This article contains information about sexual assault that may be triggering to survivors.
Let’s talk about a friend of mine. My friend has post-traumatic stress disorder. My friend has nightmares about a time that changed their life forever.
My friend is isolated because they have trouble trusting people. My friend will probably spend the remainder of their life in therapy trying to move past a single moment where time stood still for all the wrong reasons.
Now, what kind of person did you imagine? Did you think about someone who had returned from war? Did you imagine a wounded veteran, a soldier?
Well, she is a soldier from a certain point of view, but she didn’t go to the Middle East or Africa. She isn’t a veteran, and she doesn’t have any physical wounds from her time facing her enemies.
For now, let’s call her Celia.
Celia was raped. A boy we went to high school with, one of the only people she knew on her college campus at the beginning of the fall semester, raped her in a dorm room. While he was doing it, he asked her if he was “better than her boyfriend.”
She got pretty good at self-medicating, turning to alcohol and weed and anything else she could get her hands on to drown out the pain she was sinking in.
Celia eased herself into this life of being too high and too drunk to really feel what was happening. At Christmas, she went home and was forced to be sober long enough to feel what exactly it was she was feeling and be forced to reckon with everything she thought she was over.
For the rest of her life, she will be haunted by this one night. There will be a monster in her nightmares who has a real face in her life.
But isn’t that just how it works these days? The National Institute of Justice estimates that about 90 percent of women know their rapists before the attack takes place. Furthermore, the National Sexual Assault Hotline estimates that about one in four female college students will be sexually assaulted in some way.
Celia reported her rape to her university. And this boy? This boy stole something from her that wasn’t his to take, and while he did get kicked out of her school, that doesn’t make it go away. Unfortunately, nothing anyone does will make it go away.
Months later, she is being forced to reckon with the implications of that monster’s perceived entitlement to her body. She wakes up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and cries because he’s there every time she closes her eyes.
I can’t make that go away. Nothing anybody does will ever change what happened, and that’s a hard reality to stomach because I can’t make it better. I wish I could.
Kaylie McLaughlin is the assistant news editor for the Collegian and a sophomore in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to email@example.com.