. We trusted the college to advise and protect our daughter based upon the high standards of the Honor Code but they did not do so as it is our belief that they were too fearful of legal ramifications.

Sexual assault is not only deemed in violation of the Honor Code, but violates the Department of Education’s Title IX Guidelines.

Please, if your child reaches out to you with a complaint in any way regarding assault, we urge you to be careful if you choose to proceed through the college’s processes. Although Haverford College has fairly comprehensive policies in place to deal with claims of sexual assault, in reality these policies do not always go far enough to protect the victim and are not consistently followed by the administration. These processes may have a different outcome for you, but we would be remiss if we did not share our experience and the information we have gathered in an attempt to protect you and your family from a similar fate.

We suggest the following measures be taken:
1. Instruct the victim that in order to protect him/herself, he/she should not name the accused to anyone outside of the school’s officials, police or parents.
2. File a police report, even if charges will not be pressed.
3. Insist to consult with the college’s Title IX Coordinator and ensure the victim is given written instructions as to their rights.
4. Ensure the victim is given the right to consent that their parents/guardian be notified and instructed of the victim’s civil rights under Title IX Guidelines.
5. Insist that the accused is not given the victim’s statement before the accused has a chance to recount the event in their own words. The accused is to be informed of the complaint against him/her and should create a statement of their recollection of the encounter, without having the victim’s statement first.
6. Do not agree to mediation as it is never recommended under Title IX.

The Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit investigative arm of the US Department of Justice has recently concluded a nine month investigation of how colleges handle claims of sexual assault. Their findings are documented in the report entitled:

Sexual Assault on Campus
A Frustrating Search for Justice
A culture of secrecy surrounds higher education’s handling of sexual assault cases.

Their findings reveal that this type of response to claims of sexual assault is not only occurring at Haverford, but at colleges across the country. College administrations are generally attempting to keep cases under wraps for the sake of their reputation, which in turn protects the school and not the victim. Although we hope that the school will soon change its policies to avoid this negative outcome to claims of sexual assault, for now we propose that if anyone is in a situation warranting the Haverford College policies regarding sexual assault, please be wary as these procedures have failed and can continue to fail when put into action.

For more information about this very important subject, please see the CNN summary
of the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) investigation:
http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/12/15/se … =allsearch.

The complete CPI investigation articles can be read at:
http://www.publicintegrity.org/projects/entry/1847/

Please also visit the Security on Campus website which discusses the Cleary Act and the guidelines all colleges must follow to comply: http://www.securityoncampus.org

Institutional Memory…

I have been in a continuing struggle for justice with Haverford since 2009.  Not a day passes on this campus that I don’t think about my assault and how the college failed to help me.

I was sexually assaulted at Haverford.  My experiences that followed have already been inserted into the broader Haverford discourse through a letter that my parents submitted to the Parent’s Listserv as a warning of the Haverford façade  (Please see the Go Boards archives to read a detailed account of the events that ensued).  In essence, I requested a Dean’s Panel that was ultimately changed to a mediation.  I was sued for over one million dollars and forced to sign an agreement that prevented me from further discussing my experiences.  I was silenced and my story was effortlessly pushed under the rug of power that too often suffocates survivors on college campuses.

During the mediation, it was stated by then Dean Kannerstein that the accused’s behavior throughout the process was in violation of the spirit of the Honor Code.  Following my signing of the agreement I sought to follow through with his statement, however, the administration refused to act and even stated that it was in my ‘best interest’ not to do so.  As a result, I continued to live at Haverford in a hostile environment in which sleepless nights, depression, and panic attacks became normalized.

At the time of the original posting of my parents’ letter (a lengthy five months after the Mediation Agreement had been signed), Haverford had still refused to address my on campus grievances.  As a result, I was forced to appeal to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to intervene, as Haverford’s handling of my case was in direct violation of Title IX.  They accepted my claim.  Haverford was contacted and informed that the college was going to be investigated regarding the various ways in which their policies concerning rape and sexual assault, and the handling of my case, all violated federal law.  Haverford quickly entered into a Voluntary Resolution Agreement with OCR and was required to institute specific measures to comply with the mandated Title IX guidelines.

