This spring I was sexually assaulted by a guy that I met on a dating app and went to a party to. There is a lot of shame and guilt in me towards this situation. But I was given this story for a reason and believe that it is my duty to share my story so that other who are facing things much like what I faced. I am going to get really vulnerable in the next few pages, and I hope your view of me does not change. I am a college student. I make bad decisions. Really bad ones sometimes. I hope you will not judge, for I am opening up to you about it.
Now, I know that there are more aspects to sexual assault than what I have experienced. There are men who are assaulted by other men and women, there are people who are transgender who are harmed as well. I cannot speak to these events because they are not what I experienced. What I can speak to is young men taking advantage of young women. Unfortunately, I am not new to the experience of sexual violence. To this day I struggle with the question of if the loss of my virginity at seventeen was consensual. I still remember being that young girl who had been cutting her thighs and having my ex-boyfriend run his hands over them and laugh at me because I wasn’t as skinny as the next girl he had been seeing. He broke me to the point of self-mutilation and laughed about it. I now have a tattoo of a lavender flower over those scars because flowers are meant to grow, not to be cut. I have been molested by a group of four guys in the dark parking lot of my high school after a football game, me taking the attack to save another girl who had been with me and I sent forth so she wouldn’t be hurt as well. I have woken up next to a worship leader of the largest church on my campus with only half memories and deep shame of the night before. I have seen a lot of shit. And I have only felt shame. When one feels shame, they hide. But I am done hiding. I have been given a story for a purpose. And I plan on sharing it so that people like me might find the courage to pursue justice against the unjust. That there may be hope instead of despair.
I am not going to go into detail about all that transpired that night. That is not the purpose of this post. But what I do want to talk about first is guilt. I decided to drink. I decided to meet up with a guy from a dating app mostly used for hookups. I feel extremely responsible for what happened that night. I often am overwhelmed with the feeling that I am now ruining this guy’s life with my poor decisions. This is not the case. Even though I struggle with these things, I know the truth. The truth is that no matter what decisions I make, no matter how much I drank that night, no matter if I let him take me wherever without question, there is not one thing in this world that I could have done to deserve to have my bodily autonomy taken away from me. We as a society have the bar set too low for young men. The only reasonable action a man should take towards an inebriated woman is that of making sure she gets home safely. And that she spends the night in her own bed, alone.
Ladies, that night I used the phrase “I am too drunk to consent” over and over again. This was a double no to his advances. I did not want to have sexual relations with him, and I was too drunk to have sexual relations with him. I made that clear. Even more clear than what the definition of consent calls for. Unless you give a sober, enthusiastic yes, there is no consent. Even if you never say the word no but instead make excuses for why you shouldn’t be doing what you are doing, that is enough. A person cannot infer that there is consent through body language or other means beyond a verbal “yes” that is given without pressure or coercion. A yes under threat is not a yes.
Want to hear the crazy part that has to do with the paragraph above? Even though I was thoroughly taught about consent thanks to mandatory university training, I did not recognize as what happened to me as nonconsensual. It wasn’t until a friend who I told my experience to, texted me the following week with a text that started with something like “Hey Savannah please don’t be mad at me but I am a mandatory reporter and…” I was just finishing working out when I heard from her. I was at the gym with another friend and something released inside of me. I can only explain it as a tight spring that I hadn’t even realized was there but was ready to explode. I wasn’t mad that she made a report to the university. I was relieved as hell and didn’t even know why.
She said that I would have to talk to the residence hall director that she reported to, at my convenience. I left the gym and went over there that minute. Still reeling at what was happening. Was what happened to me nonconsensual? What the hell was going to happen in the meeting? I was not as nervous as I could have been. I have had meetings like this twice in the past. Once as a CPP student in high school after I told one of my professors about what happened in the parking lot when the next week I did not get all of my homework done, and again the semester just previous to this after a friend reported what happened to me with the worship leader. It really is an easy meeting.
The cool thing about this meeting is that nothing has to happen that you don’t want to happen. Let me repeat that in a different way. You are in COMPLETE CONTROL. If you don’t want to share what happened, you don’t. They give you fliers to a few hotlines and the counseling center and you’re on your way without a single responsibility and no one knows you were ever there. If you request it, the person who had the report made against them will never know that there was ever a report. Seriously. Nothing happens without your enthusiastic yes. Kinda like how sex should be. When dealing with the worship dude, I wasn’t sure if it was simply a night of regret or a night of sexual assault, and so I decided to pursue a different option. I made a report to the university so that if he ever did something again, the report would pop up to help make a case for the next girl. But then I asked them not to notify him of the report and to close the case. They did so without any issue. I then met with the pastor of this church that meets on campus and had him removed from all church leadership. I was treated with respect and dignity by all involved. I was worried about the church, because respect and dignity are not always given to females. That is why the #ChurchToo movement exists. But I was lucky.
