Last week, I brought you the story Kristen: of one of our volunteers on the national committee. The national committee is full of wonderful volunteers who do incredible work. Another shining star on the volunteer team is Jacqui. Jacqui is a graduate of Salem State University, a graduate student at Merrimack College, and has been a volunteer with AVFTI for 3 years.
When Jacqui was 18, she went camping with some friends for the weekend. She had recently broken up with her boyfriend and was ready to have fun in the outdoors with friends. Once a friend’s coworker came to join, things didn’t go as well as originally hoped. “He started harassing me. He was calling me names. He then kissed me. I was drunk, and thought ‘okay well he is clearly into me.’ Then he took my pillow and blanket and told me I did not deserve them. He babbled on about a bunch of things that he somehow related to me not deserving comfort.”
They kissed for a while, but after Jacqui tried to get up and leave for a second things went very wrong. “He pulled me on top of him and put his hands down my pants. He told his friend to finger me while he made out with me. Luckily, his friend said no. I eventually was able to find my phone to use as a flashlight, and barefoot stumbled back to my friend’s site.”
Once her friends knew what happened, they immediately intervened. They split up, some confronting her attacker and some staying with her.
Jacqui said when she initially was assaulted, she didn’t feel a whole lot of pain. The business of moving, college, and work had her bouncing from one place to the next with little time for reflection. It wasn’t until later she had time to reflect on what had happened.
Though she’d visited that campground for years, it took Jacqui a long time to return to the place of her assault. She returned to the campground itself, but she returned to the exact spot of her assault four years later. “The first time, I never paid attention to where I was. When I went back the second time, I really paid more attention to where I was.”
“It made me really sick to my stomach. It made me feel really upset, like I was violated again,” she said. “I had this sense of awareness of what happened to me. I often think that maybe I wasn’t really assaulted and maybe I am being dramatic, but then I recall the facts of that night, and I know if nyone else was telling me the story, I would say ‘no, you were assaulted.'”
Now, she stands as a proud English as a second language graduate student. Before leaving Salem State, she stood as the president of Campus Educators for Sexual Assault. She sits on a national committee for AVFTI and has volunteered at huge outreach events lie Warped Tour. “I think this was my catalyst. I’ve always wanted to make a difference. I’ve always had that advocacy bug inside of me, but this pushed me forward. But best of all, people know I am an advocate. People know that they can come to me and talk about this. That is the best part of this all.”
Jacqui plans to return to the campground again, despite the memories it brought up. “ I spent countless summers there, and I have so many memories. I will not let that take the joy away from me. It is kind of my way of standing up.”
To her, standing up is an important factor in confronting her sexual assault. “Going back isn’t the easiest. My place is a small section in a big location. Others do not have that luxury. But I do recommend returning. It helps you to take back what was taken from you. It is saying ‘No! I will not let this control anymore of my life.'”
For more information on how to be a volunteer like Jacqui, click here.