These events are why Haverford so drastically altered their policies regarding rape and sexual assault in 2010.  Not because the administration underwent a sudden epiphany and realized that the college’s guidelines were in direct violation of Title IX and that its Title IX Coordinator solely thought that the law applied to gender equality in athletics, but because I appealed for government intervention.  As a direct result of federal pressure, Haverford revised its policies, delegated a knowledgeable Title IX Coordinator, and significantly emphasized Title IX education for both students and faculty.  Despite these positive changes, one of OCR’s demands still remains outstanding: a proper investigation of my initial claim.

Upon being informed that an investigation of the assault itself was to occur, the accused filed suit against Haverford.  A state judge granted a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) precluding Haverford from performing their OCR mandated investigation until the facts of the suit had become known and thus halting the college from becoming entirely compliant with Title IX.  I am told that this action was unprecedented in the history of OCR.  Never had a state judge overridden federal law in this context.  I have been trying in vain for the past year through the government to get the TRO lifted so that Haverford can complete the investigation.  My case has been passed from the Office of Civil Rights in Philadelphia to the headquarters in Washington, DC.  I have had conversations with representatives from the Department of Justice, but no one in either government agency seems to have any idea how to proceed.  So they will wait it out.  My experiences simply add another point to the national collegiate rape and sexual assault trend line; justice will never be served.

The ‘Consent is Sexy’ campaign serves as a reminder that rape and sexual assault does occur at Haverford, regardless of how much we may want to believe that nothing harmful could enter into our sheltered Haverbubble.  It illustrates that these issues need to be at the forefront of community discussion and cannot solely be discussed once irreversible damage has already been done.

Dissenters of the campaign may deem it a proliferation of an ‘us versus them’ mentality.  The individual that should be most in favor of this mindset, however, is advocating for the opposite.  Every community member, survivors, non-survivors, males, females, faculty, staff, and administrators, must engage in this discourse to ensure that what I have experienced at Haverford will not recur.  I look forward to working with the same people that have exacerbated my affliction because that is what Haverford is about, rebuilding the bridges of trust even when it seems like they have been broken beyond the point of repair.

“Take me to bed or lose me forever!” [trigger warning]

The idea of enthusiastic consent seems to have generated a bit of confusion in the wake of the Consent is Sexy campaign.  (For a reminder of what enthusiastic consent is, see the vocab entry) Since the posters appeared on campus, I have heard complaints that enthusiastic consent is not realistic, that some people don’t like to shout out “Yes!!  Yes!!”  (as if this is the only way to give consent, or the campaign is trying to say this), and that people should be allowed to have quiet sex without facing rape allegations (again, I believe this to be an extreme conflation of the point of some of the more humorous posters.)  In response to some of these questions and critiques, I would like to share my story, which I feel shows why enthusiastic consent is so important (and not that complicated).

I was assaulted at Haverford in September of 2010.  I invited a guy I met at a concert back to my apartment, with absolutely no intention of engaging in sexual activity– I was merely interested in hanging out.  That was not his interest.  When he went to kiss me, I tried to avoid it, but he kissed me anyways.  When he started to undress, I changed the subject and left the room; he followed me.  He didn’t ask if he could go down on me, he just started doing it.  I felt paralyzed.  All I wanted him to do was leave.  As he sat on top of me and shoved his penis in my face, he asked if I would “return the favor.”  I was pinned by the weight; I didn’t feel I had a choice.  When he put his hands around my throat and then asked if I liked to be choked, I felt the color drain out of my face and I started to hyperventilate.  I was terrified.  He either didn’t notice, or didn’t care.  When he tried to insert himself inside me and I let out some kind of whimper, he looked up, and asked if I didn’t want to fuck him.  He asked, why not? I had had sex with so many other people anyway, what was one more?  I didn’t know how to respond.  I couldn’t speak anymore; I was confused and afraid.  I simply nodded no, and after some persistence, he finally rolled over.  I waited for him to go to sleep, and snuck into my room to sleep where I felt safer.  I was terrified all night that he would wake up and try to come into my bed.  In the morning he did, and wouldn’t listen as I told him to stop.  It wasn’t until my roommate woke up, and told us irritatingly to be quiet, that I finally got up and tried to get him to leave.  I made him a cup of coffee, to take with him (I emphasized.)  He asked suspiciously if I was trying to get rid of him.  I started to panic and offered him a bagel to go.