So I went to the meeting. I was asked what happened. As I recounted the story as the person took notes, I got angry. I was beginning to see what had happened to me and I was angry and shocked and humiliated and felt as though a piece of me broke inside. I asked to go the bathroom to collect myself for a minute. When I got back, the director asked if I wanted to make a police report. I said no. The guilt was beginning to set in and I didn’t want to ruin this guy’s life. So the hall director began the spiel of all of the resources there are for survivors on campus. In the middle of him talking, I interrupted. “You know? Actually… Let’s call the police.” I was angry. This guy did not have the right to do what he did. When men make bad decisions, they deserve to face the consequences. When an incident occurs on campus, the campus police are called. When it happens off campus, the city police are called. This happened off campus, so I met a nice officer within 10 minutes of the call being made and he had me write out a paragraph or two of what happened, answered the many questions I had about what would happen next and then gave me his card with a promise to be in touch soon. I left that night with a little more dignity than what I had just a few hours before.
I skipped class that entire week. I needed to breath. I emailed my professors and told them that I would be missing and that the university would provide an excused absence letter, which you can request during your intake meeting. You don’t have to tell your professors that this was sexual assault. I did. Professors are mandatory reporters, so when you say this, they have to tell the university. Since the university is already aware of the case, all that happens is a little note in your file saying that your professor was told. No big deal. All of my professors were understanding and allowed me the time off. If your professor is being a dick about it, bring it up to your title IX person and they can handle it. Its really cool actually.
Instead of going to class, I called my mom and she drove to BG to have lunch with me. I told her what happened and she scolded me for drinking. My dad did too. They were sorry for what happened to me, but this situation looked a little too much like the last one with worship dude for their liking. Obviously, I had a drinking problem. I stopped talking to them about it and instead took solace in my friends who were non-judgmental. I also made an extra appointment with my therapist that week who I already had been seeing regularly. Without him, I don’t know how I would have stayed sane through this. Get a therapist. I also made an appointment with the Cocoon Shelter’s sexual violence advocate. I saw her for about a month and it was really helpful in dealing with the guilt, denial and fear that I had about the process.
Within the first two weeks after the first meeting, I met with a title IX person for an intake meeting. The title IX people are the best and will treat you with dignity, respect and support throughout the process. They will ask you if you plan on pursuing the report as a case. If you do not want to, this is absolutely fine. I did want to. Before I made my decision, I asked about a thousand questions about the process. I heard about every single thing that could happen. With this information, I decided to move forward with the case.
I had another decision to make. If I wanted to pursue criminal charges, I would have to call the police and let them know. I really struggled with this. It is one thing to go through the university process, but this was a whole other monster. It was my therapist who talked me through why I should choose to go through with this process. He said it would help me heal, and because a man should never go without consequence when he decides to do this to a person. So I called. And within a week I was in a small, intimidating room with a detective going over movement by movement, second by second of that night. It wasn’t easy. One of the questions he asked me was why I just didn’t get up and leave. I didn’t have an answer for him other than I was drunk and stupid. That apparently was a good enough answer. I was interviewed, and within a few days the guy was interviewed. A few weeks later I got a voicemail from the detective telling me that there was insufficient evidence to move forward with the case. I am not going to lie, it was heartbreaking. I am glad that I pursued criminal prosecution. It was a hard thing to do, but it was needed. I am glad that I will not have to live with the “what if?” of not pursuing it.
On the university side, every few weeks I would be called into the office of the dean of students to do an interview, look over what he said in his interviews, refute his blatant lies, and look over the witness accounts of the few people involved. The process is very drawn out, you will get impatient. But at any time you can call it quits. During the whole process you will be treated with dignity and respect and love. If not, let someone higher up know, because someone isn’t doing their job. This doesn’t mean that the office or individuals will side with you, their job is to be impartial. But they will take care of you.
After all this, you will be called in one more time. For me, I am currently in Florida for an internship, so I got a phone call stating that they have made their decision on if “more likely or not” the events occurred and the student will be disciplined. They can’t tell you over the phone, so they send you a package in the mail and ask you to call them once you have read their decision.
I am holding that package in my hands now. I hope beyond hope that there will be a part two to this story. I will not be able to tell you until after it is all over. So if you’re the praying type, pray for me this summer.
If you have any questions or would like to share your story, message me. I would love to have a conversation.
If something has happened to you and you want to make a report about it, it is never too late. I will walk through it with you. Just let me know when we should begin. I cannot speak highly enough about the way BGSU and the BG police handled my case.
I love you all,