North Texas Daily

Letter: Sexual assault survivors, not victims

Letter: Sexual assault survivors, not victims

April 08
23:31 2015

I am a survivor of a sexual assault. This does not define who I am. A very important part of what does define me is that I am an alumnus of the University of North Texas. I am taking this opportunity to inspire hope in fellow survivors. You don’t have to remain silent. I didn’t, and I refuse to accept silence as a healthy solution. Being heard, believed and talking through what happened, and how it made me feel, has allowed me to continue being a successful person. So did being able to be rest assured that my perpetrator, another UNT student, would be prohibited from contacting me.

Sexual assault. When it happens to a person, some of the first responses that arise are usually sort of a knee-jerk reaction: disgust, anger, distrust and, overwhelmingly, guilt. When you’re a victim of a sexual assault, it’s important to understand what you’re feeling isn’t wrong, immoral or even a result of something that is your fault. Someone who has trespassed against you in such a vile way is the sole, responsible party. We are survivors, not suspects or victims. As a survivor, I wanted someone to believe me when I told them I was violated. I wanted to be heard, not judged, and most importantly, I wanted to know how to move forward.

“Victim” is a term that is used to indicate someone is powerless in any given traumatic situation or circumstance. When it comes to sexual violence and intimate partner violence, “victim” isn’t the word that is used in such cases, because it has the effect of depriving the offended of power. The offender has attempted to deprive the survivor of the power to say no, to be secure in their person and affects. So, together, let us be forever known as survivors and let us deny these trespassers any power over our lives. You are not powerless, you are not a victim and you are certainly not alone.

Every day we pass fellow students, many of whom are unknown to us, unaware of their experiences, their stories, their triumphs. We know little of the power of the students and faculty that stand beside us in line at the bookstore, sit beside us in class or lead us throughout our college career.

UNT is committed to the success of every single survivor of our community. This commitment to the UNT student body has helped me become victorious, countered with the following statistic: approximately 1 in 3 survivors of sexual assault transfer or drop out of their universities. While that stat may seem grim, there’s a lot of hope in it. For every person that drops out or transfers, two continue toward their goal of graduating.

When I chose to speak up, I was referred to the UNT Dean of Students, Maureen McGuinness, who took time out of her busy schedule to listen to me. I cried, I bared it all and I felt vulnerable. In my moment of frailty, Dr. McGuinness told me that she believed me. What a relief that was. I doubted myself, my own experience of the incident – I felt responsible. And for someone to tell me they believed me, it alleviated a lot of my irrational thinking.

After speaking to her about my frustrations and concerns, McGuinness countered all of my doubts with the positive. At UNT, we have one of the best support systems in place for survivors. McGuinness referred me to the Student Conduct Investigations, where I was comforted in knowing they could prevent my perpetrator from contacting me. There was a non-contact order I signed that prevented my perpetrator from making contact with me, or from otherwise intimidating me, and gave harsh penalties for violating the non-contact order, including immediate suspension. I was also given an important referral to the UNT Student Health and Wellness Center counseling service and I was given priority placement with a certified provider. My provider also listened, believed me and provided a judgment-free space, where I could speak about the horrific incident in a safe space.

What I hope that you take away from this is that you don’t have to give up, and you are not alone.

The author of this letter is a 2014 UNT graduate. His identity has been confirmed by the UNT Dean of Students and he has chosen to stay anonymous.

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