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Tomorrow is my last first day of school EVER.

I get ragged on a bit by the AVFTI board because I am the youngest board member. But today I feel a million years old. In December, I will graduate with a Bachelor’s degree and therefore end my student days and pursue the adventure of real adulthood. Which is terrifying. But awesome.

Working retail during “back to school” has always been interesting, but it’s even more interesting now that I’m selling new college freshmen their laptop. They are beginning the journey I’m ending come Christmas time. Again… it makes me feel so old.

Every day, as new students come in and tell me where they’ve chosen to go to school and what they’ve chosen to study I start to reflect on my own journey through school. I remember the person I was when choosing my laptop. I think of how little I knew, how anxious I was. I think of the journey that came after I picked it out. It was more than the papers I wrote and the places I took that MacBook Pro. It was the person I came to be on the other side of the each school year.

When I started college, I was a year out of an abusive relationship I thought I could never end. I was interested in nonprofit work and activism, but had no formal training and no direction. I had a second nasty breakup that led me through another violent experience. My freshman year was not the escape I imagined it being. It turned out to be a year of falling down and crawling myself out of devastating heartbreaks. My freshman year became a chance to be isolated enough to recognize the trauma I was still recovering from.

I had a great support system. They gave me the gentleness I couldn’t give myself. They directed me to the correct resources. Those resources directed me to A Voice for the Innocent. AVFTI has become so much more to me than something I can do to help others. This organization is integral to the healing I needed at just the right time.

At the time I was confronting issues that had already happened to me, a girl at Ohio University was raped on the street during HallOUween, a huge party that lasts the final week of October. There was a large gathering of students, a large amount of alcohol, and she was pushed against the wall as a man sexually assaulted her in public.

I didn’t find this out in a headline. A girl I graduated with who was just starting at OU posted a video of the assault on her Instagram page. Later, I read a headline that the girl reported she had been sexually assaulted. There were hundreds of people in that street. No one helped her. They videotaped her and made her into a mockery.

No charges were filed in her case because at one point, she smiles at the man. I don’t know if she graduated like I will be. I’m coming out of my story with a cap and gown. Many are not so fortunate. dontacceptrape.org reports that 1 in 5 women, 1 in 16 men will be sexually assaulted in college. The Hunting Ground is a documentary a volunteer studied to show what colleges are doing about it. The answer? Not much.

According to RAINN:

  • People aged 18-24 are at the highest risk for sexual assault
  • 94% of women who are sexually assaulted experience PTSD
  • 33% of women who are sexually assaulted contemplate suicide
  • 38% of people who experience sexual violence report problems at school or work

We have to do better. Even if you’re not in college, make sure your school remains a safe place for victims of rape and sex abuse. Make sure we protect the ones that should be protected. The journey is difficult for those affected.

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