'No Means No' Campaign: Stories of Sexual Assault from Collegiate Women

Image courtesy of the "No Means No" Campaign

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness month. Nationwide we have been seeing more and more cases of rape, sexual harassment and assault coming to light in the media. This is not a sudden spur in randy youths; this is an epidemic that has plagued our country since it's beginning. With social media and the changing times, young women and men have started to speak out about their experiences. Over the years I have known many people who have been sexually assaulted or harassed, male as well as female.  For those who have shared their stories with me over the years I feel pain and anger. This is a sickness that needs to be fixed. Speaking about the issues only when convenient or when it is the latest news story cannot be the only solution.

In honor of the "No Means No" campaign, I spoke with three women on behalf of Her Campus SCAD about their experiences with sexual assault. I thank these young women for being willing to speak with me and go on record with their stories in their own words. It doesn’t matter who you are, your age, your race, these things happen and they happen a lot more frequently than popular culture would like to admit. So often the shame and embarrassment of what has happened keep victims quiet and I feel these young women are very strong and brave and I consider myself honored to know each of them personally.

Some content might be considered explicit. For privacy, names and places have been changed or omitted.

 Image courtesy of nsvrc.org.

Nora's Story

It was a few years ago, I was still in college and I was visiting a friend at a different college about four hours away. I was visiting her for the weekend. She and another friend the weekend before had met a group of guys who were performing, they were singers who were doing a tour around the area. They had had a good time with them and had been invited the weekend I was there. So my friend Jessica asked if I wanted to go even thought it was our time [to hang out]. It was clear she wanted to go. Her friend Ashley also wanted to go. The show was about 45 minutes from where we were at the college we were at. So we decided we would go and drive back that night to still be able to do some things at their college.

So we got in the car and headed out there. We ended up not leaving in time and got there as the show ended. We met up with the guys they knew that had put the show on and Jessica and Ashley talked with them saying they were sorry for missing the show. The guys said it’s ok, it’s a tour. They were on their way to the next show. They had to perform at midnight about two hours away. They said they’d pay for the gas if you guys come to the next show since you missed this one. So they debated about it. My friend Jessica was on the fence, but it was really apparent that Ashley wanted to go. She was enamored with the lead singer, Rob, and my friend Jessica was interested in one of the other guys in the performance, Jeff. They decided we would go and we would spend the night with them and then we would come back the next morning.

So I said OK since it was clear they wanted to go and I wasn’t driving. We got there about 10 pm. There were a number of them, they got probably seven different hotel rooms, all of the guys were bunking together, maybe two or three guys to a room with the exception of the lead singer. The lead singer got his own room; because don’t they always. We hung out with them before the show. I was in Jeff’s room with my friend Jessica and his room buddy, Tyler. Tyler had been hitting on me since we saw them at their last show before we drove the two hours to meet them there. I had been putting down his advances and not showing him too much interest. His feelings weren’t too hurt by this since he just saw us as groupies anyways. So they got ready for the show and we left with them. We hung out with them at the show, we were allowed to come up on stage during the show. We just had a good time.

Afterwards we went back to the hotel to go to bed. They had picked up some actual groupies at the show and brought them back. As we were going up the elevator, everyone was packed in together. The lead singer was in front of me; I was stuck in the corner of the elevator. I was wearing a skirt and a tank top; it was the beginning of September so it was still pretty warm. I had a skirt on because we hadn’t planned on spending the night. All of a sudden I felt a hand on my leg, gripping very, very tightly and I’m trying to rip it off [my leg] but I can’t get it off. It ended up being the lead singer who was doing this, and I only ended up getting his hand off my leg when the elevator opened for everyone to leave.

He didn’t say a word and just walked out of the elevator and left with Ashley to go back to his room. So I follow my friend Jessica and Jeff back to the room they’re staying in. Tyler is nowhere to be seen so I assumed he had gone to someone else’s room and that left his bed free and clear.

I decided to sleep in that bed because it's empty and Jessica and Jeff are sharing the bed next to me. Things wind down; we start to go to sleep then there’s a knock on the door maybe an hour or two hours after we have all laid down. Jeff gets up and opens the door and its Tyler, the guy who technically has a claim on that bed. I hear Tyler saying something and then Jeff goes, “Nah man she’s asleep.” He says something back and Jeff goes, “OK fine whatever.”

