It happens here

Content notice: The Op-Ed below deals with issues of sexual violence.

 

When I was entering my first year of college, every adult I talked to spoke about how great it was that I was going to college — how it’s a more open and welcoming place than anywhere else. When I was coming to terms with my queer sexuality, I was told how lucky I was to be at a school like Tufts. I was at a school with a large queer population — a school that prides itself on being inclusive, a school that brands itself as such. When I was raped, nobody knew what to say.

I was sexually assaulted in my dorm room in South Hall in the fall of 2012. I was drunk — so drunk that I couldn’t remember one of my closest friend’s name, couldn’t stand up on my own and can’t remember anything that happened. Someone who was there to take care of me, knowing all of this information, forced sex acts upon me. I was raped by someone I cared about, someone I knew personally and intimately — a fellow Tufts student.

Every day I walk about this campus living with the reality that this is the place where I was raped. I slept in the bed I was raped in for the next nine months. As many of us have unfortunately found out, this campus is not nearly large enough to ever fully avoid someone. I have thought about that night every single day since then, without fail. In the aftermath of my assault, a promising relationship with a woman I cared deeply for ended, I saw my assailant walking this campus alongside my peers and myself, and I attempted suicide here on campus. Since then, I have spoken out about sexual violence, changed my major twice, started studying for the GRE and made fantastic memories with loved ones I cherish. Since then, I have thought about my rape every single day, find myself looking over my shoulder to make sure he is not somehow there, and can no longer sleep in complete darkness or silence — things I did not struggle with before that night. Though I often feel completely alone in this, I am not; I am one of many who walk this campus.

Colleges and universities are marketed to us as safe places — as havens from the real world where we are immune from danger or harm. Current statistics show that one in four college women will be sexually assaulted and one in six men will be sexually assaulted in their lives. These numbers can’t do justice to the gravity and prevalence of sexual violence. Cultural expectations continuously silence and disenfranchise those who experience sexual trauma, especially those from historically marginalized communities who face compounding oppressions and mechanisms of silence and are even more at-risk for sexual violence.

Over the past month, individuals have been anonymously submitting their experiences of sexual violence. This Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. in Cohen Auditorium, we will be reading these narratives, giving a voice to those so often unheard. Sexual violence happens here and it will continue to happen here. It happened here to me, and that’s something I will live with every day for the rest of my life. It happens here to our professors, administrators, staff and students, more often than any of us like to admit. We need to talk about it, because if we don’t, a culture that permits and enforces painful and traumatic experiences will continue to exist. It’s time we speak out against the violence we face against our bodies. It happens here, and it impacts us all.

 

John Kelly is a junior majoring in religion and sociology. He can be reached at John_M.Kelly@tufts.edu.


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