I was assaulted at Haverford.  Maybe I was raped at Haverford.  It took me so long to accept the word “assault” in the first place, that I am no longer sure.  I always felt like a fraud, because I didn’t scream, because I didn’t physically try to push him off, because I didn’t stick to my initial “no” once he started pressuring me.  But I was assaulted.  I did not give consent for any of the sex acts I experienced that night.  Though I didn’t always explicitly say the word “no,” my body language and social cues did.  When I changed the subject, left the room, and made excuses, he did not listen.  When my body tensed up and I started to hyperventilate, he did not listen.  When I did manage to say no explicitly, he didn’t listen.  Instead, he slut-shamed me into feeling like I had no right to say no.  I did not give enthusiastic consent.  When I did give consent, it was coerced through shame.  This is not consent.  It is rape.

The next time I tried to have sex with my boyfriend following my assault, I had a really hard time.  I started out very into it.  I love sex– I can talk about it all day, and do it all night.  It started out like any other sexual encounter between my boyfriend and I– sexy, raunchy, and a bit loud.  But as his head started wandering lower and lower, I began to tense up.  I started to flash back to when my assaulter had done the same.  I was not relaxed, happy, or excited anymore.  I was stiff, and I began to hyperventilate.  I felt paralyzed then, as I had the night of my assault, unable to say no, unable to do anything but pray it would be over quickly.  As soon as my boyfriend sensed this switch, he stopped.  He looked up at me to gauge my reaction and figure out what was wrong, and saw me silently crying.  Thanks to his sensitivity, to his attention to my involvement in the sexual interaction, I was not re-victimized.  Seeing that I was uncomfortable, he stopped immediately.  This is what it means to seek enthusiastic consent.

Consent is sexy.  If you like having sex with someone who is detached, stiff, or not interested/engaged, they make sex dolls for that.  Sex is an act that involves another person; we must treat each other as persons, deserving attention, respect, and sensitivity.  We must ensure our partner(s)’ active, excited participation.  We must pay attention to their body language.  We must hear their breathing. We must look for that glint in their eyes that says “Take me to bed or lose me forever!”  We must listen (with pride as appropriate) as they scream out “Yes! Yes! OH GOD YES!!”  If you pay attention to your partner(s), enthusiastic consent becomes obvious, whether or not yelling is involved.  And if you’re not sure, ask.  Two guys in my lifetime have asked if they could kiss me.  I was deeply touched each time, and the fact that they asked me made me want to kiss them even more.  Consent is not coerced or obtained through shame.  It is enthusiastic.  And it is very, very sexy.

For another survivor’s story on why enthusiastic consent is important, click here.

Not in solidarity, but in support [trigger warning]

I was assaulted at Haverford.  It wasn’t very complicated; I drank to much, I couldn’t move, let alone speak, he raped me, and in the morning, when I could stand again, I went home.  No one knew; I don’t think even he knew.   And that was my choice.  I packed it away.  To me, the only thing worse than being raped was to allow my rape to shackle me in the way I had seen it shackle other women.  In my mind these women allowed themselves to victimized by this event by allowing it to control them.  They, even more than their assaulter, created their own identity as a victim.  That was something I would not allow.  I didn’t.  I boxed it away.  And for awhile, that was fine.  I went out.  I drank.  I had sex with men.

I’m not sure when it started exactly, but more than a year later, I started to get very nervous any time I got drunk.  It was barely noticeable at first, but it crept up on me, until it reached the point that almost as soon as I felt the buzz, I started to feel my chest squeeze in.  When people touched me unexpectedly, I flinched in fear.  Sex, even sober sex, started to make me feel panicky.

