Originally, I planned to do a more light-hearted article for this section. However, in light of the recent bravery of many others, I choose to share my story instead.
I met this person in high school. We came from separate middle schools which merged into one high school. He was in most of my classes, so we became friends. Things were fine at first, but he would occasionally say something weird or send me a strange message about my dating preferences, what I thought was attractive, etc. I would shrug it off. It didn’t seem bad at the time. However, things eventually became worse. His messages became more and more explicit. He would ask for nudes, what kind of pornography I watched, my masturbation habits, ratings of people from porn screenshots, positions I thought were good, and he would tell me when and what he would jerk himself off too. I wanted to block him, but he threatened to harm himself or commit suicide if I did. I switched friend groups to try and leave him, but of course he had to follow along. I eventually was brave enough to tell some of the new people I befriended about what was happening, but most shrugged it off. One even said “I didn’t see it, so I’m not going to believe it”.
I had been in situations like this before, in middle school. I was being touched inappropriately repeatedly by another classmate. I reported it to the principal and administration, who did nothing. At work, someone made multiple sexual comments towards me and touched me. I told HR and filed a formal report, who then in turn did nothing.
Even the people who believed me were not too helpful. They openly accepted him in, letting him hang out with us, and he still continued to bother me. He was still in a majority of my classes, even until the end of senior year. So I tried not to worry about it. I took his messages and advances as lightheartedly as I could. Eventually, it was about time to graduate. I was fully committed to UVM, ready to leave what had happened behind me.
But then I got a phone call.
He said he was feeling depressed and wanted to talk to someone. I obliged, as I knew how bad mental illness and depression could get, and ended up meeting him at his house. We talked for a short time before there was a hand on my thigh that I did not want there. He then asked me to kiss him. I didn’t want to, but he wouldn’t let go of my leg. When I gave him what he wanted, he kept asking for more, which eventually led to him getting on top of me and raping me after telling him no several times. I tried to push him off, but I couldn’t succeed.
When he was done, there was blood running down my legs. Everything hurt. I asked for my clothes back, but he said no, and watched me sit naked, mortified, for several minutes. After what felt like forever, he grabbed me a paper towel. I wiped off my thighs, put clothes on, and went home.
It took me months to process what had happened, and when I did, I broke down. I couldn’t move for days. I felt so overwhelmingly ashamed. I didn’t tell people for a while after that either, and still to this day I haven’t shared my story with many. While I have been recovering and making improvements, the event has taken a toll on my life. I still have some nightmares and lingering stress. The event puts great strain on dating, relationships, my self image, my sleep, my health, and even something as simple as making friendships.
I am not alone in my experience.
Too many others have similar stories of assault or rape without justice or support, especially at the University of Vermont. Too many survivors have been ignored and harassed by staff. Too many rapists and assaulters have been left without consequences.
UVM has immensely failed in handling sexual misconduct and it’s time for a change.