Opinion: Sexual assault survivor calls for full-time Title IX coordinator at UP
Editor’s note: The Beacon is taking a rare step in publishing an anonymous opinion. We are publishing anonymously at the request of the author, who is a female student at the University of Portland. We believe that publishing the story anonymously is a way to deliver an important perspective to our readers, while protecting the identity of a sexual assault survivor. If you have any questions about our opinion submission policy, we invite you to email the editor-in-chief at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am a woman and student on the University of Portland campus. You might know my face and you might know my work. I am the kind of person to unabashedly attach my name to my opinions. This one, however, is a little different.
Two weeks before I graduated high school, I went to my first party ever. I had my first drink and, for the first time in my life, I decided to let loose a bit. I had worked for four years to have a good GPA, to be the best at the sports I played and, most importantly, to play by the rules. I did my homework, I excelled athletically and I was a valuable member of my high school community. I never once got detention. I never once was in any kind of trouble.
I was, by all standards, a pretty good kid. I carried myself with an integrity and work ethic I was tremendously proud of. And because of that, I thought one night of fun wouldn’t do any harm. I was wrong.
I went to this party, had my first drinks and I was sexually assaulted and nearly raped.
You see, I didn’t know anything about alcohol. I didn’t know how it would affect me. And so I drank too much. I blacked out. And once I blacked out, I was vulnerable. Everyone at the party knew it. But someone tried to hit on me. He hit on me and I let him because I’d never had a guy hit on me before. We started making out. It was my first kiss. And he tried to turn it into something more.
He took me into one of the bedrooms and started undressing me. Before he could get too far, my best friend burst into the room and had to physically pull him off me. She saved me.
I don’t remember most of this. And when I woke up in the morning, I didn’t think that was a problem. I thought that’s what people did. But on the drive home, as the hours passed, I knew what happened to me was wrong.
I felt violated. I was scared. And I couldn’t talk about it. I didn’t know how to describe what had happened to me and I certainly didn’t know what I could do about it. So, I said nothing. To anyone. To this day, only a handful of people know I have this hurt. I feared reporting and I feared accidentally telling a mandated reporter.
That’s part of the reason why I don’t feel safe putting my name on this.
This incident happened four months before I arrived on The Bluff. I share it because I have come to realize that if this same event had happened four months later, I would have been shunned by the institution I had just arrived at. The school I love, the school I work for, the school I thought loved me, would have silenced me and would have told me it was my fault. That much is clear to me.
In the wake of the Institutional Betrayal and Building Institutional Courage events this past week and the ongoing controversy surrounding Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court, I am formally calling on the University of Portland to do better.
There are so many women like me: Strong, empowered and caring women who have been sexually assaulted. And we don’t report because one of the only things worse than disclosing the pain we’ve been through is having that pain ignored and hearing from the people that are supposed to listen to you that, in so many words, they don’t care.
This administration has silenced survivors on our campus. It has conduct processes that betray them, that don’t respond to them, that don’t give them justice or the closure they deserve — only more hurt.
Alcohol is not a “yes.” Being at a party is not a “yes.” If this university, this institution that we love, cannot provide adequate resources or processes to survivors of violence, sexual assault, or stalking, that is a moral stain they will never be able to clean.
Listen to the leaders on this campus and hear their recommendations. Listen to Students Against Sexual Assault and get a confidential resource on campus immediately. Hire a full-time, trained Title IX coordinator. You must do better for your students. You must do it now.