Jeff goes back to get in bed with my friend to go to sleep and I feel Tyler get into the bed next to me. He tries to put his hand on my shoulder and I turn around and look at him and say, “Dude, nothing is going to happen. I’m going to sleep. You can stay on your side of the bed and I’m going to stay on my side of the bed. Nothing is going to happen.”

I hear snickering in the other bed from Jeff and there’s a sigh from Tyler. For a bit he rolls over and goes to sleep. So every couple of hours I’m waking up in a skirt, because we had not planned to spend the night when we had left the college, I’m feeling hands trying to go up my skirt. I kept pushing him off and rolling over. He’s sleeping all the way under the sheets and the blankets, I made sure to sleep on top of the sheet to try to keep that from happening. This is maybe across a span of four to five hours.

The next morning I wake up and Tyler is next to me on his side of the bed and he sees I’m awake and says, “Oh, good morning.” I look over at my friend and Jeff and they’re still asleep. So we start talking while we wait for them to wake up.

And then he goes, “I was just kinda surprised at how you felt down there.”

I said,“Excuse me?”

And he said, “Yeah, you’re a lot thicker than I thought you’d be.”

Once again I said, “Excuse me?”

And he goes, “Well you couldn’t expect me to keep my hands to myself all night. You know I was hard and excited.”

I just looked at him in disbelief. Because I had spent the entire night trying to keep him off me and in my mind I had. I hadn’t drank that night; I hadn’t done any drugs or anything that would make me less aware. So I asked him exactly what he meant by that and exactly what he had done.

“Oh well, you know I was just playing with you most of the night. I didn’t think you would mind. I mean I had to do something with my hands at least.”

So I hit him across the chest because obviously I’m pissed off but I didn’t really know what else I could do in that situation because I was stuck in this hotel with my friend who was there with a guy and her friend who was also there with a guy ...

There’s a certain level of responsibility that is instilled in you by society that you are supposed to make sure you don’t get sexually harassed, you’re supposed to make sure you don’t get sexually assaulted. You’re supposed to make sure you keep yourself safe and on a certain level that’s true. You know, don’t play on the side of cliff, and don’t light your self on fire accidently. Those are things people should be responsible for. However I don’t believe that when you have repeatedly told someone no, or to keep them off your body or entering your body that you should then be held responsible when they don’t listen. But at the time, it felt like I was responsible for what had happened. We had left with a group of guys that we didn’t know very well. I had voiced concern for the situation on the way there.

I didn’t tell my friend about what had happened, I definitely didn’t mention it to her friend. I actually just sat there in the bed because I didn’t know what else to do. I felt like if I made a big scene and jumped out of the bed and went down to the lobby to wait for everyone to go or woken my friend and said we’re leaving right now that instead of being met with concern and them feeling angry at the guy who basically sexually assaulted me, I felt that instead I would be met with blank stares and unsure looks and that they would just kind of look at me like, “What did you expect, you were sleeping in his bed.”

Tyler didn’t seem to think anything was wrong even though I had told him I was angry at what he had done, even though I had hit him in the chest, he seemed like he was entitled. He seemed like obviously he hadn’t had to keep his hands to himself, obviously I was there for him although I had spent the entire evening turning down every guy that had hit on me including him. Obviously I was there to be felt up on if not to have sex with him. 

When we left, [Jessica and Ashley] were happy with the trip and I didn’t say much. I was actually seeing a guy about that time and I didn’t even tell him until months later and that was really difficult because once again I felt like I was responsible for it as opposed to holding Tyler responsible for what had happened, as I should have.

And I think that is a big issue for a lot of women that go through sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape. They're forced to feel like they’re the ones responsible for what happened. I don’t see much changing until we put the responsibility on those who are committing those actions, not those on the receiving end. Because I don’t think, no matter what situation you are in or what age you are or whether you’re in the upper class or middle class or lower class that you deserve or you’re asking for that treatment. Nobody is asking to be sexually harassed, no one is asking to be sexually assaulted, no one is asking to be raped. That’s why it’s called rape and not sex.

