Going to university is supposed to be this fireworks-needed monument of your life. The movies play out all of the new experiences, meeting the love of your life, making forever friends, everything is in this exciting hue. Those were my expectations of going to university. Those thoughts lasted about a week, until I met the man who would change my entire life over the course of eight months. The act itself lasted 45 seconds, but the continuous torture and verbal assault never stopped. Who I was when I first stepped foot on campus, is someone I will never know again.

Just Like the Movies

I had spent months communicating with this man, over text messages or Facebook. We were maybe only a few months apart in age, and had a lot of the same interests. On the outside, everything seemed perfect. I was so excited to start my new life and potentially have a boyfriend waiting for me when I arrived at school. My life was going to be the ultimate movie scene. I got to campus relatively early, so I spent my first few hours unpacking instead of making friends because I figured everyone would be busy with goodbyes or sorting through their belongings. I made sure to send a quick text to this man, to let him know that I found my room, and we could meet up soon. My heart was racing. I was genuinely excited to meet him, and see if the chemistry we felt over technology was the same in real life.

Sexual Assault Changes Everything

It was a warm September evening when I found myself laying naked on the floor of my dorm room, sobbing. I wasn’t crying because I was sexually assaulted, I was crying because I allowed myself to be so naïve. How did I not know that the man I was speaking to was going to take advantage of me? Instead of breaking down my walls and seeing the inner, beautiful me, he just ripped my clothes off and wanted inside of me, physically.  I had put on my favourite movie for us to watch, as I sat beside him on my twin-sized dorm bed. I remember telling him all my favourite things about this movie, and I’m sure he could see the light in my eyes when I spoke about things that made me happy. He saw that light, and with strong intention, wanted to burn it out.

I spent a lot of time dwelling on my own shortcomings in the situation. I told myself that I was dumb and irresponsible and that’s why I got raped. I allowed a stranger into my room. I gave him the opportunity. The darkness of these thoughts enveloped me.

They swallowed who I am, and spit up this twisted, sad individual that I had never met before.

The assault did not stop there either. This man followed me around campus, often pointing and laughing. His friends used to scream awful names at me when they saw me walking around. The harassment caused me to lose a boyfriend I had met shortly after the incident. The man’s twisted version of what happened got back to my boyfriend at the time, and he broke up with me, citing that he could never be with someone who was so promiscuous. Can you imagine? Dumped because I got raped…

Learning to Forgive

I’ll never know the story the man had spread about me regarding that night, and to be honest, it doesn’t cross my mind all that often. It took a lot of personal healing and growth to overcome the intrusive thoughts. It’s been many years since this incident, and only in the last few years have I had the courage to tell myself that it wasn’t my fault. I read a lot of survivor stories, many of which were empowering to me, to begin my journey of forgiving myself. I did a lot of research, and focused myself on how much I grew as a person because of it. Although it is a painful memory, and I have never shared my story, it has finally shut the book of this story, and given me the courage to start my life as a survivor. I would not call myself a victim, because that implies that I was in a situation that I was helpless in. I may not have been able to save myself then, but I am stronger than ever before because I learned and grew from what happened to me. I did not put myself in a situation to get raped, because there are no such situations that exist. When I have children, I will tell them my story, and teach them that they are the heroes of their own stories. I cannot control how others act, but I can control how I react, and live with their decisions.

Written by Savannah Schwieger