In November of this past year, I was raped. It happened at Georgetown. The perpetrator was a Georgetown student. Rape happens here. With all the individual experiences shared on campus media recently, no one can deny that fact.
But I don’t blame Georgetown for what happened to me. In fact, Georgetown saved me. While I am so grateful to those who have shared their stories, I think it is time to hear a different perspective.
The morning after I was raped, I told my resident assistant. At the time, I refused to call what had happened to me sexual assault. I was in denial, trying to think of anything I could to excuse my perpetrator’s behavior. When I spoke with my RA, I never used the words “rape” or “sexual assault.” I just told her that something had happened and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. As I sat on her bed and recounted the events of the previous night, she grabbed my hand and said that I needed to talk to Jen Schweer immediately. I resisted a little at first — “I’ll be fine,” I told her. “I can handle this.” But she insisted that it couldn’t hurt, and I acquiesced.
That morning, I emailed Jen Schweer. She responded within minutes, assuring me that her office was there to assist me in any way that I needed. Jen connected me with one of her colleagues, Bridget Sherry, who was available to meet with me the next day, since Jen was not available.
I went to Health Education Services the next morning before class and sat down with Bridget. She was kind, interested and never pushed me to label what had happened to me. She asked if I wanted to talk to the Georgetown University Police Department or Counseling and Psychiatric Services. I declined, but she assured me that those resources were available should I decide to take advantage of them. One hour and many damp tissues later, she gave me a hug and a free pregnancy test. She told me to come back if I ever needed anything and emailed me two days later to make sure I was feeling all right.
I thought a lot about what happened to me. I thought about how I didn’t deserve it, how no one deserves it. I wondered how it was going to change me. I wanted to just pretend that it didn’t happen, but that was unrealistic. It did happen, but I got to decide what happened next.
I wrote about my experience on survivor story forums. I told my closest friends and continued to confide in my RA. I began to see it as an opportunity to overcome something bigger than myself. And then, I came to terms with it. I began to refer to my experience first as sexual assault, and then as rape. I began to speak more openly about it to family, friends and acquaintances within the Georgetown community. I began to heal.
I never expected what would come next: an endless outpouring of love and support, from both the university and my fellow Hoyas. I never knew how many people loved me and how deeply, and I never knew how much compassion any one stranger could show another. More than anything, this experience has taught me what it means to be supported and cared for. The night I was raped, my friends picked me up and carried me home. Every single day after that, this entire community has carried me as well. Georgetown has lifted my spirits on the worst of days and taught me that there is nothing we cannot overcome together. My fellow Hoyas are truly men and women for others, and I am eternally grateful for what they have done for me. I am eternally grateful for what Georgetown has done for me. And I am eternally grateful to be a part of a community that is so unconditionally loving and supportive.
I am not saying that this university is perfect, because it isn’t. I am not saying that everyone has the same positive experience with the university that I did, because that’s not true either.
I think that we can, and should, do better, and I have a world of respect for the people leading that charge. But as both a survivor and a Hoya, I do not believe the characterizations of this community as apathetic and passive towards the issue of sexual assault. I do not believe that Georgetown is a place where the best interests of survivors are actively ignored and where the university actively carries out injustices against its students.
I will never forget the amazing way this place took care of me when I needed it most. This community of kind and compassionate Hoyas, students and staff, friends and strangers alike taught me the most beautiful lesson about love that I could have ever learned. For that, I am grateful.
The author’s name has been withheld to protect identity.