Girl Holding Her Knees

I Am A Survivor: This Is What @exposingauabusers Means To Me

TW: s*xual assault

I am a survivor.

Those words are hard to type. They’re even harder to say out loud. I’m actually not sure that I have ever said them out loud, save for one drunk confession to my best friend. I’ve told two other people- both times, I typed it out over text with tears in my eyes.

Typing those words from behind a screen is safe and scary at the same time. You can hide from the looks of pity. Hide from your abuser under anonymity. Hide from the shame and blame. Even with that strange sense of comfort, it takes courage to admit to your friends, your family, the world, and, most importantly, yourself, that you are a survivor.

When I heard about the Instagram account @exposingauabusers, my initial reaction was fear. The anonymous student-run account posts stories of sexual assault, manipulation, and abuse at AU. Some stories express discontent with the Title IX process at AU. Some describe the way Greek life has contributed to rape culture at AU. Some call out an individual, resulting in a trial-by-social-media. This "cancel culture" is unproductive; we're all angry, but a virtual witch hunt will not undo a victim's pain. We have to actively work towards changing the system or else we will only spread more fear and hate.

I feared for the victims who felt empowered to submit their story to this account, but whose abuser might have identified themselves and reached out (likely negatively) to the victim. I feared the floods of anger, pity, and support that well-intentioned allies would spread across social media that would cause me, and maybe other survivors as well, to feel overwhelmed. I feared that I would know one of the perpetrators and feared the mixed painful emotions of regret, disappointment, and anger.

Anna Schultz-Girl Using Ipad In BedAfter looking into the account a bit more and reading some of the stories, my fear subsided. I felt anger, sadness, confusion, frustration, and love. I am angry at the AU administration and the Panhellenic Greek system for silencing survivors and perpetuating rape culture at a university that puts on a cloak of wokeness to cover up its shortcomings. I am sad that I had to read that many confessions. I am confused about what I should do as a victim of such a violent and disgusting act; I don’t want to share my story, but sometimes I think that it’s my responsibility to do so in this conversation.

And I love the supportive community that @exposingauabusers has created.

As a survivor, I am insulted by AU’s subtle suggestion that survivors should stay silent to avoid repercussions for abusers. Instead of committing to action on this issue, especially considering how Greek life only reinforces the system of oppression and violence, AU simply outlined the existing resources that have clearly failed so many. Maybe it’s the anonymity or the lack of legal headaches, but I feel more comfortable with a student-run Instagram and an anonymous Google Forms than a distant administration.

The Lalatwo Girls Sitting On A StepI know that legal action– reporting a perpetrator to the police or, if they’re a student, to the university– is supposed to be the most just way forward. But legal action doesn’t feel like an option if you were drunk. If you had a revealing outfit on. If you knew them. If you flirted with them. Reporting to the university doesn’t feel like an option if they’re on the executive board of a Greek organization. If they’re an athlete. If they’re not an AU student, but you are.

If you do choose to report, what are the chances that you will actually see justice?

I have seen several students named on @exposingauabusers. Some have ongoing formal cases. Some have been ostracized by their former friends. Some have already stepped down from their positions of power. This platform is clearly more than cancel culture. Students have been inspired to stand up, speak out, and support each other to change the system.

An anonymous Instagram account might not seem like a valid course of action to the AU administration, but it sure as hell feels valid to me.

Sources: 1

Photos: Her Campus Media