**Trigger Warning: “Rape” and “Sexual Assualt”
I had a friend who was assaulted by someone at our college. She went into the hookup willingly, but during so the man became aggressive. He did some terribly uncomfortable, almost unspeakable things to her without asking for consent. He did not even bother to look at her. In his eyes, she was not there. This is what she told me and this is what I believe.
My friend left the room shaken and scared. We immediately went to the campus police and handled everything as we were told. We believed the authorities would take care of it. She spent an overnight in a hospital and received an examination done by SART.
As many of you have probably experienced, the campus police did not handle it. The majority of campus knew what had happened and rumors and misinformation spread like wildfire. The case went to trial and in the waiting room, it was him vs her. His friends sneered at us while huddled in a group. We sat nearby, unable to eat or speak.
Just like they were defending their friend, I was defending mine. And god damn I would do it to the day I die. Though I believed my friend was telling the truth, there were a lot of people telling me I was wrong. I felt pressure from all sides. There were only two people in that bedroom and witnesses seemed irrelevant.
The jury ruled in her favor. It was then that the real heyday began. Not only did she get harassed by everyone she knew, but her friends dropped like flies. One of her closest friends believed the truth was not being told. I was shocked. I cannot blame her for speaking out, but I did not understand why she even spoke as a witness.
After they found him guilty, we went to retrial. The school let us know four days in advance that a retrial was taking place. Three of her other witnesses had ditched her. They would not speak again. I had family obligations and could not make the retrial. But, the school had taped our testimonies and would read them at the second trial.
He was found guilty, again. However, his well-paid lawyer argued that the tapes were not credible and had to be thrown out as evidence. We would not go to a third trial. He was found guilty, but would not be punished. When my friend went to go complain, a Dean told her that she should be happy that at least he was graduating soon. What does graduation had to do with receiving justice? What does a presence mean when someone is walking away scot-free?
I ache for my friend that she went through this. I ache when other women are not taken seriously. I ache when I think back to that experience and I am furious at my school for handling something so poorly. I am furious that I stayed at that school. I wanted to damn all those people to hell.
The decision was out of our control and we moved on. The girl and I went our separate ways our sophomore year and I tried to move past the damage that I took on as my own. I threw myself fully into helping her and supporting her but did not do anything to protect myself. I was lost in the middle of it.
When a girl comes forward, she is the one first examined as doing wrong. When Bill O’Reily was removed from his job, I shouted with joy because someone was finally being punished. The crime would not go without retribution. Rapists and assaulters will start to be afraid. They better be.
Sometimes, a guilty verdict is not enough. Sometimes, a rapist receives a cap and gown. Most rape and assault does not occur by strangers, but by someone we know. Someone we trust. Someone we encounter on a regular basis. Someone we would not call deranged or hurtful or demonic. Someone like us.
She was not brutally raped by a group in the night. But she was assaulted by a fellow student. He was not confronted nor able to reconcile with what he had done. Instead, he received his cap and gown and moved on. She was not able to. And I felt the weight of all that had been done wrong.