 Image courtesy of nsvrc.org.

Lena's Story

I had gone to a house party at a friend’s place off campus. It was a small party before finals week; one last blow out before serious studying began. We all knew each other. We all had been drinking. There was a guy, Roy, there who I had felt like was an older brother. Whenever anyone needed anything he was the one to call. During the party he had tried to kiss me a couple times, I had a boyfriend at the time so I had told him each time “No I have a boyfriend.” He backed off. I thought that was the end of it. We all kept drinking and playing party games, really typical college party stuff. I ended up being sick. A friend held my hair while I threw up. She even asked me if I wanted her to drive me home. I told her no, I wanted to sober up and drive my own car home. I ended up sitting on the couch in front of the TV with Roy and another guy friend, Eric, to try and sober up. Everything was getting fuzzy and I blacked out.

The next morning I woke up naked on the couch. Roy was there also naked. I realized what had happened. In my mind my first feeling was guilt, I had cheated. I got dressed and looked around the apartment in the garbage cans. Not one of them had a condom or wrapper in them. That made me feel sick, I had never had unprotected sex. I left and drove back to the dorm. I was hung over and scared. On my phone I had several texts from Eric. Damning messages of, “How can you do that? You’re disgusting, you have a boyfriend.” I texted him back, “What was I doing? What was I doing last night I don’t remember!” He didn’t believe me but finally told me I had been making out with Roy on the couch.

I called my boyfriend to tell him I had cheated. I asked him if he wanted to end it. We both had said cheating was the end game when we first started dating. He was mad, but wasn’t willing to talk about it over the phone, he wanted to talk face to face. We talked about it that night. He was the one to first say it was rape. It still wouldn’t go through my head; to me I had cheated even though I had told Roy "no" earlier in the night about the kisses. The next day we decided I'd go to Planned Parenthood to get tested since I didn’t find a condom. They asked questions about what had happened. I was still embarrassed so I lied and told them I hadn’t known who it was. I wish I hadn’t a few months later I found out he did the same thing to another friend.

My results came back positive for chlamydia. I was ashamed but relieved since it was an STD that you can get rid of. They told me I would have to get tested again for HIV because that takes time to show. Those months of waiting were stressful. In those two months my boyfriend went to counseling. He suggested I go too. I tried going to the school counselor. When I went she asked me questions like “how do you feel?” She never said anything about the forms I had filled out stating why I was there. I asked her if she had read what I had put on the forms. She said she skimmed it. After she said that I got up and left saying I’d be back after she had read what I had written. I never went back.

My boyfriend and I broke up. In the end it was something we couldn’t overcome. For months afterwards I still had guilt and blamed myself for what had happened. Now, a couple years later, I’m on my way to having a mentally healthy outlook. I have a new group of friends and a boyfriend who knows about what happened and is more supportive.

 Image courtesy of nsvrc.org.

Emme's Story 

I went to England for two weeks last summer to participate in a volunteer program. I wanted to go because I wanted to help people and learn more about organic farming. But I was really nervous because I was dealing with social anxiety back then, I’m not any more. I was nervous when I went over there that I would shut myself away and not talk to people and not get as much out of the experience as I could.

I met my host family and they were very kind. There were some French girls also staying there and I befriended them. One night we decided to go to the pub. I wasn’t 21 yet but in England you can go to the pub and order alcohol before you're 21 so I was really excited about that. So we all went to the pub. One of the French girls had just broken up with her boyfriend. We saw some really cute guys at the bar and I was dating someone but I wanted to be her wing woman and help her. She was too nervous to talk to the guys so I was like f*** it I’ll go talk to them.

I went and talked to these two guys, one she was interested in and the other was the guy’s friend. We ended up playing pool with them. This dude kept flirting with me but I didn’t want to push him away because I was afraid of not making any friends. He walked me and the French girls home and said we could hang out again and we hung out a couple more times, me and this dude. I found out more about him and we went to a couple of bars. This was always in a group, but then one night we went out alone together. I had some drinks, I got kinda drunk and he started dancing with me. He took me to this park and tried to kiss me. Fortunately I was sober enough that time to say, “No I have a boyfriend. I don’t have these feelings for you.”

