March 11th, 2018 is a day I’ll never forget. It was the day I felt like my life ended. This was the day I was sexually assaulted.
A few summers back, I took up running as a hobby. Crazy, right? Running had somehow turned into a way to clear my head. Being outside and seeing puppies and children was all part of what made running so enjoyable for me. It forced me to see the most beautiful parts of the world: nature and humanity. Part of what attracted me to Winona State were the running paths along the beautiful Lake Winona. As a Winona State student, I ran these paths all the time. It quickly became my favorite place to run in Winona.
March 11 was a quiet Sunday. The weather was perfect for running. It was a little cold, yet sunny. It was the Sunday after spring break and I needed to clear my head. I figured this was the perfect opportunity to practice some mindfulness as my family spent spring break mourning the death of our grandfather. So, that afternoon I decided to go for a run. I geared up in my cropped, black leggings and a baggy, old sweater and headed out. To conclude my run that day, I stopped around mile 3 at Lake Winona; it’s where my route always ends. That alone probably made me predictable. I was about a quarter of the way around the lake when I noticed something unsettling. There was guy who was skinny and a good foot taller than me. He was a stranger to me. He looked like your average runner. He was running with me for a good 3 minutes before I was pulled to the ground by my long, silky ponytail. Minutes later, I was pulled to a rusty, silver car. At this point, I was fighting for my life. I was cut, bruised and damaged during this event. At this time, this is all I will explain as the details of the rape have no importance in my story and could be triggering for other survivors of sexual assault.
The police found out shortly after I thought I saw the perpetrator on campus. At the time, I was a Criminal Justice major with aspirations to be a police officer after college. These were people that I looked up to as kid. I grew up in a city where community policing was heavily enforced. Although this is a seemingly great quality for a police force to have, it left me with a false sense of what policing “really is”. I am not, by any means, spreading hate about police officers. In fact, my DARE officer from 5th grade is someone I continue to look up to. He is still active in White Bear Lake and is someone I highly respect. Thank you, Sergeant Vette, for being such a kind person and for being a constant role model.
When I reported it to the police, I was asked to describe the events of what happened to me in extreme detail. I was taped by an audio recorder and had pictures of my scarred body taken. I had also brought my best college friend, Allie, with me for moral support. It turns out that the officer had some questions to ask her, too. Questions like “How is Taylor’s home life?” or “Do you believe what happened to her was true?” I was shocked when Allie told me the questions that the officer asked her. A week later, I received a call from an investigator asking me to come in for a meeting. I was so excited that something was being done.
I walked into the police station for my second meeting and was unkindly greeted by a woman who was the investigator for my case. They asked me about my home life, the recent passing of my grandpa, and about the stressors I experience on a day-to-day basis. I couldn’t help but ask “Why exactly am I here?” They responded by saying “Well, we just want to make sure that there aren’t any outside factors that could contribute to you fabricating an allegation like this. We want to make sure what you reported ACTUALLY happened.” I was shocked yet again by what I was being accused of. I responded with: “Not that this matters, but I’m a Criminal Justice major. I know the consequences of falsely reporting a crime and I would never, in a million years, even think to fabricate a story like this.” The other officer in the room responded,“We’ve known a lot of Criminal Justice majors do a lot worse than this.” Thirty more minutes of this went on and on. I was then informed that “nothing like this has ever happened in Winona” or that “things like this just don’t happen here.” Those words left me empty, hopeless, and at a loss. They called me weeks later and told me that there was no evidence of my assault and that they were closing my case. Thank you, Winona police, for nothing.
When all of this was going on, it kind of felt like the world was against me. When I find myself thinking that way, I remember all the people who were there for me. Thank you to everyone who has helped and supported me throughout this journey (you know who you are). Whether you were my best friend in high school or college, one of my family members, the pastor from the LCC, the Assistant Hall Director in Sheehan, my supervisor in Security, or the Winona EMS, thank you for all that you’ve done. Seriously, thank you.
So, you might be wondering: “Why are you sharing such intimate details of your story?” The answer is unfortunately quite simple. Sexual assault is something that happens far too often. It is a frequently underreported crime and rightfully so. A feeling that many survivors face is the fear of not being believed. The fear that the people who are supposed to help you the most will treat you like a criminal. This is exactly what happened to me. I was accused of lying or having a psychological disorder that would cause me to lie. This is big reason as to why survivors don’t speak out This is no way to treat someone, especially after experiencing a traumatic event.
If you have been keeping up-to-date on recent events, you would know Dr. Christine Blasey Ford presented a statement about her personal experience of sexual assault to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Only her perpetrator is Brett Kavanaugh: a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. I have listened to many hours of opening statements from both Ford and Kavanaugh, and I am disappointed at how Kavanaugh has carried himself throughout his statements. He never failed to make the sexual assault allegations into a political issue. When will we realize that this is a people issue and not a political issue? I was also discouraged at how Kavanaugh consistently avoided answering questions that the state senators were asking him. It was clear to me who was calm and collected, and who could not get through ten minutes without becoming incoherent.
I would like to also acknowledge how powerful and credible of a woman Dr. Ford has been throughout this process. While watching the hearing unfold, I have seen the bravery and willingness of Dr. Ford. I have heard her statements and have absolutely no reason to not believe her. Dr. Ford has put herself in the public eye and has faced extreme scrutiny during the last few months. In her opening statement, she explained how she has received death threats, calls, and emails to recant her sexual assault allegation. She has been forced out of her home and has had her professional email hacked. Her strength and perseverance throughout the hearing has been inspirational. She has also proven to the world how wickedly smart and established she is. This is not surprising, considering her educational background and experience as a Professor of Psychology and a Research Psychologist at Stanford University, School of Medicine. I’d like to say thank you, Dr. Ford, for your courage to stand up for what’s right. Thank you for being a role model for women all over the world. Lastly, thank you for being a fearless, badass woman. I hear you, I see you, and I believe you.
So, what can we do to shed light on sexual assault? First, we need to start talking about it. Sexual assault is not a taboo topic and it needs to be discussed with ALL ages (when appropriate to do so). It is not something that we should be afraid of talking about. Sexual assault is also a people issue, not a political issue. We, as educated citizens, need to work to end rape culture and educate people on what we can do to help survivors. This is why I have spoken out about my story. I will be not silenced any longer. It’s time to stop asking “What were you wearing?” and start asking “What can I do to help you?”
To learn more about how to raise awareness about sexual assault on college campuses, I have listed the link to the campaign and initiative: It’s On Us. I have also listed several resources after the article in case you, or anyone you know, may have been sexually assaulted. Most importantly, if you get one thing out of reading this today, it would be to believe survivors and take a moment to listen to people’s stories. The more we listen, the more educated we can become. Shout out to my awesome brother for not only being an amazing activist, son, husband and brother, but also for teaching me about It’s On Us. See everyone, there are great men out there.
“Sexual assault victims should be able to decide for themselves when and whether their private experience is made public”.
It’s On Us Initiative:
Resources for sexual assault: