Last April, I awoke naked and hurting. I shivered to the cold hands of my significant other embedded in my skin, as he laid there sexually assaulting me. Thrusting him away from my limp body, I sat sobbing and screaming. He left and slammed the door, only to return with a crying façade of apologies and remorse. Too frightened to make him leave, he slept in my room, as I laid in the fetal position, emotionally and physically in pain. The next day, a faint ray of disillusionment must have touched my skin as my boyfriend convinced me to forgive him and forget about the horrifying event the night before. “It’s not that big of a deal”, “I was drunk, too”, and “Courtney, you are being ridiculous”, all sprung from his deceitful mouth, and, I, like many others, joined the cycle of relationship abuse.
It was not until the end of June that I stopped speaking to him. Maybe I had become preoccupied with my job, or my parents’ likely divorce, or my uncle’s suicide. Most importantly, I became emotionally detached from him and realized the relationship was merely full of verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse. A faint light of clarity finally shined into my periphery that made me remember a belief I had so often neglected: revolution.
Revolutions exist often internally. I spent weeks and months grieving, angry, frustrated, and, most of all, disappointed. How could I have stayed or talked to him for such a long time after he assaulted me? This is a common regret and question I hear from panicked callers on the Victims of Violence hotline I man 50 hours a month. Therefore, I was even more disappointed in myself as I had heard dozens of women in the same predicament and wondered why she doesn’t just leave. In visits to my therapist at Colgate, I would scream in profanities at the sound of his name. I would lock my door at night, but would lie awake for hours, praying to God he wouldn’t come attack me. I would tell my therapist that no one would ever want to date me as I was scarred, and that I would be labeled as one of those idiots who just couldn’t leave by the general population. However, a revolution was brewing within me, as I finally was able to forgive myself for staying with him after he assaulted me and to start healing from the scarring incident. I did absolutely nothing wrong in this whole situation, but I needed that internal voice to remind me that I am human—and that hindsight is unfortunately 20/20.
After realizing that angry yells would only provide temporary relief, and that I was worth a hell of a lot more than I had given myself credit for, I approached my college’s administration. One of the options I was given was to do nothing. How could the Dean give me the option of doing nothing when this young man on campus already had three reports against him for physical and sexual assault from three different individuals? How could he march around campus, unpunished, committing crimes, and the administration knowing about it? I was infuriated and I still am. The revolution has overflowed its cup and I wasn’t going to lay limp again.
I got a restraining order against him—a small victory. I will fight until the campus policy is changed. I will fight until people start realizing that sexual assault on college campuses is indeed real. I will fight until I can finally sleep at night, peacefully. And I will fight until every person I encounter sees the pure courage, not idiocy, of me and these women.
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