While this was going on I was still communicating with my boyfriend back home. I had been emailing him about this guy. I told him he was hitting on me, tried to kiss me, that we danced and I got kind of drunk. I wasn't proud of it but I would never keep anything from him; it never occurred to me to try to hide any of it. He said he didn’t like the guy and to stay away from him. I told him it was fine and that I could handle it.

On my last night he took me to York, we spent the whole day together. He showed me around some places. He was like my tour guide while I was there. I was afraid, I really liked spending time with him because he was nice and I had made a friend. But even though he knew I was in a relationship he still kept flirting with me. I remember asking him, “You never give up do you?” and he was like, “NO!” And I said, “You know I’m with someone.” Which he responded, “Doesn’t mean I can’t try.”

He kept doing it. I stupidly got drunk again. I don’t do that so much any more. He took me back to his place. We had sex, I remember not really having control over my body while it was happening. I remember not really wanting it but not having the energy to push him away. So I figured I would just lie there and get it over with.

Then I felt guilty afterwards and thought maybe it would be better if I can somehow figure out if he cared for me. After this happened, I tried to cuddle with him, tried to delude myself into thinking that maybe he actually cared for me. Maybe this wasn’t a one-night stand type of deal. But he ended up making excuses like, “Oh I have to work tomorrow, sorry.” On my last night in the country I said, “Don’t you want to say bye?” and he repeated, “No I have work tomorrow.” Then he kicked me out of his parents’ house at 2 a.m. I walked back to my hosts family’s house. Luckily it’s a safe village.

I felt disgusting and thought it was my fault that I was stupid enough to let this happen. If I had had more control I wouldn’t have let thiat happen. The door was locked and for a time I thought about, “You know I deserve just to lie on the grass and fall asleep here because I’m such a piece of s***.” But then I got scared and called out to my host family windows. Yelling "Help! Help!" They finally came to the door and I felt like such a b**** because these people had taken me in and I was causing them this trouble and I’m sure they weren’t expecting this. I apologized the next morning and they took me to the train station. Thankfully, they were very kind about it. I didn’t tell them what had happened because I didn’t think they would believe me. The dude who had raped me was a long time family friend of this host family. So they knew him better than they knew me. I figured if I told them anything, they would have turned against me even though I knew they were very kind people. Plus I didn’t want to get them involved; they had done so much for me while I was there and I didn’t want to upset them.

I left and kept blaming myself. I never once blamed him. I was at the airport when I emailed my boyfriend and told him what happened. I told him we had had sex and that it wasn’t rape, because at the time I didn’t think it was rape I thought I had just cheated. My boyfriend was really upset and he called me back. Because I was so deluded that I had cheated he said, “We need to talk face to face. I don’t know if I want to be with you anymore," and I replied, “I totally get it, I’m a piece of s***."

But when I met up with him, he was really emotional and crying asking, “How could you have done this?” And I told him what had happened and after I was done he said, “Honey, you didn’t cheat, that was rape.”

I said, “What? No it wasn’t.”

He said, “No, he took advantage of you. I know if you had been able to control yourself it wouldn’t have happened.”

“No it's my fault. I shouldn’t have gotten that drunk and hung out with him so much.”

“No, he should have still respected you.”

We ended up not breaking up and he didn’t blame me. He just wanted me to be more careful in the future. Since then I haven’t gotten drunk, I’m of age now. Whenever I do go out drinking I go out with him or with a friend who can take care of me because I’m a lightweight so it doesn’t take much to send me over the edge. My boyfriend and I ended up working through it and he was very supportive after he heard the whole story.

I haven’t had any contact with the guy [from England] since. And its made it easy for me to get over it. Because he’s in England and I’m here so there’s no reason for me to talk to him or run into him. It’s been easy to just filter it away. I don’t mind talking about it because I think it’ll help other women. There is a community out there who’s willing to talk about this, so women won’t think they’re the only one and I want to be part of it.  

Need help?

Call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

How does it work?When you call 800.656.HOPE (4673), you’ll be routed to a local RAINN affiliate organization based on the first six digits of your phone number. Cell phone callers have the option to enter the zip code of their current location to more accurately locate the nearest sexual assault service provider.