My partner at the time could hardly help but notice, and eventually strongarmed me into seeing CAPS.  It was difficult.  I didn’t like to talk about it.  But it did help.  I told some of my friends.  I told my partner, who was so, so understanding.  I talked to my dean, finally explaining why the past semester had been so hard.  Though I did not want to release my name, I made sure that my assault was a part of our statistics.  I acknowledged that it had happened.

Even though I had tried to put it away, tried to avoid being a victim, I had done exactly the opposite: I had victimized myself.  When I let the memory of this experience back into my life, I had to learn how to become a survivor.  I had to come to terms with the fact that my assault did not end when I walked home in the morning, but continued as I repressed myself, panicked, withdrew from my partner and my friends.  I had to learn to exist with this in my life, not just have survived, but to continue surviving.  And I have.

There are a few things I want to say with this:

I know those of you who are vocal at SOAR promote the use of the term “survivor.”  I am a survivor.  But for a time, I was a victim, and it had nothing to do with what anyone called me, or even just with the fact that I had been raped.  I was a victim because I was behaving like one.  I did not become a survivor until I truly had survived the experience and come out again whole, and continued to remain whole.  Don’t just promote “survivor;” teach those who are still victims how to become one.

Be thankful for those who are already trying to provide an infrastructure for survivors, whether formally or on a personal level.  Haverford’s community is not perfect, but when I have asked for it, the support I have received here has been incredible.

Do not fail to acknowledge the many, many individuals on this campus – students, administrators, faculty, staff – who are supportive.  You are not combating a conspiracy against survivors when you take on the administration.  You face an unwieldy, slow-moving bureaucracy that undeniably does not adequately address issues of rape and assault.  But that bureaucracy is made up of many individuals who want the same things you want.  Appeal to those individuals.

I want this to succeed.  A few years ago, after the incident on the Nature Trail, there was a similar effort.  But it petered out, for one reason or another.  And that time, the only member of the administration I found to be actively hostile was the one who should have been the most helpful: the head of the Women’s Center. As just one example, when I asked her about why Deans’ Panels did not release abstracts like Honor Council’s.  Weren’t they supposed to? Her response was roughly along the lines of, “I don’t care whether we are supposed to or not.  We won’t.  That’s not how we do things, and we’re not going to change.”

I very sincerely feel that if policies and attitudes surround rape and assault are going to change on this campus, a great deal has to change about the Women’s Center.  To start, the name itself is alienating.  There was a small campaign to advertise that the Center isn’t just for women.  If that’s the case, then change the damn name.  Call it Sexuality and Gender Center.  Give it an acronym like everything else at Haverford.  But stop being exclusive.  Similarly, the current head of the Center also tends to be exclusive or dismissive of men.  She is the point person to meet with survivors, yet how can you expect a man who has been assaulted to feel entirely comfortable?  Even as a woman, after my rape, she is the very last person I would wish to speak to.  The position requires understanding, attentive listening, nonjudgemental behavior, flexibility, and a willingness to defer to the wishes of the survivor.  Find someone suitable.

Finally, putting this campaign during finals was an extremely poor choice.  For starters, many people are too busy to even engage in the discussion you are trying to start.  Those that do engage have to do so on top of their workload.  But most salient for me is the fact that I and other survivors have to see these reminders every day.  I understand that it’s necessary, and I think it’s good to force our community to confront the issue.  But to wake up from three hours of sleep, already stressed, and a little more fragile that I would otherwise be, and to walk out of my dorm into a sea of reminders…  It sounds flip, but honestly, it is hard enough to cope with finals and it is hard enough rape – why the hell would you combine them?

I don’t know if you’ll post this.  My mentality about this is clearly not quite the same as yours, and I’ll admit I’m not subtle in some of my criticisms.  I wish I could post this publicly, but I can’t.  I just ask that you take this as I mean it – sincere, thoughtful, hopeful – and allow for dissenting voices to be heard.