Title IX reform: Will future sexual assault survivors get the respect I did?

Editor’s Note: The following content may be triggering for some readers. It is an account of a young woman who survived sexual assault on campus. She has asked to go only by her middle name for safety concerns.

Illustration by Allison Verjinski.

I can only remember flashes.

There were street lights above and the cold cement beneath my body, my mind disoriented, my throat dry and head throbbing. After that, I remember laying naked on a couch, scared and confused, not knowing where I was or what happened. The final thing my mind has allowed me to remember is standing alone in Monroe Park surrounded by darkness.

I returned to my dorm room at Brandt Hall, still unsure of what had happened — all I knew was I needed a shower and sleep to stop the nausea. I awoke at four in the morning gripped by a panic attack. My roommate tried to calm me down and started asking me what had happened.

Throughout the day we began to piece together the horror I had survived.

Then there was the hospital.

I went to the emergency room that evening and had a rape kit performed. Between the eight vials of blood, the shots and swabs, and of course the pelvic exam revealing vaginal tearing, the full realization of what I had gone through came to light.

Illustration by Julie Wang.

The blessing during the exam was the forensic nurse who comforted me and called a wellness advocate to sit with me and help me remain calm. The VCU Police came and questioned me to try and figure out where the assault occurred and alerted the school.

As a freshman who wasn’t from the area, I wasn’t sure of my surroundings. I told them about the party, and how I had gotten there and who I went with. I told them how I couldn’t find my friends and asked an acquaintance to walk me home, then after that there was a lapse in memory, and the flashbacks started. Later, the police pieced together the specific block in Uptown where the assault took place and informed me.  

The VCU Title IX coordinator reached out to me and shared the available resources our school offered and ensured me not to worry about starting classes right away. I started going to The Well and University Counseling Services a few days later.

If it hadn’t been for The Well I don’t think my life would’ve normalized as quickly as it did. They served as a liaison between myself and the detective on my case.

The people in my life who know about my assault continue to ask me why I didn’t press charges.

To be frank, I just wanted it all to be over with as soon as possible. I wanted to start classes, meet new people and have my life return to normal once again.

However, with the Title IX reform I am concerned as to what will happen if I do ever decide to reopen my case and pursue charges.

I’m at such a good place now a year after my assault that I don’t want to be stuck in a limitless loop of accusations and appeals by my attacker.

As for future victims and recent survivors, I can only hope they will have confidence in the resources our school provides. As for receiving justice for the unforgettable, traumatizing events that happened to them, I’m not so sure anymore.

Nicole Special to The Commonwealth Times

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