Letter to the Community: My Survivor Story

*Trigger Warning — article discusses sexual violence.*

I was sexually assaulted in my dorm room at the beginning of this fall semester. It was by a guy I thought was my friend. I asked him if we could talk because I was having a very hard day. I asked him if we could do homework together because I needed help. I did not ask him to do what he did to me. In fact, I asked him to stop multiple times, but he ignored me and kept going until it wasn’t “fun anymore.”

He was mad that because I didn’t look “into it;” he no longer wanted to finish. He was telling me off and I was laying there wondering what I did that lead to these events. Should I not have invited him to my room? It was around 11 p.m., I should’ve known better. Did I give him signals that I wanted our relationship to now be intimate and no longer friendly? Did I not say “no” loud enough? Did I not push him hard enough? By these questions, you can tell I was blaming myself for what happened. I should not have, but I did. I lead him out of my room, went to sleep, and then went to my classes and meetings the next day as if nothing happened. I did not want to say anything because I wasn’t sure what actually happened to me was rape. Because my incident was not like others I had read about:a victim being drunk at a party, attacked on the street walking home, etc. I was, in a way convincing, myself that it did not happen. After going over the events with two close friends over the course of two days, I realized it was rape and I felt so violated that I finally cried.

I was told by my friends that I should go to Public Safety to report him to make sure he could no longer contact me. Because it was a sexual assault case, they had to tell Kelly Muldoon, the school’s sexual assault advocate, and Michael Dunn, the school’s Title IX coordinator, what happened.

At first I was upset because I am a very private person and I wanted as little exposure to others as possible. But, I also knew that I needed to know my options and they would be the ones to tell me. During the initial meeting, I chose not to call Kelly [Muldoon]. I just wanted to get back to my room and forget it even happened. The next day the police got involved, things got scary, and I requested that Kelly be with me while I tell the events to a county police officer. She was amazing. Anytime she felt the officer was being accusatory, she stepped in and had him correct himself. Anytime I started victim blaming, she made sure I knew that what happened wasn’t my fault and that I was strong for coming forward. I really needed that.

The next morning, the St. Mary’s County Police knocked on my door and asked if I wanted to get a SANE [Sex Assault Nurse Examiner Medical] exam. I debated for about 10 minutes and thought it was better to go through with it than to regret it later. I was told there were no SANE nurses at St. Mary’s MedStar nor at Calvert hospital so I would have to go to La Plata to University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center. I called Kelly at 6 a.m.to ask if she could meet me there because I was scared out of my mind and had no one to go with me. She answered [the phone] on the second ring and said she was leaving immediately. I got two-thirds of the way to La Plata for them [the nurses at the hospital] to tell my police escort that they would not do my exam because I do not reside in La Plata.

I was upset, tired, a little angry and at that point just wanted to go back to campus. I called Kelly to tell her what happened and she was mad. She said it wasn’t fair to me and that I deserved to receive care, so she would call around to find a way to help me. The police officer with me found the number to a SANE nurse that was available to meet me at MedStar and so we went back there. At this point, I was mentally exhausted. I was exhausted from all the back and forth, telling three police officers and two nurses my story, and going through a three-hour long invasive exam. I kept asking to see Kelly because at this point she had helped me so much I felt comfortable having her as a shoulder to lean on (I also found out that she kept asking to see me to make sure I was okay). They did not let her come to my room until about 35 minutes before I was discharged (I was there from about 7 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.) and she helped me talk everything out to see if I was processing everything. Even though I did not get to have her with me, I was happy that she stayed there as long as I did and willingly gave me a ride home from the hospital.

I am telling my story not because I was asked to and not because I wanted to attack anyone, but because a recent article about SMART in which Kelly’s leadership was called into question and it compelled me to tell my story once I felt I was ready to tell it. Many times we bring to light what someone has done wrong, but not what they have done right. I am not saying the stories and comments were false and I vehemently believe that all feelings are valid and important. If Kelly did what she was accused of doing (and I am not saying whether she did or did not), I hope she learns from this and changes how she acts in vulnerable situations. But, I wanted to share at least one experience where Kelly helped someone come to terms with their feelings and get through one of the toughest experiences of their life. She helped me. Michael Dunn helped me by keeping contact with me after the incident to make sure I knew my legal options, see how I was dealing with everything, and to make sure I felt supported. I am so grateful for what they did for me.

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