To Those on Parrish Steps
Last May, I got accepted into Swarthmore College—two days before I graduated high school. I remember that moment so vividly because I never thought it would happen. For me, Swarthmore was my last chance to escape my hometown and I believed that I would never see it come to fruition. I thought that I would be stuck in rural Montana for all of my life.
At that moment, Swarthmore was my savior. It was a ray of light in the darkness of all the hardships I had experienced. For me, Montana was the location of all my trauma and pain. Suicide, depression, and self-harm were my fellow residents. I knew that moving wasn’t going to make my pain disappear, but I did believe that it would be a step towards healing.
And it started out that way. Granted I saw the flaws of the institution and I wanted to see its improvement, but I couldn’t let go of the hope that Swarthmore represented to me. I felt this to be my only chance to start my life over, so I chose to believe in this place’s ability to recognize its failures and learn from its mistakes.
On November 19th, 2017 I was assaulted by the quarterback of a nearby university. He was the definition of a hookup gone wrong.
Words can’t describe how dehumanizing it was. Words can’t describe how destructive it was. The only problem is that you will never understand unless you’ve been through it too. While our stories as survivors are so often ignored, silenced, and disregarded at the expense of our humanity, our lives are forever changed by these events. You don’t know what it’s like to walk to the fourth floor of your Parrish dorm and walk into your room, your roommates expecting you to be returning from a happy date. You don’t know what it’s like to be shaking so badly that you can’t open your dresser, or how it feels to slide to the floor of the shower as the water pours over you. You don’t know what it’s like to beg for the water dripping from the faucet to drown you because surely anything feels better than the memory of his touch.
You don’t know the taste of pure saline solution when it mixes with your attacker’s weed and alcohol blend as you desperately try to erase him from your memory. You don’t what it’s like to remember your perpetrator’s taste for weeks on end and how it feels in those moments when it comes back to you. You don’t know what it’s like to look in the mirror and see the bruises he left on your neck and how it feels to go through a whole container of concealer in an attempt to cover it up. You don’t know what it’s like for that to be your first kiss.
One day after I went to Worth Health Center to pet the therapy dog Izzy. I broke down as I sat on the floor and I was taken to Hillary Grumbine, the Violence Prevention Advocate. She was a friendly face in the storm. Despite some consolation, I had no proof of my assault so there was not much that could be done.
That Friday I went to my weekly CAPS appointment. I expected support from the person who I had been meeting with for several months. Instead, I was asked about how it “fucked me up”. I felt like my assault was my fault. When I would go back several weeks later I would be asked about why I would choose to have sex not that long after my assault, as though I didn’t have the right to reclaim my own body.
I felt humiliated by both my attacker and my therapist. I felt dehumanized. I felt unsafe. Until recently, I felt strangled by the silence.
Organizing for Survivors became a light in my life as I continually struggle to understand what happened to me. This is why I choose to combine my voice with theirs. I look up to each and every one of the organizers for guidance as we work to change the institution which has harmed us.
Even though those in this organization have been through unimaginable trauma, they still choose to speak up and let their voices be heard. I would not blame them if they were scared and unwilling to share their stories. They choose to speak out in the face of potential repercussions from their peers, their employers, and even the administration.
So to those who stood on Parrish steps this past Monday demanding Title IX policy change, rallying for our humanity: Thank you. Thank you for being a fearless voice speaking out despite all of the people who are desperately trying to silence us. Thank you for being so brave in the face of so many dangers. Thank you for speaking your truths.