On Monday, I was assaulted. (If you missed that memo, you can read about it in my previous post. Spoiler alert: I survived).
On Wednesday morning, I tried to call the campus police. I got as far as having the University Information Desk transfer me to Public Safety before I hung up the phone. I couldn’t say the words “I’ve been assaulted.” I could type them into an email or text message, but saying them out loud was so much harder. I wanted to beat myself up for not having the gut, for not having the emotional energy, to say what had happened. Why was I still shaking so badly? Why couldn’t I say the words?
On Monday afternoon, I was assaulted when a minor pulled a knife on me at my job in one of the wealthiest parts of town. It took until Thursday night before I could get up the energy to go to Campus Police and talk to the female campus police officer about what I needed to do. The walk from my dormitory to Campus Police seemed to last a lifetime, and my body shook the entire time.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but there’s no Non-Sexual Assault Awareness Month. There should be. When I went to the public safety office, there were two different sets of pamphlets about sexual assault but nothing about if you experienced non-sexual assault. Google didn’t prove to be very helpful either. It’s time we start becoming aware that non-sexual assault is a real thing, and it, just like sexual assault, leaves a mark on its victims.
Studies show over 60 percent of female assault victims experience PTSD for the first two weeks after being assaulted. That’s not okay. This statistic only gets worse when the assault is sexual. Sexual Assault Awareness Month has taught us how to prevent sexual assault, and, if you’ve received the right information, what to do if you’ve been sexually assaulted. What it doesn’t tell us about is the horrors of non-sexual assault and how to cope after you’ve been assaulted. There’s no checklist entitled “What to do after you’ve been non-sexually assaulted.” I’ve had to learn on my own what to do and how to deal with what I experienced, and let me tell you, it hasn’t been easy. The PTSD and post-assault emotions and feelings you experience once all the adrenaline is finally gone is just as hard, if not harder, than going through the event itself. So this year, let’s be aware of non-sexual assault, and let’s be aware of everything that we have to do and will experience emotionally post-assault.
Maybe you’ve been assaulted before, but maybe you haven’t.
I want you to know that assault is a real thing. It’s not something that just happens outside of the Samford community. It’s not something that happens “out there,” outside where we go every single day. It’s real, very real. Right now, there are dozens of students on campus who have been assaulted in some form or fashion. And yes, it’s personal.
I want you to know that assault victims may not realize what actually just happened to them at first. I didn’t. After the incident, I went about my day as normal. I left work at my usual time, I ate dinner with the same people I do every night and then filmed a project for class. The seriousness of what had went down did not fully hit me until the next day when I was in the University Fellows’ Office asking what I should do about the incident.
I want you to know that there is no clean-cut list entitled “What to do you have been assaulted with a knife” the way there is with sexual assault and rape. I wish there had been. In the past week, I’ve communicated with 10 Samford faculty and staff members – ranging from professors, librarians and Career Development Center (CDC) staff to assistant deans and provosts and campus police – to figure out what to do about the incident. I learned how to write a resignation letter and a legal demands letter. (Being your own lawyer is a hard thing to do) and contacted the CDC to ensure that the family never ended up in the Samford Babysitting Book. Assault is a terrible thing, and almost as terrible is trying to figure out what to do and who to inform and having to recount the story over and over again. You become emotionally numb to the story after a while though.
I want you to know that it isn’t your fault. I asked myself numerous times if there was some red flag I should have seen earlier or if there was something I had done wrong that led to having a knife pulled on me. The answer is simply “no” with no what ifs, ands or buts attached. You are not to blame for another’s actions. They committed a crime. They, not you.
Most importantly, I want you to know that if you are the victim of assault, your Samford family is there for you. The number of friends who have stood beside me, constantly asking me if I was okay and giving me all the hugs a touchy-feely person like me could ever need has been a huge blessing. Professors and staff members have also been there supporting me. One of the law librarians spent at least half-an-hour with me tracking down resources so I could learn how to write a demands letter. (Don’t look in the forms section). I’ve received enough “Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you” messages to last a lifetime. Two professors even gave me their home phone numbers and/or cell phone number incase I needed someone to talk to.
If you ever find a knife being pulled on you or are the victim of some other type of assault, go find your community. They are there to help you. They make the bad times bearable.
“Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine…” – Mary Oliver
(I’m publishing this here, as the Samford Crimson’s Editor-in-Chief did not want to publish it in the Opinions section, as she wanted to end her year as EIC without a bang).