***TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains material that could be triggering for some individuals.***
This guest post was written by Summer Alyxandra, the founder and author of SummerAlyxandra.com in partnership with YWAM North Cascades. Her heart is to endure with, empower, and embrace those who have been victim to sexual assault.
I was used to living the college life, going out Thursday nights through Sunday mornings. It’s what all my friends did. I would go to bars, clubs, and house parties.
Then, in the second semester of my sophomore year, everything changed. I went out to a party with a group of my friends at a local dive bar. Even before we arrived, I had been drinking and by the end of the night, I was completely wasted. In all the chaos, I was separated from my group.
At the party, I ran into a senior I knew from school and his housemates. Somehow, I ended up in a car with them. All I remember is music playing and two of the men sitting on either side of me while a third one was driving. I stumbled into their house in a drunken haze.
I woke up the next morning to someone singing in the shower. It was all so surreal. One of the men walked into the room and started getting dressed. He told me I could stay in bed for as long as I wanted.
I sat up and realized I wasn’t wearing any pants, just my shirt, underwear, and socks. My shoes and phone were missing, too. I didn’t know where any of my stuff was. I got out of bed to get my pants, shoes, and phone, and found them all in different rooms, sprawled out all over the house.
I flashed back to the night before and remembered that I saw one of them raping me while another one put himself in my mouth, the other sat at the back corner of the bed watching. Then I blacked out again.
The next memory flashed into my mind of them arguing about where they would put me, thinking I was unconscious. I remember becoming aware of the pain my body had endured. They decided to move me to another room in an effort to protect themselves. As the memories rushed into my mind, all I could think about was escaping. I grabbed my things and bolted out of the front door.
One of the men quickly realized I had made it out the front door. He ran after me as I started walking back toward my campus, which wasn’t far away. He caught up to me and sparked up a casual conversation, trying to make it all seem normal. The kind of questions he asked me confirmed the sinister nature of what had happened.
“We were wondering if you were on birth control?… We were going to ask you last night but didn’t want to make you mad…”
I thought to myself, “We… he just said WE.” I still could barely get one foot in front of the other. I couldn’t wrap my mind around what was happening. Later on, he told me that all three of them “had sex” with me while I was unconscious. He made it sound like a casual and normal part of the college experience.
He told me that all three of them “had sex” with me while I was unconscious.
I went back to my dorm room and saw my roommates. That’s when I broke down.
I started weeping and told them everything that had happened. When they asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital or report the incident to police, all I could think was, “I put myself in this situation. It was my fault, so why humiliate myself even more?” I just wanted to get in the shower and wash it all away.
After some time, once the initial shock had passed, I decided to report what happened and do anything I could to see that these men were held accountable. I went to the police but without evidence, they dismissed my case immediately. It felt like they, too, were saying it was my fault.
I went to the university leadership and told them everything that had happened, but they dismissed my story as well. To this day, I believe they were ultimately focused on protecting themselves. Punishing three senior Division 1 athletes, one of whom was the official International Ambassador for the school, couldn’t be good for their optics.
The one beacon of hope came in the form of the Office of Victims Assistance on my campus, which provided an advocate to help me through the process. Within a few days of being assaulted, I was connected with a therapist who has since walked me through the physical, emotional, and spiritual healing process. I cannot emphasize enough how important this has been for me. She made me feel heard when I felt voiceless and helped me start to rediscover my true identity rather than remaining trapped in my pain.
Eventually, I realized I would need to get away from my campus in order to fully let go of the emotional turmoil I was carrying.
My Christian faith was a central part of my long-term healing process, so I ended up taking 6 months off and moved to the Pacific Northwest to volunteer with an international organization called Youth With A Mission (YWAM).
I started seeing myself as someone whom God, and ultimately, others, could love and value. I realized it wasn’t my fault; it’s never the victim’s fault. I joined a YWAM team traveling through the villages of the Himalayas in Nepal and the red light district of Hong Kong to combat sex trafficking.
Through my travels, I realized that I wanted to be an advocate for women who, like me, had been sexually abused but didn’t have access to even the few resources I had available to me. I wish I could say that my healing was instant, but that’s not how it works. Regardless, it is amazing to consider that what started out in personal brokenness could be redeemed and used for good.
After my time in Nepal and Hong Kong, I went back to my college campus—kicking and screaming—and helped start a women’s empowerment group. I knew our campus needed help and I wanted to be a part of that change. Within a few months, a group of five girls became a group of twenty-five girls who were walking together through recovery.
As time went on I dove in deep to research sexual assault and sex in general in this generation. For some reason, learning more and hearing stories helped me cope—it ignited something in me that would commit to fighting for change.
As I delved deeper into research I stumbled upon Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution, on Netflix. I finally felt like there was something that highlighted what I was feeling, and I felt validated in the issues I was seeing, and had been a victim of, on my college campus.
Liberated called out this generation in how we are viewing sex, it brought to light an issue that hasn’t been addressed before on a platform like this. This documentary was the most accurate depiction of what it was like to be a woman on a college campus, at a bar, at a concert. Watching this film is the closest you can get to actually understanding sexual violation without the scratches, bruises, and deep inner trauma of real life violation.
After watching a documentary with that kind of weight, I needed to know more. What was actually causing this issue? What forces so powerfully compel both young men and women to act out and tolerate sexual violation? As a personal reflection, I started wondering why for so long I allowed myself to be groped, have my butt smacked, have my bikini top untied, be injured during anything sexual—I finally realized it was because of what I was taught through pornography.
As a young woman, I was taught—it was embedded in my mind—that my only purpose was to bring pleasure to men, no matter what that meant for me.
The women in pornography don’t say “no,” they don’t say “ouch,” they don’t say “stop.” They are silent or cover what they’re experiencing with loud moans as if saying “this is justified, and I am enjoying this.” But really there are facts and statistics saying that almost 80% of pornography contains violence towards women.
As a young woman, I was taught—it was embedded in my mind—that my only purpose was to bring pleasure to men, no matter what that meant for me. No matter the bruises, no matter how much physical pain I was in, no matter the amount of humiliation I experienced.
Porn is destroying our culture from the inside out, it’s numbing our hearts to the issues that are real and happening. It’s desensitizing sexual assault, rape, molestation, and I won’t stand for it anymore.
I am sharing my story not to discourage anyone by any means, but instead to encourage. My journey has not been an easy one, but what has happened to me does not define me. What has happened to you does not define you. That is the message I want to share.
I hear you. I understand the hurt. And I absolutely believe you. I am so sorry if it seems as if no one else does. But let’s change this commonality of rape culture and call it as it is: explicit violence that has been turned into our new social norm. Enough is enough.
I am committed to seeing rape culture demolished. I am committed to walking through the hurt with those who have also endured it whether that is men, women, young, or old. I’m committed to you. I’m committed to seeing this normalcy of rape culture end.
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Photo Credit Alex Wigan