Not My Fault: Surviving Sexual Assault

Author’s note: I would like to thank the beautiful and brave woman who has chosen to share such a difficult story. This woman is a friend of many on this campus, and one of many other women who have experienced sexual assault. When we read statistics like, “1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime," we have to understand that these are not just numbers, but facts that hit closer to home than most of us initially assume. I hope this article will bring a sense of solidarity among survivors. They deserve to know they are not alone. 

I had gone to Isla Vista on the fourth of July to visit a friend. I was only seventeen, and it was the summer before senior year of high school. When I got there, we went to a party. Throughout the night I was smoking and drinking a bit, but I didn’t have any more than my usual limit. It was enough to make me tipsy, yet still remain in control.

I was mostly hanging out with friends, while also introducing myself to new faces. That’s when I met Mark*. He told me he went to the local community college and that he was from Indiana, just like my family.  After a few minutes of talking, the conversation ended and we parted ways.

I went to find my friends, who were in a room smoking with people, so I hung out with them there for a bit. After a while, I got up to go to the bathroom.

I remember turning around when I entered the bathroom and seeing Mark standing right behind me. He started to kiss me. I pushed him away, and said no. I just wasn’t into it, but he was persistent. I made up excuses like “Oh, I don’t want my dad to find out;" anything to possibly help me out of the situation. I pushed him away once more, and suddenly he started to get more forceful.

I got scared. I didn’t want him to hurt me more than he was already. I stopped resisting out of fear, and then it just happened.

When it was all done, he left while I remained in the bathroom trying to collect myself. I desperately went looking for my friend Tim*, and when I finally found him, a wave of emotions had come over me and I had burst into tears. I told him everything and he immediately went into dad-mode. He asked me if I was okay, if I was bleeding, or if I needed to go see a doctor. He did what any good friend could have done in that situation to help me.

Tim and my other friends eventually left the party to go find Mark. They were gone for the rest of the night searching for him. I stayed in the apartment. A few very sweet girls were comforting me as much as they could given their drunken states. They told me things like “screw him!” and “he’s trash!" Although I knew they were trying to help me feel better, it didn’t actually help that much because they just didn’t understand and I felt alone.

Eventually, my friends got back, but not with good news. They couldn’t find Mark. He was gone.

It was 3 AM, and I sat there not knowing what to do. I finally had come to the decision to call my parents, who didn’t know that I snuck up to Isla Vista for the night. I had to call them from my friend’s phone since Mark apparently stole mine. I had my phone with me when I went into the bathroom earlier that night, but didn’t have it when I left the bathroom after the assault.

They didn’t pick up the phone, so I just left them a message. My parents called me back at 6 AM. I told them I needed them to come get me and though I didn't directly say why, they had already guessed the reason.

When they arrived to pick me up, we went to the police station to file a report and then went to a rape crisis center, where they performed a series of tests on me. They took some swabs, gave me some shots, and handed me some pills that I believe prevented me from getting any STDs. They asked me some personal questions that I didn’t feel ready to answer yet, but I answered them to the best of my ability.

When I got home, I slept for two days. The following year became a difficult one for me as I struggled to deal with what happened. I became socially withdrawn; all of the friends that were originally there for me were not my friends by the end of the year. I had stopped putting in the effort to stay in touch.

The assault changed me as a person in many different ways. For example, I was no longer able to have intimate sex with people. I just couldn’t associate sex with intimacy. Because of that, I started to sleep around for a while.  I also started to feel uncomfortable around men I didn’t know. This uneasiness still persists, but I handle it a lot better now.

I went to therapy a few times, but I refused to talk about the rape, so I just stopped going. I refused to talk about it for a whole year afterwards. Today, I am evidently more comfortable with discussing the subject. I found that once I started to speak up about it, I had more people open up to me about their experiences. They made me realize that a lot of other people have gone through it too.

I learned that I am not alone, and none of it was my fault.

* Names have been changed. 

For more information or confidential resources related to surviving sexual assault, including crisis intervention, visit http://care.ucdavis.edu.